Classical Languages (at last!)

First, I am very sorry about having been unable to release this article on January 4th. I understand if any of my followers has been upset by this. I had some health issues, which slowed down the writing of this article.

 

Classical, Standard Languages and Dialects (Text 1)

As I already announced prior to the holiday season, my very first series of articles on this blog talks about classical and standard languages, and dialects.

I have realized that the way I phrased my title in my notice last year was somehow misleading. In this article, I suggest another and additional way of classifying languages and language families. Before I go on, I want you to note that I am going to use “dialect,” “variety” and “form” interchangeably. As I stressed in my notice, “dialect” has no negative connotation on this blog.

Let’s start with the classical languages.

I know what you may think. When we think about classical languages, many people tend to think of Ancient Greek and Latin, but I want to widen the sense of the phrase “classical languages” to include all the languages which fulfill the following criteria: idealization, deity emphasis, ancientness, extended literature and scholarship. OK, I know, you might wonder what those criteria mean, but I am going to explain them to you.

Idealization

“Idealization” is the way whereby people have thought that a particular language—or a specific stage of this language—and its characteristics (i.e. its grammar, sounds and lexemes) are near-perfection and flawless when compared to other languages and other varieties of the same language. Moreover, classical languages seem to have always engendered at least one daughter language.

Deity Emphasis

The classical languages have very often been associated with God or gods.

Ancientness

Classical languages are mostly extinct languages. In the case of Latin and Ancient Greek, although these two languages have been taught in schools and universities since medieval times, you probably could not have a serious conversation with someone—unless he or she is a scholar—in either of those two languages.

Extended Literature and Scholarship

I spoke with someone about those requirements, and she wrote to me that “their literature is seen as far more superior” (Melissa M., personal conversation, 2017). Moreover, most classical languages had been written down.

Here is my personal top 7 of classical languages: Ancient Greek, Latin, Ancient Hebrew, Classical Arabic, Old Egyptian, Sanskrit 

Analysis

Since I could not release this article sooner (unfortunately), I am only going to analyze Latin using the four criteria above. If you are up to, I not only invite you to analyze other languages which, you think, could be other classical languages – using my four criteria – and leave a comment below or shoot me an email to let me know about your conclusions.

As for idealization, Latin had a huge influence on the way French and English evolved in the Middle Ages. We can find many loanwords from Latin into English, half of which “were to do with plants, animals, food and drink and household items …” (CEEL 8) after the Roman Conquest and more words entered English vocabulary after the Anglo-Saxons converted into Christianity. Then, in the Middle Ages, “[d]uring the 14th and 15th centuries several thousand words came into the language directly from Latin … [t]he Old English word is usually the more popular one, with the French word more literary, and the Latin word more learned” (48). The phrase “more learned” deserves more attention here; it means that Latin words were used in more prestigious contexts, like when an educated and well-mannered soldier met the King of his country. During such a conversation, I imagine that the soldier tended to choose carefully his words, preferring Latinized words over Anglo-Saxons ones to give his King the impression that he was well-behaved and knowledgeable. So, since Latin words added a connotation of prestige and education, this is a sign that literate people across Christian Europe already idealized Latin.

Next, still about English, David Crystal adds that even more Latin words entered English vocabulary during the 16th century to such an extent that it created the “inkhorn controversy” (2003)—English purists tried to replace the Latin words with Anglo-Saxon lexemes which had become obsolete, but their attempts failed (60). The last thing that I must stress about English and its relationship with Latin when it comes to idealization is that scholars during the Age of Enlightenment adopted Latin grammar rules and terminology to explain how the English grammar worked, but these grammatical conventions do not describe English properly,  as Melissa and I talked about, “[me] Ancient Greek and Latin were considered the purest languages back then … [Melissa] which is why in English we have so many rules from Latin which don’t make sense at all in English—no split infinitives etc[.]” (Melissa 2017). I bet that those grammarians based their grammatical analysis of English on Latin because they thought that Latin was better fit to describe English grammar than English.

About Latin relationship with French, well, French is one of the “daughters” of Vulgar Latin, so you can expect a lot of French words to derive from Latin. I think that what idealized the most Latin within the Romance family is that Vulgar Latin eventually gave birth to French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Catalan among many others.

Vulgar Latin was a variety of the Latin language and it was probably spoken by soldiers, merchants, farmers, slaves; that is, the middle class and the poor, whereas Classical Latin was the language of the Senate, the rich and the educated people of the Roman Empire (Walter 177).

In the deity emphasis, Latin is still one of the languages used in Vatican City, and it was the only language used by the clergy—priests, monks, the Pope—throughout the Middle Ages (where no religious reforms occurred). The services were conducted in Latin, “then the essential language of holy orders …” (Pollard, 2006, 242).

Although Latin is still used in Vatican City, among scholars and in scientific contexts (Ager), Latin is a dead language, since no nation on Earth truly uses it as a daily mean of communication.

And last, when it comes to scholarship and literature, Latin has a wide and rich history. Latin texts range from poems, prose and philosophical texts to pedagogical texts and grammars. Some great Latin authors include: Varron (-234 to -149 BC), Lucrèce (-116 to—27 BC), Catulle (-87 to -54 BC), Tacite (56 to 117 AD) and Phèdre (-14 BC to ±50 AD) (Walter 130-132). Moreover, the main language of instruction in Europe during the Middle Ages was Latin. One of the divisions of the school curriculum at that time was called trivium, which focused on the learning of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric (CEL 430). Latin was still considered a language of scholarship in 1687, when the scientist Isaac Newton published Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Isaac Newton Biography.com”). University students nowadays can study Latin if they decide to do a degree, a major or a minor in disciplines like archaeology, classics and medieval studies, or history, depending on the various options universities offer to their students.

I have in mind a last example of the place of Latin in the world’s scholarship. In biology, when biologists, botanists and zoologists discover a new species, they give it not only a common name (like “gray wolf”) but also a Latin name for scientific classification (Canis lupus). Here are some more examples: Phascolarctos cinereus (koala); Helarctos malayanus (sun bear); Loxodonta africana (African savannah elephant); Acinonyx jubatus (cheetah), Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle); Alcedo atthis (common kingfisher); Oxyuranus scutellatus (coastal taipan) and Anarhichas lupus (wolffish) (Animal 97, 108-109, 174-175, 178, 207, 301, 328-329, 401 & 528).

This ends my personal analysis of Latin as a classical language. If I had had more time and energy (because I still feel a bit sick), I would also have analyzed Ancient Greek, Ancient Hebrew, Classical Arabic, Old Egyptian and Sanskrit, but you have been waiting for this article for a very long time, and I DO NOT want you to wait any longer. I deeply apologize for not having released that article sooner—my health has been a wee bit weakened since the holidays ended.

The following article will be about standard languages and the third will be about dialects (versus language). I realized that there was so much stuff to write about this topic, yet I do not want you to read a novel! So, I do not want articles which are too wordy. For those interested, the French version for every article will be available soon.

References and Works Cited (in MLA)

Ager, Simon. “Latin.” Omniglot – the Online Encyclopedia of Writing Systems & Languages. Kualo, 1998-2018. https://www.omniglot.com/writing/latin2.htm. Accessed 13 January 2018.

Animal – the Definitive Visual Guide. 2001. David Burnie & Don E. Wilson (editors-in-chief). Fourth ed. DK Publishing, 2017.

Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language [CEEL]. 1995. Second ed. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Crystal, David. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language [CEL]. 1987 Third ed. Cambridge University Press, 2010.  

Isaac Newton Biography.com.” The Biography.com. A&E Television Networks, 1 August 2017. https://www.biography.com/people/isaac-newton-9422656. Accessed 14 January 2018.

M., Melissa. Personal conversation. Facebook. 25 December 2017.

Pollard, Justin. Alfred the Great – the Man Who Made England. 2005. Paperback ed. John Murray Publishers, 2006.

Walter, Henriette. Minus, Lapsus et Mordicus – nous parlons tous latin sans le savoir [we all speak Latin without realizing it]. Éditions Robert Laffont, S.A., 2014. [As far as I know, this book has not been translated into English, so I myself translated the information I used from it whenever need be.]

 

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Next Article/ prochain article

Ladies and gentlemen,

I want you to know that I have decided to write my next article on classical, standard and dialectal languages.

I personally find this topic to be worth exploring, and please note that the term “dialect” will never have any negative connotation on this blog. I also want you to know that I will do my best to announce my coming articles in advance as much as possible. Because of the holidays, I expect to release this article after January 4th.

If you have any suggestions for this article, please let me know in the comment section, or shoot me an email, and I will see what can be done to include your suggestion in my text (I will add your name or your user’s name in my sources as a contributor).

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year 2018 and I hope that all of your projects will come true in the coming year. For those of you who do not celebrate, I wish you a happy, peaceful and successful New Year 2018 anyway!

Cheers!

(The French adaptation of the English text follows below)

Mesdames et messieurs,

Je veux que vous sachiez que j’ai décidé d’écrire mon prochain article sur les langues classiques, standards et dialectales.

Je trouve que ce sujet vaut la peine d’être exploré et veuillez noter que le terme « dialecte » n’aura jamais de connotations négatives dans ce blogue. Je veux également que vous sachiez que je ferai de mon mieux pour annoncer mes prochains articles en avance autant que possible. En raison de la saison des Fêtes, je m’attends à mettre l’article en ligne après le 4 janvier.

Si vous avez des suggestions à me faire pour cet article, veuillez me les faire savoir, s’il vous plaît, soit en les écrivant dans la section des commentaires, soit en me les envoyant par courriel électronique (un e-mail) et je verrai ce que je peux faire pour inclure votre suggestion dans mon texte (j’ajouterai votre nom ou votre nom d’utilisateur dans mes sources en tant que contributeur).

Pour ceux et celles d’entre vous qui célèbrent Noël, je vous souhaite un joyeux Noël et une bonne année 2018 et j’espère que tous vos projets se réaliseront au cours de la prochaine année. Pour ceux et celles qui ne célèbrent pas, je vous souhaite quand même une année 2018 riche en joie, en paix et en succès !

Salut !

Le monde fou des langues

(Voici l’adaptation française de mon texte d’introduction écrit en anglais)

Bonjour tout le monde,

Comme le titre de mon premier texte l’indique, je veux que ce blogue soit un espace où les gens qui me suivront et moi-même pourrons parler de TOUTES les langues (c’est-à-dire, les langues modernes et anciennes) en employant différentes approches.

Par exemple, après de minutieuses recherches (et je citerai mes sources bien sûr), je souhaite écrire de courts articles à propos d’une langue en particulier ou des caractéristiques d’une langue qui sont intéressantes, surprenantes et/ou amusantes à savoir. Oui, je suis un geek des langues. Bien que je ne veuille pas créer un blogue théorique, je veux contribuer à l’avancement des connaissances, et aider à démystifier certains caractéristiques des langues. Par exemple, j’ai souvent lu dans certaines conversations virtuelles que le français parlé au Québec n’était pas du français parce que ce dernier n’était pas identique au français parlé en Europe, lequel est appris par plusieurs étudiants lorsque ceux-ci commencent à apprendre le français. Ben, c’est comme dire que l’anglais parlé en Nouvelle-Zélande (ou l’anglais parlé à Terre-Neuve) n’est pas de l’anglais, car il ne ressemble pas à l’anglais dit standard. En fait, le prétendre ferait tout un scandale si ça se rendait en Nouvelle-Zélande ou à Terre-Neuve, n’est-ce pas!

Je suis ouvert aux suggestions, mais je ne peux pas promettre que je pourrai écrire sur votre sujet ou sur votre langue choisie; cela dépend de la facilité que j’ai à dénicher des sources et citations viables.

 

Puisque les langues touchent à tous les aspects de la vie humaine, je pourrai parler de la littérature, de la culture, de l’écriture, de l’anthropologie et ainsi de suite; cependant, je ne ferai aucune mention de sujets directement reliés à l’une de ces deux thématiques : la politique et la religion, car ces derniers sont des sujets sensibles. Je ne ferai mention d’une religion, d’un groupe de croyants, d’un texte sacré ou d’une idéologie politique dans mes textes que si je dois absolument le souligner, et même si je le fais, ce sera court et touchant, si vous me le permettez!

En passant, si vous vous le demandez, je détiens un baccalauréat en anglais et études interculturelles et j’ai étudié l’anglais, l’espagnol et l’allemand au cégep, qui est une institution d’enseignement postsecondaire au Québec. Je ne veux pas seulement améliorer mes habiletés linguistiques en anglais et en espagnol aussitôt que j’en ai la chance, mais je voudrais aussi être capable de parler le japonais, l’islandais et le polonais plus tard dans ma vie.

La traduction pour tous les mots que j’ai écrits dans mon titre est « bonjour ». Le premier est écrit en anglais, le deuxième en français, le troisième en espagnol et le dernier en japonais. J’ai téléchargé plusieurs claviers sur mon ordinateur portable, donc je peux écrire en anglais, en français, en espagnol, en allemand, en italien, en islandais, en portugais, en grec, en japonais, en norvégien (bokmål), en arabe et en polonais.

Je vous souhaite un bon séjour sur mon blogue sur le monde fou des langues!

P.S. Si vous vous demandez ce que le bokmål est, on y arrivera tôt ou tard!

 

 

Welcome! Bonjour! Hola! こんにちは!

Hello everyone,

As the title of my first post suggests, I want this blog to be a place where I and other people who will follow me can talk about ALL languages (i.e. modern and ancient languages) from various points of view.

For example, after careful research (and I will cite my sources at the end of the articles, of course), I intend to write short articles about a specific language—or aspects of a language I personally find interesting, surprising and/or entertaining. Yes, I am a language geek. Although I do not intend to create an academic blog, I want to contribute to knowledge and (try to) help to demystify some aspects of languages. For example, I have often read on some threads that Quebec French is not French because it sounds and sometimes looks different from Europe French, which many students learn when they start learning French. Well, saying this is like saying that New Zealand English (or Newfoundland English) is not English because it sounds different from the so-called standard English. Actually, saying this would create so much fuss in either New Zealand or Newfoundland, isn’t it!

I am open to suggestions, but I cannot guarantee that I will be able to write about your topic or your language, depending on how easily I can get access to accurate sources.

Since languages touch on every aspect of human life, I could talk about literature, culture, writing, anthropology and so on at some points; however, I am not going to get into topics purely related to the following areas: politics and religion, as both are pretty sensitive subjects! And if I really need to make reference to a religion, or a group of believers, or a holy text, or a politcal ideology when writing an article, I will keep it short as much as possible.

By the way, just in case you wonder, I hold a bachelor’s degree in English and intercultural studies; I studied English, Spanish and German in CEGEP, which is a post-secondary institution in Quebec. Not only do I intend to improve my fluency and accuracy in English and Spanish whenever I get the chance, but I would also like to be able to speak Japanese, Icelandic and Polish later on.

The words I wrote in my title all translate as “hello”. The first one is written in English, the second in French, the third in Spanish and the last one in Japanese. I have downloaded several keyboards on my laptop, so I can write in French, English, Spanish, German, Italian, Icelandic, Portuguese, Greek, Japanese, Norwegian (bokmål), Arabic and Polish.

Have a good time on my blog on the crazy world of languages!

P.S. If you wonder what bokmål is, we will get to it sooner or later!