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FOUR Romance languages, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian,
are the theme of the next chapter Readers of The Loom of Language
will now know that all of them are descendants of a single tongue,
Latin Two thousand five hundred years ago, Latin was the vernacular
of a modest city-state on the Tiber in Central Italy From there, mili-
tary conquest imposed it, first on Latmm and then upon the rest of
Italy. Other related Italic dialects, together with Etruscan, with the
Celtic of Lombardy, and with the Greek current in the south of the
Peninsula and in Sicily, were swamped by the language of Rome itself
The subsequent career of Latin was very different from that of Greek
Outside Greece itself, the Greek language had always been limited to
coastal belts, because the Greeks were primarily traders, whose home
was the sea The Romans weie consistently imperialists Their con-
quests earned Latin over the North of Africa, into the Iberian Penin-
sula, across Gaul from South to North, to the Rhine and East to the
Danube In all these paits of the Empire, indigenous languages were
displaced Only the vernaculars of Britain and Germany escaped this
fate Britain was an island too remote, climatically too unattractive,
and materially too poor to encourage settlement Germany successfully
resisted further encroachment by defeating the Romans in the swamps
of the Teutoburger Wald
In Gaul, Romamzation was so rapid and so thorough that its native
Celtic disappeared completely a few centuries after the Gallic War.
The reason for this is largely a matter of speculation, but one thing is
certain, Roman overlords did not impose their language upon their
subjects by force Sprachpohtik, as once practised by modern European
states, was no part of their programme Since Latin was the language of
administration, knowledge of Latin meant promotion and soaal dis-
tinction So we may presume that the Gaul who wanted to get on
would learn it Common people acquired the racy slang of Roman
soldiers, petty officials, traders, settlers, and slaves, while sons of chiefs
were nurtured in the more refined idiom of educational establishments
which flourished in Marseilles, Autun, Bordeaux, and Lyons.
When parts of Gaul came under Prankish domination in the fifth