Skip to main content

Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

See other formats

310                The Loom of Language
century ADO the foreign invaders soon exchanged their Teutonic
dialect for the language of subjects numerically stronger and culturally
more advanced Change of language accompanied a change of heart
The Franks embraced the Christian faith, and the official language of
the Christian faith was the language of Rome The impact of Prankish
upon Gallo-Roman did not affect its structure, though it contributed
many words to its present vocabulary Several hundreds survive in
modern French, e g auberge (German Herberge., inn), gerbe (German
Garbe, sheaf), hate (German Plag, hedge), hair (German hassen> hate),
jardm (German Gaiten, garden), nclie (German retck, rich) In addition
the Franks imported a few suffixes, e g 3 -ard as in vietllard (old man)
The language which diffused throughout the provinces of the
Empire was not the classical Latin of Tom Brown's schooldays It was
the Latin spoken by the common people Ever since Latin had become
a literary language (in the third century B c ) there had been a sharp
cleavage between popular Latin and the Latin of the erudite In tracing
the evolutionary history of Romance languages from Latin, we must
therefore be clear at the outset about what we mean by Latin itself
When we discuss French, Spanish, or Italian, we are dealing with
languages which Frenchmen, Spaniards, or Italians speak Latin is a term
used in two senses. It may signify a literary product to cater for the
tastes of a social elite It may also mean the living language imposed on
a large part of the civilized world by Roman arms before the beginning
of the Christian era.
In the first sense, Latin is the Latin of classical authors selected for
study in schools or colleges It was always, as it is now, a dead language
because it was never the language of daily intercourse. It belongs to an
epoch when script was not equipped with the helps which punctuation
supplies Books were not written for rapid reading by a large reading
public. For both these reasons a wide gap separated the written from
the spoken language of any ancient people In ancient times what
remains a gap was a precipitous chasm
When we speak of Latin as the common parent of modern Romance
languages, we mean the living language which was the common medium
of intercourse in Roman Gaul, Roman Spain, and Italy during the
Empire For five centuries two languages, each called Latin, existed
side by side in the Roman Empire. While the language of the ear kept
on the move, the language of the eye remained static over a period as
long as that which separates the Anglo-American of Faraday or Men-
cken from the English of Chaucer and Langland Naturally, there