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312                The Loom of Language
peoples on whom it was imposed, and to other circumstances For
instance, soldiers, traders, and farmers who settled in the various
provinces came from an Italy where dialect differences abounded.
Though the Lingua Romana thus developed a Gallic, a Spanish, and a
North African flavour, the language of Gaul and Spain was still essen-
tially the same when the Empire collapsed, and it must have had
features which do not appear in the writing of authors who were
throwing off the traditional code Where contemporary texts fail us we
have the evidence of its own offspring If a phonetic trick or a word is
common to all the Romance languages from Rumania to Portugal and
from Sioly to Gaul, we are entitled to assume that it already existed in
speech once current throughout the Empire Thus many words which
must have existed have left no trace in script, eg ausare (dare),
captiare (chase), commitiare (commence), coraticum (courage), mis-
culare (mix), mvicare (snow) By inference we can also reconstruct the
Vulgar Latin parent of the pan-Romance word for to touch (Italian
toccare, Spanish tocar, French toucher)
When the curtain lifts from the anarchy, devastations, and miseries of
the Dark Ages, local differences separated languages no longer mutu-
ally intelligible in the neighbouring speech communities of Spain and
Portugal, Provence and northern France, Italy, and Rumania As a
language in this sense, distinct from written Latin, French was incu-
bating during the centimes following the disintegration of the Western
Roman Empire. The first connected French text is the famous Oaths of
Strasbourg^ publicly sworn in 842 by Louis and Charles, two grandsons
of Charlemagne To be understood by the vassals of his brother, Louis
took the oath in Romance, i e. French, while his brother pledged him-
self in German To the same century belongs a poem on the Martyrdom
of St. Eulalia. The linguistic unification of France took place during
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries when the literary claims of local
dialects such as Picard, Norman, Burgundian, succumbed to those of
the dialect of the Ee-de-France^ i e Pans and its surroundings The
oldest available specimens of Italian—a few lines inserted in a Latin
charter—go back to the second half of the tenth century Modern
Italian, as the accepted norm for Italy as a whole, is based on the
dialect of Florence, which owes its prestige to the works of Dante,
Petrarch, and Boccaccio and their sponsors, the master printers The
oldest traces of Spanish occur in charters and in the Glosses (explana-
tory notes of scribe or reader) of Silos, dating from the eleventh century
The first literary monument is the CW, composed about 1140.