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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Latin Legacy                    313
The Romance languages preserve innumerable common traits Their
grammatical features are remarkably uniform,, and they use recog-
nizably similar words for current things and processes So it is rela-
tively easy for anyone who already knows one of them to learn another,
or for an adult to learn more than one of them at the same time French
has travelled farthest away from Latin What essentially distinguishes
French from Itahan and Spanish is the obliteration of flexions in
speech From either it is separated by radical phonetic changes which
often make it impossible to identify a French word as a Latin one
without knowledge of its history. As a written language, Spanish has
most faithfully preserved the Latin flexions, but it is widely separated
from French and Itahan by phonetic peculiarities as well as by a
large infusion of new words through contact with Arabic-speaking
peoples during eight centuries of Moorish occupation On the whole*
Itahan has changed least It was relatively close to Latin when Dante
wrote the Dwina Commedia^ and subsequent changes of spelling, pro-
nunciation,, structure and vocabulary are negligible in comparison with
what happened to English between the time of Geoffrey Chaucer and
that of Stuart Chase
Latin did not die with the emergence of the neo-Latin or Romance
languages It co-existed with them throughout the Middle Ages as the
medium of learning and of the Church Its hold on Europe as an inter-
lingua weakened only when Protestant-mercantilism fostered the
linguistic autonomy of nation-states Pedantic attempts of the humanists
of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to substitute the prohx pom-
posity of Cicero for the homely idiom of the monasteries hastened its
demise By reviving Latin, the humanists helped to kill it The last
English outstanding philosophical work published in Latin was Bacon's
Novum Qiganumi the last English scientific work of importance
Newton's Pnncipia As a vehicle of scholarship it survived longest in
the German Universities, then as ever peculiarly insulated from popular
need and sentiment. In the German States between 1681 and 1690,
more books were printed in Latin than in German, and Latin was still
the medium of teaching in the German Universities In 1687, Christian
Thomasms showed incredible bravado by lecturing in German at
Leipzig on the wise conduct of life This deed was branded by his
colleagues as an "unexampled horror," and led to his expulsion from
Leipzig. Latin has not wholly resigned its claims as a medium of inter-
national communication It is still the language in which the Pope
invokes divine disapproval of birth control or socialism