Latin: Language, Society and Some Sociolinguistics

Reading time: 10-15 minutes A language is never monolithic! Although brief labels are useful for conversation, to say ‘I speak English’ is a complicated thing; its meaning is dependent on person, time and place. The language you use differs according to who you are and who you learned your language from, and who you areContinue reading “Latin: Language, Society and Some Sociolinguistics”

Grave Language: The Epitaph of Pope Gregory V

There have been great popes in the history of the papacy, men who have influenced countless people, both during and after their lives, with their words, deeds and faith. Gregory V was not one of them. Born in c. 972 in what is now southern Austria, Bruno of Carinthia was well connected from birth. HeContinue reading “Grave Language: The Epitaph of Pope Gregory V”

As Julius Caesar said, “Wehnee, weedee, weekee!”

Or: Why do I pronounce Latin words like that? A question came up recently in the middle of an enjoyably linguistic conversation, concerned with the way I personally pronounce Latin words. The question was essentially ‘why?’ My interlocutor, a friend with only a little Latin learning, was curious about how I pronounce certain letters. WhatContinue reading “As Julius Caesar said, “Wehnee, weedee, weekee!””

You Know More Than You Think About: The Wanderer

Last month, I offered the Internet an article about the Old English poem Beowulf and how familiar, despite its antiquity, its language can become with a little linguistic guidance. I’d say the article and the idea behind it were received quite well – so, here we go again, with the same format and another OldContinue reading “You Know More Than You Think About: The Wanderer”

You Know More Than You Think About: Beowulf

As a living soul of the twenty-first century, if you take a glance at the opening lines of Beowulf, the Old English poem, the chances are that you won’t be able to understand it. If anything, you may perhaps recognise its famous first word, hƿæt. This is absolutely fine, I should add; Old English isContinue reading “You Know More Than You Think About: Beowulf”

Grave Language: The Epitaph of Lucius Cornelius Scipio

Tombs can make linguists very happy. In the effort to commemorate and praise the deceased, many places of interment include written text, known as epitaphs (from Greek epí ‘on’ and táphos ‘tomb’). Being inscribed in stone, these samples of language survive very well and can offer a much-appreciated window into an era of a languageContinue reading “Grave Language: The Epitaph of Lucius Cornelius Scipio”

Latin’s Nasal Infix: A How-to Guide

How are painting and picture related English words? Why does Latin vincō ‘I win’ become vīcī in the past tense? How did the same Latin verb give English both convince and conviction? This blog post is about the wonderful world of the nasal infix, a linguistic phenomenon that comes in very handy for people learningContinue reading “Latin’s Nasal Infix: A How-to Guide”

The Decline and Fall of the Latin Neuter

There are many significant differences between Latin and its linguistic descendants, the Romance languages. One that stands out from the rest is grammatical gender. Latin has three genders for its nouns: masculine, feminine and neuter. However, in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Italian and all the other many Romance varieties that lack official use and support,Continue reading “The Decline and Fall of the Latin Neuter”

The High German Consonant Shift and How to Use It

If you already know English and are in the process of learning German, you may be struck by how similar words in the two languages can be. It can surprise novices that English sentences like ‘I have two cats and six books‘ or ‘it drinks water‘ are so close to their German counterparts ‘ich habeContinue reading “The High German Consonant Shift and How to Use It”