Bad Romance: An Introduction to the Appendix Probi

Reading Time: 10 minutes How exactly did we get from Latin to the many Romance languages of today? What changes happened to Latin that it should end up looking so different? These are the driving questions of Romance historical linguistics, the field of study that aims to investigate how French, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Romanian andContinue reading “Bad Romance: An Introduction to the Appendix Probi”

The Almost Romance Languages

Reading time: 15-20 minutes If you like languages, you’ve probably heard the terms Romance and the Romance family. Although it started life as a name for the language of medieval France, Romance has come to be the umbrella term for a big group of modern tongues, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, Italian and Romanian. TheContinue reading “The Almost Romance Languages”

Five Sound Changes That Make Italian Make More Sense

Reading time: 10-15 minutes As I write, it’s the 15th of September, and I have just, with a heavy heart, departed Italy. What a time, and what a place! Among its many delights, it was a particular pleasure to be reminded of how much I love the Italian language. I love to hear it, toContinue reading “Five Sound Changes That Make Italian Make More Sense”

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!””

The Decline and Fall of the Latin Neuter

Reading time: 15 minutes 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 lackContinue reading “The Decline and Fall of the Latin Neuter”

La Joie de Joret

A Quick Guide to the Joret Line What is the Joret line? And why should I care about it? So, to begin, a definition: isogloss noun /ˈaɪsəɡlɒs/ /ˈaɪsəɡlɑːs/ (linguistics)​a line on a map that separates places where a particular feature of a language is different The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary Named after the French historian and linguistContinue reading “La Joie de Joret”