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”

Digging Old Irish

Reading time: 15-20 minuftes Old Irish has a bit of a bad reputation. This historical form of the Irish language, dated to between c. 600 AD and c. 900 AD, is a challenge for learners, even for those who already know some Modern Irish. Its systems of spelling, sounds, word order and grammar are veryContinue reading “Digging Old Irish”

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”

Holy Linguists! Part II: Cyril and Methodius, Ælfric of Eynsham, Hildegard of Bingen

Reading time: 15-20 minutes So, continuing on a theme that nobody asked for but I love, here is the second part of my Holy Linguists! series of blog posts. Part I looked at three holy heavyweights from the Mediterranean world in the late antique era: Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome and Augustine. This month’s blog postContinue reading “Holy Linguists! Part II: Cyril and Methodius, Ælfric of Eynsham, Hildegard of Bingen”

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”

An A-Z of the Languages and Loanwords of the English Lexicon – from Arabic to Zulu!

Reading time: 20-25 minutes Among language lovers and loathers alike, it’s well known that the modern lexicon of English is drawn from different sources. While a solid chunk of English vocabulary has a Germanic origin, much also comes from French, in a large part due to Duke William of Normandy and some battle that happenedContinue reading “An A-Z of the Languages and Loanwords of the English Lexicon – from Arabic to Zulu!”

A Dictionary of the Divine: The Gods and Goddesses Hiding in Our Words

Reading time: 10 – 15 minutes Whether or not you’re a believer, it’s undeniable that the idea of the divine has had a big influence on human history. Connecting our lives and our earthly home to higher realms and to those realms’ inhabitants, the gods, is an ancient preoccupation, which is often reflected in ourContinue reading “A Dictionary of the Divine: The Gods and Goddesses Hiding in Our Words”

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!””