Saturday, May 26, 2012

Latin and the Romance languages

Latin and the Romance Languages
Those of you who have either read my Multilingual Anthology of  proverbs, sayings, clichés and idiomatic expressions, or read my articles on this blog, know that my research is geared toward the three most widely spoken Romance languages: Spanish, French and Italian respectively.
Spanish with 330 million native speakers and 417 million second language speakers, French with 70 million native speakers and 110 million second language speakers, Italian with 62 million native speakers and 60 million as a second language speakers. All the Romance languages developed from Latin in the 6th to 9th century. Latin was born in the 5th century B.C. and was the tongue of farmers who lived at the mouth of the Tiber.
I should mention that the Romance languages, in order of speakers, is made up of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan and many others, and there are 800 million native speakers worldwide.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century Vulgar Latin evolved into individual Romance tongues. No wonder all these Romance languages have many similar features, both in grammar and vocabulary. The difference between them is mainly phonetical.
The first text in French appeared in the 9th century, in Spanish and Italian in the 10th century. In Italy many prominent writers and poets used vernacular of their own accord. One of the most famous is Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).
Latin and its Influence on the English Language.

We might not study Latin but we continue  to spice our English language,  like salt and pepper, with Latin words or phrases.  When Caesar landed in Britain there was no English.  Modern English has imported words from over 350 languages around the world.  No wonder David Crystal, famous linguist, defines English a vacuum-cleaner of a language.  A significant part of the English vocabulary, about 65%, comes from Latin.  Sometimes the Latin word is identical to English, at other times it has been adapted.
Here is a brief list of Latin  words that are now part of our everyday English vocabulary:
addenda, ad infinitum,  affidavit, agenda, alma mater, alter ego, auditorium, aurora borealis (australis), bonus, campus, fetus, habeas corpus, in absentia, in vitro, memorandum, millennium, nucleus, pandemonium, penis, per capita, persona non grata, podium, post partum, premium, quorum, referendum, senior, solarium, stadium, status quo, terminus, vertebra, viceversa, villa, virus, etc. etc.
Think of the abbreviations for Latin phrases that we often use: A.D. (anno domini), A.M. (ante meridiem), P.M. (post meridiem, C.V.(curriculum vitae), P.S. (post scriptum), i.e. (id est), e.g.(exempli gratia). What about B.A., M.A. Cum Laude, Magna cum laude and Summa cum laude ?
As you can see Latin has had a great influence on our medical, academic, legal and scientific terminology.
Let’s not forget that Latin quotes and phrases as “Amor caecus est”(Love is blind) that we use regularly today were coined by Roman writers such as
Virgil : “Amor vincit omnia”(Love conquers all),
            “Audentis fortuna iuvat”(Fortune favours the brave),
Cicero : “Dum vita est, spes est”(While there is life there is hope),
                “Non ut edam vivo sed ut vivam edo”(Eat to live not live to eat).
Juvenal : “Mens sana in corpore sano” (A sound mind in a sound body).
Horace :  “Carpe diem”(Seize the day).
Julius Caesar : “Veni, vidi, vici”(I came, I saw , I conquered).
                          “Alia iacta est”(The die is cast).
Ovid :  “Credula res amor est” (In love you believe anything).
Ovid , author of many books, wrote “Ars amandi”(The Art of Love)
            where he cites how to pick up women at the gladiators shows.
There is no doubt that contributions of the classical Latin to the world have been many. Here is a list of  Latin mottos of various states and universities  in USA and Canada.
USA : A pluribus unum.
Arizona: Ditat Deu
Colorado: Nil sine Lumine
District of Columbia: Iustitia omnibus.
Kansas: Ad astra per aspera.
Missouri: Salus popoli suprema lex esto.
New York: Excelsior.
Oklahoma: Labor omnia vincit.
South Carolina: Dum spiro, spero
Columbia University: In lumine tuo videbimus lumen.
Harvard University: Veritas.
Notre Dame University: Crux spes unica.
Princeton University: Dei sub numine viget.
Yale University: Lux et veritas.
Latin Mottos for Canada, some Provinces and Universities:
Canada: A mari usque ad mare.
Alberta: Fortis et liber.
Manitoba:Gloriosus et liber.
Ontario: Ut incepit fidelis sic permanet.
Concordia University : Concordia salus.
McGill University : Grandescunt aucta labore.
Université de Montréal : Fide splendet et scientia.
University of Toronto : Velut arbor aevo.

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