Sunday, May 8, 2016

Research Book Post #11

May 7

Book: Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler

Section: The rest of Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 (Page 290 to 320)

Europe and the First Death of Latin

     The spread of Gallic has been recorded by both the Greeks and the Romans, with many stories of the Gallic tendency to move tribes en masse to new homelands, which occurred with the sacking of Rome in 390 BC and the sacking of Delphi in 279 BC. Both of these led to the settlement of the tribes in nearby areas, which then led to the diffusion of their language and culture, if only temporarily. This practice of migration would continue until the establishment of the Roman Empire, and even a little after that. The tribe of the Galatians would even settle in Asia Minor, and be a thorn in the side of its neighbors for centuries until stamped out by the Roman Empire. Latin began to replace languages in Gaul and Iberia as the Romans settled their veterans on newly conquered lands, and all of these veterans knew Latin. This led to the adoption of the language in Western Europe. This was not, however, a quick process, and Gaulish would remain for centuries, but the conquering of the Romans still signaled the decline of the languages. One issue is the Gauls never made any real attempt to save their culture and language, seeing the Roman civilization as progress, and simply adopting the Latin rather than redefining Roman culture in Celtic speech. Some languages, such as the resilient Basque, did survive Roman rule, as did the languages of Britain. While the British did start to learn Latin, and it did get used in formal day to day experiences, apparently for many areas it was not the day to day tongue. It is important to remember that even though British fell to Anglo-Saxon, and was never written down, it still outlived Latin by several centuries on the island. All of Western Rome would eventually fall to Germanic hordes, be they the Visigoths, Vandals or Suebi. Despite these conquests, early on there was little effects on the languages spoken. It was eerily similar to China, where conquerors came and went, but all eventually accepted the current language. Latin beyond this point was called Romance, to signal a difference from the old Vulgar Latin. This shift into the creation of regional dialects came from the breakdown in communications and education as the Romans fell, as well as the rising illiteracy which was caused by years of instability, which led to less of an effort to retain a single dialect. The Slavs, on the other hand, had much better luck. With the movement of Germans out of Eastern Europe and the Huns coming from the Black Sea, Slavic speakers began to move into Poland, Carpathia, and the Balkans, and there they solidified their language in the regions. The reason for Slavic success but Germanic failure is unknown, as their situations were rather similar.
     The one and only time Germanic conquerors were able to hold onto their language was in the most unlikely place, England. The reason the Germanic peoples were able to roll over the British inhabitant is unknown, as there are signs of a steady loss of territory to the invaders. One theory that has great evidence behind it is that the bubonic plague hit Britain before the arrival of the Germans, which is shown in the genetics of the British, and this led to a lack of resistance against the Germans that arrived. The Germanic language was even able to survive the arrival of the Vikings and their raiders, who won battles but lost the peace, taking Anglo-Saxon wives when they settled and teaching their children Anglo-Saxon. By the end of all Germanic and Slavic movements, Europe looked scarily similar to how it had before, with Romance languages in the West, Germanic the north, and Slavic the South and East. Gradually, the distance between Latin and spoken languages grew, until Latin was known and read only by the elite. With the rise of local dialects, so to came the need to write in them, so others could read what was written as it was to be pronounced, which would eventually lead to the fall of Latin.

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