MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Latin: Quo Vadis, Quo Vasisti?

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

latin

The history of Latin as a world language, in Jürgen Leonhardt’s excellent account, involves a surprisingly diverse range of topics — many of which have an ongoing relevance that extends far beyond the use of Latin for educational purposes: the effects of globalization (ancient and contemporary) on the development of a language, the “diglossia” of literary and spoken languages, the interplay of emerging European nationalism with the status of Latin (not as linear as you might expect), the unexpected twists and turns of canon formation — and dissolution (likewise not a simple linear development). And, ultimately, the issue of cultural extinction and the inaccessibility of a vast fund of accumulated knowledge.

Indeed, the book is replete with information that seems even counterintuitive. The entire corpus of extant ancient Latin literature from the Roman period, for example, comprises “less than 0.01% of all extant Latin texts.” This is because Latin continued…

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