Think about it! Languages are a beautiful branch of our history as world people. What some early scholars speculated to have started from the imitation of natural sounds grew into fascinating intricate systems of sounds, words, and gestures that continue to shape the way we think and the way we live.
If you don’t think that that is exciting, take a moment to close your eyes and think about how the world could have been if there are no languages. Dead!
But that is not just the most exciting thing. Variety, they say, is the spice of life. The world would have been just a boring community if everyone speaks just one language.
There will be no language festival, cultural exchange programmes, or display of assortments of good art like the world currently enjoys. We could have stuck to, perhaps, just Hebrew or Greek or Latin.
Latin? Yes! Of the few languages that almost conquered the world, Latin is one. This Roman language chequered the history of Western Europe throughout ancient and medieval times and laid the foundation for several modern languages.
If you would love to know about Latin and how to go about learning the exotic language, here is a free guide to help you know.
Tracing the Origin of Latin
The history of Latin tells a story of grass to grace. Latin started humbly as one of the several dialects in ancient Italy, particularly used in a region called Latium near one of the longest rivers in Italy, the River Tiber. However, as time passed and Latium morphed into Rome, Latin became the most popular choice of language for the growing Roman Empire.
Soon, it spread from its start by the riverside amongst the Roman people and throughout Italy, beating dialects from other regions like Sabina, ancient Umbria, and Etruria.
As the power of the Roman Empire grew, Latin grew in use and fame. It found its way into various parts in Western and Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, and even Africa.
But it would be erroneous to think that Latin got free entry into many parts of the world just on the clout of the Roman Empire. Latin itself, especially in its written form, was a graceful language rich in literary adornments and linguistic sophistication.
Its words and vocabulary, grammar and style, are pretty to study and read. Little wonder why it is said that the best vintage poems are Latin-blooded.
The most celebrated form of Latin was classical Latin. It was the favourite of Roman writers and elites during the prime of the Roman Empire. It paraded flowery word usages and rich literature. And was popularly used in many written forms of art at that time. It characterised the golden and silver ages of Latin literature, that is, the periods when Latin literature peaked in use and glory. Famous writers of those periods include:
- Julius Caesar
- Virgil, and
After centuries of good use and fame, it was time for Latin to step into the next life, particularly because the Roman Empire had crumbled. Classical Latin became too cumbersome; so, people developed vulgar variants that were simpler and literal. Soon, Latin was relegated to just Church businesses in Rome and the vulgar variants produced new languages that are now spoken in many parts of Europe, America, and Africa.
How & Why is Latin Dead?
One human attribute that languages share is death. Since the start of existence, many languages have been used — some, like Sanskrit, fizzled out and became extinct; some, like Latin, were dumped and became dead; while some, like Greek, live on.
In a world that is heavily interdependent, consider the need for international trade, politics, sports, and many more, there is a strong need for a language that can unite the different people that litter the world. Yes, life would have been ugly boring should just one language exist.
However, should there not be some bridge languages, like today’s English or Spanish or Arabic that can make people connected, human development would have been stifled.
Throughout the ancient and middle ages, classical Latin connected many parts of Europe and advanced scholarship, especially in fields like law, sciences, and philosophy. However, despite its successes spread across European history, Latin — especially the classical form which was known for its linguistic grace — slowly approached disuse as the influence of the Roman civilisation ebbed.
Countries that were once Roman colonies steadily pushed for new languages to upturn their status and reflect their independence. Coupled with the sophistication of classical Latin, which was difficult for ordinary speakers to conquer, alternative languages looked like what could save them the troubles. Soon, Latin became confined to just book and church business.
The Church use of Latin really preserved its relevance. With the standard text of the Bible written in Latin, people were given a further reason to learn Latin.
However, in a process that spanned many years, classical Latin was foremost simplified, its sophistication shed like a farmer weeds a flower bed. The simplified variants were called Vulgar Latin. Then, the variants further disintegrated into modern-day romance languages before Latin finally joined other dead languages in their solemn rest.
The Romantic Languages of Modern Europe
Although Latin has ceased to be used by any community as a native language, some people lightly argue that Latin is not, in reality, dead. This is because many languages in Europe today are of Latin origin.
These languages disintegrated from Vulgar Latin; hence, they share considerable similarities in word composition, grammar, and even oral and written styles with Latin.
To these Latin fans, a language with many heirs that are popular and widely used as Latin cannot be said to be dead. It has only evolved with time and according to modern demands.
Of these Latin languages, the closest to classical Latin is Italian, which is the official language of Italy. Recall that Latin itself started from Latium, a region in central Italy. Therefore, it is not surprising that Italian has the most resemblance.
What is particularly intriguing about these romance languages is that they are equally very popular and widely used just as Latin was during its time.
Many of these languages are used for international communication and boast a huge speaker base that could, perhaps, rival Latin itself. In fact, each of them has a larger number of speakers than Greek, which has been existing even before Latin, has.
More so, each of these languages has an amazing superpower that makes it a great language to learn. Italian, for instance, has joined Latin as the official language of the Vatican City. Spanish, which has about 70% of its vocabulary steeped in Latin, is the second most-spoken language in the world and about 20 countries take it as an official language.
French is one of the six official tongues adopted by the United Nations and the second most taught international language to students in the EU.
Portuguese is the world’s fastest-growing European language after English and Romanian, the only romance language that mysteriously survived the Uralic and Slavic invasions in Eastern Europe. What a profile these languages have!
Why You Should Start Learning Latin
“Did you not say Latin is dead?” Yes, we did. But we did also say that Latin has contributed in no small way to the development of the vocabulary of words, grammar, and style of many international languages. Even English which is a West-Germanic language has a huge chunk of its words having Latin roots.
Although Latin doesn’t have so much history in Nigeria, when you learn to read, speak, or just understand Latin, there are many good returns that you stand to gain.
Foremost, learning Latin makes it easier for you to learn Spanish, French, and other romance languages that have come to mark international relations and trade. This is particularly advised if you are a Nigerian student with a dream to study in European schools or if you’re a student of linguistics.
A good grasp of Latin can position you for global relevance in your language career.
Furthermore, it should not surprise you to know that you can also study Latin to become more versed in the English language.
The Latin influence on the vocabulary of the English language is well recognised by all language experts. If you find any English text, you can confidently guess that more than half the words are of Latin roots. Especially if you’re learning to become a skilled speller, you should study Latin to familiarise yourself with many strange words that will come your way.
Additionally, having Latin in your sack of skills can give you a mark of distinction in this increasingly competitive world. From study opportunities to job offers, Latin is a beautiful wild card to pull when competition is tough.
Multilinguists are often considered to be well smart, skilled, and industrious, you tell your assessor that you're those and more if you indicate that Latin is your superpower.
There you have it, everything you should know about studying Latin. Hell of an interesting ride, yeah? Winks!
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