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Latin: The Dead of the Language Essay

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Updated: Jan 31st, 2022

Introduction

Nowadays scholars report about the existence of around seven thousand languages in the world. However, every month two of them die. In our modern-day globalized society, there exists a serious danger that by 2100 more than half of the languages existing in the world will disappear. And this is not convivial; especially with regards to the fact that the death of each language takes away with it the unique culture, history, knowledge, mentality and frame of mind of a particular nation which used to practice this language.

Whoever knows, maybe one day English will appear among the thousands of dead languages just as it happened with Latin. In the following paper, the phenomenon of language death will be examined on the example of Latin. Overall, the examination of the facts reveals that Latin became a dead language as a result of the Roman Empire’s fall; however, it still maintains its strong position in the area of education.

The definition of “Language death” notion

First of all, speaking about the very phenomenon of language death its definition is to be addressed. According to Crystal (4), “a language dies when nobody speaks it anymore”. This simple comment has a deep meaning, and helps to understand the very essence behind the notion of “language death”. Evaluating this comment, a conclusion can be made that a dead language is a language which is no longer used by people in their daily life. However, evaluating this definition, the question is whether Latin can be related to this definition as it is still used rater actively especially in such common areas of human life as medicine, law, Catholic religion and education.

The fact that Latin is no longer used by common people in their daily life gives a strong basis for putting Latin into the category of dead languages. No one can say that Latin is his/her native language, and this continued to be so for more than a millennium. What an end of the language which used to be spoken by every second person in the world!

Latin – the most famous language in the history of humanity to become dead

Further, the phenomenon of language death can be well-discussed on the example of Latin as this language is one of the most prominent languages in the history of humanity, and it is also a progenitor of the most common and the most popular languages existing in the world nowadays including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. These languages are called Roman languages, and have their strong connection with their ‘mother’ language, Latin. Nowadays, English which borrowed its numerous features from its maternal basis of Latin occupied its role in the world becoming an international language of the most important areas of human life including business, education and sport. Thus, Latin continues its life even though it happens to be so in its derivation.

The history of Latin

Next, discussing the issue of the death of Latin its history is to be addressed.

Latin emerged as the language of Roman people around the first century BCE. 753 is a well-known date of Rome foundation. Very soon it became a world language as Romans managed to capture the entire existing world by the beginning of CE. The era of Latin blossoming continued till the end of the eights century. Latin became the language of such inimitable masters of word and thought as Vergil, Horace, Livy, Ovid, Julius Caesar, and Seneca. Around 750, as a result of the total fall of Roman Empire, Latin becomes a dead language. However, it is still used as an international language of education along with the official language of Catholic religion. Till the end of 1990s, Latin continues to be obligatory for students as a major ‘foreign’ language. In 1960s, Catholic Church eventually decides that Latin is not be the language for its liturgies anymore. Today, Latin is only known by the men of education who are only able to read it, and lost their writing and speaking skills.

Why Latin died

Discussing the reasons of the death of Latin, it appears that the main of them is the fall of Roman Empire. With the death of the Roman Empire, Latin dies as a language of common people. The further comment appears to be very interesting in connection to the history of this language, and its eventual death:

A couple of thousand years ago we British were invaded by some extremely civilized conquerors – the Romans. They built our roads, our cities – like Londinium, and left us – after several hundred years – with a rich sense of culture and a great deal of their own language. In fact, using Latin phrases is still the, er, ‘status quo’. There are hundreds of, err, ‘bona fide’ English sayings which owe everything to Julius Caesar and his legions. But now the use of Latin is to be banned – on the orders of England’s most interfering busybodies, our local town councils. And that’s an irony because the very word council was first coined by the Romans.

I have, er, ‘prima facie’ evidence. Bournemouth, a sleepy place on the English south coast, has just issued orders to stop all staff using any popular Latin. So now they are forced to say ‘impromptu’, when they actually mean ‘ad lib’, and it’s a permanent ban – not just ‘pro tem’. Now, the, err, ‘quid pro quo’ for this draconian new rule is supposed to be that everyone will be able to understand everybody else without any risk of confusion in future (The Death Of Latin par. 1, 3, 7).

This meaningful comment can help to understand the very reason of Latin’s eventual death, and giving the way to new Roman languages. Truly, a variety of proofs and evidences from different European lands helps to make a conclusion that Latin was artificially pushed away from the world arena under the pressure of the efforts by promoters of Roman languages, and English especially.

The role of Latin

Finally, addressing the importance of Latin in the history of humanity along with its value for linguistic researches, it should be stated that it is more than significant, and can be evaluated as outstanding. According to Crystal (35), there even exist strong doubts that Latin can be considered a dead language nowadays. Crystal indicates that in recent times, the practice became rife to implement Latin as a compulsory study in so many respected schools, colleges and universities around the globe (37).

Educators who still consider Latin to be their pride believe that students are to study Latin in order to be able to become familiar with the works of great men of the past in the language they were originally written in order to grasp all the riches of their works. Such educational establishments aim for their students to be able to read the works by such masters of education as Cicero, Plato, and Virgil in their native language.

The value of Latin is also in its grammar concept which found its reflections in the other languages including English. Due to its rich variety of grammar forms and means, the language presents an outstanding example of melodic forms and eurhythmy. This, in turn, makes it utterly valuable in the area of art including poetry and prose. This is another reason why numerous educational establishments encourage their students to enrich their world by knowledge of this powerful language.

Conclusion

Concluding on all the information related above, it should be stated that Latin which used to be an international language once became a dead language nowadays. No one speaks Latin fluently, or can boast by the fact of being a native speaker of Latin. This language ‘died’ with the fall of the Roman Empire which used to be its motherland. However, Latin continues to be very important in the area of education where its main implication is found nowadays.

More and more prestigious educational establishments revive their practice to implement Latin as a compulsory course. They motivate such initiative by their desire to help their students to grasp all the riches of the works by the great men of the past in their original language as they are convinced that in such a way it is possible to evaluate the greatness of their works in the most efficient way. Thus, Latin finds its wide implementation in the area of education in our modern-day times.

Works Cited

Crystal, David. Language Death, The United Kingdom: The University Press, Cambridge, 2000. Print.

The Death Of Latin 2009. Web.

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