Learning Latin as a 2nd Language, Using Latin for a 3rd: A Linguistic and Pedagogical Investigation of Neo-Latin Foreign Language Textbooks
Roth, Kevin Richard
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Neo-Latin emerged during the Renaissance as a conscious effort to rid the language of the features that distinguished the Medieval form from the 1st century BC Classical purity of Caesar and, especially, Cicero. Although by then Latin had long since ceased to be anyone's native tongue, it continued to be learned as a second language so thoroughly that original Latin compositions of all types at first exceeded and later closely rivaled the volume of vernacular productions. That the spoken and written versions of a language are quite distinct is obvious, but the decline of Latin has resulted in the current dearth of fluent speakers of the language, which presents challenges to a linguistic analysis of spoken Latin. A unique window into colloquial Latin is provided by Neo-Latin foreign language textbooks, which used Latin as the medium of instruction for numerous other tongues. Then as now, such books regularly strive (successfully or otherwise) to endow the reader with an understanding of not only the written language, but the spoken idiom as well. In this way, Neo-Latin foreign language textbooks are unique among all books ever composed in Latin, in that by aspiring to model the spoken version of the target language, they must also present the closest equivalent in Latin. While the authors of these books intended that the reader use his knowledge of Latin to learn a third language, today we can reverse engineer the process to examine the grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation of the colloquial Latin of the time, and in so doing we discover how the ancient tongue of the Romans was adapted both to fit the realities of the modern world and to describe the workings of languages far different from Latin. Neo-Latin foreign language textbooks also shed light on the readers' motivations for studying various languages, and reveal what Europeans knew about the speakers of those languages. This evidence of colloquial Latin could serve as a guide for contemporary spoken Latin pedagogy.
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