Ancient and medieval latin,

ancient and medieval latin,
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Two assumptions frequently made about Latin in the medieval period are that it was simply the language of the Christian church and that the standard of Latin use was universally poor and not worthy of interest. However, the huge number and range of texts produced in Latin during this long period clearly demonstrate that despite times when education dropped in standard (as can happen at any period of history) or was limited to a small percentage of the population, those who were able to gain an education, primarily in monastic and cathedral schools, produced texts on a wide variety of subjects and in a wide variety of styles, often combining elements from classical learning with Biblical and patristic elements alongside elements from contemporary culture and personal experience, and reflecting many of the changes and dramas that occurred during the period.

Classical Latin, then, remained hugely influential as a standard for the language down to the medieval period and beyond. Great texts in that variety were read, and the sophistication of their language acknowledged in the writing of Latin in the Middle Ages, again with factors such as register and text type determining the extent to which writers would feel the need to attempt to conform to the Classical standard. The result is that alongside texts that try hard to meet the Classical norms we find many texts, especially ones that are not highly literary (e.g. accounts), in which the pressure of tradition and great literature as a model was not felt so strongly and other influences — such as the effect of the contemporary everyday languages — can be seen.

The ways in which writers used Latin free from the constraints of the Classical norms and the effects of this are the key to appreciating the diversity of Medieval Latin. There is a complexity that we can observe in written texts for the Middle Ages that we simply lack such good evidence for in the period when Latin was a native language. Far from being universally poor, we see the considerable skill of writers moulding the language to their needs.

The most important differences in the grammar of Medieval Latin again lie in the greater flexibility allowed in the use of the various forms of words and constructions, alongside the general continuation of most of the Classical grammatical system.

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Introduction (primarily early) medieval Latin philology by one of the founders of the discipline, very strong on palaeography in particular. Still worth reading, especially by those planning to teach ML at some point. Includes a number of frequently quoted characterizations (e.g. Medieval Latin as the corpse whose hair and fingernails continue to grow) and obiter dicta.

Helpful beyond its immediate subject matter as a general guide to medieval philology. Very good on how to track down biblical echoes etc. One of a series of Toronto bibliographies that also includes introductions to Medieval Rhetoric and Latin Palaeography.

The old Harrington was a useful collection handicapped by a lack of notes. Pucci's revision has altered the selections (new cut-off at 1250; more women writers; but too many brief snippets) and added notes (not always reliable), plus an introduction on Medieval Latin by Alison Goddard Elliott.

Based on a comprehensive collection of material (like the TLL). Note, however, that it cuts off at 200 AD, omitting all Christian authors, and is thus of limited usefulness for medieval Latinists (though a good place to turn for brief, up-to-date etymologies).Some find its semantic groupings over-subtle and/or arbitrary.

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