January 24, 2004

Popular Latin melodramas--In the Cubicula

Posted by Curt at 12:00 PM in Language | TrackBack

The unrepentently French out there who still insist that legions of the Roman army spoke their Latin with a flat “r” befitting their status as the predecessors of les grands Français (though also, presumably, the oppressors of Astérix and les Gaulois) ought to take a look at ancient Provençal, which indicates to an astonishing degree the extent of Spanish and especially Italian predominance of vocabulary and inflection in early dialectical French:

Pos de chantar m’es pres talenz
farai un vers don sui dolenz:
mais non serai obedienz
en Peitau ni en Lemozi…
—Guilhem de Peitieus

This sort of evidence largely justifies my brother’s very Castilian pronunciation of the Latin address at his graduation ceremony last spring, although presumably the imperatores did not incorporate any Carlos V-era lisping. In any case, it’s very amusing to me so see the enormous flights of invention to which the translators in the world’s last Latin-speaking nation, the Vatican, are forced in able to express emergent concepts. Universalis destructionis armamenta somehow sounds far more intimidating than weapons of mass destruction, and my favorite circumlocution is definitely sonorarum visualiumque taeniarum cistellula (a little box of ribbons of sounds and sights) for videocassette, though globuli solaniani, “circular forms of a plant of the deadly nightshade family”, for potato chips definitely surpasses it in points for ludicrousness (evidently the Romans will not be credited with discovering America before the Vikings). As for me, I’m glad not to have the task of declining a word I just made up, though if I begin studying Russian soon, as I plan to, I will no doubt find out soon enough, to my sorrow, that I did not leave the unpleasant business of declensions behind when I stopped taking Latin.

p.s. Clay’s selection of Spanish poetry on the site is such a nice addition that I would like to add a further international element, but not wanting to subject anyone unncessarily to my wretched Norwegian grammar, I have not decided whether I would like to do occaisonal postings in another language or add another little feature-section or something completely different. In any case, hopefully there will be something along these lines fairly soon.


Actually, I'm pretty sure the lisping derives from Felipe III or IV, instead of Carlos V.

Posted by: shonk at January 25, 2004 11:14 PM

Sure, blame that on the French too.

Posted by: Curt at January 26, 2004 03:50 PM

Nah. Felipe III and IV were still Hapsburgs (or, if they weren't, I'm thinking of someone else, who was).

Posted by: shonk at January 26, 2004 05:52 PM

You're right, although it hardly matters since they were all cousins anyway. Felipe IV was a Habsburg, but was also the grandfather of Louis XIV and it was by his line that Bourbon claims on the throne originated. Perhaps the fact that they were all inbred has some causal connexion to the lisp.

Posted by: Curt at January 26, 2004 07:24 PM