Nice article on the revival of Latin from The American Spectator

Saturday, July 26, 2008

This article is actually from last year, but last year wasn't all that long ago and I just saw this article for the first time so I'm posting about it. Here it is.

Basically it's about how Latin is beginning to show glimmers of revival. One example given is the Tridentine Mass. Here are some examples of the Latin used in the mass compared to their English versions:

So, in America for example, the prayer before communion, which had gone "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you," now goes "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof." That's much closer to the original -- "Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum."

Likewise, in the Nicene Creed, "born of the Virgin Mary" will revert to "incarnate of the Virgin Mary" ("incarnatus...ex Maria Virgine"). And, in the exchange between priest and congregation: Priest: "The Lord be with you." Congregation: "And also with you." will become: Priest: "The Lord be with you." Congregation: "And with your spirit."

Again, this is much closer to the original Latin: Priest: "Dominus Vobiscum." Congregation: "Et cum spiritu tuo."
Then some hard numbers to back up its increasing popularity:
In 1905, 56 percent of American high school students studied Latin. By 1977, a mere 6,000 pupils took the National Latin Exam. That went up to 134,873 last year.
The other particularly interesting part of the article reminded me of some of the discussions we have on Auxlang when comparing languages. A good point is made about how Latin's deadness makes it that much more rigid than in living languages (this rigidity has its good and bad points, so it's not necessarily a bad thing):
In fact, the main reason you will know English better as a result of reading Latin is that it is so different from Latin, not because of any similarities. It is in computing the changes from one language to another that you are forced to think about the structure of each of them. Latin is particularly useful for this computing exercise, thanks to the very quality that it is usually attacked for -- its deadness.

Because living languages are in a constant state of flux, there's a great deal of wriggle room when translating from one to another. Precisely because Latin is dead, there's none of that flexibility. You are much more likely to be definitely wrong in a translation from Latin to English than from, say, French to English, if you haven't understood exactly what a particular word means or how a grammatical rule works.
I've become a big fan of the idea of a revival. Latin is actually an easier language than English for people of various linguistic backgrounds: Korean, Japanese, Turkish, and especially Finnish. If the world is dead set against the idea of a (eww!) constructed language, then let's promote either Latin or a creole like Papiamentu.


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