Hah! I feel so vindicated. Vindicated is not exactly the right word, but something that is partially quite vindicated, mixed with happy, and utterly delighted with my discovery of this amazing interview on youtube.
Unfortunately, if you can’t understand Spanish, you’ll miss out on it.
I’m not a linguist, so I don’t know how “traditional” linguists would respond to all the points Carme Jiménez Huertas*, philologist specialized in linguistics, makes.
The fact is she has answered a most fundamental question I had which had popped up in my mind as soon as I started learning a bit of Latin.
Something unexplainable starkly stood out to me. Something did not make sense at all: the syntax of the Romance languages in many fundamental ways does not match Latin AT ALL, BUT it is very similar across all Romance languages. Obviously, this blows a hole the size of a crater in the theory that says that Romance languages are DERIVED from Latin. They cannot be, simply cannot be.
And here it is beautifully explained why, along with so many other interesting linguistics points.
Basically, there was a Western European language that is the mother of all Romance languages which was spoken all across the region. With the Roman conquest, Latin permeated and intervened in this older maternal Romance language, but it obviously was NOT Latin that was the matrix! This older Romance language is the mother of all Romance languages, not Latin! This older Romance language was spoken all across Western Europe before Latin arrived on the scene, already forming all kinds of regional variations over time. Latin came and shaped all these already existing variations of this older Romance language, but it did not generate them from its “scratch” Latin base (including from Vulgar Latin!). The “vulgarization” theory is ridiculous. That’s exactly what I thought as well.
I have to ask people studying linguistics now if academics are still going around saying that Latin is the mother of Romance languages or if this very old and entrenched myth has begun to be discarded on the face of pure logic and more recent research.
Loved it! Note the points she makes from about min. 34 to 50: The key question when comparing the fundamental syntax of a language, regarding its main components, plus comparisons with key and root vocabulary, plus the fact that Latin sits in between the Romance languages and German.
And very interestingly, and with which I totally agree, is the question of time. There was not sufficient time for so much fundamental syntactic change, as the (stupid) theory of Latin being the matrix of Romance languages claims. 400 years is NOTHING – as she so keenly and wonderfully points out. This was one of my questions as well! Hah! I feel so vindicated. For a language’s syntax to change on the level of such fundamental syntactic mechanisms, it takes thousands of years, not a few hundred. This is perfectly true!
So cool. Sorry, but I don’t feel like transcribing and translating to English everything she says.
p.s. And the question of what language spoke all the varied and highly diverse Roman troops is also very interesting. All the foreigners in the Roman armies probably had learned, at a minimum, some basic Latin to function, but otherwise, as she says, they spoke their own language of origin. That’s my guess without more info at the moment. Some questions remain for me also about the written form of this older language.
She has authored a book on the subject:
Title No venimos del latín
Review: Se nos ha dicho que las lenguas romances derivan del latín y que son el resultado de la degeneración del latín vulgar. Su formación se explica a través de complicados procesos evolutivos. Sin embargo, ¿qué sucedería si las causas del cambio lingu¨ístico, atribuidas a influencias externas, pudieran explicarse desde la escritura ibérica? Las primeras evidencias de los romances nos muestran una lengua oral plenamente desarrollada que tiene características afines con las lenguas actuales pero que presentan una rotura con el latín: ni la fonética, ni los conectores, ni la sintaxis son latinas. Y, misteriosamente, algunas de estas características son ibéricas. Mientras se conoce casi todo sobre el latín, la escritura ibérica, que dejó más de dos mil textos epigráficos, se ha ignorado y no forma parte de los estudios filológicos universitarios. Quizá por ello, en pleno siglo XXI, sigue sin descifrar.
Carme Jiménez Huertas (Sant Just Desvern, 1958) estudió Filosofía y Letras en la Universitat de Barcelona y Filología Catalana en la UOC, especializándose en lingüística y tecnologías de la lengua.
Also, I think she is great at explaining things, the perfect person to be a professor…
Also #2, she does not claim to be the first to be debunking this “Latin matrix” claim. There were some accusations of plagiarism or similar here, or that the debunking has been around for at least 100 years (certainly not in my education and cultural circles!):
Which the interviewer retorted to, clarifying Carme has based her claims on the research of several other authors and apparently recognizes them. I haven’t read her book. At least during the interview, in no way does she come across as some egomaniac who needs to untowardly claim some undue credit for herself. She is simply explaining this “newer” reasoning and theory. She never says “my work, my research, my this, my that…”
The “Romance languages came from Latin” is a great of example of the power of conditioning. It is a great example of what it is like being in an environment where everyone says the same stupid thing as if it were true and logical, while your brain is ringing the alarm that it ***does not*** make sense, but you are pushed with two tons of force to accept what you are being told. Very “Winston, how many fingers am I holding up, Winston?” The force of this conditioning can be really jarring, even totally disabling.
Moral of the story: Never, NEVER, NEVER ignore when your brain rings the alarm that something is just not adding up. No matter how much people on the outside are pounding your brain to make it follow their totally accepted way of thinking.
Update Dec. 3, 2013
I have a follow-up that clarifies certain important points above. BTW, this post was censored at
Latindiscussion.com (you can read an excerpt of the full exchange -including the censored post- on my other blog)
[quote="Cinefactus, convMessage: 9532, member: 395"]Alessandra,
Your actions in this message (when did latin die?) are not appropriate. I have heard your position argued by an academic whom I greatly respect, so I am very interested to hear any evidence you have for it. You do need, however, to present this evidence. Sweeping unsupported statements and references to Wikipedia do not count as evidence. Asking a question is acceptable, but at the moment your posts are closer to trolling.
Your account’s access may be limited based on these actions. Please keep this in mind when posting or using our site.[/quote]
I don’t understand what evidence you want me to present. Could you clarify? I also have no idea what unsupported statements are you referring to that I cannot make here. It’s a little odd that Pixie made several referrals to wikipedia, but apparently you have no trouble with that. I guess the validity of evidence on wikipedia depends on who makes the reference…
Anyways, these are my latest thoughts:
Alessandra dixit: ↑
There has often been a clear confusion between ability and adulation, between being right and being capable of questioning what is blindly accepted as so.
Pixie says: “You confess of not being an expert on the matter of Latin philology, but for some strange reason you have decided to blindly follow someone who has just as much classical training as high school students.”
The reason is not strange at all. She is asking questions and pointing out problems with your theories that you can’t answer properly or not at all. So it’s not following blindly – it’s wanting answers that up to here, not only were you incapable of answering, but you have no extant evidence for most of what is called “Vulgar Latin” which is supposed to cover what, 1000-1500 years of language development?
“The broad term Vulgar Latin should not be confused with the more specific term Proto-Romance, which refers specifically to the theoretical common ancestor to the modern Romance languages, as such Proto-Romance may have been only one of the Vulgar Latin languages and only a very late stage of that language branch.”
That’s what I was basically doing.
Lyceum dixit: ↑ Also, if you really don’t know what happened to Egypt to keep there from being a modern spoken Romance language there well…you really have serious gaps in your general education.
Alessandra dixit: ↑ Why only Egypt? Let’s take every single conquered territory of the Romans – which according to your thesis must for no reason at all suddenly start to change profound syntactic mechanisms, in the same way, at the same time across an area of the size of Northern Africa.
Pixie says: “I am not sure whether you are even aware of the number of romance languages that died out. “
Are you trying to make a point? What is it?
Pixie says: “Then there is IstroRomanian which will most likely die out very soon, and some others, some extinct, some still alive that formed in the areas of the Roman Empire, about whom I doubt the author of the book you are quoting even heard anything, and even less studied enough to make a proper judgment:”
Which judgment did she fail to make?
Alessandra dixit: ↑ I took a quick look at “J.N Adams “The Regional Diversification of Latin”" and interestingly enough it has nothing of what I asked you for! I didn’t find a “whole wealth of evidence” chronicling this intermediary language you claim existed between Latin and and the Romance languages from 400 and 800 AD.
Pixie says: “That book has more than 800 pages. Unless you have magical powers you won’t be able to find anything “by taking a quick look”.”
If you had taken even a quick look at the book, you’d have noticed that it doesn’t even begin to present the full transformation going from Latin to Romance, it has a very limited focus on Latin.
Alessandra dixit: ↑ Or did I misunderstand you? Is your great thesis that Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Italian were all created in 200 years, meaning from 600-800 AD, just like that? I’m sure you must have an even greater wealth of imaginary evidence that proves that!
Pixie says: “And your “abundance of evidence” seems to amount to randomly chosen Wikipedia articles and a book by an author with very disputable knowledge and no credentials whatsoever.”
Ah, but I never claimed to have an abundance of evidence – you did. And obviously you don’t have it.
Here’s how I see things after this exchange:
One of the problems is the concept of “mother” language. Because if you go from:
Latin -> Vulgar Latin -> Proto-Romance -> Romance
Latin is not the mother of Romance; it’s the great grand-mother. And, as far as the info I have seen, there is basically no extant evidence of most of this huge number of languages covering a very wide geographic area over centuries that are all called “Vulgar Latin. ” To the point that I wonder if many of these sociolects under this umbrella term had already changed so much that they should really be called something other than “Vulgar Latin.”
In the end, classic Latin became such a distant relative of Romance languages that to say that it functions as a mother or as an aunt language is the same thing.
And also, because you basically have no evidence of what Vulgar Latin was like, you have little idea of how it mixes with other languages and why one variant spreads one way or another, how long things take to change, etc. What you seem to have is evidence for classic Latin, and evidence for Romance. Vulgar Latin, very little. It’s these transitional languages that you are missing tons of evidence for.
To answer the initial OP question: Latin died out at various times at various places. “Vulgar Latin” obviously ceases to be Latin at different points. And that is even truer in the Romance languages stage. To say that Latin never died out because it lives on as Romance languages is ludicrous.
And someone asked what is this language that existed aside from classic Latin? Well, it seems that it’s “Vulgar Latin”! The question almost seems to be what Western European language isn’t considered Vulgar Latin?
It’s what PP asked:
“Now even admitting there would have been another language common to all the Latin/Romance area, which would have been very influenced by Latin with regards to vocabulary and conjugation but not for the rest, how could such a widely spoken language have left no trace whatsoever, not an inscription, nothing, while we do have traces of both Latin and various regional languages spoken in the same areas and that survived along with Latin here and there for some time, even influencing the regional Latin, before they got overcome by it? We would have traces of those regional languages, and no trace of a common one spoken over such a wide area?”
“It cannot be supposed that the spoken language was a distinct and persistent language so that the citizens of Rome would be regarded as bilingual. Instead, Vulgar Latin is a blanket term covering the popular dialects and sociolects of the Latin language throughout its range from the hypothetical prisca latinitas of unknown or poorly remembered times in early Latium to the death of Latin after the fall of the empire.”
So, if you are going to take every language development “spoken by the people” from 700 BC to 700 AD and call it “Vulgar Latin” and all of that is running in parallel to (classical) Latin – there’s your “common language”! But which in fact is a big bunch of languages. And there is very little trace of all these oral languages. In addition, only by knowing more of the spoken pre-Latin languages in Western Europe could you know how each and everyone of them affected “Vulgar Latin.” It seems there is basically no evidence of those. How many “Vulgar Latin” sociolects have both a mother and a father language?
Lastly, why, for example, do the major Romance languages use “guerra” for war, and not the classic Latin word? In the Iberian Peninsula, even? Does anyone know the answer?
(end of censored comment)
Pointing out how little evidence there is for all the languages the term “Vulgar Latin” is supposed to denote, how many things are not properly explained, and how many holes there are with so many claims was deemed a thought and speech crime over at latindiscussion.com – therefore it was censored.