Speaking and Writing

Julia M. H. Smith

in Europe after Rome

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780192892638
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670626 | DOI:
Speaking and Writing

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter approaches the question of writing from the perspective of spoken language. It asks: what languages did people speak in the early Middle Ages? And how readily could they understand one another? Why and how did the linguistic map of Europe change during these centuries? These questions introduce a major theme running throughout this book — the diversity of early medieval experience, which was so different from the universalizing tendencies of the ancient world. The second section of this chapter analyses the interrelationship between Latin, the language of Roman imperialism and culture, and the local languages of early medieval Europe. The third section builds on the analysis of the relative prestige of different languages in the second section and argues that literacy must be understood as a technology of power.

Keywords: writing; spoken language; Middle Ages; Latin; medieval Europe; power; literacy

Chapter.  15792 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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