Latin as an Acquired Language

Carin Ruff

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394016
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Latin as an Acquired Language

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Reception
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)



In the case of Latin, the characteristically medieval situation of language acquisition comes about at the point where one can say that all of Europe stands at a sufficient temporal, geographic, and cultural remove from Latin, which anyone who wishes to use the language must acquire through study. The distancing from Latin can be detected in the attitudes of compilers and commentators who mediated the grammatical literature of antiquity to medieval audiences. The Latin grammars that medieval teachers and students used in their project of acquiring Latin were originally written to induce in native speakers a conscious awareness of analytical categories for describing their own language. The extent of the distance between spoken and written forms of the language has been a topic of controversy among scholars of the development of the Romance languages and of Latin literacy. Any appraisal of the Latin-acquisition process for communities that encountered Latin afresh with conversion to Christianity is to some extent complicated.

Keywords: Europe; Latin; commentators; grammatical literature; Latin grammars; Romance languages; Christianity

Article.  7814 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Reception ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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