Article

Latin as a Language of Authoritative Tradition

Ryan Szpiech

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394016
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195394016.013.0004

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Latin as a Language of Authoritative Tradition

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

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Latin existed as a language of authoritative tradition in Augustine's time, and it was also in this sense that it faced repeated challenges over the long course of its medieval development. Through prescriptive and descriptive grammar in the works of Donatus and Servius, Macrobius, and Priscian, among many other lateantique and early medieval grammarians, Latin's authority was established as a source of tradition by positing the unity of past expression and present understanding in terms of an unchanging grammatical code. The authority of the Latin language in the Middle Ages stemmed from its own status as the inheritor of originality in three distinct but intersecting senses: as the language of Rome and its empire; as the language of learning and wisdom, first as embodied in a standard canon of trusted auctores and later, as a rival to Arabic, inherited from Greece; and, finally, as one of God's three holy languages, the companion of Hebrew and Greek.

Keywords: Latin; Augustine; Donatus; Servius; medieval grammarians; auctores; Middle Ages

Article.  11408 words. 

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

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