The Idea of Latinity

Nicholas Watson

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Idea of Latinity

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


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This article explores the medieval Latinity from a conceptual perspective. It suggests two possible lines of enquiry. The first is sociolinguistic, which leads to a study of the ideological and cultural functions of Latinity in the medieval West that might feature subjects such as Latinity's identification with learning and the clerisy, association with ethical habitus and the transcendent, and practical role in the slow societal transition “from memory to written record.” A sociolinguistic enquiry into medieval Latin, in other words, is bound up with the study of western pedagogy and learning on the one hand, and intellectual and institutional history on the other: linked areas of study long of central interest to medievalists. The second avenue, which is metalinguistic, focuses less on the functions of Latinity, moral or practical, than on the language's associations and meanings: on what Latinitas signified in the western Middle Ages, both in itself and, especially, in its relation to other languages.

Keywords: medieval Latinity; sociolinguistic enquiry; western pedagogy; metalinguistic; Latinitas; Middle Ages

Article.  12035 words. 

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

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