Thursday, September 16, 2004


Is Latin a Dead Language?

Some wag composed this doggerel, which Latin students are fond of chanting:
Latin is a language,
Dead as dead can be.
First it killed the Romans,
Now it's killing me.
Marc Antoine Muret (1526-1585), aka Muretus, thought differently. In his Orationes, vol. 2, no. 22, included in A. Springhetti, Selecta Latinitatis Scripta (saec. xv-xx) (Rome, 1951), he wrote:
Therefore those languages that depend on the whim of the ignorant multitude die each day, and are born each day. But those languages that the usage of learned men has rescued from the slavery of the crowd not only are alive, but have in a certain way achieved immortality and immutability.

Illae igitur linguae quotidie moriuntur, quotidie nascuntur, quae pendent ex libidine imperitae multitudinis: quas autem ex populi servitute eruditorum usus vindicavit, illae non vivunt tantum, sed immortalitatem quodammodo et immutabilitatem adeptae sunt.

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