The Normans were Latin

Latin in the early Middle Ages

Merovingian Gaul

In Gaul it was relatively early and decided to separate the vernacular from Latin. (A special feature is that in the high Middle Ages not one, but two high-level languages ​​emerged in the vernacular: Old French in the north and Old Provençal in the south.) The Merovingian Latin was later considered the worst language breakdown. However, one should take into account that in the late imperial period, especially in Gaul, the maintenance of rhetorical language and literature was of particular importance, which the following generations were still aware of. This was taken as an example and an attempt was made to continue the tradition. The attempt to rebuild, however, only succeeded at a lower level. The written language always remained the central point of orientation, although the use of Latin shows flexibility and the integration of folk elements. Franconian legal and social terms in particular found their way into the language. However, one not only recognizes the endeavor to increase the intelligibility, but also a certain artificial character. Often a reverse monophthalization of ae: etiam -> aetiam, me -> mae. The word exits are often unclear: imperii -> imperiae. The inflectional classes are simplified so much that at the end there is only the difference between nominative and non-nominative. As early as the 8th century there were attempts at standardization under Pippin the Kurz.


In Italy, on the other hand, greater continuity can be observed for longer. Under Theodoric, Boethius and Cassiodorus had a great influence on the preservation of the ancient heritage. Only with the Lombards did the educational institutions decline. Here, too, some Longobard loanwords are used in Latin, e.g. (h) arrimannus = Heermann, which mainly come from the social or legal field. It was not until the 10th century that the common people could no longer understand Latin. In the Byzantine-influenced regions, on the other hand, Greek played a major role.

The Iberian Peninsula

As in Italy, the continuities of the Visigoths still predominated on the Iberian Peninsula. There are few special developments and signs of decline to the Latin of the imperial period. The differences between the written language and the spoken vernacular were not too great, even in the early medieval transition period. The decisive break in continuity can be set in 711: in 711 the Arabs conquered the peninsula from the Goths. Some knowledge and skills could be saved; however, the uncertainty in use increased. The tradition of the time of the Visigoths helped to form a literary language, which then stood out from the vernacular. Around the year 1000, the vernacular and Latin were more clearly separated on the Iberian Peninsula.


In England the Latin language was introduced twice in two different processes! The first event was the conquest of Britain in AD 43. by Emperor Claudius and the expansion to a Roman province. In the troubled 5th century for the Roman Empire, the province was abandoned and left to its own devices. The Angles, Jutes and Saxons invaded the remains of Roman culture. In the 6th and 7th centuries, a complete new approach to Latin-Christian culture by missionaries from the Mediterranean region and above all from Ireland was necessary. The Anglo-Saxon vernacular was able to write at an early age, so Latin and vernacular were clearly separated from one another and there was no evidence of any interdependence between the two languages. A cultivated, late antique Latin was used, which had hardly any noticeable features. With the conquest of England by the Normans in 1066, Latin became the intermediary language between English and Anglo-Norman. The three languages ​​now strongly influenced each other.


Ireland is a special case among the regions that used Latin in the Middle Ages as it was never part of Romania. Latin came to the island in (outgoing) antiquity, but for the reasons just mentioned has never developed into a language spoken by the people. The Latin language was adopted in the course of Christianization on the island, probably mainly in its Gallic form and less in the form of the only superficially Romanized Britain. The Irish vernacular was well developed and had a literature that was passed on in writing. The cultural-spiritual-literary life took place in a competitive relationship. Bilingualism was given on the island in the corresponding districts. The Latin itself was imperial Christian book Latin, which came to Ireland during the Christianization and was passed on in a rigid, developmentless form. The influences between Old Irish and Latin were relatively minor. This character also remained decisive in the following times, through the Irish mission or the scientific and literary activity there was a certain exchange.