Humanistic Latin

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As a humanist Latin refers to the type of Latin in Renaissance humanism from the late 14th to the 16th century .

Linguistic changes compared to the Latin of the Middle Ages

Ad fontes (Latin "[back] to the beginning") was the general appeal of the humanists with which they sought to cleanse Latin of the vocabulary of the Middle Ages and of the stylistic overload thatoccurredin the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire was. The so-called Golden Age of Latin literature was seen as a model and pioneer of the Latin style. In poetry , Virgil was the model, in prose the vocabulary and syntax of Cicero set the standard. In poetry, the accent-based meters, which were very popular in Middle Latin (see e.g. Carmina Burana ), were now frowned upon. Anything that did not meet these standards wasbrandedas " Gothic " or kitchen Latin . The purist movement took on doctrinal traits, which Erasmus of Rotterdam opposedin his Dialogus Ciceronianus in 1528.

The humanists also tried to cleanse the written Latin from medieval influences in its orthography . While in the Middle Ages the spelling of "ae" and "e" got wildly mixed up ("Marie" next to "Mariae"), they insisted on the correct spelling based on the model from the classical period. The same applies to the reintroduced distinction between ti + vowel and ci + vowel (exclusively “etiam”, renouncing the wrong “eciam”). In the Middle Ages, these spellings were not differentiated, as the pronunciation as a result of the palatalization was "z" in both cases ( homophony ).


The humanists' plan for the renewal of Latin was particularly successful in education. Schools now taught the spelling of humanism and encouraged the study of the texts chosen by the humanists to the exclusion of the literature of modern Latin. On the other hand, although this form of Latin was actually an elegant literary language, it became too complicated to write books on law, medicine, science, or contemporary politics in the form of humanistic Latin while observing all the standards such as cleansing of vocabulary and classical usage . Nevertheless, Latin remained the language of scholars for a long time. Important works such as Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica from 1687 or the writings of Leonhard Euler (1707–1783) are written in Latin.

Because humanistic Latin lacked the exact vocabulary for modern everyday life, Latin, accelerated by these changes, developed from an everyday language to an object of scholarship. The efforts of the humanists turned Latin from a classical but still useful language to an extinct language. The Latin vocabulary was continued by the creators of the new Latin , which lives on in original special forms such as the Nuntii Latini (Latin news) on the Finnish radio.

Important authors of humanistic Latin

Latin dominated the book market after the invention of the printing press , as the language distribution of the incunabula shows.

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