The Info List - Medieval Latin

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MEDIEVAL LATIN was the form of Latin
used in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
, primarily: as a medium of scholarly exchange; as the liturgical language of Chalcedonian Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
; and as a language of science, literature, law, and administration. Despite the clerical origin of many of its authors, medieval Latin should not be confused with Ecclesiastical Latin
. There is no real consensus on the exact boundary where Late Latin ends and medieval Latin
begins. Some scholarly surveys begin with the rise of early Ecclesiastical Latin
in the middle of the 4th century, others around 500, and still others with the replacement of written Late Latin by written Romance languages
Romance languages
starting around the year 900.


* 1 Influences

* 1.1 Christian Latin
* 1.2 Vulgar Latin

* 2 Changes in vocabulary, syntax, and grammar

* 2.1 Syntax

* 3 Orthography * 4 Medieval Latin

* 5 Important medieval Latin

* 5.1 4th–5th centuries * 5.2 6th–8th centuries * 5.3 9th century * 5.4 10th century * 5.5 11th century * 5.6 12th century * 5.7 13th century * 5.8 14th century

* 6 Literary movements * 7 Works * 8 Online repositories * 9 Notes * 10 References * 11 External links



Medieval Latin
had an enlarged vocabulary, which freely borrowed from other sources. It was heavily influenced by the language of the Vulgate
, which contained many peculiarities alien to Classical Latin that resulted from a more or less direct translation from Greek and Hebrew
; the peculiarities mirrored the original not only in its vocabulary but also in its grammar and syntax. Greek provided much of the technical vocabulary of Christianity
. The various Germanic languages spoken by the Germanic tribes, who invaded southern Europe, were also major sources of new words. Germanic leaders became the rulers of parts of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
that they conquered, and words from their languages were freely imported into the vocabulary of law. Other more ordinary words were replaced by coinages from Vulgar Latin or Germanic sources because the classical words had fallen into disuse. An illuminated manuscript of a Book of Hours contains prayers in medieval Latin.

was also spread to areas such as Ireland
and Germany
, where Romance languages
Romance languages
were not spoken, and which had never known Roman rule. Works written in the lands, where Latin
was a learned language with no relation to the local vernacular, also influenced the vocabulary and syntax of medieval Latin.

Since subjects like science and philosophy, including Argumentation theory and Ethics
(pre-law), were communicated in Latin, the Latin vocabulary developed for them is the source of a great many technical words in modern languages. English words like _abstract_, _subject_, _communicate_, _matter_, _probable_ and their cognates in other European languages generally have the meanings given to them in medieval Latin.


The influence of Vulgar Latin
was also apparent in the syntax of some medieval Latin
writers, although Classical Latin
continued to be held in high esteem and studied as models for literary compositions. The high point of the development of medieval Latin
as a literary language came with the Carolingian renaissance , a rebirth of learning kindled under the patronage of Charlemagne
, king of the Franks
. Alcuin was Charlemagne's Latin
secretary and an important writer in his own right; his influence led to a rebirth of Latin
literature and learning after the depressed period following the final disintegration of the authority of the Western Roman Empire.

Although it was simultaneously developing into the Romance languages, Latin
itself remained very conservative, as it was no longer a native language and there were many ancient and medieval grammar books to give one standard form. On the other hand, strictly speaking there was no single form of "medieval Latin". Every Latin
author in the medieval period spoke Latin
as a second language, with varying degrees of fluency, and syntax, grammar, and vocabulary were often influenced by an author's native language. This was especially true beginning around the 12th century, after which the language became increasingly adulterated: late medieval Latin
documents written by French speakers tend to show similarities to medieval French grammar and vocabulary; those written by Germans tend to show similarities to German, etc. For instance, rather than following the classical Latin
practice of generally placing the verb at the end, medieval writers would often follow the conventions of their own native language instead. Whereas Latin
had no definite or indefinite articles, medieval writers sometimes used forms of _unus_ as an indefinite article, and forms of _ille_ (reflecting usage in the Romance languages) as a definite article or even _quidam_ (meaning "a certain one/thing" in Classical Latin) as something like an article. Unlike classical Latin, where _esse_ ("to be") was the only auxiliary verb, medieval Latin
writers might use _habere_ ("to have") as an auxiliary, similar to constructions in Germanic and Romance languages. The accusative and infinitive construction in classical Latin
was often replaced by a subordinate clause introduced by _quod_ or _quia_. This is almost identical, for example, to the use of _que_ in similar constructions in French.

In every age from the late 8th century onwards, there were learned writers (especially within the Church) who were familiar enough with classical syntax to be aware that these forms and usages were "wrong" and resisted their use. Thus the Latin
of a theologian like St Thomas Aquinas or of an erudite clerical historian such as William of Tyre tends to avoid most of the characteristics described above, showing its period in vocabulary and spelling alone; the features listed are much more prominent in the language of lawyers (e.g. the 11th century English Domesday Book
Domesday Book
), physicians, technical writers and secular chroniclers. However the use of _quod_ to introduce subordinate clauses was especially pervasive and is found at all levels.


Medieval Latin
had ceased to be a living language and was instead a scholarly language of the minority of educated men in medieval Europe used in official documents more than for everyday communication. That resulted in two major features of Medieval Latin
compared with Classical Latin. First, many authors attempted to "show off" their knowledge of Classical Latin
by using rare or archaic constructions, sometimes anachronistically (haphazardly mixing constructions from Republican and Imperial Latin, which in reality existed centuries apart). Second, many lesser scholars had a limited grasp of "proper" Latin
or were increasingly influenced by Vulgar Latin, which was mutating into the Romance languages.

* Word order usually tended towards that of the vernacular language of the author, not the artificial and polished word order of Classical Latin. Conversely, an erudite scholar might attempt to "show off" by intentionally constructing a very complicated sentence. Because Latin is an inflected language, it is technically possible to place related words at opposite ends of a paragraph-long sentence, and owing to the complexity of doing so, it was seen by some as a sign of great skill. * Typically, prepositions are used much more frequently (as in modern Romance languages) for greater clarity, instead of using the ablative case alone. Further, in Classical Latin
the subject of a verb was often left implied, unless it was being stressed: _videt_ = "he sees". For clarity, Medieval Latin
more frequently includes an explicit subject: _is videt_ = "he sees" without necessarily stressing the subject. * Various changes occurred in vocabulary, and certain words were mixed into different declensions or conjugations. Many new compound verbs were formed. Some words retained their original structure but drastically changed in meaning: _animositas_ specifically means "wrath" in Medieval Latin
while in Classical Latin, it generally referred to "high spirits, excited spirits" of any kind. * Owing to heavy use of biblical terms, there was a large influx of new words borrowed from Greek and Hebrew
and even some grammatical influences. That obviously largely occurred among priests and scholars, not the laity. In general, it is difficult to express abstract concepts in Latin, as many scholars admitted. For example, Plato's abstract concept of "the Truth" had to be expressed in Latin as "what is always true". Medieval scholars and theologians, translating both the Bible and Greek philosophers into Latin
out of the Koine and Classical Greek, cobbled together many new abstract concept words in Latin.


* Indirect discourse, which in Classical Latin
was achieved by using a subject accusative and infinitive, was now often simply replaced by new conjunctions serving the function of English "that" such as _quod_, _quia_, or _quoniam_. There was a high level of overlap between the old and new constructions, even within the same author's work, and it was often a matter of preference. A particularly famous and often cited example is from the Venerable Bede , using both constructions within the same sentence: "_Dico me scire et quod sum ignobilis_" = "I say that I know and that I am unknown ". The resulting subordinate clause often used the subjunctive mood instead of the indicative. This new syntax for indirect discourse is among the most prominent features of Medieval Latin, the largest syntactical change.

* Several substitutions were often used instead of subjunctive clause constructions. They did not break the rules of Classical Latin
but were an alternative way to express the same meaning, avoiding the use of a subjunctive clause.

* The present participle was frequently used adverbially in place of _qui_ or _cum_ clauses, such as clauses of time, cause, concession, and purpose. That was loosely similar to the use of the present participle in an ablative absolute phrase, but the participle did not need to be in the ablative case.

* _Habeo_ (I have ) and "Debeo" (I must) would be used to express obligation more often than the gerundive.

* Given that obligation inherently carries a sense of futurity (" Carthage
must be destroyed" at some point in the future), it anticipates how the Romance languages
Romance languages
such as French would use "habeo" as the basis for their future tenses (abandoning the Latin
forms of the future tense). While in Latin
"amare habeo" is the indirect discourse "I have to love", in the French equivalent,"aimerai" (habeo > ayyo > ai, aimer+ai), it has become the future tense, "I will love", losing the sense of obligation. In Medieval Latin, however, it was still indirect discourse and not yet used as simply a future tense.

* Instead of a clause introduced by _ut_ or _ne_, an infinitive was often used with a verb of hoping, fearing, promising, etc.

* Conversely, some authors might haphazardly switch between the subjunctive and indicative forms of verbs, with no intended difference in meaning. * The usage of _sum_ changed significantly: it was frequently omitted or implied. Further, many medieval authors did not feel that it made sense for the perfect passive construction "_laudatus sum_" to use the present tense of _esse_ in a past tense construction so they began using _fui_, the past perfect of _sum_, interchangeably with _sum_. * Chaos in the usage of demonstrative pronouns. _Hic_, _ille_, _iste_, and even the intensive _ipse_ are often used virtually interchangeably. In anticipation of Romance languages, _hic_ and _ille_ were also frequently used simply to express the definite article "the", which Classical Latin
did not possess. _Unus_ was also used for the indirect article "a, an". * Use of reflexives became much looser. A reflexive pronoun in a subordinate clause might refer to the subject of the main clause. The reflexive possessive _suus_ might be used in place of a possessive genitive such as _eius_. * Comparison of adjectives changed somewhat. The comparative form was sometimes used with positive or superlative meaning. Also, the adverb "magis" was often used with a positive adjective to indicate a comparative meaning,and _multum_ and _nimis_ could be used with a positive form of adjective to give a superlative meaning. * Classical Latin
used the ablative absolute, but as stated above, in Medieval Latin
examples of nominative absolute or accusative absolute may be found. This was a point of difference between the ecclesiastical Latin
of the clergy and the "Vulgar Latin" of the laity, which existed alongside it. The educated clergy mostly knew that traditional Latin
did not use the nominative or accusative case in such constructions, but only the ablative case. These constructions are observed in the medieval era, but they are changes that developed among the uneducated commoners. * Classical Latin
does not distinguish progressive action in the present tense, thus _laudo_ can mean either "I praise" or "I am praising". In imitation of Greek, Medieval Latin
could use a present participle with _sum_ to form a periphrastic tense equivalent to the English progressive. This "Greek Periphrastic Tense" formation could also be done in the past and future tenses: _laudans sum_ ("I am praising"), _laudans eram_ ("I was praising"), _laudans ero_ ("I will be praising"). * Classical Latin
verbs had at most two voices, active and passive, but Greek (the original language of the New Testament) had an additional "middle voice" (or reflexive voice). One use was to express when the subject is acting upon itself: "Achilles put the armor onto himself" or "Jesus clothed himself in the robe" would use the middle voice. Because Latin
had no middle voice, Medieval Latin
expresses such sentences by putting the verb in the passive voice form, but the conceptual meaning is active (similar to Latin
deponent verbs). For example, the Medieval Latin
translation of Genesis states literally, "God was moved over the waters" ("spiritus Dei ferebatur super aquas", Genesis 1:2), but it is just expressing a Greek middle-voice verb: "God moved __ over the waters". * Overlapping with orthography differences (see below), certain diphthongs were sometimes shortened: "oe" to "e", and "ae" to "e". Thus, "oecumenicus" becomes the more familiar "ecumenicus" (more familiar in this later form because religious terms such as "ecumenical" were more common in medieval Latin). The "oe" diphthong is not particularly frequent in Latin, but the shift from "ae" to "e" affects many common words, such as "caelum" (heaven) being shortened to "celum"; even "puellae" (girls) was shortened to "puelle".


The Prüfening dedicatory inscription of 1119, composed in medieval Latin.

Many striking differences between classical and medieval Latin
are found in orthography . Perhaps the most striking difference is that medieval manuscripts used a wide range of abbreviations by means of superscripts, special characters etc.: for instance the letters "n" and "s" were often omitted and replaced by a diacritical mark above the preceding or following letter. Apart from this, some of the most frequently occurring differences are as follows. Clearly many of these would have been influenced by the spelling, and indeed pronunciation, of the vernacular language, and thus varied between different European countries.

* Following the Carolingian reforms of the 9th century, Carolingian minuscule was widely adopted, leading to a clear differentiation between capital and lowercase letters. * A partial or full differentiation between _v_ and _u_, and between _j_ and _i_. * The diphthong _ae_ is usually collapsed and simply written as _e_ (or _e caudata _, _ę_); for example, _puellae_ might be written _puelle_ (or _puellę_). The same happens with the diphthong _oe_, for example in _pena_, _Edipus_, from _poena_, _Oedipus_. This feature is already found on coin inscriptions of the 4th century (e.g. _reipublice_ for _reipublicae_). Conversely, an original _e_ in Classical Latin
was often represented by _ae_ or _oe_ (e.g. _aecclesia_ and _coena_), also reflected in English spellings such as _foetus_. * Because of a severe decline in the knowledge of Greek, in loanwords and foreign names from or transmitted through Greek, _y_ and _i_ might be used more or less interchangeably: _Ysidorus_, _Egiptus_, from _Isidorus_, _Aegyptus_. This is also found in pure Latin
words: _ocius_ ("more swiftly") appears as _ocyus_ and _silva_ as _sylva_, this last being a form which survived into the 18th century and so became embedded in modern botanical Latin
(also cf. _Pennsylvania_). * _h_ might be lost, so that _habere_ becomes _abere_, or _mihi_ becomes _mi_ (the latter also occurred in Classical Latin); or _mihi_ may be written _michi_, indicating that the _h_ had come to be pronounced as _k_ or perhaps _kh_. This pronunciation is not found in Classical Latin. * The loss of _h_ in pronunciation also led to the addition of _h_ in writing where it did not previously belong, especially in the vicinity of _r_, such as _chorona_ for _corona_, a tendency also sometimes seen in Classical Latin. * _-ti-_ before a vowel is often written as _-ci-_ , so that _divitiae_ becomes _diviciae_ (or _divicie_), _tertius_ becomes _tercius_, _vitium_ _vicium_. * The combination _mn_ might have another plosive inserted, so that _alumnus_ becomes _alumpnus_, _somnus_ _sompnus_. * Single consonants were often doubled, or vice versa, so that _tranquillitas_ becomes _tranquilitas_ and _Africa_ becomes _Affrica_. * Syncopation became more frequent: _vi_, especially in verbs in the perfect tense, might be lost, so that _novisse_ becomes _nosse_ (this occurred in Classical Latin
as well but was much more frequent in medieval Latin).

These orthographical differences were often due to changes in pronunciation or, as in the previous example, morphology, which authors reflected in their writing. By the 16th century, Erasmus complained that speakers from different countries were unable to understand each other's form of Latin.

The gradual changes in Latin
did not escape the notice of contemporaries. Petrarch , writing in the 14th century, complained about this linguistic "decline", which helped fuel his general dissatisfaction with his own era.


The corpus of medieval Latin
literature encompasses a wide range of texts, including such diverse works as sermons , hymns , hagiographical texts, travel literature , histories , epics , and lyric poetry .

The first half of the 5th century saw the literary activities of the great Christian authors Jerome
(c. 347–420) and Augustine of Hippo (354–430), whose texts had an enormous influence on theological thought of the Middle Ages, and of the latter's disciple Prosper of Aquitaine (c. 390-455). Of the later 5th century and early 6th century, Sidonius Apollinaris (c. 430 – after 489) and Ennodius (474–521), both from Gaul, are well known for their poems, as is Venantius Fortunatus
Venantius Fortunatus
(c. 530–600). This was also a period of transmission: the Roman patrician Boethius (c. 480–524) translated part of Aristotle
's logical corpus, thus preserving it for the Latin West , and wrote the influential literary and philosophical treatise _De consolatione Philosophiae _; Cassiodorus (c. 485–585) founded an important library at the monastery of Vivarium near Squillace where many texts from Antiquity were to be preserved. Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636) collected all scientific knowledge still available in his time into what might be called the first encyclopedia , the _ Etymologiae _.

Gregory of Tours (c. 538–594) wrote a lengthy history of the Frankish kings. Gregory came from a Gallo-Roman aristocratic family, and his Latin, which shows many aberrations from the classical forms, testifies to the declining significance of classical education in Gaul. At the same time, good knowledge of Latin
and even of Greek was being preserved in monastic culture in Ireland
and was brought to England
and the European mainland by missionaries in the course of the 6th and 7th centuries, such as Columbanus (543–615), who founded the monastery of Bobbio in Northern Italy. Ireland
was also the birthplace of a strange poetic style known as Hisperic Latin
. Other important Insular authors include the historian Gildas
(c. 500–570) and the poet Aldhelm (c. 640–709). Benedict Biscop (c. 628–690) founded the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow and furnished it with books which he had taken home from a journey to Rome
and which were later used by Bede
(c. 672–735) to write his _Ecclesiastical History of the English People _.

Many medieval Latin
works have been published in the series Patrologia Latina , Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum and Corpus Christianorum .



* Aetheria (fl. 385) * Jerome
(c. 347–420) * Augustine (354-430)


* Boëthius (c. 480 – 525) * Gildas
(d. c. 570) * Flavius Cresconius Corippus (d. c. 570) * Venantius Fortunatus
Venantius Fortunatus
(c. 530 – c. 600) * Gregory of Tours (c. 538–594) * Pope Gregory I (c. 540 – 604) * Isidore of Seville (c. 560–636) * Bede
(c. 672–735) * St. Boniface (c. 672 - 754) * Chrodegang of Metz (d. 766) * Paul the Deacon (720s - c.799) * Beatus of Liébana (c. 730 - 800) * Peter of Pisa (d. 799) * Paulinus of Aquileia (730s - 802) * Alcuin (c. 735–804)


* Einhard
(775-840) * Rabanus Maurus (780-856) * Paschasius Radbertus (790-865) * Rudolf of Fulda (d. 865) * Dhuoda * Lupus of Ferrieres (805-862) * Andreas Agnellus (Agnellus of Ravenna) (c. 805-846?) * Hincmar (806-882) * Walafrid Strabo (808-849) * Florus of Lyon (d. 860?) * Gottschalk (theologian) (808-867) * Sedulius Scottus (fl. 840-860) * Anastasius Bibliothecarius (810-878) * Johannes Scotus Eriugena (815-877) * Asser (d. 909) * Notker Balbulus (840-912)


* Ratherius (890–974) * Thietmar of Merseburg (975–1018)


* Marianus Scotus (1028–1082) * Adam of Bremen (fl. 1060–1080) * Marbodius of Rennes (c. 1035-1123)


* Pierre Abélard (1079–1142) * Suger of St Denis (c. 1081–1151) * Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100 – c. 1155) * Ailred of Rievaulx (1110–1167) * Otto of Freising (c. 1114–1158) * Archpoet
(c. 1130 - c. 1165) * William of Tyre (c. 1130-1185) * Peter of Blois (c. 1135 – c. 1203) * Walter of Châtillon (fl. c. 1200) * Adam of St. Victor


* Giraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146 – c. 1223) * Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1150 – c. 1220) * Thomas of Celano (c. 1200 – c. 1265) * Albertus Magnus
Albertus Magnus
(c. 1200–1280) * Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294) * St Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) * Ramon Llull
Ramon Llull
(1232–1315) * Siger of Brabant (c. 1240–1280s) * Duns Scotus (c. 1266–1308)


See also: Renaissance Latin

* Ranulf Higdon (c. 1280 - c. 1363) * William of Ockham
William of Ockham
(c. 1288 - c. 1347) * Jean Buridan (1300 – 1358) * Henry Suso
Henry Suso
(c. 1295 - 1366)


* Goliards * Hiberno- Latin
* Medieval Roman Law * Medieval Latin


* _ Carmina Burana _ (11th - 12th century) * _Pange Lingua _ (ca.1250) * _Summa Theologiae _ (ca.1270) * _ Etymologiae _ (ca.600) * _ Dies Irae _ (ca.1260) * _ Decretum Gratiani _ (ca.1150) * _ De Ortu Waluuanii Nepotis Arturi _ (ca.1180) * _ Magna Carta _ (ca.1215)


* Corpus Corporum (mlat.uzh.ch) * Corpus Thomisticum (corpusthomisticum.org) * LacusCurtius (penelope.uchicago.edu)


* ^ Ziolkowski, Jan M. (1996), "Towards a History of Medieval Latin Literature", in Mantello, F. A. C.; Rigg, A. G., _Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide_, Washington, D.C., pp. 505–536 (pp. 510–511) * ^ J. Franklin, Mental furniture from the philosophers, _Et Cetera_ 40 (1983), 177-91. * ^ See Desiderius Erasmus, _De recta Latini Graecique sermonis pronunciatione dialogus_, Basel (Frobenius), 1528.


* K.P. Harrington, J. Pucci, and A.G. Elliott, _Medieval Latin_ (2nd ed.), (Univ. Chicago Press, 1997) ISBN 0-226-31712-9 * F.A.C. Mantello and A.G. Rigg, eds., _Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide_ (CUA Press, 1996) ISBN 0-8132-0842-4


* Du Cange et al., Glossarium ad scriptores mediæ et infimæ latinitatis, Niort : L. Favre, 1883–1887, Ecole des chartes
Ecole des chartes
. * Thesaurus Linguae Latinae


* In-depth Guides to Learning Latin
at the UK National Archives. * The Journal of