New words in dead languages.

Ther IMHO thread on latin reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to know. Do people bother to put new words into old non-primary langauges like latin. I don’t really know enough about latin grammer to explain what I mean, but take a word like “Microwave” and “microwaving”. Is there any official sort of organization that tries to incorporate words in with correct rules and conjugation things and commuicate it to speakers, or would you have to throw the word “microwaving” in the middle of the sentence to communicate the thought. Kind of like the French Academy of dead languages?

There are generally accepted rules for the coinage of neologisms such as you speak of in languages such as Latin, which are based on how the speakers and writers of Latin back when it was a living language created new words and phrases. Such coinages would be based on existent roots linked together to describe the new object or concept. And Latin borrowed heavily from Greek in constructing neologisms anyway, and many English coinages are derived from Latin and/or Greek roots. So many English coinages would take close Latin cognates – you could speak of watching “Omnia Raimundum Amant” on your televisio, a third-declension feminine noun.

I discussed this topic in the last part of the Staff Report Many English words have Latin roots, but what are the roots of Latin?

The tricky part of adding new words to Latin is that your nouns (which I would suppose the majority of new words to be) have to follow proper Latin declension patterns. This means that you have to tack on endings to a lot of nouns in order for them to be used in a way that would be understandable in Latin.

My college diploma, for example, reads “Universitas Dallasensis” across the top. Which means that some person of authority (I don’t know who) decided that the proper Latin rendering of “Dallas” (in the nominative form) should be “Dallasens”.

Some words, though, are considered irregular nouns in Latin and don’t decline at all. My own first name, David, is one such irregular noun.

You find the “-ensis” ending frequently when a contemporary place name is Latinized. One would hope, however, that if it were San Antonio, Spanish being based on Latin, that they would have used the correct case for the name Antonius.

I’ve noticed in the New Catholic Encyclopedia that the Latin diocese names non Romance-language place names like Dallas use the -ensis ending, but the Romance ones like Los Angeles or San Francisco inspired someone to go to the Latin roots of those words, and come up with Sancti Francisci and Angelorum.

(While waiting for the Latinists to swoop in with detailed answers.)

The Vatican has some sort of body that decides on new words. In much the same way Hebrew (now a living language again) has a governing body. I presume the demand for new words in Attic Greek is much less.

Universitas Dallasensis is not a precisely literal translation of “University of Dallas” but rather an example of a specialized form very common in modern Latin and nonexistent or rare in English – -ensis is a locational ending. Peking Man was originally named Sinanthropus pekinensis – “Chinese man from the vicinity of Peking.” There are a variety of “trivial” names – the “species” half of a binomial scientific name for a species that are adjectives made up from a place name plus -ensis. The Latin name you gave means something like “the University found at Dallas” where Dallas would probably be an indeclinable root.


As always, I stand in awe of your godlike command of the Latin tongue, and doff my cap of liberty in your direction.