Latin had a career of being the language of learned people lasting nearly two millennia, ending only about 50 years ago. When Harry Truman was given an honorary degree by Oxford after his presidency, the University Orator gave a (pre-written, of course) speech in Latin, which all present were presumed to be able to understand, at least haltingly. And by and large the presumption was accurate: Both Brits and Americans were graduates of schools that usually required Latin, or if not at least offered it as an often-chosen elective. Scientific monographs were written in it, as a scholarly international language. For reasons I would not care to defend, it was, with Euclidean geometry, considered one of the tools for honing clearer thinking.
Minor nitpick: the standard English usage for the Suomi is “Finns” with a double N.
Why not? I myself wonder why people get so excited about conlangs like Klingon, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Klingon is intentionally designed to be difficult to learn and use. Latin, on the other hand, is fairly logical in structure and pleasing to the ear.
By the time I started with Latin over a decade ago the idea of actually using the language rather than merely studying it seemed to have been long since given up. The focus was on learning to translate into English. Back then, I was puzzled by the fact that there wasn’t any significant attempt to revive Latin as a spoken tongue. There may well have been that far back, but without the internet, you couldn’t hope to create the kind of critical mass of interested parties that such an effort really needs.
Why not Attic? Why not indeed, except that it is a more difficult language to learn, with a much smaller body of literature to sink one’s teeth into, and presents transliteration problems with modern typography. But Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been translated into Attic Greek, and I am told that it’s a witty rendering.
Why are the Finns so into Latin? No one seems to know. But they certainly have that reputation. If I told you that there was a professor out there singing Elvis songs in Latin, your first thought might well be, “Where in Finland is he from?” Well, he was born in Tampere and grew up in Kauttua.
I have not been in contact with whomever it is that issues the official “Living Latin Movement” membership cards, but I have been working on developing a speaking fluency in Latin, and I hope to one day see the Esperantites crushed and driven into the sea.
There are many living Latins, including Catalan, French, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish. However, a native Classical Latin speaker like Julius Caesar or Cicero would not understand them without some training and practice, so they are all considered to be a different language from Classical Latin.
They are indeed from a different version of Latin than Classical. They are descended from what is call Vulgar Latin. (This has nothing to do with profanity! Vulgar means, simply, ‘of the people’.) Classical Latin was a literary language, a ‘high’ language. It was used by the great Latin writers, but in everyday speech they probably use a more refined form of the Vulgar version. The daughter languages of Latin are Italian, Spanish, Catalan, Occitan, French and Romanian. There are probably a few I have left out. Indeed - like Portuguese and Galician!
From my experience with the neo-Latin tongues I would say that Italian (Tuscan form) is probably closest to Latin. As an example, the Ave Maria in both will give an idea just how close they are:
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus fructus
piene di grazia,
Il Signore e’ teco (e’ con te),
Tu sei benedetta fra le donne,
E benedetto e’ il frutto
Del ventre (seno) tuo,
It is possible to see that Italian has become an analyitic language, whereas Latin is synthetic. Nevertheless, Italian friends assure me that they find learning their language’s ancestor seems to be easier for them than for those of us whose native tongues are of other parts of the Indo-European language family.
Why learn Latin? Why not? Where I live I need French, and Spanish and Catalan if I stray far from my front door. I am thankful that I studied Latin all those years ago in school. Latin, however, is also of practical help in coping with/working out the meanings of many English words, not commonly used. (Greek too is a big help!)
Now that I’ve finished flashing back to my 10th grade Latin class where we had to listen to and sing those…
I think people revive the language because they find it interesting and cool–it’s like stamp collecting or learning how to cook old-style recipes. However, I think most people learn Latin nowadays because they think they’ll use it professionally (as a doctor, for instance, or a scientist, nevermind the fact that those are specific terms that can be memorized), because they’re interested in the history, or because they think it’ll give them a better grasp of language as a result.
For me, it was mostly the latter reason, combined with a good shot of “my best friend was in the class.” I’ve found that it did help, if only because taking it in conjunction with Spanish really hammered home the Romance language thing.
Memorizing the roots is a lot more flexible than memorizing the whole words, though. And that’s one of the things you get by learning some basic Latin (or Greek, even if it’s just lists of Greek roots): tools to break complex words apart and figure out their meaning from those parts.
How could anyone know for sure how to pronounce a language that has been dead for 500 years? Sure, people think they know, but I suspect any educated Roman would laugh his butt off if he heard modern attempts to speak it.
Why wouldn’t Finns be involved in it? There is a handful of Latinists there just like everywhere else. A relatively small-scale endeavour needs only a couple of hard-core activists to take off, and they could come from anywhere in this case.
An English speaker from only a century ago would sound laughably bizarre to us. So might a speaker from down the street. Some people find their own children speaking in a strange patois that makes what is technically the same language seem comically foreign. It’s surprisingly easy to sound strange in a language, yet amazingly people communicate anyway.
We have a broad idea how the Romans pronounced their high language largely because they themselves wrote about it. When you are an empire, your neighbors often find themselves with a sudden dire need to learn to talk to you. Among other effects imperialism had, it sold a lot of grammar books. Here’s one summary of the case for the reconstructed pronunciation:
The other thing about pronunciation is that it doesn’t really matter if we get it wrong. Who’s going to know? Who’s going to care? Everyone knows we’re not getting it quite right, but as long as we’re mutually intelligible, it doesn’t matter.