Language is a tool used to interact with others and express ideas, emotions, knowledge, memories and values. Language is also a vital tool for cultural expression it helps define each culture and identify themselves. Before vernacular language, people used Latin to communicate now each country uses a different language. In many places of the world knowing multiple languages is a virtue. “Language is the light of the mind.”
Latin was the common language used by different people and cultures to communicate. It was the written language of the courts, commerce and the Christian church. Latin had more than one form which changed over time due to the different people using the language, the educational level of the person speaking or writing it and the social status/class it was used around.
It is known that in earlier civilizations, the Latin language was widely used in public administrations, church, commerce, education, and literature. Moreover, it had an enormous impact on all spheres of human activity until the twelfth century. According to the historical data, the growth of the Roman Empire influenced the spread of the Latin language as a dominant language. However, due to the political stability in the Empire, there was a so-called turning point in the history of Latin language which led to the intellectual revival of thousands of people and to decline in the spread of Latin. It is known that in the twelfth century, many people were involved in the education process and became literate. Although Latin was still used in all spheres of human activity, the vernacular language was widening. The major goal of this paper is to research the origins and spread of vernacular languages and evaluate their impact on cultures during this period.
It is found that the history of the vernacular languages in the Middle Ages is closely connected with cultural history and the history of the Latin language. The term “vernacular languages” refers to the popular spoken languages of the Latin West. For example, the poetry by troubadours was written in the vernacular. It means that the existence of literature and poetry written in the vernacular languages caused a wider audience to accept the literature and poetry. According to the history, the vernacular language was the language of slaves who lived in the Roman Empire, while Latin was “the language of the masters of culture”, including priests, churchmen, jurists.
As a language is regarded as both the material and product of human activity, it has always played an important role in the development of society. The historical shift that occurred in many medieval countries led to transformation from Latin to the vernacular languages. The effects of this transformation could be found in culture, literature, education and religion. Thus, Latin began to lose its status of a dominant language in favor of the vernacular languages. The vernacular languages were focused on prosaic and living expressions of the ordinary people.
In order to evaluate the impact of the vernacular languages on cultures, it is necessary to refer to those cultural changes that took place in that period of history. It is clear that cultural changes depend on the changes in language and philosophical ideas. The vernacular languages gave an opportunity to educate the ordinary people who lived in poverty. Many literary works written in Latin were translated into the vernacular languages. The new technological advances, including the development of the printing press, made it possible to speed up the spread of the vernacular language. Many poor people could read and had an opportunity to change their religious beliefs and adopt Christianity. The emergence of Christianity influenced the life and culture of all people. It means that the spread of Christianity could be regarded as an effective method for spreading the vernacular languages.
Besides, it is found that women played an important role in the spread of the vernacular language because many women wanted to take part in cultural debates and they used the vernacular language. It means that the vernacular language empowered many women and allowed them to have greater freedom of expression. In the 15-th century, literary works written by women were accepted by the public.
In 13th century, the period of great expansion of the Italian culture, “vernacular literature arose, in close continuity with Latin culture”. In Italy, there was a so-called “theater in the vernacular”, which was played by layman for the lay public. The above-mentioned examples prove the fact that the vernacular languages had enormous impact on the social and cultural development of people who lived in that period of history.
To sum up, the Latin language has existed for about 3000 years and influenced the life and development of medieval society. Today, the Latin language is still taught in many universities, but Latin has lost its status of a dominant language. Most vernacular languages were extremely receptive to the impact of Latin as they borrowed lexical material, compositional techniques, and other elements.
By Librent Benggano