Who killed Latin?

At no time in the evolution of English through Old, Middle, and Modern did speakers of English ever get the sense that they were no longer speaking English. Even though there is no possible way I can read Beowulf in its original, and I have to squint real hard to read Chaucer, and I need to keep annotated versions of Shakespeare around--Joyce is just unreadable, I have know no idea what language he actually wrote in--there is no sense that this isn't a continuum, and that in each time and era, it's possible to connect the dots from what speakers and writers did through the centuries. English never fragments, even though there were several distinct Anglo-Saxon writing standards, and even though today there are distinct and almost mutually incomprehensible dialects, English is a monolith.

This didn't happen with Latin. It fragments. Rapidly. Where once there was a large and elaborate international language with a huge community of speakers (and no doubt dialects), it quickly dissolved into Northern French, Southern French, Western Spanish and Eastern Spanish and Northern Spanish, innumerable Italian languages, and the Balkans balkanized. A pocket of Latin speakers in Eastern Europe survived to the modern day, and that's Rumanian.

In the next few posts, 'll look at several theories for who or what the culprit was. If Latin had gone like English had, the people of France (par example) would read and write *Modern Latin, knowing full well that they'd need to take a classics class to learn *Old Latin, and Medievalists would bone up on their *Middle Latin. *Modern Latin would have several dialects, like Spanish and Italian, but they would have more similarities than differences, or at least that's what people would perceive, and like today in the real world and not my hypothetical alternate history, would even be mutually comprehensible, like Portuguese is to Spanish, or (I'm told) Spanish is to Italian.

The most cited murderer of Latin is the great Carolingian King, Charlemagne, so in my next post, I'll turn my attention who he was, and why Medievalists think his reformers are the guilty party.

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