Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The Latin heritage has been delivered in four broad genres:

  • Inscriptions
  • Latin literature
  • Latin words and concepts in modern languages and scientific terminology
  • An extensive tradition of instruction in the Latin language, including grammars and dictionaries

Most inscriptions have been published in an internationally agreed upon, monumental, multi-volume series termed the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL). Authors and publishers vary but the format is approximately the same: volumes covering regions and inscriptions numbered within volume with a critical apparatus stating the provenience and relevant information. The reading and interpretation of these inscriptions is the subject matter of the field of epigraphy. In addition to the approximately 180,000 known inscriptions (with more being added every day) the works of several hundred ancient authors who wrote in Latin have survived in whole or in part, in substantial works or in fragments to be analyzed in philology. They are in part the subject matter of the field of classics. Their works were published in manuscript form before the invention of printing and now exist in carefully annotated printed editions, such as the Loeb Classical Library by Harvard University Press.

There has also been a major Latin influence in English. In the medieval period, much of this borrowing occurred through ecclesiastical usage established by Saint Augustine of Canterbury in the 6th century, or indirectly after the Norman Conquest, through the Anglo-Norman language. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, English writers cobbled together huge numbers of new words from Latin and Greek roots. These words were dubbed "inkhorn" or "inkpot" words, as if they had spilled from a pot of ink. Many of these words were used once by the author and then forgotten, but some were so useful that they survived. Imbibe and extrapolate are inkhorn terms created from Latin words. Many of the most common polysyllabic English words are simply adapted Latin forms, in a large number of cases adapted by way of Old French.

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