Latin is an Italic language that was initially spoken in the regions surrounding Rome called Latium. It later evolved to become the most important language in Italy and various parts of the Western Roman Empire due to the influence of the Roman Republic.
Many of the words used in the English language today were derived from Latin. New Latin and Early Modern Latin would come up later. The alphabet used for Latin came from the Old Italic alphabets, which also stemmed from the Phoenician and Greek scripts.
The Origins of Latin
The name Latin itself came from the name ‘Latini’, which was an Italic tribe that settled in Latium at about 10th century BC and it was also the dialect used by these tribal peoples. The Italic languages aggregated to form a subgroup under the Indo-European family of languages. Others in this set are Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, and Romance languages.
This variant is also called Archaic Latin or Early Latin and it is a reference to the time when Latin texts were used before the time of Classical Latin. It is believed that the roots for this likely came during the period of Roman monarchy down to the late Roman republic down to around 75BC.
This refers to the variant of Latin utilized by the ancient Romans, especially in Classical Latin literature. Its use was prominent in what was considered to be the Golden Age of Latin literature which was the period from the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 1st century AD with probable expansion into the Silver Age which covered the 1st and 2nd centuries.
Classical Latin has been described as a refined language of literature as it was also used extensively by the aristocracy members. Classical Latin is different from Old Latin and this is very apparent with the forms of usage employed by a number of the earliest authors like Plautus, Ennius, and their contemporaries. Scholars have also agreed that the classical era coincides with the period of the authors of the Golden Age, Early Latin, and the Silver Age.
The golden age of literature in the Latin language referred to here is the era that spanned approximately 75 BC to AD 14. It covered the end of the Roman Republic and also the reign of the first Roman emperor Augustus Caesar whose reign started in 27 BC. This time is seen as the peak of excellence for Latin literature. This is so highly-rated that the authors of that time set the standard for the writers who came after them.
Then there is also the era known as the Silver Age and this time spans across the first 200 years immediately after the Golden Age. The literary works from this time are more civilized in tone.
Late and Vulgar Latin
This is the language of literature that was used in Late Antiquity in the late Roman Empire and the realms that followed the Western Roman Empire in the same era. This period is believed to cover from around 200 AD to around 900 AD and it was at that point that its replacement by the Romance languages. Some scholars do not give much prominence to Late Latin and they even classified the authors of the time to be medieval in orientation, style, and tone.
Vulgar Latin is a reference to the inclusion of vernacular dialects of Latin as it was spoken from the time of Latium to the recent dialects employed in the Western Roman Empire. It also expanded further to include the early Romance languages. The writings in Romance languages commenced appearance around the 9th century.
The Latin that was used in speech was not the same as the literary tongue of Classical Latin as far as the vocabulary and grammar were concerned. It is believed that it underwent an evolution and that explains the lack of appearance of some characteristics until the time of the late Empire while some features were believed to have cropped up at an earlier period.
This variant is also known as Church Latin in some other instances and it is a reference to the usage of Latin as seen in the records of the Roman Catholic Church, its documents and liturgies, and even in the clerical messages for the congregation.
Ecclesiastical Latin cannot be said to be of a single style and what this simply means is that the description is just to refer to the usage of the language at any time as deemed fit by the church. As far as the stylistic eras are concerned, Church Latin has been confined to the Late Latin of the Late Latin period and also Medieval Latin in the Middle Ages to the modern time.
It can be stated that the involvement of the church had its influence on the language as the institution was interested in using a language that would maintain its elegance even if the general public could not understand it. The church held on to it but that did not stop its remarkable decline in the past century. Some remnants within the church institution have made some spirited efforts to keep the language alive.
This was the administrative and literary variant of Latin that was prominent in the Middle Ages. It showed a lot of differences among the authors and this was due to the geographical spread of the regions in which the language was used. Hence, there was a noticeable change as one moved from a region to another.
As you might have guessed, this is the variant of Latin that was in use in Europe during the Renaissance, and this corresponds to the 14th to the 16th centuries. A prominent distinguishing feature of this Latin was that it was worked upon by followers of the humanist movement (specifically renaissance humanism).
Latin was revived after the Middle Ages and it was massively used by scholars and scientists around 1375 and 1900 and this resulted in what was called New Latin. This is the form of Latin that you have seen in use in zoology, botany, and the international scientific vocabulary.
This is the variant of Latin that was utilized up until the end of the 19th century. There are different kinds of this variant of Latin. Some of the characteristics include adopting single words as seen in taxonomy and the ecclesiastical application, especially in the activities and documentation of the Catholic Church.