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1 Burnside Classics- Latin Language

Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin

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Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Latin language has been the one constant in the cultural history of the West for more than two millennia. It has been the foundation of our education, and has defined the way in which we express our thoughts, our faith, and our knowledge of how the world functions. Indeed, the language has proved far more enduring than its empire in Rome, its use echoing on in the law codes of half the world, in the terminologies of modern science, and until forty years ago, in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. It is the unseen substance that makes us members of the Western world.

 

In his erudite and entertaining “biography,” Nicholas Ostler shows how and why (against the odds, through conquest from within and without) Latin survived and thrived even as its creators and other languages failed. Originally the dialect of Rome and its surrounds, Latin supplanted its neighbors to become, by conquest and settlement, the language of all Italy, and then of Western Europe and North Africa. Its cultural creep toward Greek in the East led it to copy and then ally with it in an unprecedented, but invincible combination: Greek theory and Roman practice, delivered through Latin, became the foundation of Western civilization. Christianity, a latecomer, then joined the alliance, and became vital to Latins survival when the empire collapsed. Spoken Latin re-emerged as a host of new languages, from Portuguese and Spanish in the west to Romanian in the east. But a knowledge of Latin lived on as the common code of European thought, and inspired the founders of Europes New World in the Americas. E pluribus unum.

 

Illuminating the extravaganza of its past, Nicholas Ostler makes clear that, in a thousand echoes, Latin lives on, ad infinitum.

Nicholas Ostler is the author of Empires of the World: A Language History of the World. He is chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages, a charity that supports the efforts of small communities worldwide to know and use their languages more. A scholar with a working knowledge of twenty-six languages, Ostler has degrees from Oxford University in Greek, Latin, philosophy, and economics, and a Ph.D. in linguistics from M.I.T., where he studied under Noam Chomsky. He lives in England, in Roman Bath, on the hill where Ambrosius Aurelianus defeated the Saxons for a generation.
The Latin language has been the one constant in the cultural history of the West for more than two millennia. It has been the foundation of our education, and has defined the way in which we express our thoughts, our faith, and our knowledge of how the world functions. Indeed, the language has proved far more enduring than its empire in Rome, its use echoing on in the law codes of half the world, in the terminologies of modern science, and until forty years ago, in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. It is the unseen substance that makes us members of the Western world.

Nicholas Ostler shows how and why (against the odds, through conquest from within and without) Latin survived and thrived even as its creators and other languages failed. Originally the dialect of Rome and its surrounds, Latin supplanted its neighbors to become, by conquest and settlement, the language of all Italy, and then of Western Europe and North Africa. Its cultural creep toward Greek in the East led it to copy and then ally with it in an unprecedented, but invincible combination: Greek theory and Roman practice, delivered through Latin, became the foundation of Western civilization. Christianity, a latecomer, then joined the alliance, and became vital to Latins survival when the empire collapsed. Spoken Latin re-emerged as a host of new languages, from Portuguese and Spanish in the west to Romanian in the east. But a knowledge of Latin lived on as the common code of European thought, and inspired the founders of Europes New World in the Americas: E pluribus unum.

"Long after its disappearance as the common tongue of Europe, [Latin] survives as a remarkably successful brand, exuding dignity and permanence . . . Yet Latin, in its infancy, showed few signs of emerging as a superstar, Nicholas Ostler points out in Ad Infinitum, his lucid, erudite and elegant history of the language he calls 'the soul of Europes civilization.' Until the third century B.C. it was simply one of several regional dialects spoken in Italy, a pipsqueak compared with Etruscan.  So what happened? Three things, argues Mr. Ostler . . . First, when the Roman armies conquered, they did not destroy. Instead they formed alliances and created Roman settlements, with the choice tracts of land awarded to Romans. Latin, the language of the new elite, immediately became a mark of prestige.  Second, wherever they went, the Romans conscripted young men into their army, where the commands were given in Latin, and retired soldiers often settled on the territory of their final campaign, further extending the community of Latin speakers . . . Third, the Romans built roads, putting the capital and its language within reach of the provinces. All roads led not just to Rome but to Latin, which enjoyed distinct advantages over its major rivals, Oscan and Etruscan. Unlike them, Mr. Ostler writes, 'it was a farmers language, a soldiers language and a city language.' Also, not incidentally, it was backed by a mighty army and a strong government . . . One of Mr. Ostlers most fascinating chapters deals with the self-conscious program undertaken by Latin writers to replicate the achievements of the Greek philosophers, playwrights and poets, a process that lasted centuries and required trailblazers like Cicero to coin words like 'qualitas' (literally 'how-ness') to make Latin express abstractions.  Eventually Rome declared cultural independence from Greece, and Latin emerged as the principal identifying feature of the far-flung Roman empire . . . As the language of the Roman Catholic Church, Latin not only survived but also thrived for another millennium, the universal language uniting all educated inhabitants of a politically fractured Europe . . . Latin may seem as unchanging . . . but Mr. Ostler traces the remarkable stylistic changes it underwent over the centuries."—Harry Mount, The New York Times

Synopsis:

“An absorbing, scholarly account of the history of the Latin language, from its origins in antiquity to its afterlife in our own time...Ad Infinitum treats its readers with the dignity of Roman citizens.”—The Wall Street Journal

The Latin language has been the one constant in the cultural history of the West for more than two millennia. It has defined the way in which we express our thoughts, our faith, and our knowledge of how the world functions, its use echoing on in the law codes of half the world, in the terminologies of modern science, and, until forty years ago, in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.  In his erudite and entertaining “biography,” Nicholas Ostler shows how and why Latin survived and thrived even as its creators and other languages failed. Originally the dialect of Rome and its surrounds, Latin supplanted its neighbors to become, by conquest and settlement, the language of all Italy, and then of Western Europe and North Africa.  After the empire collapsed, spoken Latin re-emerged as a host of new languages, from Portuguese and Spanish in the west to Romanian in the east, while a knowledge of Latin lived on as the common code of European thought, and inspired the founders of Europes New World in the Americas. E pluribus unum. Illuminating the extravaganza of its past, Nicholas Ostler makes clear that, in a thousand echoes, Latin lives on, ad infinitum.

About the Author

Nicholas Ostler is the author of Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World. He is chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages (www.ogmios.org), a charity that supports the efforts of small communities worldwide to know and use their languages more. A scholar with a working knowledge of eighteen languages, Ostler holds an M.A. from Oxford University in Greek, Latin, philosophy, and economics, and a Ph.D in linguistics from MIT, where he studied under Noam Chomsky. He lives in England, in Roman Bath, on the hill where Ambrosius Aurelianus defeated the Saxons for a generation.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780802715159
Subtitle:
A Biography of Latin
Author:
Ostler, Nicholas
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Language Arts & Disciplines
Subject:
Linguistics
Subject:
Latin
Subject:
World - General
Subject:
Latin language
Subject:
History
Subject:
Latin language - In
Subject:
Latin language -- History.
Subject:
Linguistics - General
Subject:
General History
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20080902
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
BandW throughout
Pages:
400
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Classics » Latin » Language
History and Social Science » Linguistics » Specific Languages and Groups

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Product details 400 pages Walker & Company - English 9780802715159 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,

“An absorbing, scholarly account of the history of the Latin language, from its origins in antiquity to its afterlife in our own time...Ad Infinitum treats its readers with the dignity of Roman citizens.”—The Wall Street Journal

The Latin language has been the one constant in the cultural history of the West for more than two millennia. It has defined the way in which we express our thoughts, our faith, and our knowledge of how the world functions, its use echoing on in the law codes of half the world, in the terminologies of modern science, and, until forty years ago, in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.  In his erudite and entertaining “biography,” Nicholas Ostler shows how and why Latin survived and thrived even as its creators and other languages failed. Originally the dialect of Rome and its surrounds, Latin supplanted its neighbors to become, by conquest and settlement, the language of all Italy, and then of Western Europe and North Africa.  After the empire collapsed, spoken Latin re-emerged as a host of new languages, from Portuguese and Spanish in the west to Romanian in the east, while a knowledge of Latin lived on as the common code of European thought, and inspired the founders of Europes New World in the Americas. E pluribus unum. Illuminating the extravaganza of its past, Nicholas Ostler makes clear that, in a thousand echoes, Latin lives on, ad infinitum.

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