Medieval Latin

The term Medieval Latin the varied forms of the Latin language of the European Middle Ages are grouped together (about 6 to 15th centuries ), emerging very clearly different on the one hand to the previous Latin late antiquity and late antiquity and the other hand to the Renaissance, consequently the classical Latin aligned so-called Neo-Latin. Be abbreviated with this term or its adjectival derivation often the Latin literature of the Middle Ages and the Latin Philology of the Middle Ages ( Medieval Latin and Middle Latin Philology ) and, accordingly, the practitioner of Latin Philology of the Middle Ages called the Middle Latins. The term Medieval Latin, is problematic, but nevertheless firmly naturalized an analogy to Middle High German and as such due to the incorrect associations they wont trigger. Starting from the literary language of the late antique imperial period, the language of the law and the church fathers, sometimes, but not consistently influenced by the Romance languages ​​or the native language of the author, but contrary to common prejudices ( " Küchenlatein " ) repeatedly in contact with the ancient literature of the classical period, especially of poetry, was an extremely heterogeneous linguistic material to hochrhetorischer or poetic stylization encompasses the entire spectrum of colloquial, kolloquialer, pragmatic diction at the highest level and in its top products comparison with the ancient, much stronger with the selection of the tradition process filtered literary production as well as the need to shy away from little with the simultaneous or later vernacular literary production.


The Medieval Latin, that is precisely the multifarious forms of speech that were between late antiquity and humanism (ca. 550-1500 ) was used as a written language, taking in science and also at school one not its rightful place, because its contents its nature and its value does not know enough. In the history of philology, it was not until the recent past mostly regarded as an inferior appendage of the classical Roman literature or from the standpoint of a romantic nationalism as regrettable displacement of the native language and cultural alienation from classical perspective and depreciated accordingly.

When the writers had to deal at the beginning of the Middle Ages with antiquity and Christianity, they became available in Romania, ie in the area where the Latin had been able to set as their language, only the Latin as a trained writing and book language; the Romance literatures book should emerge only in the later Middle Ages (from about 12-13. yrs. ). The Germania was able to come up with any more appropriate written language, as it was the Latin, especially as the Germanic languages ​​had developed a quite different from the Mediterranean world and culture (usually oral ) tradition. Furthermore, since the clergy, who also was the writer at the time, every day for oral and written bypassed by profession with that of Latin, which he found to be the language of the Bible, their exegesis of the Christian dogma and liturgy, it was only understandable that you this language took over as the written language. This means Latin now differs in many respects from the classical Latin. The deviations from the classical standard for several reasons:

  • In addition to the Latin as the font and language of education gradually various vernacular languages ​​have developed in Romania, all of which are further developments of the so-called Vulgar Latin. Each author of texts can now be incorporated elements of one's native language in its written language. This also applies to persons not -Roman tongue. The extent of such effects depends of course strongly influenced by the formation of the respective author from. On the whole, to keep the vernacular and vulgar Latin influences, especially those that are not mediated by the Latin Bible, but within limits. Therefore, the Medieval Latin does not disintegrate despite some identifiable features in national dialects or regional languages ​​, but has a horizontal layout by Style levels and genres on. Less pronounced in morphology and syntax, on the other hand clearly in the word formation, can be observed within the central Latin epoch-specific developments.
  • Since the Latin - despite all linguistic competence and differentiation ability of many writers - is a learned language for all, it is (especially in the syntax ) gradually simplified. Are typical Latin phenomena, especially if they have already been given in the Romance languages ​​or do not exist in their native language, abandoned, or at least rarely used, such as the AcI, the ablative absolute and the diversity and nesting of subordinate clauses.
  • The new social and political structures (Christianity, feudalism ) also act on the language, especially in the area of vocabulary, where numerous new creations will be required and many words to expand their range of meanings.

The Latin was through the Middle Ages, a living language, which was dominated not only writing, but also orally fluent in the educated classes, including the active mastery of verse forms and metrics belonged. All who possessed a certain formation, were bilingual so they said unto the one their mother tongue, the other Latin, which is therefore often referred to as " father tongue " of the Middle Ages. As already stated, the Medieval Latin spread far beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, so and as far as East Germany, Jutland, the Danish Islands, Sweden, Norway and Iceland, also in the Slavic territories to the actual into Russia and Hungary Finland.

The " Vatersprachlichkeit " expression in the fact that you endowed ancient words with new meanings, new derivatives and words formed and even with the language as a mother tongue, which indeed constantly changing, bypassed, without, however, ever the role models of the classical period forget which one always remained strongly committed. The deviations from the classical Latin words entitle in no way intended to stamp the Medieval Latin as inferior, writers and poets as semi-literate duffer and the literature of the period as banal and naive.

This language is now the writers and poets sought mainly to bring forth a literature whose gaze was directed less to ancient than to the present with all its profound social, cultural and political upheavals. The literary genres that have been maintained, are almost innumerable. Apart from the traditional, such as history, biography, letter, epic, didactic poem, poetry, satire and fable, come new as the saint's legend, the translation report, the miracle collection, the vision report, the homily, the figure poem, the hymn and the sequence puzzle seal as well as the religious drama and the ancient drama quite independent Comedia. Chance are the dramas of Hrotswith from Gander home as kontrastimitative confrontation with the model of Terence. The Christianity rejected and bound to the condition of the ancient city of culture due to its connection with the pagan cult drama has this exception, first experience no sequel. Widely used is represented only by a few ancient examples of parody. A very important of course, came to the religious literature, which includes both prose and poetic works and had partly a wider audience, some of the educated elite as a target audience. In former versions of the popular legends of saints (such as the Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine ) miracle stories and other exempla directed (eg the works of Caesarius of Heister Bach), which have been translated in part early on in the vernacular languages ​​and also indirectly via sermons, for they served as material collections, their target audience reached, to the latter, for example, theological treatises, commentaries on the Bible and most poetic works that their place, especially in the school system, partly in the court society and in Nearby educated bishops had. Largely independent of the topic prose and verse are used depending on the occasion and audience. Form types that combine prose and verse in different ways, are geminum Opus and Prosimetrum. Starting from the ancient conditions ( illustrations in literature, poetry, Bible ) arise since the Carolingian Renaissance increasingly illustrated works, to illustrate in some cases can be attributed to the author himself. Production of literature and book illumination therefore are often in a genetic context. For the seal are two fundamentally different Verstechniken that continuing in the ancient tradition metric, ie by regulating the sequence of syllable length ( quantity) organized technique and derived from the vernacular poetry syllable counting - accent rhythmic technique side by side available and are often from the same author selectively applied. The beginnings of the latter are closely associated with the music of the Middle Ages, for it is here almost without exception, set to music poetry. The metrical poetry is due to the indispensable to their error-free handling intensive study of classical models such as Virgil and Ovid, as well as the Christian writers of late antiquity and linguistic- stylistic strongest in the tradition of the ancient poetic language.

The Middle Latin literature is chronologically before the vernacular literature and has also influenced sustainable: poets such as Dante Alighieri and Francesco Petrarca in Italy, which still compacted partly in Latin, were broadcasting content and style on their Italian written works. The Germanic literatures appear in the light of today has been handed down even more dependent and have to the 12th century more or less almost exclusively from the Latin accurately translated texts. However, it must be remembered that it is the strongly deviating from the ecclesiastical Mediterranean tradition Germanic folk and epic poetry was at first no longer maintained after the introduction of Christianity, was soon banned and despite much indirect evidence of their former wealth only in the rarest cases ( was rescued by monks! ) for posterity ( Waltharius ). Alone in England whose culture in the first centuries after the conversion shall be free of paternalism developed by continental currents (6th - 9th century), a book literature in the vernacular, the oldest example is the alliterative epic poem Beowulf originated in the early Middle Ages ( similar legacies from the Frankish Empire, the mention contemporary historians are lost to us). Of course, conversely, the folk poetry has greatly affected the Middle Latin literature. Since about the 12th century there is even - for example, in the Carmina Burana - many poems, some of which are in Latin, partly written in German.

The end is not prepared for the Medieval Latin as the vernacular languages ​​, but the humanism and the problem caused by him called New Latin, which in the 15th and early 16th century gradually asserted itself, and by a much stricter, classic to a few authors, esp Cicero and Virgil oriented normalization paralyzed the vivid language development, led to an impoverishment and lack of flexibility and thereby unintentionally despite the linguistic virtuosity of its elite representatives of the use of Latin in everyday life opposed too high hurdles. So who - irony of fate - just the most passionate supporters and lovers of Latin, the humanists, contributed by fighting against the barbaric in their view, Medieval Latin and her insistence on the standard of classical antiquity as the absolute standard significantly to the displacement of the Latin language. Only at this time the Latin begins to solidify as the language of education and politics and "die" for.

Features of medieval Latin and deviations from the classical Latin

Graphy and pronunciation ( phonology )

The presentation of the phonetics of Medieval Latin encounters major difficulties for three main reasons, first the period of about a thousand years, within which there were significant changes, secondly, the spatial extension over large parts of Europe and the associated regional influence of the most diverse in this large room vernacular languages ​​used, thirdly, the difficulty of reconstruction solely from the hand- written documents and the interference with the local languages. A uniform pronunciation could not enter in these circumstances. Nevertheless, some general statements can be made.

  • The occupied already for the ancient vernacular phonetic collapse of the diphthongs ae and oe with ĕ with ē leads to early orthographic consequences. The a is first, especially in italics, subscribes, later, the so-called e caudata, the e developed with a tail as a descender ( ę ). Since 12 yrs. æ and œ usually by simply e reproduced, eg precepit for præcepit, insule for insulae, amenus for amoenus. These reverse ( "hyper correct" ) spellings like æcclesia instead ecclesia, fœtus instead fetus and Coelum instead of Caelum. The humanists revive the temporarily missing e caudata again.
  • Especially in the early medieval Latin often encounter permutations of e and i
  • Y instead of i and œ is found not only in Greek words, but also in Latin, eg YEMS for hiems, yra for ira; see the title Yconomica ( Oeconomica ) Conrad of Megenberg.
  • H is omitted or added, in initial position, eg iems for hiems, ora for hora hora and for ora, and otherwise, eg veit for Vehit; particularly with respect to t, p and c, for example Thaurus for taurus, spera for Sphaera monacus for monachus, conchilium for Concilium and michi for mihi.
  • Since t and c had collapsed before halbvokalischem i, they are also in Scripture very often interchanged, eg TERCIUS for tertius, Gretia for Graecia.
  • Konsonantengemination is often simplified or abundierend set, such as litera for littera, aparere for apparere and edifficare for ædificare.
  • Uncomfortable consonant clusters are simplified, eg salmus for Psalmus, tentare for temptare.
  • Very common and apparently taken from the Vulgar Latin are Dissimilationen, eg for peregrinus Peregrine ( cf. the German pilgrims; just double pèlerin, Italian pellegrino ), radus for rarus ( cf. Italian di rado ).



  • Confusion of " normal" verbs and Deponentien, eg ( ad) mirare instead (ad) mirari, viari instead viare ( = travel ).
  • Many are Konjugationswechsel encountered, eg aggrediri for aggredi, complectari for complecti, prohibire for prohibêre ( cf. Italian proibire ), ridere for ridere ( cf. Italian ridere ) and potebat for Poterat ( cf. Italian potere ).
  • In the future tense to misidentification between b and e -future, eg faciebo for faciam, negam for negabo.
  • The Perfect passive is often formed with fui instead of sum: interfectus fuit ( For this use, the occasional encounters to describe a condition in the past, moreover, already in classical Latin, French passé composé has the or the Italian passato prossimo developed ).
  • Additional periphrastic verb forms: the description with habere and perfect passive participle (eg B.libros perditos habeo ), used in classical Latin only for emphatic designation of a permanent condition, the ordinary perfect passive or active can replace; dicens sum.


  • There is a degree of uncertainty when dealing with the various declinations determined, so that words sometimes move from one declination to another, eg noctuum for noctium, Ignis for ignibus. More often, the pronominal dative ending- ī is replaced by -o: illo for Illi. In general, the tendency of the words u -declension in the o -declension words and the e -declension in the a -declension convert, for example, senatus, -i instead of senatus, -us, magistratus, -i instead magistratus, - us or materia for materies ( = timber ), Effigia for effigies ( = portrait ).
  • Change of the genus, especially " decline" of the neuter (see Romance languages ​​), such as cornus instead cornu, maris instead mare ( = the sea ), Fatus instead fatum, domus domus tua tuus instead, timor timor instead magna magnus.
  • With few exceptions, may (as in the Romance languages ​​) each adjective by prefixing reduction of plus or magis be increased, for example plus / magis nobilis and sometimes together with the synthetic comparative plus / magis nobilior. Rare is the use of comparatives instead of the superlative, eg Venit sibi in mente, ut maiorem principem, qui in mundo eat, quæreret.


  • The demonstrative pronouns are usually divorced not as sharp as in classical Latin. Thus, hic, iste, ipse, idem as is to be used.
  • The two participles præfatus and prædictus (actually before ), should be used as often as new demonstrative ille.
  • Instead of the non- reflexive pronouns are often the reflexive, ie, se = eum, suus = eius.
  • Some verbs are connected to another case, for example adiuvare, iubere, sequi, vetare Dat. ; frui, uti, fungi accusative
  • A quod or quia even a set is like to put in place a accusativus cum infinitivo ( but as early as the Vulgate ), even qualiter phrases encounter in this function.
  • The conjunction dum is often used instead of temporal cum.
  • Tell Tempus is not only perfect and Praesens historicum, but also the past tense, even the pluperfect. We also used the present tense instead of the future tense and the perfect place Futur II
  • The consecutio temporum ( time series ) is no longer strictly observed. So pluperfect subjunctive is found in subordinate clauses often take the subjunctive imperfect.
  • The final use of the infinitive, which is in Latin klass rare and usually only poetically testifies frequently, eg abiit Manducare for abiit, ut ederet or manducatum abiit.
  • Instead of the present participle active is often a gerund in the ablative, eg loquendo for loquens (see the Italian and Spanish: gerundio and the double gérondif ).


The Latin of the Middle Ages is characterized by a much more extensive vocabulary, enriched one hand by Latin neoplasms using prefixes and suffixes and semantic training, on the other hand makes you free from various other contemporary vernacular languages ​​as well as Greek bonds. Since a large part of the early Christian literature in this language some Greek expression was maintained been written and also in the Latin translation of the Bible, the Greek word material had already been taken in late antiquity to a considerable extent in the Latin language. If we can make even the Greek language skills of most medieval scholars no exaggerated ideas, so they were able to make additional neoplasms based Greek- Latin glossaries or bilinguals. Another source were the languages ​​of the Germanic peoples who began the succession of the Romans in Central Europe. Furthermore, many classical Latin words that were no longer in use were replaced by neologisms based on the Vulgar Latin and the Germanic languages.


  • Too short words are replaced by longer (and often more regular ), eg ire by vadere, ferre by portare, flere by plorare, equus caballus by, os by bucca and res by causa;
  • Especially often displace called Intensiva on -tare the verb underlying, eg adiutare instead adiuvare, cantare instead canere and Natare instead nare.
  • Often get from antiquity acquired words new meanings: breve of the letter, the instrument, convertere and converti go to the monastery, the host corpus, the plebs ( Christian ) community, homo of subordinates, comes the Count ( cf. French comte, ital. conte ), dux of the Duke ( cf. French duc ), nobilis of the Free, advocate of Vogt;
  • There are also many new words created or borrowed: Bannus ( Engl. spell ) jurisdiction, legista the lawyer, camis (i ) a shirt; see the title De ente et essentia.

Important Middle Latin authors

  • Alcuin
  • Ambrose Autpert
  • Arbeo of Freising
  • Winfrid Boniface
  • The Venerable Bede
  • Paul the Deacon
  • Paulinus of Aquileia
  • Agius ( poets) of Corvey
  • Agnellus of Ravenna
  • Agobard of Lyon
  • Amalarius of Metz
  • Astronomus
  • Beatus of Liébana
  • Brun Candidus of Fulda
  • Dhuoda
  • Eigil of Fulda
  • Einhard
  • Ermoldus Nigellus
  • Florus of Lyon
  • Frechulf of Lisieux
  • Gottschalk of the axis
  • Heiric of Auxerre
  • Hilduin of Saint- Denis
  • Rabanus Maurus
  • John Scotus Eriugena
  • Jonas of Orléans
  • Lupus of Ferrieres
  • Modoin
  • Nithard
  • Notker Balbulus
  • Paschasius Radbertus
  • Ratpert of St. Gallen
  • Ratramnus of Corbie
  • Remigius of Auxerre
  • Rimbert of Bremen
  • Sedulius Scottus
  • Smaragdus of St. Mihiel
  • Thegan
  • Theodulf of Orléans
  • Walahfrid Strabo
  • Ekkehart I. of St. Gallen
  • Flodoard of Reims
  • Hrotsvit
  • Liutprand of Cremona
  • Rather of Verona
  • Regino of Prüm
  • Richer of Reims
  • Widukind of Corvey
  • Adam of Bremen
  • Anselm of Canterbury
  • Brun of Querfurt
  • Ekkehard IV (St. Gallen)
  • Frutolf by Michel Berg
  • Hermann of Reichenau
  • Lampert of Hersfeld
  • Otloh of St. Emmeram
  • Radulfus Glaber
  • Sigebert of Gembloux
  • Thietmar of Merseburg
  • Hildegard of Bingen
  • Peter Abelard
  • Bernard of Clairvaux
  • Hugo of St. Victor
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth
  • Bernardus Silvestris
  • Otto of Freising
  • John of Salisbury
  • Alanus from Insulis
  • Archipoeta
  • Peter of Blois
  • Walter of Châtillon
  • Walter Map
  • William of Ockham
  • Konrad von Megenberg