Spoken and Written Language: Relations between Latin and the Vernacular Languages in the Earlier Middle Ages, ed. Mary Garrison, Arpád P. Orbán and Marco Mostert with the assistance of Wolfert S. van Egmond (Turnhout, 2013: USML 24), xii+364 pp. ISBN 978-2-503-50770-5.

The linguistic situation of the medieval West has sometimes been characterized as one of diglossia: one learned language, Latin, the father tongue was used for religion, law, and documents, while the various vernaculars would have been the mother tongue. In Romance-speaking areas, however, the relevance of the term diglossia has been contested, and the date of the divergence between written or spoken Latin and Romance is a subject of energetic debate. How can one characterize the interaction between Latin and the various vernaculars, and between the various vernaculars themselves? To what extent could speakers from separate linguistic worlds communicate? These questions are fundamental for anyone concerned with almost any aspect of communication, the transmission of learning, literary history, and cultural interaction in the Middle Ages.

To approach the question in its broadest context, one must consider many categories of evidence: glossaries, colloquies, glossed texts, vernacular translations, grammars, and anecdotes in narrative sources about the study of foreign languages. Informing the relationship between Latin and the vernaculars in the early medieval West was the choice of Latin as the language of the Western Roman Empire and the Roman Church, a choice which entailed the possibility of a shared literary culture and heritage across Europe, but which also had consequences for access to that heritage.


Michael Richter, “Trace Elements of Obliterated Vernacular Languages in Latin Texts”

A. Demyttenaere, “Qu’une femme ne peut pas être appelée homme: Questions de langue et d’anthropologie autour du concile de Mâcon (585)”

Arpád Orbán, “Wie groß war der Einfluß des Griechischen auf die Sprache der (ersten) lateinischen Christen?”

Walter Berschin, “Die Figur des Dolmetschers in der biographischen Literatur des westlichen Mittelalters (IV.-XII. Jh.)”

Inger Larsson, “Nordic Digraphia and Diglossia”

Anthony Harvey, “The Non-Classical Vocabulary of Celtic Latin Literature: An Overview”

Michael W. Herren, “The Cena Adamnani or Seventh-Century Table Talk”

Nicholas Brooks, “Latin and Old English in Ninth-Century Canterbury”

Roger Wright, “A Sociophilological Study of the Change to Official Romance Documentation in Castile”

Marc van Uytfanghe, “L’ancien français (archaïque) et le fonctionnement de la communication verticale latine en Gaule (viie-viiie siècles)”

Michel Banniard, “Quelques exemples de compromis morphologiques au viiie siècle en Francia”

Rijcklof Hofman, “Latin Grammars and the Structure of the Vernacular Old Irish Auraicept na nÉces

Charles D. Wright, “From Monks’ Jokes to Sages’ Wisdom: The Joca Monachorum Tradition and the Irish Immacallam in dáThúarad

Dennis Green, “Writing in Latin and the Vernacular: The Case of Old High German”

Rolf Bergmann, “Volkssprachige Glossen für lateinkundige Leser?”

Arend Quak, “Rustice vel Teodisce appellatur oder: Warum schreibt man Glossen?”

Elvira Glaser, “Typen und Funktionen volkssprachiger (althochdeutschen) Eintragungen im lateinischen Kontext”

Els Rose, “Liturgical Latin in Early Medieval Gaul”

Dieter Geuenich, “Sprach Ludwig der Deutsche deutsch?”

Anna Adamska, “Latin and Three Vernaculars in East Central Europe from the Point of View of the History of Social Communication”