A History of the French Language

By Urban T. Holmes Jr.; Alexander H. Schutz | Go to book overview
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After the final expulsion of the Etruscan Tarquin in 509 B.C. the little town of Rome, much improved by the years of Etruscan domination, began to extend her influence. She was fortunately situated at the Tiber ford where two of the chief roads running north and south intersected. First Rome assumed a dominant position over the thirty odd Latin towns, her immediate neighbors; then she reached out further and took over the control of the rest of Italy which was Oscan in speech and tradition, finally including the Greek colonies on the southern coasts, the Etruscans to the immediate north of her, the Umbrians in the mountains to the northeast, and the Celtic tribes of Cisalpine Gaul in the extreme north. The Greek colonies of southern Italy were absorbed by the fall of Tarentum in 272. Rome was supreme in Italy after 270 B.C. except for occasional revolts. Latin literature, which began as an imitation of the Greek, was a direct result of this capture of Tarentum. The first piece of Latin literature was a translation of the Odyssey by Livius Andronicus, a young Greek captured at Tarentum. In 240 this same Romanized Greek introduced Latin plays after Greek models at the ludi romani.


The immediate question now before us is one concerning the influence of Oscan, Greek, and Etruscan elements on the Latin vocabulary. As the newly conquered peoples came to adopt Latin for their daily use it is inconceivable that they did not retain some of their native expressions which rapidly passed into the lower-class speech of Rome. F. Lot has very aptly remarked that a bilingual people, when they become monolingual, as a last act flood into the victorious language what remains of the vocabulary of the disappearing speech. Words of Mediterranean origin which entered the Latin vocabulary were: vinum (wine), rosa (rose), asinus (ass),


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A History of the French Language


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