Hot Hits for Latin Lovers; the Language of Ancient Rome Is Far from Dead and Buried

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), May 28, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Hot Hits for Latin Lovers; the Language of Ancient Rome Is Far from Dead and Buried


Byline: DERMOT PURGAVIE

This is Radio Finland and here is the news: reports of the death of Latin have been greatly exaggerated. It is alive and well out there in spatium cyberneticum.

There are no dead languages on the Internet. The Finns' Nuntii Latini - the news in classic Latin - is a five-minute roundup of international stories available both on the radio and over the Net.

Broadcast from Helsinki once a week, it is a small part of the online movement that is giving new vigour to Latin and other neglected languages.

The service is demonstrating once again that, however obscure or arcane your passion, you are never alone on the Net.

More than 1,500 years after the fall of the Roman Empire, when Latin has declined as an option in most schools, the language is being devotedly nourished, mostly by scholars who have found each other online at such websites as the Grex Latine loquentium (literally, the flock of Latin speakers) - a group that was formed at the University of Warsaw.

'To write classical Latin well is an extraordinarily difficult feat to pull off,' says Professor Dennis Wood, the head of French Studies at the University of Birmingham and a regular Grex correspondent. 'Some are quite superb in their skill, eloquence and panache.' One Swiss subscriber has posted a fulsome tribute in Latin to his hero John Wayne, whom he obviously feels would have been lauded in similar fashion in Ancient Rome, while other members are expanding the vocabulary of the language to include such post-Roman concepts as the computer (cybernetica machina), the Internet (Interreticulum) and, of course, email (litterae electronicae).

Some Latinistas are arguing that, in an increasingly fragmented world, Latin should be restored as the common tongue of international commerce and diplomacy - as the official lingua franca of the European Union, for instance.

Meanwhile, the Vatican, the only state where Latin is still the formal language of government, favours a different universal voice: Esperanto.

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Hot Hits for Latin Lovers; the Language of Ancient Rome Is Far from Dead and Buried
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