Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Le Parchemin Des Cieux: Essai Sur le Moyen ÂGe Du Langage

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Le Parchemin Des Cieux: Essai Sur le Moyen ÂGe Du Langage

Article excerpt

Benoit Grévin, Le Parchemin des deux: Essai sur le Moyen Age du langage (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 2012). 407 pp. ISBN 978-2-02-087894-4. euro25.00.

The goal of this book - to study the representations and interactions of languages in the medieval Latin West and the Islamic world from the sixth to the fifteenth centuries AD - is an extremely ambitious one. Grévin's focus is less on the characteristics of the individual languages he evokes than on their role in society. The book is divided into five parts. The first, ?Paysages sonores' (?Sonic landscapes'), is on the evolution of sociolinguistic ?frames'. This section gives a very broad survey of the evolution of languages in both areas discussed before describing what the author identifies as the fundamental hierarchy of medieval languages - with 'referential languages' such as Latin and classical Arabic on the top, 'courtly languages' such as French and Occitan in the middle, and local dialects which were not consigned to writing on the bottom. Grévin also deploys the category of langues véhiculaires (vehicular languages) - that is, languages used as a means of interaction between linguistically diverse communities. In part II, 'Les géomètres de Babel' ('The geometers of Babel'), Grévin turns to medieval perceptions of languages. Among many topics, this section evokes the Babel myth, the association of writing systems with magic, and the increasing 'grammaticalization' of courtly languages such as Occitan (as will be clear from this very partial summary, Grévin covers a remarkable variety of topics in each section). Part III, 'Les disciplines de la parole' ('The disciplines of speech'), primarily examines the teaching of languages. …

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