Francis Cairns Publications

ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs ISSN 0309-5541

Late Latin and Early Romance. In Spain and Carolingian France

Roger Wright

ARCA 8. ISBN 978-0-905205-12-0.  xii+322 pp. 1982.

Contents  Reviews

Late Latin and Early Romance presents a theory of the relationship between Latin and Romance during the period 400-1250. The central hypothesis is that what we now call 'Medieval Latin' was invented around 800 AD when Carolingian scholars standardized the pronunciation of liturgical texts, and that otherwise what was spoken was simply the local variety of Old French, Old Spanish, etc. Thus, the view generally held before the publication of this work, that 'Latin' and 'Romance' existed alongside each other in earlier centuries, is anachronistic. Before 800, Late Latin was Early Romance.

This hypothesis is examined first from the viewpoint of historical linguistics, with particular attention paid to the idea of lexical diffusion (ch. 1), and then (ch. 2) through detailed study of pre-Carolingian texts. Chapter 3 deals with the impact in France of the introduction of standardized Latin by Carolingian scholars, and shows how the earliest texts written in the vernacular resulted from it. The final two chapters turn to the situation in Spain from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries. Ch. 4 suggests, on the evidence of a large variety of texts, that before 1080 the new Latin pronunciation (i.e. Medieval Latin) was not used; Ch. 5 charts the slow spread, as a result of Europeanizing reforms, of a distinction between Latin and vernacular Romance between 1080 and 1250. There is an extensive bibliography and full indexes.

Wright's controversial book presents a wide range of detailed evidence, with extensive quotation of relevant texts and documents. When it was published in 1982 it challenged established ideas in the fields of Romance linguistics and Medieval Latin. The collectively established facts are however explained better by his theory that Medieval Latin was a revolutionary innovation consequent upon liturgical reform, than by the view that it was a miraculous conservative survival that lasted unchanged for a millennium.

Late Latin and Early Romance draws on philological, historical and literary evidence from the medieval period, and on historical linguistics, and is a seminal work in these areas of scholarship.

ROGER WRIGHT is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Hispanic Studies, University of Liverpool. Since publication of Late Latin and Early Romance (in 1982) he has reassessed data from several separate specialist disciplines in the light of the hypothesis, and presented and discussed his ideas internationally with colleagues at many conferences and invited lectures, as well as publishing numerous articles. In 1995 a selection of his collected papers was published as Early Ibero-Romance (Hispanic Monographs: Estudios lingísticos 5; Juan de la Cuesta: Newark, Delaware). He was also the editor of the collected papers of a conference on Latin and the Romance Languages in the Early Middle Ages (Routledge 1991, pb repr. Penn State Press 1996), on which see Modern Language Review 88 (1993) 923-6. Late Latin and Early Romance itself has been translated into Spanish as Latín tardío y Romance temprano (Editorial Gredos: Madrid, 1989).




The Traditional View. Learnèd Vocabulary. The Identification of the "Learnèd" Word. Geographical Regularity. Statistical Regularity. Types of Change. Lexical Diffusion: Strengthening and Phonaesthetics. Homonymy: a) Clash; b) The Formation of Doublets. Subsequently Obscured Regularities. Postdating Latinisms. Morphological Archaism. Conclusion


Unity and Evolution. Non-differentiation. Proto-Romance Reconstruction. Phonetic Script and Education. “Vulgar” Latin. The Evidence of Grammarians before 500: a) The Second Century; b) The Fifth Century. The Evidence of Legal Documents. The Evidence of Rhythmic Poetry. The Evidence of the Visigothic Liturgy. The Evidence of Grammarians, 500-770. Cassiodorus. Isidore of Seville: a) The Differentiae; b) Origines I.; c) De Lectoribus.; d) Isidore's comments on linguistic variety.; e) Vulgus and Rustici. Julian of Toledo. Bede and the Insular Tradition


Standard Delivery of the Liturgy. Standard Education. Sermons. The Invention of "Romance" Writing: a) Oaths; b) The Sequence. The Survival of Latin Speech and Romance Writing past 1000 A.D.

4 SPAIN (711-1050)

Catalonia. Moslem Spain. Toledo. Asturias. "Leonese Vulgar Latin". The Cheeses. Verse; a) Rhythmic; b) Popular Verse? Historiography. The Rioja. Glosses. Conclusion


The Council of Burgos (1080). Toledo. Santiago. Twelfth-Century Castille. Script. Vernacular Writing: a) Navarre; b) Castille. Literature. The Spread of the Reforms in the 1220s





Liverpool Classical Monthly 14 (1989) 1-17 (J.N. Adams, review discussion)

Modern Language Review 83.4 (1988) 926-7 (Ian Michael). "Roger Wright's book offers a welcome reassessment of many different topics and is certainly producing lively debate, if not gaining total acceptance."

Journal of Ecclesiastical History 38 (1987) 449-52 (N.G. Round)

Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie 103 (1987) 1-8 (Helmut Berschin)

Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 21 (1986) 279-83 (Heinz Jürgen Wolf)

Romance Philology 40 (1986) 199-214 (Tom Walsh)

Les Etudes Classiques (1986) 417-18 (J. Giot)

Journal of Library History 21 (1986) 612-14 (Lawrence J. McCrank)

Hispanic Linguistics 2 (1985) 161-66 (Robert Blake)

Medium Aevum 54 (1985) 132-3 (Fred Hodcroft)

Language 60.1 (1984) 184-5 (Frank Nuessel)

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 61 (1984) 43-45 (Ralph Penny)

Orpheus 5 (1984) 227-32 (Giovanni Polara). "Un'opera straniera che si chiude con una bella citazione da Dante ha già un buon titolo per riuscire gradita al pubblico italiano; se si aggiunge che Late Latin and Early Romance è anche brillante, a volte spiritoso, e sopratutto provocatoriamente nuovo per le tesi che sostiene, ecco che i motivi per leggerlo con interesse diventano tanti."

General Linguistics 24 (1984) 194-99 (Saul Levin)

Francia 11 (1984) 611-13 (Marc van Uytfanghe - part of a review article "Histoire du latin, protohistoire des langues romanes")

Speculum 59 (1984) 222-5 (Suzanne Fleischman)

Revista de Filología Española 64 (1984) 129-45 (Francisco Marcos Marín)

La Corónica 12.2 (1984) 295-7 (Steven D. Kirby)

Hispanic Review 52.3 (1984) 367-77 (Paul M. Lloyd - review article "Latin versus Romance: one language or two?")

Diachronica 1.2 (1984) 305-6 (Konrad Koerner - brief notice only)

Vox Romanica 42 (1983) 259-63 (Bengt Löfstedt)

Incipit 3 (1983) 224-30 (Jose Luis Moure)

Revue de linguistique romane 47.2 (1983) 446-7 (Arnulf Stefenelli)

Medieval Sermon Studies Newsletter 12 (1983) 7-8 (Pat Odber/editor)

Journal of Hispanic Philology 7 (1983) 141-43 (Máximo Torreblanca)

Year's Work in Modern Language Studies 44 (1982) - brief mentions/notices under Medieval Latin p.4 (Keith Bate), General Romance p.14-15 (John Green), Spanish Pre-Modern Language p.290 (M. Wheeler)

Review of reviews: R. Wright, "Latín tardío y romance temprano (1982-88)", Revista de Filología Española 68 (1988) 257-69

Articles with major reference to LLER

Kees Versteegh, "The debate concerning Latin and Early Romance", Diachronica 9 (1992) 259-85

Michel Banniard, "Vox Agrestis: quelques problèmes d'élocution de Cassiodore à Alcuin", in Trames, Etudes Antiques (Limoges 1985) 195-208