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Continuing classical Latin
Continuing classical Latin

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1.2 Notions of language change in Ancient Rome

The Roman elite had ideas very similar to ours about the written form of their language. They also thought that it was the correct form of language, and they would poke fun at people who spoke in a way that they considered incorrect.

Example: Catullus (c. 84-c. 54 BCE), Roman Poet, Poem 84

Chommoda dicebat, si quando commode uellet

Dicere, et insidias Arrius hinsidias,

Et tum mirifice sperabat se esse locutum

Cum quantum poterat dixerat hinsidias.

‘Arrius used to say hadvantages, when he meant to say advantages, and hambushes when he wanted to say ambushes. He would think that he had spoken splendidly, when he had said hambushes as loud as he could.’

Arrius spoke a variety of Latin which had lost h- at the beginning of words, and he overcompensates by adding h- to words which never had it. Overcompensation of this type in linguistics is called hypercorrection.

Audio activity 2

Now listen to the following audio conversation between James Clackson and Geoffrey Horrocks.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Changes in form of speech
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Changes in form of speech
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