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Romans and Romance

Latin is the language of the Romans. It is the parent of the Romance languages. "Romance", from the Latin word Romanicus, means "Roman in type", "after the Roman model". Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Rumanian (= Roman-ian), and other tongues are Romance languages. English, by contrast, is a fundamentally Germanic language. Nonetheless, even as the sway of Rome itself declined, Latin ascended as the language of the Church in the West and as the language both of commerce and of learning throughout Christendom. Latin became the lingua franca (mirabile dictu) throughout Europe, including Saxon and Norman England where Latin was cultivated with increasingly high skill and made its mark on the local language. Because of this broad influence, and because of the heavy determination of English in the eleventh and twelfth centuries by Romance Norman French, Latin has exercised a far-reaching power on the development of the English language.

Latin and English

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to express oneself in English without employing Latin. It is certainly a challenge to articulate a conception of significant complexity in English without using Latin nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in abundance. Approximately 65% of English words are Latin derivatives. The symbol % means, of course, "per cent", from the Latin per centum, "by the hundred", "for every hundred". Discounting words of one or two syllables, many of which are Germanic, more than 90% of the English lexicon stems from Latin. The study of Latin produces immeasurable benefits for a conscientious student. You may consider yourself fortunate if you have had the opportunity to explore this fabulous and exciting terrain. You are not likely to waste time congratulating yourself or thinking yourself special, however, for you will have learned that your time is better spent in study than in preening, and you will be too eager to return to your Ovid and Tacitus to stop to compliment yourself on yesterday's accomplishments. Notice that the italicized words in this paragraph are Latin inheritances.

Latin and our Heritage

The English alphabet is by and large the Roman alphabet. The forerunners of European and American legal, constitutional, and administrative practice are Roman. The Founding Fathers of the American Republic were steeped in the language and literature of Rome, and the conceptions underlying our Constitution owe much to their study of that literature and to their understanding of Roman history as well as of Greek. The western genius for engineering is Roman. The great traditions of European and American letters descend from and repeatedly hark back to the Romans and through them to the Greeks. The same is true of ecclesiastical literature. When not Greek, the technical vocabularies of natural science, medicine, philosophy, and law are Latin in origin. In learning to speak English, therefore, we have already begun to learn Latin, and in studying Latin we learn to understand the English language ever so much better than we could hope to do without learning Latin.

Latin and Lancaster

"Lancaster", by the way, is a Latin word. It is compounded of a Latinized spelling of Lon: the Celtic name of the river flowing through the castra: the fortified Roman camp and the town that sprang up around it in northwestern England, where today lie the original City of Lancaster and the River Lune. "Lancaster" means the "military camp on the Lon".

Enjoyable and Rewarding

As with Greek, so with Latin, The Lancaster Center for Classical Studies employs methods of instruction designed to make this fundamental and pervasive ingredient in the English language accessible and its study inviting and enjoyable for active, eager learners. We offer courses at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels, culminating in the opportunity to read in their own words the great works of Caesar, Cicero, Vergil, Livy, Ovid, Jerome, Augustine, Boethius, and many others.

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