Language Change and the Importance of Roman Garrisons Across Europe Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein Language change comes about over time when speakers of a common language become separated from each other. E.g., what are called the Romance languages are all derived from Latin. Soldiers garrisoned in different parts of the Roman Empire were Latin speakers; because of their assignments, they did not go back to Italy but remained with the native peoples they had conquered. After about 400 years, what had been Latin had become French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian. As noted early in the course, Latin itself comes from the Indo-European family of languages, as do Greek and Teutonic and Sanskrit. The mother language of all these languages has no extant written documents, so it has been synthetically reproduced based on how it must have been pronounced, given the languages that derived from it and the patterns of change they contain. Language is always in flux, and hence changes are occurring even in our own time, and that is why dictionaries are constantly being revised. As changes occur and affect the majority of speakers, dictionaries reflect the change. On the other hand, should you want to know approximately when a word came into the English language, you can find out by checking the Oxford English Dictionary. The word “hell,” for example, which one student asked about because it was used in the text’s translation of The Aeneid, was actually first used in a written document in English c. AD 825. It derives from Old English via Old High German via Old Scandinavian via Old Teutonic and means “hidden” or “covered over” (consider the interesting psychological implications of this meaning). Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily