Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present): - Latin -
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Collected Name Resources from LoARs (2010-present)

Articles from Juliana de Luna, Lillia de Vaux, and Alys Mackyntoich

- Latin -

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May 2011 - Juliana de Luna Link to LoAR Cover Letter May 2011 - Latin

Latin plays a curious role in the way we talk about names (and in terms of what combinations we allow for registration). That's because Latin and how it is used changes across our period. You'll often see terms like "Latinized" that will, I hope, make a little more sense when this is done.

In Roman times, a language we call Latin or Classical Latin, was the everyday language people spoke. You can find dictionaries of it online, such as Lewis and Short's dictionary found at Over time, different dialects and less learned forms developed; we call them as a group Vulgar Latin. As the Roman Empire fell apart in the 5th century, the kinds of Vulgar Latin became more different, until finally we start calling them Romance and then French, Italian, Spanish, and the like. But that's a story for another day.

While Latin fell out of use as an everyday spoken language, it remained a language of the government and the church. Thus, names continued to be recorded in Latin, although the names were not themselves Latin in content (remembering that Latin has given way to Romance languages). Even in areas that had never been Latin-speaking, Latin became the language of record for much of the Middle Ages (though this is not true of Russia and parts of Eastern Europe).

Therefore, we can talk about names being recorded in vernacular forms, which render the names in the way they would have been spoken in the everyday language (English, French, etc.) spoken in a region, and in Latinized forms, which render the names in Latin. The relationship between vernacular and Latinized forms is complicated: some vernacular names are derived from old Latin names (or by names originally from Greek, Hebrew, etc., that are transmitted through Latin), while others never appeared in classical Latin. Some Latinized forms are quite similar to the vernacular forms: Robert is recorded in Latin as Robertus and Edith is recorded as Editha. Others are more distant from their vernacular forms: Giles is recorded in Latin as Egidius, John is recorded as Iohannes, and Denis is recorded as Dionysius. In some cases, these names are etymologically inked; in other cases, the associations between the vernacular and Latinized forms are unclear. Some names are even treated as strange undeclinable forms (a declension is just a fancy word for the changes to a word as it does different things in a sentence, like they/them/their), and are used in Latin contexts with no changes to the root name. That means that it can be hard for a submitter to determine from a Latinized form what the vernacular should be (and vice versa).

We will register Latin names from the classical period, but most of the "Latin" names we register are Latinized forms of names in some language. These names can be registered in completely vernacular forms, completely Latinized forms, or in mixes of vernacular and Latinized forms. That's because we can find records for most places that have completely Latinized forms, mostly vernacular forms, or some mix (most commonly Latinized given names and vernacular bynames, but other mixes are found too). We can often construct a Latinized form from a vernacular form of a name, or vice versa. But we can only do that when we have enough information about both vernacular and Latinized names in that language; thus we often cannot do that for the cultures that did not continue after Roman times.

For purposes of lingual mixes, Latin is its own language when we're talking about the classical stuff. But by the Middle Ages, that's not true. Latinized English is English: records written down in Latin by English speakers recording everyday information are considered linguistically English for purposes of determining possible lingual mixes. This is true even when the elements are identical to those used in classical Latin. Similarly, Latinized Italian is considered Italian, Latinized German is considered German, etc. Of course, some Latinized elements will be the same across time and space: for example, Iulianus first appears as a Latin cognomen, but will be used to render medieval English Julian, French Julien, Italian Giuliano and other names across Europe. But you cannot take a Latinized example from French and assume without documentation that a similar form is justifiable in German, for example.

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