Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dialect and Latin in Rome

Migliorini, the famous scholar (Storia della lingua italiana, 84-85) remarks that having a Roman patrician like Sisinnius speak dialect adds fun to the scene especially since the saint lectures him in Latin after failing to tie him up. Setting the two characters apart: Sininnius evil is set off by his crude dialect while Latin is used to underline the saint's wisdom.

The contrast between Sisinnius and Saint Clement is even starker with the phrase 'fili de pute' put in Sisinius' mouth. Using Italian at holy functions was forbidden by the Church, but the doctrine enforced by Pope Gregory V in 999 A.D. allowed for exceptions with audiences unable to speak or read Latin.

That non-Latin speakers were the great majority at mass obviously tells us something important about the state of Italian in the 11th century, and the necessity to instruct audiences that are no longer faniliar with Latin.

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