The words and syntax of a speaker are as revelatory of identity as a fingerprint, a ballistics test, and a DNA sample are to a criminologist. The critical inquiries of the scholar, or the practiced eye of the native speaker, will as readily deduce the origin of a written text from an examination of its lexicon and constructions, as might a forensics scientist derive a wealth of information from a study of a fragment of bone, a scrap of tissue, or a tuft of hair. While this truth has not often been appreciated, it remains one that has been consistently demonstrated. We will discuss three examples that illustrate our proposition.Continue reading
“How To Drink” (Book Review)
It is often forgotten that Latin was a primary European language of education and literature until the late eighteenth century. University lectures were conducted in Latin; textbooks, treatises, doctoral dissertations, legal work, and government publications were composed in Latin; and scientific and religious tracts were written in Latin. There was a thriving vernacular literature in prose and poetry in every country, of course, but this arrangement co-existed (sometimes uneasily) with the official standard. Scholars and officials frequently debated the extent to which the vernaculars should replace Latin. Yet anyone wanting to reach an international audience—which in those days meant the breadth of the European continent—needed to be proficient in the language. Among the competitive and tussling European states, its neutrality and prestige meant that it was the only language accepted as an international vehicle.
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