our words make worlds

New Worlds for Old Words Colloquium

Introduction Programme Speakers Presentations

The study of cultured borrowings represents what is probably the single most important cultural contact observable in the languages of western Europe, that between the vernaculars and the most widely used languages of European antiquity, Latin and Greek.  The Romance languages are of particular interest in this respect since not only do they derive popularly from Latin but they later borrow Latin words (and Greek words either directly or through Latin) by a ‘learnèd’ route.  

Yet within Romance historical linguistics, attention has most often focussed on the history of ‘popular’ words (those directly inherited from the parent Latin), first, because of their interest for the reconstruction of phonetic changes and, secondly, because of a general perception that borrowings, especially borrowings introduced through the agency of an elite social sector, are a diversion from the language’s natural development.