Was the original Latin a Greek dialect? Are patois in France Latin dialects?
|ceci est un cheval||chechi est un keval|
|Mycenian Greek||Oldest Latin|
|V-s-V > V-V|
eo > ou
|V-s-V > V-r-V|
-os, -es > -us, -is
If you define Greek, as Linguists usually do, to include only the dialects in which #s-V > #h-V (h mute in new Greek, spelled as spiritus asper) and V-s-V > V-h-V > V-V, Latin is of course not a Greek dialect, since Latin is a language in which #s-V remains and V-s-V > V-z-V > V-r-V. (V=any vowel, #=limit of a word, > = becomes later).
If you define Greek as one of the dialects originally spoken in or closely around Greece, excluding oldest Cretan population (linear A of Crete and linear B of Mycene are same syllabic script and only the linear B of Mycene makes sense in Greek, for linear A only names can be identified), Latin probably separated from the common root with Greek before its earliest speakers came to Italy or before people having come to Italy became earliest speakers of Latin. Those earliest speakers which were called "aborigines" in traditions relating Latin and Roman fame to Latinus and Trojan Aeneas.
But when Greeks called Macedonians and Romans Hellenes and admitted their language was a Hellenic dialect, they did mean something. They did mean that, although it took a while before you could become fluent in the other language, there were things which you understood at once, and broadly speaking understood correctly. I would say that the ancient Macedonian was close to Greek, but one of the North Indoeuropean languages, in which Sanscrit #bh-/Greek #ph- always was #b- (from West to East in still existing families: Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavonic - Germanic is particular in so far that Greek and Sanscrit #b- does not coincide with #bh-/#ph- as #b-, but comes out as #p- (German #pf-). Celtic is peculiar in so far as Sanscrit/Greek/Latin/Slavonic #p- is totally missing, whereas in Germanic it is #f-).
Baltic and Slavonic are particular in sofar as they, via Macedonian seem to share the word for head that also Greek has.
First of all, Ionic and Attic for head is kephalee. Second of all, in non-Ionic dialects, this would be kaphalaa. Third, if you look at a word like thrix, trichos, you see that it was thrichos that became trichos in order to avoid a sequence of two aspirates: kaphalaa may have been khaphalaa. And that would make the Macedonian form gabalaa. Now, in Baltic and Slavonic V-b-V comes out as V-v-V (Modern Greek does that to all "betas" turning them to "vitas"). So you would expect a Baltic and Slavonic gavalaa. Now Lithuanian is Baltic and head in Lithuanian is galvá. In Slavonic it is for instance glava, glova.
Romanides identifies gens with genos. But as shown above, genos really is genus. However, gens corresponds to some usages of genos. Take gentilis, it means eugenicos. Gens, gentilis can also correspond to ethnos, ethnikos.
Gens, gentis is really older gentis gentes (not to be confounded with gentees=nom pl). So, analyse gen-tis. In Greek you have a word po-tis. It also exists in Latin as com-pos, genetive compotis (older of course compotis, compotes): compos sui means "master of oneself"="not mad"+"awake" in legal terms. I just had this fantasy that maybe nepos also comes from potis: grandson/nephew is so not-master of a household, and before we adored the Child of Bethlehem that was even more true, as it still is among Jews, Moslems, Confucians. In Latin you do not say dynamai, you say possum=potis sum=potis eimi (you would like Lithuanian in so far as eimi in Lithuanian is esmi in very old texts, now usually esu).
Po- then is no verb in Greek, where you have the noun po-tis, but that noun is formed like an infinitive of Lithuanian or of Serbian: -ti in those languages = -tis in this context. And if a po-tis is someone who can, a gen-tis is something that genit, from which someone genitur/gignetai.
So, when Greeks decided Latin was a Greek dialect they meant: Latin is close enough to the dialects we have in Greece. An Athenian can learn Latin as easy as he can learn Achaean. Much easier than learning Celtic: and Latin is at least as close to Celtic of Gaulish and British type as to Greek, therefore between them: as Macedonian is clearly close to both Greek and Slavonic or Baltic. They also meant they did not want to offend people coming to rule them, whether they were called Philip and Alexander or Scipio.
Romanides claims oldest Roman Historians wrote in Greek. But he does not deny that the law of twelve tablets was written in an old form of what is now known as Latin, not as Greek. So, when he poses a rhetorical question in the essay from 1998 (ominous year, if you divide it by three), there is a pretty simple answer: literature, including literary history, was not written at all by Romans, before they had started writing it in a foreign language.
Romanides also claims the Conquest by the Franks reduced Latin to Patois and divided it. But actually languages tend to change: every generation the change is very small, so one can honestly, if one is not attentive, claim it was not change. In France the â of pâte is now pronounced as the a of patte - because the Pieds-Noirs who came back in 1962 did not distinguish the â of pâte any more than Occitans do. Occitan is, like French, Gallo-Roman, but another language. But between the Massiliotic patois and that of Nice (Nikaia Antipolis as the university calls itself in memory of Greek origins) or of Monaco one can understand each other. Between standard French (however pâte is pronounced) and Picard, one can understand each other: "ceci est un cheval" and "chechi est un keval" is at least as inter-understandable as the ancient Greek dialects.
And this brings us to Latin versus vernacular.
Justinian wrote his code in Classic Latin.
Charlemagne could read it, or simpler passages of it, with some difficulty, and so could any of his leudes of West Francia, Neustria. But its spelling was as close to his pronunciation as Greek spelling, inherited from Koiné, is to Modern Greek, essentially dhimotiki pronunciation. Because speach habits had changed considerably, especially where Franks ruled. Not because they forced anyone to speak differently, but because they spoke Latin with an accent.
Here is Platt-Dütsch, the language spoken from Belgium to Berlin, and the language of Frankish rulers:
Ik snack platt
When people with that sound in their beak (an expression used in those regions) speak Latin, after a few centuries it sounds a bit more like French than it did to start with, and quite close to Modern Spanish. Indeed, one can say that the scale from Latin to French is divided pretty equally this way:
Latin - Italian - Spanish - French.
And Occitan comes in between Spanish and French.
Just before Charlemagne was made emperor, people had noticed Latin in France did not sound as Latin should sound. In came Alcuin of York, he repaired the French pronunciation by using the one Englishmen had received centuries earlier and not worn down, because used only by clerks. Some faults as compared with Classic pronunciation, like pronouncing -um like -u-m rather than like nasalised -u, but much closer to the real thing than the pronunciation of the Roman language in France. And after that one found that the people did not understand the new pronunciation, which was a centuries more oldfashioned one, and after Gospel in Latin (restored pronunciation), one asked the priests to make a sermon not quite as exegetic as Church Father homilies, but simply to translate the Gospel story to Rustic Roman Tongue as the Council of 813 put it: Occitan patois in the South, French patois in the North. Roman patois everywhere.
But a Jurist in Constantinople could not read the Latin text of Justinian at all - except perhaps at the court of the Basileus.
So, no, Louis the Bald or Louis the Pious - see link to Romanides in previous essays, I will not link to it on a Sunday! - was not lying about Greeks abandoning Latin. He spoke the exact truth.
I:st Passion Sunday
I do not know how you Greeks do, but we Latins, Roman as we are, celebrate the feast of Annunciation tomorrow, when it falls on I:st Passion Sunday. I did post a link to the hymn of St Nectarius. I do believe all that hymn says as much, as little as I believe what Romanides has to say about Franks.