Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin
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Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin

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by Nicholas Ostler
     
 

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"An absorbing, scholarly account of the history of the Latin language, from its origins in antiquity to its afterlife in our own time...Ad Infinitum treats its readers with the dignity of Roman citizens."—The Wall Street Journal

The Latin language has been the one constant in the cultural history of the West for more than two millennia.

Overview

"An absorbing, scholarly account of the history of the Latin language, from its origins in antiquity to its afterlife in our own time...Ad Infinitum treats its readers with the dignity of Roman citizens."—The Wall Street Journal

The Latin language has been the one constant in the cultural history of the West for more than two millennia. It has defined the way in which we express our thoughts, our faith, and our knowledge of how the world functions, its use echoing on in the law codes of half the world, in the terminologies of modern science, and, until forty years ago, in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. In his erudite and entertaining "biography," Nicholas Ostler shows how and why Latin survived and thrived even as its creators and other languages failed. Originally the dialect of Rome and its surrounds, Latin supplanted its neighbors to become, by conquest and settlement, the language of all Italy, and then of Western Europe and North Africa. After the empire collapsed, spoken Latin re-emerged as a host of new languages, from Portuguese and Spanish in the west to Romanian in the east, while a knowledge of Latin lived on as the common code of European thought, and inspired the founders of Europe's New World in the Americas. E pluribus unum. Illuminating the extravaganza of its past, Nicholas Ostler makes clear that, in a thousand echoes, Latin lives on, ad infinitum.

Editorial Reviews

William Grimes
…[a] lucid, erudite and elegant history of the language [Ostler] calls "the soul of Europe's civilization."
—The New York Times
Library Journal

In this delightfully rich book, Ostler, an Oxford-educated classicist with a Ph.D. in linguistics from MIT, thoroughly tackles the deep and complex history of the Latin language. He delves into the matrix of antique languages (Greek, Etruscan, Oscan) to uncover the context and relationships that a nascent and burgeoning Latin had with the multiplicity of Mediterranean languages existing at that time. In four parts, Ostler covers the origins and development of Latin in the Roman world, Latin's "taking over the church," its medieval continuation and fracturing into vernaculars, and a nuanced rebirth in the Renaissance and its legacy in the contemporary world. Incredibly well documented, with examples from antiquity to the modern era (such as Giuseppe Peano's "Latino sine flexione"-uninflected Latin as a world language), this may overexpose non-Latinists to great quantities of Latin prose and linguistic explanations, but for interested students, teachers, and scholars, it is a fabulous text. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Anthony J. Elia

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802715159
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Publication date:
11/13/2007
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.74(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.35(d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Ostler is the author of Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World. He is chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages (www.ogmios.org), a charity that supports the efforts of small communities worldwide to know and use their languages more. A scholar with a working knowledge of eighteen languages, Ostler holds an M.A. from Oxford University in Greek, Latin, philosophy, and economics, and a Ph.D in linguistics from MIT, where he studied under Noam Chomsky. He lives in England, in Roman Bath, on the hill where Ambrosius Aurelianus defeated the Saxons for a generation.

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Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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