Latin in Medieval Britain: Part II

Part II of Latin in Medieval Britain examines aspects of the use of Latin in Britain in different contexts and genres. Here are the abstracts of the four chapters in this part.

6. The Latin of the Early English Common Law

Paul Brand

A distinctive feature of the English royal courts created in the last quarter of the twelfth century was that they kept a full record of their business in Latin and the clerks who did this developed a distinctive vocabulary to translate the Anglo-Norman French they heard in court. This paper looks at some of that lexical store: the development of specific terms for litigants and their representatives and justices; for the writs for initiating litigation and to secure the appearance of opponents; for the plaintiff’s claim or complaint and the defendant’s defence; for the modes of proof and judgment. The paper concludes with a more detailed examination of the specific terminology of a single action (of replevin) which allowed someone whose property had been taken in distraint to challenge the justice of that distraint.

keywords: early English Common Law, medieval Latin lexicography, judges, legal profession, litigation, unjust distraint

7. English Music Theory in Medieval Latin

Leofranc Holford-Strevens

Medieval English music theory, almost always expressed in Latin, though not isolated from Continental—in particular French—developments, has a strong tendency to resist them and go its own way in both language and content; moreover, despite the early establishment of the name proprius cantus (‘properchant’) for the natural hexachord, it is more characteristically marked by divergence from one writer to another, so that even when doctrines are compatible the same thing may be called by different names and the same name may be applied to different things. This chapter studies the variations in conception, notation, and terminology exhibited in the works of numerous English authors from the 13th to the 16th centuries, noting differences from the far more standardised French Ars nova associated with the names of Philippe de Vitry and Jean des Murs.

key words: Ars nova, Jean des Murs, music theory, notation, Philippe de Vitry, proprius cantus

8. Latin in Ecclesiastical Contexts

Carolinne White

The murder of Thomas Becket in 1170 and its aftermath provide the starting point for a brief survey of various genres of Latin writing associated with the church and its administration in Britain over subsequent centuries. These genres include letters, biographical works, chronicles, miracle accounts, sermons, verse, charters, wills, accounts, registers, customaries and liturgy. These serve to demonstrate many varieties of style and developments in vocabulary and syntax, including examples where Latin was affected by contact with the vernaculars. They not only provide insights into life on different social levels, both within and outside the church, but also provide evidence that church Latin was able to adapt to new developments while working within a rich tradition.

keywords: Thomas Becket, church, letters, chronicles, biography, miracles, wills, charters, accounts, customaries, spoken Latin

9. The Introduction of Arabic Words in Medieval British Latin Scientific Writings

Charles Burnett

Latin was the key language for scientific discourse in writing in medieval Britain. It frequently had need of new terminology to capture new developments within the various fields. Arabic sources were important in the period for both ideas and terminology. This article discusses the stages by which Arabic words were assimilated into Latin, from being strange foreign words to becoming familiar Latin terms, and addresses the question of at what stage they should be included in a Latin dictionary.

keywords: Arabic, Latin, British Latin, transliteration, calque, lexicography

Read about the chapters in Part I here and the chapters in Part III here.

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