Language and Literacy
As the geographic territory under Roman control grew, the use of Latin as a common language also spread. In areas under Roman control, Latin was the spoken and written language of the courts and commerce, as well as the language of the Christian church. As the Roman Empire expanded, Latin served as a common language that allowed for people of diverse linguistic backgrounds to be able to communicate. Latin, like other languages past and present, had more than one form and changed over time because it was both written and spoken, and the educational level or social status of the writer or speaker often determined the final form of the language. Latin was also influenced by local languages spoken or written within the larger territory under the influence of what later came to be known as the Roman Empire. During the Carolingian Renaissance, throughout the reign of Charlemagne and his successors, the development of Latin literacy was greatly ...view middle of the document...
The promotion of literacy impacted education and language throughout the region. The demand for material relating to the interests of the ruling military class increased. Over time, vernacular languages, the languages commonly spoken, began to be used by writers. Until the 12th century, Latin was the primary language used by writers. French writers began the trend of using vernacular language in the 12th century, and by the end of that century, some government and legal documents in England and France were composed in the vernacular. In the 12th century, literacy among women was also increasing. Though literacy in Latin was still somewhat limited to specific social classes, literacy in local vernacular languages was increasingly common. Eleanor of Aquitaine established the city of Poiters as a center for a literary movement focused on the art of courtly love. The troubadour and the female counterpart, the trobairitz, used poetry to share stories of romantic longing and unattainable love. This poetry represents the beginning of written expressions of love in the way romantic love continues to be perceived today. It focuses on the feelings associated with romantic love: longing, suffering, loss of appetite, temptation,
Language and Literacy
loyalty, and a desire to do whatever possible to have the feeling of love reciprocated. As the poetry of the troubadour or trobairitz was recorded, it was written in the vernacular of the day. In fact, the word romance derives from the word romans, the old French term for the vernacular language specific to the region. Having poetry and prose in the vernacular of the people allowed a much wider audience to access this romantic literature. By the early 14th century, the trend toward the use of vernacular language had spread throughout most of Europe. As monarchies throughout the region began to consolidate, the use of vernacular languages contributed to an increasing nationalism, or feeling of pride in one’s own nation, and in this case among people of similar linguistic backgrounds. People began to feel more connected to local leaders than they did to influences from afar. These sociopolitical shifts, along with the development of moveable type (the printing press), helped to ensure the success of the vernacular languages during the Renaissance.