An old question

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Tue Jul 14 14:36:34 UTC 1998

In response to RZ's observation:
>Questions of what constitutes a 'living language' are obviously
>more subtle than the linguists to whom George Thompson referred
>apparently thought. In his little book _Lateinisches Mittelalter:
>Einleitung in Sprache und Literatur_ Karl Langosch wrote about
>mediaeval Latin as the European "father tongue" ("Vatersprache",
>next to "Muttersprache"), which I think is a beautiful and accurate
>expression. Sanskrit is the Indian Vatersprache. And are fathers
>less 'living' than mothers?
Well, I myself wouldn't be so hard on those linguists [who after all
produced a dozen or so pages of more complicated observations]. Probably it
is better to dismiss my very reductive summary of their views as too
simplistic. And I agree that it is.

On the other hand, I did use the terms "vital language" and "dead language"
re Latin with a certain amount of calculation, signalling my own impression
that the situation seemed rather complicated. I'm glad that RZ picked up on

Furthermore, my use of the phrase "the language of his mother and home," to
refer to Dante's Italian was calculated to play off those expressions that
RZ likes, such as Muttersprache and Vatersprache. The metaphor is

And finally I cited the *Concise Compendium*'s 'anomalous' article on
Sanskrit precisely to highlight the rather complicated situation that we
find ourselves in when talking about this 'living dead language' which is
called Sanskrit.

I agree with everything that has been said so far, going back to Ashok
Aklujkar's original post....



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