the language of the Vulgate

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by James Bates, Aug 6, 2012.

  1. James Bates Senior Member

    English America
    Was the Saint Jerome's translation of the Bible written in Ciceronian Latin, i.e. Classical Latin? I seem to recall that although it was not written in Vulgar Latin, the language of the Vulgate is not considered Classical either. Can anybody help me out?
  2. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    It is definitely not Ciceronian, as I could not but notice as a boy, learning classical Latin at school and reading and hearing the Vulgate every Sunday at mass. I think Cicero or Caesar would have found it rather clumsy or crude, as well as incorrect in many ways.

    The introduction to Richards' Dictionary of the Vulgate discusses the Vulgate as a translation. Much of it is concerned with the translation from the Greek but it also comments directly on differences from classical Latin.

    Richards' two main conclusions are: there are various ways in which the Latin is forced into Greek patterns of expression; the Latin uses various later forms and constructions which are not found in classical Latin.

    Jerome not only coins many words and forms in imitation of Greek, but actually uses some Greek constructions which were not previously found in Latin. In some cases, there are even Hebrew forms of expression which were carried over into the Greek by the translators of the Septuagint, and are carried over again by Jerome translating that into Latin. The syntax of Jerome's Latin is often different from and simpler than the classical (the simpler structure is a difference which is also noticeable between classical Greek and classical Latin).

    Jerome's vocabulary is often colloquial by comparison with the classical, and uses words or phrases which became standard in late Latin and then passed on into the Romance languages.

    Thus it seems to be at a transitional stage between classical and late Latin, and in various ways a step on the road towards the development of the modern Romance languages: though how far this was due to Jerome's influence, or how far Jerome was following such a trend, I do not know.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2012
  3. James Bates Senior Member

    English America
    Thank you!

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