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Latin Alive: The Survival of Latin in English and the Romance Languages [Paperback]

Joseph B. Solodow
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

21 Jan 2010
In Latin Alive, Joseph Solodow tells the story of how Latin developed into modern French, Spanish, and Italian, and deeply affected English as well. Offering a gripping narrative of language change, Solodow charts Latin's course from classical times to the modern era, with focus on the first millennium of the Common Era. Though the Romance languages evolved directly from Latin, Solodow shows how every important feature of Latin's evolution is also reflected in English. His story includes scores of intriguing etymologies, along with many concrete examples of texts, studies, scholars, anecdotes, and historical events; observations on language; and more. Written with crystalline clarity, this book tells the story of the Romance languages for the general reader and to illustrate so amply Latin's many-sided survival in English as well.

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Latin Alive: The Survival of Latin in English and the Romance Languages + Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin
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Product details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (21 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521734185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521734189
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 16.1 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 652,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"Joseph Solodow, lecturer in Classics at Yale, joins the expanding ranks of scholars writing accessible histories of Latin, with his Latin Alive...the readers will be attracted by the mixture of perspectives, and the majority of readers will learn details they had not realized before....We can all read it with pleasure. " --BMCR

Book Description

Joseph Solodow tells the story of how Latin developed into modern French, Spanish, and Italian, and also deeply affected English. Offering a gripping narrative of language change, Solodow charts Latin's course from classical times to the modern era, with particular focus on the first millennium of the Common Era.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just or even principally for Latinists! 16 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback
This book is a veritable treasure trove for anyone who cares about the language(s) we use and seeks to understand the past that has made us. There are a number of excellent studies about on the history and subsequent course of the Latin language, in tandem with the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church (Palmer's 1954 book and Nicholas Ostler's more recent work 'Ad Infinitum' are very helpful here), but this is the best and most detailed work for the so-called general reader that I know of to deal with the question of how Latin has come to shape the English language and how it gave birth to the main Romance languages studied in the Anglosphere: French, Spanish and Italian.
The work is marked by a clear historical progression in its treatment of the material: 1. the growth and spread of the Latin language (literary and Vulgar or popular Latin, the mother of the Romance languages); 2. the Romance vocabulary (how and why words came to shift in meaning and form in post-Empire western Europe); 3. common features in the grammar and sounds of the Romance languages and how these arose (many illuminating observations from the world of linguistics); 4. how the languages diverged, as witnessed in the earliest texts of French, Italian and Spanish.
It is not necessary to be a Latin specialist (increasingly a rara avis today) to appreciate this book, since many of the distinctive features of Latin and its grammar are explained in user-friendly language in part one. I enjoyed reading this book through in consecutive order (with its many diversions into etymologies, where I learnt something new on every page) but the book will also serve as a useful reference work, through its handy indices. Most students today will be studying Latin's grandchildren - and in particular French and Spanish - rather than the grandmother herself. This engagingly written book will show students how these languages came to be. It has its fingers on the pulses of both ages - and the old lady isn't dead!
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something for All 24 Jun 2010
By Amanda G - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Whether an introduction to linguistics, a refresher, or a reference, this book renders the intricacies of Latin's evolution with such clarity, such grace, and such attention to detail that I cannot imagine any work ever surpassing it. The book includes a general explanation of Latin's origins in Indo-European, provides a cursory examination of the Latin language itself and it's speakers' history, and finally explores the multifaceted relationship between Latin, the Romance languages, and English. There is no want for context, yet readers of all knowledge-levels will find that they are well served, neither bored nor left behind. Solodow has a gift for lucid explanations, and his mastery of the subject is evident from the start, but what makes this book particularly enjoyable - even for those who may not feel especially passionate about etymologies or Latin roots - is Solodow's charming sense of humor and the obvious care with which this book was researched and written. This is a veritable gift to the classics community, and a gem for anyone with an interest in language.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars splendid book 26 May 2010
By Jean - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a splendid book: beautifully written, erudite without being at all pendantic, and simply illuminating. It is a pleasure to read. It makes clear the rich variety of linguistic associations and changes that linked yet differentiated Latin, French, Spanish, and English; the book makes you understand and appreciate the living process of linguistic evolution in which we all participate. I've read many books on the history of English, French, and Latin, yet Solodow's work still provided many welcome new delightful factual tidbits as well as deeper insights. If you have any interest in language or history at all, read this book. It is not only fascinating, it is a charming and absorbing read.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the amateur reader 17 Feb 2012
By Alan A. Elsner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this book based on the glowing reviews and because I have a generalist's interest in the subject. I studied Latin as a child and also French and later learned some Romanian.

However I quickly realized that this is a book that is really not for the general reader. I'm sure it's a brilliant book by a brilliant author -- but the level of detail was quite beyond this reader's ability to absorb it and in the end I quit reading about two thirds of the way through.

I don't intend to be critical or nasty. I merely want to warn the well-intentioned amateur that they may be getting more than they bargained for. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of interesting derivations and etymologies and some fascinating historical insights but it all gets very academic and involved and you, gentle reader, like me,may decide that this is on altogether too high a level.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a perfect book! 30 Dec 2009
By CSK - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A great way to learn about etymology and the power of words, all wrapped up in engaging prose detailing the history of Latin after it turned into the Romance languages. Highly recommended for interested readers and students of the subject, alike.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Latin Teacher Must Read 10 July 2010
By katyred - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a Latin teacher I am grateful to have a resource that will better enable me to answer students' questions about Latin's transformation into the Romance languages. I particularly enjoyed the plethora of examples of words' transformations. As a Latinist who has studied Romance languages, I can't help but think this book's logical explanation of how verbs changed from Latin into Italian would have made my study of Italian immensely easier. I believe that this is a much have resource for Latin teachers.
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