Reasons Why It Will Survive Another 100 Years

Van Nyankieya Nchogu

© Copyright 2018 by Van Nyankieya Nchogu

Photo of the arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.

Despite being a dead language, existing beyond its shelf life, seeing the rise and fall of empires, setting foundation for today’s major languages, Latin still remains relevant in our cultural, political and social life. Like in Binomial Nomenclature which is used by scientists in naming of plants & animals borrows heavily from the Latin language. From educational institutions, military organizations, municipals and countries deriving their names, official mottos & slogans from the language its effect is felt worldwide. This article strives in affirming why despite being a dead language its influence is still felt today and will survive for another hundred years.

The dead language- Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages (Wikipedia). It’s the official language of the Holy See, the working language of the Roman Rota and its public journal the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. Latin has transcended throughout history to become the most influential language birthing several major ones like Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and English. Latin is immune from frequent changes experienced by other living languages whose word’s meaning are manipulated and distorted. It has metamorphosed through centuries from the; Old- Classical-Vulgar-Medieval-Renaissance-New and to the recent Contemporary Latin. From famous quotes& phrases, science & arts, law and literature, Latin has had profound influence throughout history of mankind, ensuring its survival to the next millennia.

From countries, institutions, military organizations, movies, and mass media, the language influence is felt across all sectors in our society. (Portus cale)- warm harbor in Latin is where Portugal derived its name; similarly Egypt is from (Aegyptus)- meaning the land below Aegean Sea in Latin, and Switzerland Latin name is (Confoederatio Helvetica )and adopting its short form Helvetia on her coins& stamps. (A mari usque ad mare)- From sea to sea is Canada’s official motto, with U.S state of Missouri adopting (Salus populi suprema lex esto) - the health of the people should be the highest law as its state motto, and state of West Virginia being (Montani semper liberi) - Mountaineers are always free. The Royal Air Force of Britain( Per ardua ad astra)- Through adversity/struggle to the stars is its official motto, United States Marine Corp adopting the phrase (Semper fidelis)- Always faithful, and Harvard University’s (Veritas) meaning truth who was a goddess of truth, daughter of Saturn & mother of virtue. Also Movies like the award winning Passion of Christ infusing it for a more realistic feel, with films having a Latin sub-title and websites, T.V & Radio shows & magazines done entirely on the language.

(Ad impossibilia nemo tenetur)- No one is obligated to perform the impossible, one of the Latin terms you’ll probably hear lawyers use before a judge and law students must master. When the Roman Empire fell, the conquered regions under her were already accustomed to their laws, language & culture and hence continued using it. In forming their own set of laws in resolving disputes, Latin became the language of choice for those studying law and became the basis on which it was practiced. With the advent of major languages like English, Spanish, & French, Latin was less used and eventually scrapped but remained heavily used in law schools and lawyers for their terms and phrases. Some of the common Latin terms that comes to mind like; (Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea)- The act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty, commonly used in defense of an accused, (Actore non probante, reus absolvitur)- When the plaintiff does not prove his case, the defendant is absolved, a term denoting the burden of proof is upon the plaintiff, (Animus confidenti)- Intention to confess, (Amicus Curiae)- A friend of the court, and (Aberratio ictus)- Mistake in the blow meaning an error where the wrong person gets hurt. Whichever country you’re from, you’ll never miss the use of such terms in law, highlighting its continued effect and importance on the legal profession worldwide.

Science continues to borrow heavily from Latin especially in coining new words for the International scientific vocabulary (I.S.F) - It comprises of scientific & specialized words whose language of origin may or may not be certain, but which are in current use in several modern languages (Wikipedia). Its Translingual meaning Latin cuts across modern languages worldwide from; English, Russian, French, Swedish to Japanese, Thai, Kiswahili and Hebrew. Hence a word like Femur- Thighbone remains the same when used in any modern language, and it’s interoperable. Binomial nomenclature used by scientists in naming of plants & animals uses Latin with the main intention of helping those clueless about Classical languages to better understand and remember such scientific names like; Apis mellifera- Honey Bee. There’re myriad of common Latin names & terms you’ll bound to encounter like; Tibia- Shinbone, Fibula- Leg bone, Fetus- Foetus (Unborn Baby), Citrus aurantium- Bitter orange, Eubalaena Autris- Southern Right Whale, and Eptesicus Brasiliensis – Brazilian Brown Bat.

Veni vidi vici- “I came, I saw, I conquered” Julius Caesar wrote to Amantius in Rome after a decisive victory against Pharnaces II of Pontus during the Battle of Zela fought on August 2, 47 BC in Zile, present day Turkey with historians, philosophers interpreting the phrase to mean anything is achievable if we’re focused and determined on any objective we make. After Pharnaces defeated one of Caesars’s legate at the Battle of Nicopolis, he committed atrocious acts against the captured soldiers and Roman civilians. When Caesar heard about it he declared war against Pharnaces and met him in Zile, a small hilltop in Northern Turkey, he made a surprise attack against Caesar as he was pitching tent on the hilltop creating confusion among his troops and gained ground. But Caesar’s legionnaires quickly regrouped, organized themselves and went on the offensive routing Pharnaces army of approximately 20,000 against Caesar’s 10,960. Denoting Caesar’s clear purpose of defeating Pharnaces, despite suffering early setbacks he remained focused by quickly regrouping, organizing the troops and achieved his goal by defeating Pharnaces. Such Latin phrases are still an inspiration, applicable & relevant to this present day with institutions, individuals, Governments worldwide using them as their motto for motivation. Like; Appius Claudius Caecus’ phrase- Faber est suae quisque fortunae( Every man is the artisan of his fortune), Petronius- Manus manum lavat( The favor for a favor or One hand washes the other), Horace-Vitanda est improba siren desidia( One must avoid that wicked temptress, Laziness) and Caesar’s timeless phrase- Alea iacta est( The die has been cast)

Despite being an Ancient language, it has survived for centuries to birth several modern major languages e.g. English, French& Spanish, scientists worldwide still use it in naming of living organisms, and it’s the official language of the Holy See, head of a billion Catholics worldwide. Latin is still applicable & relevant in these modern times by forming a core part in the practice of legal profession worldwide and inspiring us politically, socially & economically with its timeless quotes, phrases & sayings.

That’s why it will survive for another hundred years.

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