Latin Variants

Michael Everson everson at
Sat Feb 27 16:57:57 CET 2016

> On 27 Feb 2016, at 14:51, Andrew Dunning <andrew.dunning at> wrote:
>> On 27 Feb 2016, at 2:05 pm, Michael Everson <everson at> wrote:
>> Is Carruthers’ 1964 translation “Alicia in Terra Mirabili” in Classical Latin? In Neo-Latin? How can one tell?
> Most Latin written today uses Classical orthography and syntax, but under the scheme I am proposing it would fall under Neo-Latin; the Knight and Tilg volume I cited defines this as 'Latin language and literature from around the time of the early Italian humanist Petrarch (1304–1374) up until the present day’ (

I can’t see how that would apply to anything in the modern era. People may write in (imitation of) Classical Latin or 

> But it’s possible that it would be more useful to tag it as Classical Latin.

Well, then, you’ve got a problem. Either a text is defined by being a linguistic entity, or it’s defined by the date it was written. 

> The problem, as Arthur’s note also indicates, is that ‘Neo-Latin’ can mean many things from a linguistic perspective; one cannot, for example, apply one set of spelling rules to it, especially as v and j (the so-called ‘Ramist' letters) were introduced as consonants during the Renaissance but are used in a few different ways.

Having published "Alicia in Terra Mirabili” (and preparing “Aliciae per Speculum Transitus” I am well aware of this. And there is no answer. The following practices exist for editing ALL kinds of Latin:

1. Use of i for /i, j/ and u for /u, v/ throughout.
2. Use of i for /i, j/ and u for /u/ and v for /v/.
3. Use of i for /i/ and j for /j/ and u for /u/ and v for /v/.

a. Use of capital letters at the beginnings of sentences and proper names
b. Use of capital letters only for proper names

α. Use of macrons for long vowels
β. No use of macrons for long vowels
γ. Use of macrons and breves for long and short vowels (typically only in verse)

i. Use of space to separate words
ii. Presentation in scriptio continua (few editors do this)

I. Use of æ and œ
II. Use of ae and oe

And all of these are mixed and matched for texts edited today. How many spell-checkers are envisioned? And these categories have nothing to do with classical/medieval/modern — they are just orthographic practices.

> That could be a good reason either for limiting the number of variant tags to two for now (probably classical/medieval, but one could also make a case for classical/modern), or for breaking it down further.

I’m not convinced yet that this is going in the right direction. How will la-GB-neolat differ from la-SE-neolat? Orthography? That’s up to the editor. Vocabulary? That’s quite something else.

As a publisher of Latin I would be interested in options for i/j/u/v but the scheme you propose doesn’t seem to take this into account, being defined by period (which is problematic) rather than by orthography. 

Michael Everson *

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