Dying, Living or Dead as a Doornail


What defines something as living? If I recall from my tenth grade biology class, something can be classified as living if it has cells, reproduces, energy, adapts, grows, evolves and responses. Is it possible then to define a language as living?

Proof of Life

  • Cells: The words of the language. Without the words, there is no language. Words are what give the things in life meaning and understanding.
  • Reproduces: The language that is most often referred to as a “dead” language is actual the biggest reproducer of language. Latin is the root of all Romance languages, which are all widely spoken today.
  • Energy: Finding the right thing to say in any language takes a great amount of energy. Then there is the energy used in expressing those words. Think about how dramatic you are when telling a story. The energy you use, is the same energy the language is feeding off of.
  • Adapts: Language is the most adaptable thing I can think of. Forget a word for something? There are several others you can use to replace the technical word.
  • Grows: Every time a student opens up a foreign language textbook that language is growing. It is spreading from one mind to the next, and gaining speakers.
  • Evolves: Aside from the obvious modern examples, such as selfie and text talk, Latin also evolved as time went on. There is the evolution of letters, such as C to G and I to J. The same for vocabulary. There was not always a word for elephant in Latin, until Hannibal marched elephants over the Alps.
  • Responses: Any linguist in a certain language will certainly respond to you, if you insult their language in any way. The French actually have a very intense committee that dictates their language, so that it is still French.

How is this Roman?

We first had to clarify that languages are in fact living, and even the oldest languages are still alive. Latin constantly has to defend its right in schools. Most people are shocked when I tell them I started learning Latin in high school, and that my sister took it in middle school. Others then say I could do something great, like be a doctor or lawyer because I know Latin. But, a passion for Latin isn’t the only thing needed for those fields. However, a passion for Latin is needed in translating artifacts. There is still an immense amount of history left on this earth to uncover and as new Latin inscriptions are being discovered, there becomes a need for people to translate the inscriptions. If the passion for Latin is offered only at the collegiate level, many students are denied the chance to explore this door to the past.


About Stephanie

Latin is my major and teaching is my aim. I enjoy puns and making learning and life dorkily effective. This is the term I use to define my teaching philosophy. It means that things do get done, but can be done in a dorky fashion.

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