Latin was originally the language of a city, Rome, and its homeland, Latium. The expansion of the Roman Republic and then Empire spread its use during the Classical and Late Antiquity into wide areas of Europe, before it split into many local forms that became the Romance languages in the Early Middle Ages. However, Latin under its literary form remained in use as a learned language for centuries; today it is still a liturgical and official language of the Catholic Church. For that reason, Latin was of special importance to J. R. R. Tolkien as the language of his religion: remember that church service in the vernacular only goes back to the Vatican II council (1962-1965). According to the author himself, it was one of the ingredients of Quenya, together with Greek and Finnish (Letters, n° 144).
Here we illustrate Latin firstly by Catholic prayers that Tolkien translated as examples into his invented languages, but also by text fragments in special relation to certain aspects of his literary work. Every sample text features two of recorded versions according to the two Latin pronunciations that he used (Letters, n° 306) :
the reconstructed pronunciation of Classical Latin, that attempts to emulate the learned speech of the late Republic and early Empire, notably including distinct vowel length, stress placement, distinction of l pinguis and l exilis and reduction of nasal consonants at word end and before s and f;
- the modern pronunciation of Church Latin, mostly based upon the letter values in Italian.
– Antiphon from the Office for the Dead.
The works of John Ronald Reuel and Christopher Tolkien are under the copyright of their authors and/or rights holders, including their publishers and the Tolkien Estate.
Quotations from other authors, editors and translators mentioned in the bibliography are under the copyright of their publishers, except for those whose copyright term has ended.
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