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Evolution of Romance Language

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I would like to pay my respects to romance in this month of amorousness. What better way is there to do this than explore the origins of romance and the language of romance. When did it all start and what’s language got to do with it?

Depending on which concept (or meaning) of romance you subscribe to, it seems to have begun a long time ago…

In fact the very first written love poem was discovered carved on a tablet in Sumerian text, located in soil in a place formerly known as Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq. It is known by the rather unromantic name of Istanbul 2461. I haven’t the faintest idea how the carvings on the stone tablet pictured below were translated into the poem listed beside it; still who am I to question the epistemological ability of all those scholars who participated in its translation.

Instanbul 2461   Translated excerpt

Bridegroom, dear to my heart

Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet

Lion, dear to my heart

Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet

You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.

Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to the bedchamber

You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you.

Sumerian is an isolated language; an isolated language means there is no evidence to show that any language after is linked to Sumerian, making it an extinct language. It’s in a lane all by itself. Although the beautiful love poem presents the Sumerian language in a romantic way; romance languages do not actually stem from the first ever recorded expression of love.

Romance, Language and Romance Languages
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word romance? Love, courting, seduction, poetry, flowers…  some of you may have other thoughts; this is the month of Valentine after all!

So if I say “Romance Language” you may well assume that I refer to a language of love filled with a continuous flow of sensuous vernacular and why would I blame you, because I thought the very same thing until quite recently.

Romance languages are all languages that derived from the Roman Empire period; some lands that speak this type of language today are Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Romania. The term “Romance” comes from the Vulgar Latin adverb romanice, derived from Romanicus: it forms part of the the Latin phrase “romanice loqui” pronounced “row-mah-NEE-kay LOW-kwee” meaning “Speaking Roman”.

From this adverb the noun romance originated, which applied initially to anything written romanice or “in the Roman vernacular”. In medieval literature of Western Europe, serious writing was usually in Latin, while popular tales, often focusing on love, were composed in the vernacular and came to be called “romances”, hence the modern sense of the word romancein romance or romantic novel.

The majority of authors of romance novels are from English speaking countries, although they are translated into over 90 languages including the romance languages; did you know that over 12 million translated romance novels are sold each year in France! English, although being one of the Germanic languages has borrowed many words from romance languages through the influence of the Norman and Roman invasions.

Interestingly the modern day meaning of the term vulgar is quoted from the Oxford Dictionary as “lacking sophistication or good taste”. The dated meaning is  “characteristic of or belonging to ordinary people”. I shall leave you to ponder on that one.

So what has this got to do with search? Well, in dtSearch Desktop, if you have the Synonyms feature selected, thanks to the built in WordNet thesaurus, when you search for February 14, not only will it find any document containing February 14, it will also return any document containing the phrase St Valentine’s Day, Saint Valentine’s Day or Valentine Day – with each phrase highlighted!

Happy Valentine’s Day!




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