22 November 2017

Latin: The Sacramental Language

A trenchant article on Latin as the sacramental language of the Western Church, by Mr Laramie Hirsch of The Forge and the Anvil, guest posted on One Peter Five.

There is a hierarchy of language. This is true for secular politics and cultural commerce, as well as in terms of religion. In this hierarchy, some languages are higher than others.
JRR Tolkien, a philologist at Oxford, was quite aware of this. In his fictional world, which we know through Lord of the Rings, the elves speak the high elvish language called Quenya. Further, Quenya is divided into two parts: the Parmaquesta is a classical “book language” that preserved writing, while the Tarquesta is the high speech used in formal occasions. The opposite of this high language is the Black Speech of Mordor, a debased language that only orcs and the wearer of the One Ring can understand.
Frank Herbert’s Dune also has its share of languages, each serving a different purpose. Galach is the Imperium’s official language, and it is the most widely spoken tongue in the known universe. Other, less official languages and dialects exist for different purposes, such as secret sects, battle, and formal occasions. In the hit 1990s science fiction drama Babylon 5, the Narn ambassador, G’Kar of the Kha’ri, says the following of the Holy Book of G’Quan: “Sacrilege! It must be read in the mother tongue or not at all!” (As for the Star Trek universe, while there is an entire Klingon language available – enough for the existence of Klingon Shakespearean theater – there are no high languages. So much for depth in Star Trek.)

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