Latin lovers and speakers of Spanish: How would you have fancied studying Punic instead?

“The reason why you speak the (native) language you do today is not due so much to your education and upbringing; rather, it’s all down to ancient migration patterns and which army clobbered which other army in the days of yore.” – Bernardo the Handsome

Hannibal's elephants in action. Photo: Wikipedia

Hannibal’s elephants in action. Photo: Wikipedia

I have been making slow but satisfying progress through The Horizon Concise History of Spain, by Melveena McKendrick. Having shared with you the fact that my Celtic ancestors brought trousers to Spain, (only to drop them frequently whenever they were horny) I have since moved on to the the feats of Carthaginian heroes Hasdrubal The Handsome (as some websites call him), and his brother-in-law Hannibal’s audacious crossing of the Alps with 38 elephants (he had to go overland because the Romans had control of the Mediterranean sea) during the Punic wars, after which Carthage lost Hispania forever, and much of the Punic language and culture was eradicated (Punic being the English derivative of the Roman name for Carthaginians).

If you don't conjugate those Latin verbs correctly you'll be stabbed to death!

If you don’t conjugate those Latin verbs correctly you’ll be stabbed to death!

So, if it hadn’t been for the Romans’ triumph, maybe this blog would have been called My Five Punics.

As McKendrick notes: “One of the lasting bequests of Rome to the [Iberian] Peninsula, and one of the most powerful factors in its Romanization, was Latin itself. No subsequent occupation, however protracted, managed to usurp it in the way Anglo-Saxon usurped the Roman tongue in England. Its eventual adoption by the people as a whole is easy to understand. The pre-Roman population spoke a vast range of languages and dialects which could in no way withstand the convenience and effectiveness of a sophisticated language spoken by conquerors and settlers, by man-156549_1280educators, administrators, and magistrates alike. Naturally, the Latin spoken in Spain was not for long Latin in its pristine state. The Latin of officialdom remained comparatively unadulterated, but the Latin of everyday life was vulgar, not classical, Latin. It was a Latin conditioned by the peculiarities of speech of uneducated soldiers and of settlers and traders from different parts of the Roman world, and not least by the natural wayward development of a language deprived of direct contact with its life source. It was a Latin, moreover, colored by the vocabulary and habits of pronunciation of the languages it overlaid. It was a Latin which centuries of evolution were to turn into the romance tongues of the Peninsula in the way that the Latin of Italy became Italian and the Latin of Gaul French.”

Anyway, in McKendrick’s historical account, the Romans in Hispania make way for the Visigoths, and now I am up to the part where the Arabs are about to move in. If there are any interesting linguistic observations, I will pass them on. Likewise once I start reading a book that I bought today CONQUEST – How Societies Overwhelm Others, by David Day. It should make interesting reading, considering that in today’s world many people feel either rightly or wrongly that other societies are attempting to overwhelm them.


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