What is the latest point at which Romance-speaking Europe might have IDed as speaking one language?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by rfmcdonald, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. rfmcdonald Well-Known Member

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    Monday, I came back from an enormously enjoyable visit several days long to the city of Venice. I saw plenty of history walking alongside the canals ad down narrow alleyways in this city, and imagined plenty of alternate-historical trajectories, too.

    One perhaps less obvious one was in the language spoken around me. I'm reasonably fluent in French as a second language; for me, listening to the conversations of others, the language floated just outside the sphere of my comprehension, sometimes drifting inside with single words like miele, perfeito, dolorosa. It's something that I had noticed, or at least thought I had noticed, in the Portuguese I have heard spoken in my west-end neighbourhood. The Romance languages share a common heritage.

    This made me think about the interestingly comparable situation of varieties of Chinese. Different Chinese languages have evolved from ancient Chinese, over very roughly the same sort of time scale as the Romance languages' development from Latin, but unlike the situation of the Romance languages the Chinese languages have remained strongly bound together by a shared linguistic identity. Common explanations for this that I've heard trace this to the continued political unity of China, unlike the sustained fragmentation of Romance-speaking Europe.

    This made me wonder: What would be the latest point in time at which Romance-speaking Europe might plausibly have come to see its regional languages as dialects of a single neo-Latin language? I can imagine a Napoleonic conquest of Romance-speaking Europe, for instance, but by that time all the major Romance languages and many of the smaller ones had already emerged as linguistically distinctive. There would have been no possibility, for instance, of Castilians and Tuscans coming to see their languages as variants on French. Was this sort of linguistic unity of Romance-speaking Europe ever possible in the modern era, or would you need something like (for instance) an early reunification of post-Roman Europe for this to occur?
    Thoughts?
     
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  2. Gloss Well-Known Member

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    Is Chinese really that internally similar?
     
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  3. DN Jenkins Well-Known Member

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    They aren't.

    I think what the OP is asking is about public (at least the popular foreign perception that there is only one Chinese language) and political perception (i.e. how the Chinese state insists that all the Chinese languages are just dialects).

    For my own thoughts, you need a POD in the 15th century with some kind of Franco-Castillian union before Castillian and Paris French's statuse's as prestige languages became too entrenched.

    If Spain and France unite early enough, Italy probably falls as does Portugual. Centuries later, and they could plausibly be presented to the outside world as one language (even as on the ground, there are still numerous languges)
     
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  4. funnyhat Well-Known Member

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    In that case there probably would be one Standard Romance that is taught in schools (like Mandarin in China) and the other "dialects" would have to survive in informal situations.
     
  5. TheKutKu Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if some southern France based kingdom - a wanked county of Toulouse, or a an arles-burgundy or an Aragon that becomes Catalan speaking could extend to control most of the Romance Mediterranean coast and then northern France and Iberia later? If this happ ne early enough they could spread the local catalan or Occitan dialect, to me it seems easier to merge French (as in, oil French) and castillan-other Ibero Romance languages if a middle point in Occitan-catalan is used, furthermore there are similarities with northern Italian Gallo-Italian languages, and Occitan irl had spread a bit as a upper society language in northern Italy by the late Middle Ages. To me an occitan/catalan dialect seems to be the best middle ground between most Romance language that could unite them
     
  6. Dathi THorfinnsson Daði Þorfinnsson

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    Personally, I think the ship sailed with the Serment de Strasbourg. (Feb 842)

    Once the local dialects are recognized as actual languages, as opposed to debased Latin, they're going to be recognized as different from each other.
     
  7. Arcavius Arms and the Man I Sing

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    Any union in the West, even if it manages to completely reconcile French, Iberian, and Italian dialects, still has the issue that Romanian and Aromanian will not fall under its power and thus will diverge as OTL. Really, IMO, the (first) POD has to be either restoring the Empire under Justinian or causing a shift to Magyar or a Slavic tongue throughout the Balkans.
     
  8. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Printing made the languages of the capitals more standard in the 15th and 16th centuries. Before then, hybrid languages in between sort of blended into each other. (Many think the Voynich Manuscript was written in a hybrid language that vanished with printing.) Suppose a simplified Latin, sort of an early version of Esperanto was developed for printed material. The major Romance languages could have gravitated to that new language. The church would have been the conduit, as they would only have to "adjust" their Latin.
     
  9. Gian Wizard of Watkins Mill

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    Don't forget Romania too. (It seems like no one ever remembers Romania is a Romance country as well)
     
  10. John7755 يوحنا Lightweight Faqih

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    @DN Jenkins How can that occur with a moderately strong papacy or empire?
     
  11. Arcavius Arms and the Man I Sing

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    Not to mention the Swiss French and Romansh communities.

    And even if you manage to get Romanian, Aromanian, Swiss French, and Romansh, you still technically have to get the Ladino-speaking Sephardim scattered after 1492 throughout the Balkans, Middle East, and North Africa as well...
     
  12. snerfuplz Liveral Fascist

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    Wasn't vulgar Latin a very regional language and the dialects had already begun to seriously diverge by the 3rd Century AD?
     
  13. Umbric Man Umbric Manned

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    That it was, although if political unity kept up, one could assume native-speakers of one regional dialect would see themselves and another's dialect as still 'Latin' the way Chinese-speakers see their regional languages as 'merely' dialects and they all ultimately still speak Chinese.
     
  14. Atterdag Well-Known Member

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    It's difficult because it's gonna end up either as "French, Spanish and Italian; different languages descent of Latin" or "French, Spanish and Italian; different dialects of Latin". Unless a pan-romantic state survives to a point where language can be standardized and taught in public schools.
     
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  15. Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    Comparisons to Chinese dialects don't work because Chinese is written in a logographic system whereby words are based on symbols rather than an alphabet. This meant that written communication still worked amongst Chinese dialects even when spoken languages had diverged past the point of mutual intelligibility.

    That's not going to work with Romance languages. Once the spoken languages have diverged enough, the written languages will follow, and they can no longer be considered the same language.
     
  16. Gloss Well-Known Member

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    I'm not so sure, writing is conservative in Romance languages, so much so that intelligibility among the written languages is bigger than spoken, a united neo-Romance state would make that difference even stronger.
     
  17. Intransigent Southerner Well-Known Member

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    I think this tends to be a bit exaggerated. Below is Genesis 11:4 ("Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth") in Hakka and Mandarin. The only characters that are repeated are 座城 "build city", 座塔 "build tower", 頂...天 "reach... heaven", 傳...名 "transmit... name", and 免...地 "avoid...earth".

    等吾等好起座城、俾吾等住、做座塔來、其頂愛、愛聲、致散開通面去。
    [ten³ ng² ten³ hau³ hi³ ts'o⁵ sang², pi¹ ng² ten³ ts'u⁵, tso⁵ ts'o⁵ t'ap⁷ loi², k'i² tang³ oi⁵ tang³ song³ t'ien¹, oi⁵ ts'on³ha⁵ miang²sang¹, mien¹tsi⁵ san³k'oi¹ t'ung¹ t'i⁵mien⁵ hi⁵.]

    來罷,我們要建造一座城,和一座塔,塔,為了揚我們的得我們分散在全上。
    [Lái luō, wŏmen yào jiànzào yī zùo chéng, hé yī zùo tă, tă dĭngtōng tiān, wèile chuányáng wŏmen de míng, miănde wŏmen fēnsàn zài quán dì shàng.]
    Is this so different from Italian and Spanish, which diverged around the same time as Hakka from Mandarin?

    «Vamos a edificarnos una ciudad y una torre con la cúspide en el cielo, y hagámonos famosos, por si nos desperdigamos por toda la faz de la tierra.»​

    «Venite, costruiamoci una città e una torre, la cui cima tocchi il cielo e facciamoci un nome, per non disperderci su tutta la terra».

     
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  18. Codae Well-Known Member

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    You could also highlight hagámonos and facciamoci, AIUI.
     
  19. Jared Voldemort Jnr

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    I believe what's written there is the modern Chinese script which was only universally adopted in the early twentieth century (though present in some regions earlier). The Classical Chinese script, which was used for most of Chinese history, was much more mutually intelligible and was what created the sense of being a common language.
     
  20. Intransigent Southerner Well-Known Member

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    What’s being confused here is that Classical Chinese isn’t a script, it’s a language (or more technically a literary register of Old Chinese). No speaker of any Chinese language, even when fully literate in their native language, could have understood CC perfectly without learning it in school for the past dozen centuries.

    It’s like saying that the “Latin script” allowed medieval Christians to understand each other; it’s not thanks to the Latin alphabet, it’s thanks to the Latin language.