R is for Romance

We have already explored the idea that the English language came in part from Latin, when the Romans arrived on these islands.  We also looked at the other influences on English, which has given us the mixture that we have today.  Those other influences means that English does not join the group of languages described as Romance languages. The Romance languages are the modern languages derived from spoken Latin, between the sixth and the ninth centuries.  The five most widely spoken Romance languages are: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian with a total of around 780 million people speaking them worldwide. That’s quite a few people! Just…

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N is for Novel, of course

It stands to reason that we should choose novel for the N of our alphabet journey. The OED definition of a novel is interesting: a fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action, with some degree of realism But, in fact, if we look at the derivation of the word we discover it can be traced back to Middle English (and Latin, of course) and where it meant a novelty or a piece of news. How many of our novels represent a novelty?  Do you struggle to find something truly novel on bookshop bookshelves?  And what is the news that our novels bring us? Is that the realism that the…

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Language and literature

As we are all about words, then we can’t pass L on our alphabet journey without pausing to think about language and literature. It would seem that one of the trickiest questions to answer for scientists is ‘When did language first occur?’  Looking through any internet searches you will find scores of theories, spanning centuries, with linguists, anthropologists, sociologists, and archaeologists all throwing their hat into the ring, so to speak.  Was it inevitable that mankind should develop speech?  Plenty to read up about if you are inclined.

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