Story of a World Language

A Classics Colloquium with Jürgen Leonhardt

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Thursday May 14, 2015, 4:10pm at Columbia University


The Paideia Institute and Columbia University Department of Classics are pleased to co-sponsor a talk by Professor Jürgen Leonhardt as part of Columbia's classics colloquium series. The talk is open to the public and free of charge. 



Jürgen Leonhardt is a Professor of  Classical Philology at the University of Tübingen in Germany. His book, Latin: Story of A World Language, published in English in 2013, offers an engaging social history of the Latin language from antiquity to the present day and, drawing parallels between Latin, numerous ancient languages, and English in the modern era, explores the processes through which a spoken language develops into a codified "world language."

Praise for Latin: Story of a World Language

One of the many achievements of Leonhardt’s book is to give readers, for the first time, a sense of what Latin has meant, and what it has been most useful for, in every period of Western history… Leonhardt has dethroned Latin from its traditional position as a marmoreal, static sidekick to Greek and taught us to understand the history not only of Latin, but of language and literature, in a new way. His approach seems natural in a time of intellectual globalization, but it is the fruit of hard thinking, and adds to our sense of the complex ways in which language and power intersect.
- Anthony Grafton London Review of Books 2015-01-08

Leonhardt’s tour through Latin’s post-Roman afterlives, and his own experience speaking the language, galvanize a very neat argument that blends a linguistic approach (which has pronounced Latin dead) with a cultural-historical approach (by which standard Latin is merely decrepit!). Learned and accessible, the book is stuffed with funny little anecdotes, from early Arab scholars grappling with the language to Angelina Jolie getting quod me nutrit me destruit tattooed on her lower abdomen.
- Ted Scheinman Slate Book Review 2013-12-03

Long, nay, longer live the dead! Latin as a literary language became fixed as early as the first century BCE, only to thrive and flourish for almost two more millennia. Leonhardt has written a delightfully illuminating life of this supposedly dead world language.
- Christopher B. Krebs, author of A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich

[A] must-read for anyone interested either in the status of Latin or in what Latinity has signified throughout any previous epoch of its existence.
- Ben Lee and Branden Kosch Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010-10-04


The event will take place at the Columbia University Department of Classics.


The Colloquium is open to the public and free of charge. To register, please fill out this online form.