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Latin: Story of a World Language

Latin might be classified as a long-dead language—but this work reminds us that no one has informed Latin of that fact

By Bettany Hughes   November 2013

Latin: Story of a World Language by Jürgen Leonhardt (Harvard, £22.95)

My father left school at 14, with a certificate: “DUX” it read. Just this month, age 91, he thought to ask me what it meant. “Leader!” I replied, “Ah” he said, “I’d always wondered…” It is the kind of trick Latin plays—insinuating itself into definitions of class and culture at a stroke—an aspiration and an obscurity; an imperial ghost, a demotic riddle. This book, which traces the vicissitudes of Latin over 26 centuries asks two central questions: When do…

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