Abstract: Recognition of Latin’s Influence on the English Lexicon

With the Catholic Church’s cancellation of the Latin mass in Vatican II, the general populace’s exposure to the Latin language became limited to snippets of legal jargon (thank you Law & Order), historical terminology (anno domini—oh wait . . .C.E. well, so much for that), and scientific  nomenclature. However, any Classicist will jump at the chance to point out that Latin provided a foundation on which many modern lexicons were built—including our very own English. Therefore, the language of Vergil, Cicero, and Ovid is a legacy rather than a living entity. And while few will argue against the existence of this legacy, what exactly does it mean to say that Latin influenced the English Lexicon? What is the exact measure of this effect? How do linguists determine the strength of Latin’s impact on the English lexicon? And, perhaps more importantly, how recognizable is this influence?

My Monroe research project seeks to answer these questions. First, basic research into past studies and linguistic analyses will help determine what is the accepted scientific measure of Latin’s influence on the English lexicon. Then, I will conduct my own study to gain idea of how this influence is perceived among non-experts by testing how easily high school seniors recognize connections between Latin and English words. Statistical analysis of this study will take into account factors such as the respondent’s exposure to other languages.