Elizabeth's Reviews > Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin

Ad Infinitum by Nicholas Ostler
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's review
Jul 02, 2008

really liked it
Read in August, 2008

This is a book that somewhat puzzles me--how did Ostler write his book proposal? I can't quite figure out the audience--it must be people like me, who are well-educated, but feel some inadequacy in their lack of classical learning. But I get the sense that a true classicist would be bored by it. And even as an academic without training in Latin, much of the historical context is well-known. That's not to say there aren't gems hidden within, and as a non-specialist, I did appreciate the greater exposure to the language. I was particularly intrigued by the changes which occurred in the middle ages by Scholastics, who necessarily coined new terms, and standardized certain endings (-tas, atio, and the word entitas--"of being" for example), for the ease of their system of scholarship, namely dictations and disputations. This was useful for understanding why later Renaissance humanists were so adamant about "returning" to Ciceronian Latin. In any case, for the aforementioned features and Ostler's care in research and non-pedantic tone, this book is a 4. I think linguists (linguisticians??) and persons interested generally in language growth, change, and decline would find this an interesting read; but you really have to already have that intrinsic motivation. Definitely not a pick-up and get-sucked-in. :)

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