From the Rosae Nomen: William and Adso Talk About a Strange Man

I have had the opportunity to copy another fragment from the Rosae Nomen. The MS' owner this time only let me turn to a random page, and after that forbade me to touch the book. The paper she gave me was much smaller, and consequently so is the fragment I was able to copy. As I got home with my notes, several bee-themed firecrackers scared the bejeezus out of me by exploding around the door. I found taped to the door-handle a note saying "Best, Humbert". Heretofore it has been odd, communicating with the owner. But what was this in aid of?
I can't decide what is going on. Am I am the butt of a colossal joke? The human gamepiece participating in some resource-rich eccentric's amusements?
Why won't the MS' owner tell me her own name, why did she choose to send that bizarre email to me of all people, why does that strange car of hers have to pick me up with no warning at the most random of unannounced times?

Iterum nauatam centralem perambulauimus et exiuimus per portale quo intraueramus. Ubertini uerba etiamnunc omnia audiebam meas inter aures zonatim bombizancia. <Iste homo> tandem ausi Gulielmo dicere <est straneus>. 
Mihi <est> inquit <aut potius fuit, in multis modis, homo magnus. Set eandemobrem est extraneus. Solum homunculi angusti et minuti prebent speciem normalitatis. Ubertinus potuisset fieri aut unus de ereticis quos ipse comburi fecit, aut cardinalis Sacre Romane Ecclesie. Satis prope accessit ad ambas peruersiones. Quando de Ubertino fabulo aliquatenus habeo nocionem quod Infernus non est nisi Paradisum ab altero latere uisum>. 
Sentenciam eius haut nactus <a quo> inquam <latere?>. 
<Ah sic> recognouit Gulielmus <primum sapiendum est num exstent latera, et num exstet totum. Set noli animaduertere ad me, et pro Dei eterni fidem noli tu respicere in istud portale> acre elocutus est, mihi in nucham leuem ducens alapam dum me respectum uersabar sculpturas quas introeundo uideram <iam nimium ab illis per unum diem horrepilatus es, Adso.> 

This passage, unlike the previous one, contains dialogue. And dialogue of a most interesting character, too. There is a limit to what can be known of the spontaneous Latin speech of 14th c. medieval monastics, as we have no direct access to that kind of language, though there are documents that seem to have been produced from dictation without rehearsal or revision which may offer something close to it, and much of the dialogue in Adso's MS seems to have something of the flavor of that. It is similar in some fundamentals to the spoken business Latin used sometimes in the early modern period, though with a more profound feel of idiom, and a jargon drawn from the scholastic world. It is particularly full of constructions that will cause Ciceronian fanboys to involuntarily relieve their bowels. The (now agèd) author and narrator Adso is a rather learned monk, more learned than he was at the time when the story takes place (as he elsewhere notes, he did not then know Greek, hinting that matters have changed.) The allusions he indulges in make his learning undeniable. He is familiar with the language of classical literature, and draws on it freely, but it is neither his main stylistic model nor his sole idea of acceptable Latinity, let alone in a document of this kind. The conversational Latin used around the abbey in the text, even by learned men like William and Severinus, is of a workaday, practical type with much syntactic calquing from vernaculars. Thus in this passage we have, on the one hand, spoken parts that contain not only the usual medieval suspects (quando used as a relative with an indicative verb, "quod" as a subordinator with notionem habere for a verb-phrase) but also such medievalisms as extraneus in the sense "bizarre". (Whether the aphaerisis of straneus is intentional or not is difficult to say, but it is not without precedent in MSs from this period.) On the other hand, in Adso's narrative parts, there are medievalisms (nucha, a loan from Arabic) used in the same expression as a specimen of ancientry like "alapam ducere" (to give a smack), followed by the learnedry of "dum me respectum versabar sculpturas" (while I was turning to look at the sculptures) where an accusative supine taking a direct object. These monks' Latin speech is not unsophisticated, uneloquent or broken. No matter that Ciceronians may not have what it takes to handle it.

A diplomatic MS transcription:

1 comment:

  1. This is especially interesting to me because right now I'm trying to write about the sociolinguistics of the lingua romana Alfred would have experienced traveling, around twelve years old, from Wessex to Rome via the course of Charles the Bald. There's a good story about Boniface's surprise when he heard the pope talking Latin in the 8th century and said that although he himself could chat with the Pope he preferred to WRITE his account of his beliefs, because he wasn't sure he could articulate them in the Pope's version of spoken Latin. But apart from an anecdote or two like that one, and Roger Wright's books, etc, it remains challenging to imagine how much conversational 'latin'Alfred picked up on the Continent between 853 and 856.
    Anyhoo — your post today is a hoot and inspires me.