Throughout history, it seems that the common vernacular has always overpowered the languages that had been taught to the more educated.

Notable examples would be: Greek in Rome, being the language of the educated, and Latin, being the language of the commonfolk.

Latin was spoken as the language of kings and scholars in France, while French was the language of the commonfolk.

In England, French was considered a sophisticated language, practiced by those with power.

However, all these polished languages fell into disuse, with the language of the common people ultimately reigning supreme.

Why does this occur?

  • 2
    It would seem reasonable that this would be because the "common folk" didn't learn the "high" language, and thus when the rulers needed to deal with the commoners, they had to do it in the "low" language. Apr 24, 2018 at 18:36
  • 6
    I have an uncanny sensation that your question can be paraphrased as "why does the common way of speaking end up being the common way of speaking over time?"... Also, anyway, in the examples you are bringing forth, the "refined" language is a very foreign entity that may well get "adopted" by some elite, but is hardly used as the mother tongue of even the elite. Romans of the West didn't talk about daily stuff in Greek most of the time... not even the elite,
    – LjL
    Apr 25, 2018 at 0:13
  • 1
    This also presupposes that "common vernacular" is a single monolithic well-defined dialect, which of course in practice it is not. "Why does one particular regional common vernacular dominate in other regions" might make sense as a question, but then that's trivial, or too broad if you really want to explore all the mechanisms.
    – tripleee
    Apr 25, 2018 at 6:56
  • 2
    The premise is not really true. Vulgar Latin replaced Gaulish, Castilian Spanish replaced Native American languages and Iberian languages, Turkish replaced Greek, Arabic replaced Aramaic, High German and standard Italian replaced regional languages and dialects, English replaced Irish. Apr 25, 2018 at 21:15
  • The selected examples in your question are due to different specific phenomena. Latin was a lingua franca in mediaeval Europe, so its position in France then was like that of Parisian French after it, and English today. In other cases changes in politics or literacy and education raised the status of some variant of the commoners' language. Apr 25, 2018 at 21:20


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