Vernacular Language

The term vernacular refers to the original language of a certain region, the mother tongue. During the Roman rule, Latin was the common language spoken, especially in the courts and church. By the middle of the 12th century, vernacular languages started being used more. This became the essence of poetry and the “Romantic” literature. By the 13th century, vernacular language was being used in important government and legal documents in England, by the 14th century France adopted it and so did the whole of Europe.

The Latin language has been around for as long as man can measure time. It was only one of several languages in which all of them belonged to the Indo-European linguistic family. The Latin language has undergone tremendous development and changes over time. “Originally Latin was only one of the several Italic languages, all belonging to Indo-European linguistic family, and its development was influenced by other tongues, including Celtic languages, Etruscan and Greek.” (First Europe Tutorial/The Applied History Research Group, 1996) The significant differences during each time period greatly contributed to the development of the Latin language. Differences between the educated and less educated populace, written and spoken language have altered the language according to the flexibility of the tongue.

The use of vernacular language in written literature had fluctuations that were finally cleared out towards the later part of the middle ages. Latin began to lose its grip in Europe when the Bible began to be translated into various vernacular languages. Middle English was the language of the lower classes and the conquered. England was thus divided by this move but the quest to use vernacular language as a form of expressing their inner feelings was not easily quenched.

The English language is known to be a language of great diversity, so rich with history and complexity. (Scase, 2009). Middle English is known to be a fusion of Old English and Old French that was started after the Norman Conquest. The language is popular for its alternative spellings and pronunciations.

The language was formed from elements of different languages out of necessity, the best use of the middle English is displayed in the works of Shakespeare, “…Fain would I dwell on form; fain, fain deny what I have spoke. But farewell compliment. Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say “Ay”,” (Shakespeare, 2004). From this format, it is clear that the English grammar is confusing and the standardization of the language will take forever.

Around the 12th century, though Latin was still the customary language, the use of vernacular by women in literature was taking over. Trobairitz and Troubador started having their poetry printed in vernacular; this caught the attention of a wide audience and promoted the use of vernacular. “In periods when the tides of feminism are high these women’s voices have insistently claimed our attention, as we try to understand their songs and puzzle over their very existence.” (Bruckner, 1992)

Alucin of York was instructed by Charlemagne in the 12th Century to teach children how to read and write and also engage in liberal arts. This opened the eyes of the public at large and the Latin and French dominating languages were questioned. More and more natives started associating with the English language feeling a sense of belonging.

In all essence, the Middle English gained popularity because it was regarded to be the language for the underdog. The formation of nationalistic identities as well as developing literature for the people lifted up the English vernacular. This promoted it to be used at homes and in the informal sector. Latin began being challenged as more and more literature began to be written and printed in English vernacular. It is unarguable that Dante and “The Divine Comedy” gained the masses by relating to them. To date, there are more Bibles printed in the Middle English vernacular than any other language.


Bruckner, M. T. (1992, October). Fictions of the Female Voice: The Women Troubadours. Speculum, Vol. 67, No 4, pp. 865-891.

First Europe Tutorial/The Applied History Research Group. (1996, August). The University of Calgary. Retrieved September 15, 2013, from The Applied History Research Group:

Scase, W. (2009). Re-inventing the vernacular: Middle English language and its literature. In L. Scanter, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature 1100–1500. 1st ed. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Shakespeare, W. (2004). Romeo and Juliet (Folger Shakespeare Library). Mass Market Paperback, p 75: Simon & Schuster; 2004 edition.

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