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The Origins of Vernacular Language and Its Spread

Vernacular language is the language spoken by a group of people for unofficial purposes; it is used largely as opposition to the general language. This term is used especially for the languages that derived from Latin. This phenomenon was widely spread in the Western Roman Empire of the early twelfth century, and before. The main language used for communication was Latin. Indeed, it has been considered the parent language of a set of local dialects. French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese are all said to owe their birth to Latin (Hall, 2010). At the time, the Roman Empire was a world super power and its dominance over the rest of the region led to the assimilation of their culture by neighboring regions. It was not just Christianity associated with the Roman Empire that was passed on to the conquered regions, but also the language. At the time, the Catholic Church, the most influential institution in the contemporary society preferred to use Latin (Spielvogel, 2011). However, with time, vernacular languages emerged; they were adopted and widely accepted by common people.

The Catholic Church and its use of the Latin language were the main reasons for the emergence of the vernacular language and its spread. Even then, the language was not in the centre of the peoples' tradition, for example, in Italy, the headquarters of the Roman Empire. This was especially true for the regions, which were remote from the headquarters in Rome. The emergence and spread of vernacular languages such as Italian began with literary material. Through poems and stories written in Italic, the learned were able to sway the rest of the people to detach from the grip of the Latin language and embrace their own local language (Mir, 2010). Fredrick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, is particularly famed for encouraging the use of Italian. Supposedly, he used it to tighten his grip on the subordinates.

On the other end, Alfred the Great led another uprising at the same time. A cultural revival and ethnic awareness brought about the formation of English as a language. The king spearheaded the writing copies of a number of books and literary works; these factors had a combined effect of bringing people closer to their ethnic languages.

At about the same time, translations of famous works, such as the Bible were made from Latin to various vernacular languages, including English (Bonfiglio, 2010). Coupled with the increase in the number of authors, who adopted a vernacular approach, the stability that had come to be witnessed in nations brought with it a desire to withdraw from Latin. Europe witnessed an increase in the spread of education and literacy and this fact acted as a catapulting factor to the growth and spread of the local dialects. New books and literary works were written in the vernacular languages that were becoming popular increasingly. In addition, the fall of the Roman Empire paved way for the further emergence and dominance of the vernacular languages (Mir, 2010). The onset of nationalism led to the rearrangement of people into regions and, therefore, into local groupings that enhanced the use of these languages.

The spread of vernacular languages was the resultant effect of an array of factors. Buoyed by the increase in the need for education and literacy, the onslaught of many writing careers were established with many writers joining the industry. In this regard, books of poetry and prose were written, and these further helped in the propulsion of vernacular languages. Story telling sessions and drama were also a common mean of popularizing the languages. Later on, the onset of the printing press fuelled the spread of vernacular languages even further. The printing press made it possible to produce multiple copies of writings in a short period and at relatively low cost. This invention boosted the dissemination and spread of information (Hall, 2010).

The spread of vernacular languages brought a phenomenal impact on the lives of the affected societies. Among the French people, the vernacular languages came with an increase in engagement of French women in the world of literature. The women took a more central role and were right in the middle of events as numerous books were written, translated, and revised (Spielvogel, 2011). The spread of vernacular languages also made it possible for more people to convert into Christianity. Through vernacular languages, a larger number of Europeans could be reached and convinced to adopt Christianity as their religion. Before the emergence and dominance of vernacular languages, Latin dominated all proceedings as the Bible was translated and used in Latin. However, this changed after the adoption of vernacular languages as people received the possibility to read the Bible on their own, preferred language. This influenced the spread of Christianity across the region.

The spread of vernacular languages came with technological progression. The importation of papers for printing and writing became common as the demand for them grew. Later on, increase the literacy rates among the European population was observed. To read and understand the Bible and other books, people wished to learn how to read and write. Therefore, many ordinary citizens were willing to study new languages and other sciences (Bonfiglio, 2010). Before that moment, literacy was the preserve of a selected few: the noble men, priesthood, and rulers.

In conclusion, the emergence and spread of vernacular languages rewrote the book of the European history. Among numerous factors, they helped in the spread of Christianity as a religion and increased the literacy rates among people.