The End of Europe's Middle Ages

Learning Latin in the Middle Ages

One major reason for the consistency of written Latin was the method of instruction during the Middle Ages. It was taught according to standardized rules of grammar and composition developed from a basic knowledge of classical Latin. At an elementary level, instruction mainly involved memorizing rules of grammar and putting them into practice. At the university level, instruction in Latin was divided into the arts of grammar and rhetoric and clerical marriage.

Medieval teachers, however, did not possess a detailed understanding of the intricacies of classical Latin syntax and the grammatical structure of sentences tended to be fluid and adaptable. Applying dialectics to grammar, academics struggled with syntactical difficulties and numerous textbooks attempted to standardize Latin syntax. In 1199, Alexander of Villa Dei published Doctrinale, perhaps one of the most comprehensive treatments of syntax and grammar. The Doctrinale deplored the imitative use of classical examples of Latin and instead popularized excerpts from the Vulgate Bible and other patristic writings, remaining the standard grammatical textbook until the Renaissance again revived an insistence on classical Latin.

Return to Literature

The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
Copyright © 1997, The Applied History Research Group