Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nuntii Latini Italici

And now for the news ... in Latin

John Hooper | Wednesday March 21, 2007 | The Guardian | www.guardian.co.uk

It is, famously, a dead language. But it seems that Latin is on the brink of an unlikely comeback. The conservative Pope Benedict XVI is poised to authorise wider use of the Latin mass. And, perhaps to ingratiate themselves with the boss, the managers of the Vatican bank have quietly put instructions in Latin on the cash dispenser at the back of St Peter's. Customers are told to put in their cards with the words: "Inserito scidulam quaeso ut faciundam cognoscas rationem."

On Sicily, meanwhile, Latin is being heard in homes in the city of Catania for the first time since the Arab conquest of the ninth century. Students at the university there have launched a news bulletin on their campus radio entirely in the language of Virgil.

The programme, Nuntii Latini Italici, "semel in hebdomane eduntur die Veneris hora septima post meridiem", which you will all know translates as "broadcasts weekly on Fridays at 7pm".

One of the newsreaders is Alessandra Jacono, unsurprisingly perhaps a student of classics. "We broadcast four or five stories on national and international issues," she says. "But the point is not so much to offer the news as to give people a chance to hear a beautiful language."The bulletin sprang from a group of enthusiasts who debate in Latin. Jacono said they had little difficulty in coming up with neologisms to deal with the modern world. A computer is a "computadorium", for example.

"Our idea is to make people familiar with hearing Latin. Instead of taking hours to translate 20 lines or so, you should then be able to pick up a book in Latin and read it naturally," says Jacono.

Nuntii Latini Italici is also available on the university radio's web site, radiozammu.it. "It sometimes goes up late," says Jacono. "Last Friday's edition still isn't there yet." But then, what is a day or two after more than 1,000 years?

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