November 10, 2021

CML lecture. Karla Mallette, "Lives of Great Languages: Arabic and Latin in the Medieval Mediterranean"

Online via Zoom

18:30 CET

Centre for Medieval Literature
with Centre for Medieval Studies (York), Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies (Ghent), and Centre for Medieval Studies (Fordham)

Karla Malletter (University of Michigan) will be giving an online CML lecture on "Lives of the Great Languages: Arabic and Latin in the Medieval Mediterranean" on Wednesday, 10 November.

The seminar is part of the autumn seminar series and will be online via Zoom. All are welcome!

To register please write to

Download the poster with all CML autumn seminars here


This talk examines the tangled relations between cosmopolitan languages in the pre-modern Mediterranean. In the elite register, Arabic and Latin functioned as tools that focused thought and aided analysis. Education in the language furnished an intellectual, aesthetic, and ethical formation, considered essential to engaging in public life. At the other end of the social scale, a contact language facilitated communication between people who did not share a common tongue: the Mediterranean lingua franca. Today it’s typically remembered as the language of pirates and prisoners. But pilgrims, honest merchants, and even priests and diplomats learned the lingua franca as an instrument to communicate across linguistic boundaries. “Lives of the Great Languages” studies these linguistic instruments in order to think about the strategies that language uses to transcend the boundaries that language creates – and to defamiliarize the national language system of modern Europe, which proposes the use of the mother tongue as cultural medium. 

This CML videoseminar is co-sponsored by the Centre for Medieval Studies at York, Centre for Medieval Studies at Fordham and the Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies at Ghent.

Cover image: Allegory of Grammar by Laurent de la Hyre

Share on