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Thread: Language of command?

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    Samittaja's Avatar Libertus
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    Icon5 Language of command?

    In the game all Catholic units speak Latin, all Islamic speak what I assume is Arabic and all Orthodox speak what I assume is Russian. Now it is obvious this is very much simplifying history and was done so by limitations of time or funds of the CA during the time, but let's not go deeper into that.


    What I'm curious about is the status of Latin in the Western European armies during the time period. Latin was, according to my knowledge, the language of not only the Church and the scholars, but also the Catholic nobility. Even if they would speak more 'vulgar' languages as their native tongues, they were expected to know Latin at least to some degree. In this manner the Latin served as the 'international language' of the time and area. So in this sense, the nobles issuing commands to each others in Latin would be reasonable. Correct me if I'm wrong.


    However, the soldiers of lowly origins is what I like to know about. Were the commands shouted at the language most common in the unit, or Latin? Very few common soldiers could understand Latin to usable degree, but it wouldn't require much either to teach a man to understand what one is expected to do when unfamiliar words are shouted. Or not even that might be required, if several enough understand what to do, then the rest in the unit can just follow example.

    The commands from the general would be issued with horns or flags or messengers to the entire army, but what I'm truly after are the nobles (or dedicated non-noble officers?) relaying the orders to the unit he's commanding.


    Does anybody know? Does medieval writers give mentions of the language used in armies among the soldiers of lowly origins?

  2. #2
    Libertus
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    Default Re: Language of command?

    I'd always assumed all the battlefield voices in MTW were just gibberish, because I could never make any sense out of them.....

    As for real life, that's an interesting question. I think we can rule out the commoners having any Latin, except in areas where it was already degraded to its vulgar forms, becoming the basis of modern Romance languages.

    In Britain, the language of the nobility and court remained Norman French well past this time period - Latin may have been known, but rarely used outside the church, the law and academia. I would be very surprised if it had any use on the battlefield. So in English armies of the era, the upper echelons would almost certainly be using French, and the lower orders vernacular English - other countries I couldn't be sure about, but imagine it would be similar. The language of command would need to be one which is understood by those expected to obey the commands - let's face it, it's easier to use the language of the army than to teach the army a new language.... but as you say, the major commands would be given by flags, horns, drums etc, just because battles were too noisy for voiced commands.

    Certainly in ancient armies, which were far more polyglot and multicultural, it was up to the 'NCO' level to translate orders for their units, and failures in language were not unknown as causes for tactical failures.

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    Samittaja's Avatar Libertus
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    Default Re: Language of command?

    First off, thanks for the answer. Nothing wrong with it, I'm just not satisfied yet.

    I guess it is best to ask again in a better form:
    Do we have historical accounts to justify the use of latin in this game, as the language used in commands?

    I'm not entirely certain latin was used between nobles. But being sort of a universal language during the time in the catholic world, and the nobles being able to afford the schooling done by the church (includes latin in the education) it's not inconceivable it could be used in case of a language barrier. Even though formal education is not mandatory, I've had the image most nobles would send their (legitimate) male children to these church schools for some time, just to get a foothold on intellectual skills. Especially future lords would do well to be able to read, write and count. Perhaps this practise has changed between times and places, you can inform me and future readers as well, and I'm open to correction.

    It's the common man that I am less certain of. They could certainly not afford education, unless they are the sons of successful merchants or wealthier artisans. But if the commander of a unit of men is a nobleman, they may or may not get orders given in latin regardless. As explained in the first post, this is not necessarily a problem. Then it becomes a question of, did it happen often, or in rare occasions, or at all.

    I can believe there is no necessity to use another language if everyone in a unit speak the same language. But the world was not as stagnant as popular media gives as the image - there was movement between nations during the time period of the game. So much as hearing foreign languages is not really that uncommon (apart from isolated areas), increasingly less as we are getting closer to the early modern period.

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    Libertus
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    Default Re: Language of command?

    Everything I've found so far suggests that mediaeval Latin was almost exclusively a WRITTEN language - any spoken usage would almost certainly have been restricted to the church or academia, and even there it would have been rare as more convenient vernacular tongues would have been available. I would be 99% confident that it wasn't used on the battlefield.

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    Samittaja's Avatar Libertus
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    Default Re: Language of command?

    Thank you, Macsen Rufus, that is pretty much the answer I was looking for. Even if I'm not too good at asking

    I had thought latin was taught in the spoken form too. Certainly using a language common in the area is more practical. But they already taught a basically dead language to be written, so I wouldn't have surprised if the spoken latin would have been taught as well.
    Last edited by Samittaja; June 02, 2017 at 03:14 PM.

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