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Carolingian reform

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


The period of Charlemagne was an epoch of reform in education. With the revival of learning came a revision of church books which brought about great activity in the writing schools of the monastic centres of France. The changes initiated at that time had consequences for the development of writing in Europe. As a visible manifestation of the reforms the Caroline minuscule came into existence, developed under the direction of Alcuin of York, abbot of St Martin's in Tours from 796 to 804 ( figure 12 ). What has become known as the ‘dual alphabet’, the combination of capital letters and small letters in a single system, is a development which followed the introduction of the Caroline minuscule. Figure 12 Caroline minuscule At a deeper level, the relationship between spoken and written language was affected. In Charlemagne's name Alcuin demanded that the corruption of the language of the church should be checked, by which he meant that Latin should be pronounced in a unified way throughout the empire: it should be pronounced ad litteras , as it were. Each word was to be pronounced such that each letter could be ‘heard’ in a way that was thought to have been its pronunciation in classical times. In modern descriptive terms this was an attempt at standardizing and simplifying sound-letter correspondences. This pronunciation reform came to be known as reparatio . It was successful ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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