Paul Ogden responded to my comments about old and new languages in yesterday’s language blog. He is much better versed in Middle Eastern languages and knows as much if not more about the European ones. Here is his take on the old versus new language issue.
“Any speaker of Modern Hebrew (Israeli) with only a little difficulty can read and understand the Hebrew bible, whereas today’s Athenian cannot read or understand Classical Greek literature. More so for today’s Teheranian reading and understanding the Persian of Cyrus because of the difference in alphabets.”
“But in the[se] . . . cases, there has been continuing development of the languages because each has continuously been a mother-tongue language. Hebrew development slowed to a crawl about 1,500 years ago at the end of the Talmudic period (it had ceased to be a mother-tongue language some 500 years earlier) and then just sputtered along until about 150 years ago. I say 150 years because it was about that time that the production of paper was mechanized, rapidly permitting low cost newspaper publication. Enhanced communication via newspapers gave moribund Hebrew a kick-start into the twentieth century, aided and abetted by its late nineteenth century revivers.”
“I think a good case can probably be made for Italian being Modern Latin. Grant Hutchinson and I had a lively exchange on this subject on the old Agora.”