152 concepts and formulae were created for idioms used in parallel with each other in the period of the Reformation, which affected each other only to a small extent. Latin served as the lingua franca and people living in the same country seldom learnt each other’s mother tongue (apart from those aristocratic and intellectual families which due to their family relations were already multilingual). In larger towns and cities Latin and German clerks worked to answer incoming letters according to the language they were written in, but they only translated from one language to the other in exceptional cases. Our sixteenth-century reformers had a restricted knowledge of modern languages, but did at least have excellent Latin skills. The originally bilingual reformers, such as the Transylvanian Saxon Gáspár Heltai, are an exception.53 Others did not learn German very well, even after spending many years in Germany. Dévai even admits this. This characterises even more the students who after six months or a year returned from the universities. Although it was equally easy to get by with Latin everywhere, everyone preferred an environment similar to their mother tongue. The custom for parents to send a student somewhere “for the sake of the language” is a later development, and the demand among the middle class to know “the languages of the country” came even later. Among the processes discussed here it is necessary to touch upon the role of Latin. In Reformation research the current authoritative interpretation is that theological debates leading to denominational differentiation can be explained partially by language differences: between Scholastic Latin and Humanistic Latin, Upper German and Low German dialects, and the richness of Latin terminology in contrast with the more restricted terminology of vernaculars. A certain part of this linguistic approach is also well-known in Hungary, namely that Hungarian students who were good at Latin but did not speak German preferred Melanchthon’s lectures and Latin sermons to Luther’s mixed-language exegeses and German sermons. The problem is even greater, however. Theological terminology already existed in Latin, but did not exist in vernaculars at this time. I am referring not only to small languages such as Hungarian here, since the theological differences between the Latin and German versions of the Augsburg Confession are also partially a result of this. Theological debates, competing and contrasting arguments could not be conveyed in vernaculars or only with signi?icant distortions. Whereas Dévai’s teachings are clearly formulated in his Disputatio54 written in Latin, for example, in his Hungarian language catechism they are vague and unclear. Hence it is not the theological debates themselves and the contrasting views of the Reformation which are formulated in vernaculars, but rather the waves stirred up by the debate. 53 Caspar Heltai (Helth) (Cisnadie, 1515? – Cluj, 1574): NDB 8, 508; RGG4 3, 1622. 54 Dévai: Dispvtatio.
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