Thursday, August 13, 2015

Speaking of History

The English language is like an ancient but thriving city, such as London. You might discover a Roman artifact or a Medieval building and then turn a corner and see the Millennium Bridge. Certain words are artifacts from the past while new words are being added. A number of Arabic words made their way into English during the Reconquest of Spain.

Raymond of Toledo, Archbishop of Toledo from 1126 to 1151, started the first translation team at the library of the Cathedral of Toledo, where he led a group of translators who included Mozarabic Toledans, Jewish scholars, Madrasah teachers, and monks from the Order of Cluny. Toledo had been surrendered by the Moors through negotiation and was spared being sacked and burned, so many Arabic libraries survived. The group translated many works, including works by Aristotle, from Arabic into Castilian, and then from Castilian into Latin, the official church language. Some translated books were purchased by the Pope and became the roots of the Renaissance. During translation, a number of Arabic words entered Latin and later became a part of the English language. Zero, zenith alcohol, logarithm, and algebra all entered English from the Arabic language at this time.  

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