Language and empire

J. Alcoverro y Amoros (1835-1908). Statue of Isidore of Seville ( c. 560 - c. 636), the Patron saint of internet. Entrance of the National Library of Spain in Madrid. Photo: TES.

Isidore of Seville (c. 530-636) is the patron saint of Internet and the writer of the Etymologies. He introduced Latin as the language of the Church and as the lingua franca of European culture. He concluded in his Etymologies that a nation and peoples originate from a common language and not the other way around. Citizens of a nation must have access to judiciary and government in their own language. For Isodore this was Latin. This important conclusion is still valid today and a sine qua non for democracy and rule of law. In a not too distant past, law was visualized by means of symbolism, gestures or customs. Present-day law is characterized by the use of words only. If Isidore is (still ) right and language is decisive for a common identity of people or nation, the European Union will face the increasingly difficult balance between language, accessibility, democracy, rule of law and identity.