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SULPICE SÉVÈRE TÉMOIN DE LA COMMUNICATION ORALE EN LATIN À LA FIN DU IV e SIÈCLE GALLO-ROMAIN

Jacques FONTAINE
Médiévales
No. 25, LA VOIX ET L'ÉCRITURE (AUTOMNE 1993), pp. 17-32
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43026808
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
SULPICE SÉVÈRE TÉMOIN DE LA COMMUNICATION ORALE EN LATIN À LA FIN DU IV
          e
          SIÈCLE GALLO-ROMAIN
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Abstract

The diversity of cultural levels shown by the protagonists in the writings of Sulpicius Severus on Saint Martin of Tours, makes these an exceptional document on communication in Latin just before the great invasion of 406 in Roman Gaul. A former soldier turned monk, the bishop of Tours practiced the concise, efficient and unadorned language of a man of action who has little use for flourishes. He is thus the exact opposite of his biographer, a native of Bordeaux and a lawyer steeped in literature. In the preface to his Vie de Martin, the latter depicts in an affected manner an ideal for a conversion of style, which he partially carries out by imitating Sallust, whose compact style helped him draw closer to the ascetic simplicity of Saint Martin. Well-read Aquitanians whom Sulpicius's influence attracted toward Saint Martin's form of asceticism also strived to implement the same conversion, but in the Dialogues they are shown deriding a Gaul from the North, who pretends to be intimidated by them : this leads to an onslaught of comedy directed at the would-be illiterate. Sulpicius, despite his literary tarnsformations, suggests the existence of different levels of style rather than of language, and it is on the latter that asceticism acts as a revelator of latent conflicts between the literate and the illiterate : Gauls form the North and the South, all of them Latin-speakers.

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