refers to text spoken or written using a mixture of languages
, sometimes including bilingual puns
, particularly when the languages are used in the same context (as opposed to different segments of a text
being in different languages). The term is occasionally used of hybrid words
, which are in effect internally macaronic. A rough equivalent in spoken language is code-switching
, a term in linguistics
referring to using more than one language or dialect in conversation.
Macaronic Latin specifically is a jumbled jargon made up of vernacular words given Latin endings, or for Latin words mixed with the vernacular in a pastiche (compare dog Latin).
The term "macaronic" has derogatory overtones, and it is usually reserved for works where the mixing of languages has a humorous or satirical intent. Most mixed-language literature indeed appears to be of that kind. It is a matter of debate whether the term can be applied to mixed-language literature of a more serious nature and purpose.
Mixed Latin-vernacular lyrics in Medieval Europe
Texts that mixed Latin
and vernacular language
apparently arose throughout Europe
at the end of the Middle Ages
--- a time when Latin was still the working language of scholars, clerics or university students, but was losing ground to vernacular among poets, minstrels
The Carmina Burana (collected ca. 1230) contains several poems mixing Latin with Medieval German or French. Another well-known example is the first stanza of the famous carol "In Dulci Jubilo", whose original version (written around 1328) had Latin mixed with German, with a hint of Greek. While some of those early works had a clear humorous intent, many used the language mix for lyrical effect.
Another early example in the Middle English recitals The Towneley Plays (ca. 1460). In play 24 (The Talents), Pontius Pilate delivers a speech in mixed English-Latin rhyme.
Latin-Italian macaronic verse
The term "macaronic" is believed to originate from Padua
in the late 14th century, apparently from maccerone
, a kind of pasta
eaten by peasants at that time. (That word is also the presumed origin of the modern Italian word maccheroni
.) . Its association with the genre comes from the Macaronea
, a comical poem by Tifi Odasi
in mixed Latin and Italian
, published in 1488 or 1489. Another example of the genre is Tosontea
by Corrado of Padua
, which was published at about the same time as Tisi's Macaronea
Tisi and his contemporaries clearly intended to satirize the broken Latin used by many doctors, scholars and bureaucrats of their time. While this "macaronic Latin" (macaronica verba) could be due to ignorance or carelessness, it could also be the result of its speakers trying to make themselves understood by common folk without resorting to their "vulgar" language .
An important and unusual example of mixed-language text is the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili of Francesco Colonna (1499), which was basically written using Italian syntax and morphology, but using a made-up vocabulary based on roots from Latin, Greek, and occasionally others. However, while the Hypnerotomachia is contemporary with Tisi's Macaronea, its mixed language is not used for plain humor, but is rather as an aesthetic device to underscore the fantastic but refined nature of the book.
Tisi's Macaronea was a popular success, and the writing of humorous texts in Macaronic Latin became a fad in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly in Italian. An important example was Baldo by Teofilo Folengo, who described his own verses as "a gross, rude, and rustic mixture of flour, cheese, and butter" .
Other mixed-language lyrics
Macaronic verse is especially common in cultures with widespread bilingualism
or language contact
, such as Ireland
before the middle of the nineteenth century. Macaronic traditional songs, such as "Siúil A Rúin
" are quite common in Ireland. Macaronic songs became popular for a period among Highland
immigrants to Glasgow
, using English
as a device to express the alien nature of the anglophone environment. The term "macaroni" itself was popular as it bears a superficial resemblance to a common Gaelic surname form: Mac a ...
meaning ''son of the ...".
Macaronic verse was also common in medieval India, where the influence of the Muslim rulers led to poems being written alternatingly in indigenous medieval Hindi verse, followed by one in the Persian language. This style was used by the famous poet Amir Khusro, and it also played a major role in the rise of the Urdu or Hindustani language.
Modern macaronic literature
Macaronic text is still used by modern Italian authors, e.g. by Carlo Emilio Gadda
. Other examples are provided by the character Salvatore in Umberto Eco
's The Name of the Rose
, and the peasant hero of his Baudolino
. Dario Fo
' s Mistero Buffo
("Comic Mystery Play
") features grammelot
sketches using language with macaronic elements.
The novel The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt includes portions of Japanese, Classical Greek and Inuktitut, although the reader is not expected to understand the passages that are not in English.
Macaronisms figure prominently in the The Trilogy by the Polish novelist, Henryk Sienkiewicz.
Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames is a macaronic telling of Mother Goose's rhymes: the text is in false French, which read aloud sounds like the English rhymes .
Two well-known examples of modern non-humorous macaronic verse are Byron
's Maid of Athens, ere we part
(1810, in English
with a Greek
refrain) .; and Pearsall
's translation of the In Dulci Jubilo
carol (1837, in mixed English-Latin verse).
An example of modern humorous macaronic verse is the anonymous English-Latin poem Carmen Possum ("The Opossum's Song"), which is sometimes used as a teaching and motivational aid in elementary Latin language classes. Other similar examples are The Motor Bus by A. D. Godley, and the anonymous Up I arose in verno tempore.
A more recent example is the mużajki or mosaics of Maltese poet Antoine Cassar (2007), that mix English, Spanish, Maltese, Italian and French.
- Posen, I. Sheldon English-French Macaronic Songs in Canada- A Research Note and Query in Folksongs