Orality in the Gesta concilii Aquileiensis (AD 381)

In this paper, a methodological issue is considered concerning the corpus of texts bearing witness to “spoken Latin”. Within this corpus there are also some texts that have been neglected up until now, stemming from shorthand records of spoken utterances: all of them — either dialogal or monologal — share a conversational allure, that allows the singling out of both universal and historical features of spoken (late) Latin. One of these texts, the Gesta concilii Aquileiensis, is then examined: the shorthand report of a Church council summoned in AD 381, where a lively debate is recorded among bishops supporting opposite views — Catholic vs. Arian — of the divinity of Christ. The survey on the universal traits of orality surfacing in the Gesta focuses on the textual-pragmatic, the syntactic and the semantic levels. It leads to interesting results, concerning above all syntax (prominence of parataxis, and of descendent order of the phrasal constituents within the complex sentence, i.e. independent clause > dependent clause) and semantics (lack of lexical innovation; inclination for expressive words). Despite the undeniably formal — and sometimes even formulaic — character of the dialogue, I would argue that the Gesta allow us to listen as it were to the voices of a group of cultured bishops animatedly discussing subtle theological matters.

  Moretti P.F. Orality in the Gesta concilii Aquileiensis (AD 381)