After my question What happened north of the Alps after the romans "left"?, I read through the sources given by the comments and answers. One paragraph in this post was especially interesting to me:

West of the Enns there was also cultural continuity. Until the Middle Ages the Romance-speaking population retained Christianity, Roman legal concepts, and certain elements in music and painting. Salzburg and Passau are thought to have still had a Romance-speaking population in the eighth century, from which the composers of early charters were drawn. The fact that the name “Norici” was used in reference to the Bavarians indicates the survival of a substantial Romance population in that area.

Sadly I cannot find the sources to these claims. During my research I found this webpage (in German; seems to be down, available here) which claims that old Bavarian was not a Germanic language but a Romance one. This hypothesis is based on house and place names as well as modern "typical" Bavarian words being more easily explainable from a Latin root and it does seem to make sense, but it is still speculation. Respected linguists such as Prof. Rowley (who was contacted by the owner of the website and replied [p1, p2, p3]) argue that, while some words may come from Latin, most linguists agree that old Bavarian was a Germanic language. edit: because of a comment from DevSolar I read this text again and see that it is irrelevant to the question. I had posted it because it is interesting.

The Wikipedia page on old Bavarian (in German) describes how the language evolved without linking to specific sources. It also contains a list of texts which are presumably old Bavarian. This still does not convince me since there is no explanation as to why those documents are considered old Bavarian. I have not read the books that are linked in the sources and sadly I do not have the time to read so many books for the few pieces of information I am looking for.

I do not argue for or against the established opinion on this topic. I simply want to know the truth and do not trust any opinion without knowing the source myself.

For my question (see title) I would like primary sources (such as texts that explicitly talk about the language of the region at that time), preferably with an evaluation of those sources by respected linguists and historians on how the Latin (or Romance) language died out (or merged).
Especially I would like to be answer the following questions:

  • what are the sources for the claim that a Romance speaking population had survived into the 8th century (or perhaps even longer?)
  • when was the point at which one could talk about a population which spoke the same language?

I was not sure if this would fit better into the history or the linguistic stack, so please move it if you think it would be a better fit elsewhere.

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    My guess is that you have the best chances if you have a look on monasteries and other institutions. Literacy spread from in a large part from there.
    – Dohn Joe
    Dec 5, 2016 at 9:55
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    The linked WP site on old Bavarian states that it is a West Germanic language...? Of course there are Latin influences, but your question seems to be coming from the assumption that Bavarian developed from Latin? This was not the case. The boari.de website does not give the impression of a good scientific source, to be honest... even Latin and German share elements, but no-one would claim that German developed from Latin.
    – DevSolar
    Dec 5, 2016 at 10:00
  • @DevSolar: I do not assume anything, I simply stated the sources I found while looking online for my question. Yes Wikipedia states that it is a West Germanic Language, I am fully aware of that. My question is simply about where these statements come from and about when and how Latin died out/merged. I think that is very clear in my question, but if not then feel free to edit it, because I don't really know how to make it clearer. Dec 5, 2016 at 14:12
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    @DevSolar: I apologize, I am very curious but I am bad with asking questions. I updated my question so I hope it is easier understandable. Dec 5, 2016 at 14:34
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    Instead of linguistics, this could also have been asked at Latin.SE.
    – user12566
    Dec 5, 2016 at 17:32

2 Answers 2


There were two Roman provinces that encompassed part of modern Bavaria: Raetia and Noricum.

In both the ancient population primarily were herders and loggers, not farmers. So they weren't particularly populous provinces. Both were essentially overrun by Germanics during the Migration period. These "Germanics" were primarily speaking either West Germanic Upper High German (eg: Alemanni, Suebi, and Lombards), or East Germanic languages (Goths, Gepids, Vandals, etc.)

The East Germanics, as pastorlists, tended to be accomplished horsemen, but also light on the ground. That meant they made a much bigger impression in histories of the time. However, it was the more farming-oriented High German speakers who settled down and culturally took over the area. The Bavarian spoken in the region today is a descendant of High German.

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As for what happened to the Romans, again they didn't have a huge population in the area. In Noricum they had 8 known colonies, all in modern-day Austria or Slovenia. It appears that the largest was the Roman capitol Virunum (in modern South-Central Austria), which lasted until about 610.

In the territory that was Raetia, there is in fact one population still speaking a Romance language left over from Roman times: the Romansh of SW Switzerland.

  • This is a good answer for how it generally happened. What I want is links to sources like written records of that time or links to museums that have artifacts that give a clue or the best would be a dissertation with all the primary sources. Dec 5, 2016 at 18:45
  • @MatthiasSchreiber - The problem with that is that the incoming Germanics were largely illiterate, so there really aren't a lot of records (and what there is mostly talks about themselves, not any Latin neighbors). That's why the best we can pin it down to is a period that is half a millennium long. The penultimate paragraph in the Virunum History section gives a good idea of just how spotty records were, and that is much closer to Rome than most of Bavaria.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 5, 2016 at 19:36
  • @T.E.D.: But there have to be evidence, like other literate people writing about their neighbors, or artifacts retrieved that would point in one direction or another. If there isn't, then all it is is wild speculation and for all we know they could have spoken a Romance language well into the 18th century. I don't believe that and since I only know very few such sources, I would like to know those that lead historians and linguists to the accepted hypotheses/theory (I don't know which of the two it is in this case). Dec 6, 2016 at 7:53
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    @MatthiasSchreiber - The problem is the "evidence" we have is lack of any evidence. Sure there are all kinds of possibilities for what that could mean. But the most likely meaning is that they weren't there much after the last time we have any evidence for them. If there in fact were a few stragglers, they made so little historical impact that for our purposes its the same thing.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 6, 2016 at 16:11
  • @T.E.D. - Actually the point is not so much that the invading tribespeople were illiterate and unsophisticated (that is true for much of history). It is that they wrote on parchment which is both re-writable and expensive (so it was actually rewritten with uninteresting stuff later on). Papyrus was not available any more after the Caliphate's conquest of Egypt in the 630s and paper was not invented yet in Europe. See Fravia's explanation search.lores.eu/introtoprojectorigo.htm and search.lores.eu/whoiam.htm (second half, starting with the paragraph "Some researchers have ...").
    – 0range
    Dec 6, 2016 at 20:00

Catholicism, whose liturgical language is Latin, is prevalent in Bavaria, so as long as there have been priests and parishioners there, Bavaria has had a population of Latin speakers, for example in the Seminarium Internationale Sancti Petri.

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    Not only is that merely liturgical Latin, but it was likely reintroduced. The Alemanni were pagan until the 7th century.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 5, 2016 at 19:44

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