Classical Latin was the literary standard dialect of Latin "spoken by higher socioeconomic classes, as opposed to the Vulgar Latin which is the generic term of the colloquial sociolects of Latin spoken across the Roman Empire by uneducated and less-educated classes.

Why there is no auxiliary verb before spoken?

  • What makes you think there should be one?
    – BillJ
    Nov 30, 2017 at 19:12
  • As in, "English is a Germanic languages which is spoken by million of people.", Here Germanic languages modifies English where "was" work as auxiliary verb for it, and is for"which was..." Nov 30, 2017 at 19:18
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    I see. The two clauses beginning with "spoken" are past participial clauses functioning as modifiers of "Latin". As modifiers of nouns, they are very similar to relative clauses, cf. "... the literary standard dialect of Latin which was "spoken by higher socioeconomic classes ..."
    – BillJ
    Nov 30, 2017 at 19:18
  • @Billj- Ok, if this modifies the word "Latin "then why there is no comma as "...Latin, spoken by..." Nov 30, 2017 at 19:24
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    @confusedguy Commas are not required. The past-participial modifiers are integrated into the structure of the noun phrase. A comma would imply that the information is supplementary (non-restrictive).
    – BillJ
    Nov 30, 2017 at 19:43

1 Answer 1


Because such an auxiliary verb would cause problems.

If we compare "spoken Latin" to "written Latin", we're comparing two noun phrases. We are not comparing clauses. The participle "spoken" acts as a general modifier and does the same job here that an adjective typically does. We're still comparing two noun phrases when we compare "Latin spoken by the elite" to "Latin spoken by the masses".

This is good. The preposition "of" is happy to take a noun phrase as its object. We can account for everything, and the sentence holds together.

In contrast, "Latin is spoken by the elite" is a complete independent clause. It could be its own sentence. It doesn't resemble a noun phrase at all. The preposition "of" can't make any use of it.

With the auxiliary verbs in question, the preposition lacks an object and the independent clause lacks a transition. We can't account for everything. The sentence falls apart.

  • If "which is" added before spoken then sentence doesn't fall apart . Why? Nov 30, 2017 at 19:54
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    This "which" is a relative pronoun. That acts as the subject of the subordinate clause "which is spoken...." and it relates the clause to the preceding noun "Latin". "Of" retains its object. Adding that subordinating subject restores the connections that were lost when the clause stood independently. Nov 30, 2017 at 19:59
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    In other words, you broke things by creating an independent clause, then fixed things by making the clause subordinate. Nov 30, 2017 at 20:00

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