From a seminarian:
A brother seminarian and I recently attended one night of a parish mission of sorts led by a renowned Catholic musician. In one tangent mentioning the newly corrected translation of the Missal, he stated how the Mass in Latin came to be through a translation of the Greek text to the language of the day – the vernacular “street Latin.” He went on to say that those who love the Latin texts and prefer them to the vernacular translations miss the point, since the Latin only came about as it was the vernacular of that time. My fellow seminarian, knowing my affinity for the old rites and for Latin in general, asked me if I knew of that history. I was only able to respond by saying that though there was some truth to what he said, the musician’s notion was a bit too simplistic and even dismissive, but I didn’t have the knowledge to articulate my position better. Can you please shed some light on this?
P.S. I have to give credit to the musician for saying that he thinks the Latin Mass (whether he meant EF or OF, not sure) should be used more. He also did not bash the new translation, but did say there was a need for good musical settings. He was fair, but maybe just wrong.
The musician is sticking to the old line about vernacular which all good scholars long since grew out of.
Ut brevis, the Latin that was adopted for the Roman liturgy was not at all like the Latin that was spoken in the streets. The Latin used for liturgy was elevated and stylized, redolent of the Latin used in ancient Roman religion, law and philosophy. The man in the street, hearing the Latin of the basilica, would have perhaps heard most of the words before, but their meanings would have been a real stretch. An analogy would be the perhaps the internal reaction of your average person who has never been to live theatre suddenly hearing the opening act of King Lear. He would recognize most of the words, but the sound of it would be strange, the meaning of even familiar words obscure. It would take a while for his ear to adjust.
Another point that must be considered is that the Latin of ancient worship has a different impact on the mind than the Greek of ancient worship. The Roman Latin of worship tends to be spare and sober while Greek is involved and effusive. Languages are not all equal in their impact on the listener and speaker. Something about Latin was preferable to Greek in the minds of those who had command of both languages.
Fr. Lang of the Oratory has done some work on this lately. Also, an older study you might be able to find in your seminary library is by the late, great scholar Christine Mohrmann.