Lakelark wrote:All this adds fuel to the fire which (in the case of Latin hymns) insists that the Latin version is the authoritative one, and that translations must be faithful to it; when the non-Latin version becomes dated through the natural process of linguistic development, there is no option but to start again.
This I think is wholly fallacious. It supposes that Latin behaved (or should be thought of) in a way different from any other known language, namely that its forms and meanings are somehow exempt from the normal forces of attrition and change. I don't know why one would want to argue this, nor, especially, what on earth the evidence would be that could back up such an idea. The truth is that "Latin" has a history even longer and more subject to variation and change than English, its origins lost in prehistory (or rather, pre-literacy) and its end... well, it hasn't ended, it's alive and well and living in Italy, France, Romania, Brazil... only we don't call it Latin in its contemporary guise.
A closer look at the Church's Latin texts shows the signs of this long and vital history. St Jerome's language (late 4th-early 5th c.) is different from classical Latin and different from the language of Thomas Aquinas or William of Ockham. The only way it can be made out to be somehow monolithic and unchanging (usually accompanied by the claim that it's somehow pure and unambiguous in meaning) is by pretending, and that requires more piety than objectivity.
In reality there's no greater claim for Latin to be a suitable vehicle for "definitive" texts than for any other variety of any other language, picked out at random from the chronological flow and freeze-framed (er, freezed-frame... froze-framed...vides quorsum oratio tendat
). You could do the same with the English of the 1880s, for instance. The only difference, as far as I can see, is that more present day English speakers could have a stab at understanding late Victorian English than Medieval Latin. In either case, the process of understanding involves knowing how the text would be expressed in one's own, present day, language.
Have I missed something, do you think?