Roger Ascham’s Latin–Greek Code-Switching: A Philosophical Phenomenon

  • Lucy Rachel Nicholas (Warburg Institute)


The Englishman Roger Ascham (c.1515–68) was an expert Latinist and Hellenist, and an inveterate code-switcher. This article will assess Ascham’s careful incorporation of Greek into his writing, be it single words, phrases or quotations. It will consider his extensive Latin correspondence and theological treatises that were inflected with Greek; his Latin and Greek poetry; and also one of his most famous tracts composed in the vernacular. I will explore how his use of Greek heightened a sense of sociability at both micro- and macro-levels through the establishment of a network of ‘belonging’. Ascham’s conspicuous cultivation of royalty and nobles also implicated his Greek code-switches in the business of State governance. Yet many of Ascham’s Greek references were religiously freighted through his frequent engagement with the Greek New Testament; this was especially true of his two theological Latin tracts, each of which broached sensitive doctrinal topics and used Greek as a guarantor of religious veracity. In addition to probing the meanings of discrete parcels of Greek, this article will also broach the significant role Greek might play in terms of linguistic enhancement, both for Latin and also the vernacular. Taking this further, I will additionally suggest that Greek could be instrumental in effecting a broader programme of moral formation. Hence a fundamental premise and arrival-point of this paper is that code-switching was more than just a practice; it was a mentality.

Keywords: code-switching, Greek, Latin, Ascham, networks, religious reform

How to Cite:

Nicholas, L. R., (2024) “Roger Ascham’s Latin–Greek Code-Switching: A Philosophical Phenomenon”, Journal of Latin Cosmopolitanism and European Literatures 9. doi:

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Published on
01 Feb 2024
Peer Reviewed