Business-related terminology

Because the elaboration of new business techniques essentially took place in Italy, most new medieval business terminology came from Italian. However, one should not overlook the occasional contribution of other languages. From the 11th to the 13th century, the fairs of Champaign in eastern France were the most important meeting point of European merchants; it is therefore hardly surprising that some early commercial terms entered the Italian language from French, as was the case for Italian balla, adapted from French balle, just like English bale (cf. Morgana 1994: 673-675). But most of the new terminology was indeed of Italian origin and has been transmitted to other European languages from Italy, either as crude borrowings or disguised as loan translations: Italian netto ‘remaining after tare is deducted’, yielding German netto, English net (as in net weight, a semantic loan); lettera di cambio ‘bill of exchange’, the model of French lettre de change, Early New High German Wechselbrief, later shortened to Wechsel; bilancio ‘balance sheet’, rendered as bilan in French; cassiere ‘cashier’, which was the basis of French caissier, (Southern) German Kassier; etc. Italian also became a hub for the diffusion of Orientalisms in Europe: Arabic maxzan ‘storeroom’, for example, was first adapted as magazzino in Italian and then passed on to German as Magazin.

The language of fiscal administration

As already mentioned in Section 4.2.2, the Middle Ages did not produce a relevant literature on what one might confidently call economics. Economic policy was essentially limited to setting a regulatory framework for the various economic agents and to collecting taxes. From a genre perspective, regulatory texts do not belong to economics or business but to law: nevertheless, they are, of course, an important source for the study of economic and business terminology. The terminology of fiscal administration tended to be very conservative. Heidel (1936: 135), for example, observed that in France it remained virtually unchanged from its medieval origins until the French Revolution.

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