From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Macaronic refers to text spoken or written using a mixture of languages, sometimes including bilingual puns, particularly when the languages are used in the same context (as opposed to different segments of a text being in different languages). The term is occasionally used of hybrid words, which are in effect internally macaronic.
Macaronic prose, and macaronic poetry in particular, are more often than not used to create a humorous effect. Whether literature of a more serious nature and purpose should be classified or not as 'macaronic' is subject to debate.
One particular form is Macaronic Latin, a term for various sorts of adulterated Latin. The phrase is used for a jumbled jargon made up of vernacular words given Latin endings, or for Latin words mixed with the vernacular in a pastiche (compare dog Latin). The writing of humorous texts for satirical purposes in Macaronic Latin became a fad in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly in Italian. One important and unusual example of what could be considered a Macaronic text is Hypnerotomachia Poliphili of 1499, which was basically written using Italian syntax and morphology, but using a made-up vocabulary based on roots from Latin, Greek, and occasionally others.
Macaronic text remains an interest of modern Italian authors. For instance, macaronic language appears in the works of Carlo Emilio Gadda; Umberto Eco (Salvatore in The Name of the Rose, and the peasant hero of Baudolino); and Dario Fo (whose Mistero Buffo — "Comic Mystery Play" — features grammelot sketches using language with macaronic elements).
An example of English-based macaronic prose is The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt. DeWitt includes portions of Japanese, Classical Greek and Inuit within the text of the novel, although the reader is not expected to understand the passages that are not in English.
Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames is a macaronic telling of Mother Goose's rhymes: the text is in false French, which read aloud sounds like the English rhymes.
Macaronic verse similarly refers to poetry written in more than one language, most frequently a mixture of the local vernacular and Latin. It was especially popular with non-liturgical carols of the Middle Ages. An example is the first stanza of the famous carol "In Dulci Jubilo":
In dulci jubilo,
In sweet rejoicing,
<td>One macaronic English and Latin version
In dulci jubilo,
Let us our homage show!
Our heart's joy reclineth
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!
Macaronic verse is especially common in cultures with widespread bilingualism or language contact, such as Ireland before the middle of the nineteenth century. Macaronic traditional songs, such as "Siúil A Rúin" are quite common in Ireland.
Macaronic verse was also common in medieval India, where the influence of the Muslim rulers led to poems being written alternatingly in indigenous medieval Hindi verse, followed by one in the Persian language. This style was used by the famous poet Amir Khusro, and it also played a major role in the rise of the Urdu or Hindustani language.
The mosaic: macaronic or multilingual verse?
An example of multilingual verse which is not by definition written in a humorous tone are the mużajki or mosaics of Maltese poet Antoine Cassar, combining a minimum of five tongues, mainly English, French, Italian, Maltese, and Spanish, often in the form of a Petrarchan sonnet. These poems, the first series of which was published in July 2007 in the anthology Ħbula Stirati (Tightropes), engage in the braiding of words and sounds in the different languages used whilst maintaining a coherent rhythm and logical poetic sequence. Among the main themes explored by the mosaics are the vanity and futility of life, love unrequited or fulfilled, the absurdity of colonialism and its after-effects, and the at once exhilarating and disorienting feeling of variety itself.