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A beginner's guide to the Latin language, part 1

By IHCOYC in Culture
Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 08:56:46 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

In a world that was better governed than the one in which we are forced to dwell, Latin was the foundation of the educational system, and the fountain of literacy: to know how to read and write was to know how to read and write Latin.  Knowing Latin, you could speak to anyone else who had been educated under the same régime.  Knowledge of the Latin language remains a matter worth pursuing.

For speakers of English, Latin offers more than most others of the valuable intellectual exercise that comes from the study of foreign languages.  It opens a door to the classical, mediæval, and renaissance worlds.  The Latin language has a solemn beauty and cultural resonance that few others share.  It enhances your appreciation of the greatest music written in Europe.  In this article, which your interest or lack of same may turn into a series of several, we consider the grammatical structure of Latin and how it contrasts with English.


Latin: an Indo-European language

Latin is an Indo-European language, the best attested member of the Italic family, a group that included a number of other languages formerly spoken on the Italian peninsula, including Oscan, Umbrian, Sicel, and Faliscan.

English, also, is an Indo-European language, but contemporary English has lost many of the distinctively Indo-European features that Latin retains.  As a result, those who would understand Latin must learn to frame their thoughts in a rather different structure. 

The Latin noun

English retains the inherited structure of `case,' the inflection of nouns, most clearly in the pronouns.  In the conventional terms, I is a "nominative" form; me is an `oblique' form that serves as both "genitive" and "dative;" and my is a "genitive" form.  Common nouns in English do not use an oblique case; they only have a genitive, which in English is often called a "possessive" case.

In Latin, all nouns have these cases, and several others.  The cases give Latin a flexibility and concision that English lacks. Here, for example, is the singular paradigm of equus, meaning "horse."

equus, (the) horse (Nominative)
equi, the horse's (Genitive)
equo, to a horse (Dative)
equum, the horse (Accusative)
eque, Hello, horse! (Vocative)
equo, by, at, from, with, or in a horse (Ablative)

These cases allow Latin to do things English cannot.  In English, you can say I gave her an apple, where her is marked by its case form as being in the `dative' case, an indirect object.  A proper noun can go there: I gave Mary an apple; or a title like teacher.

In Latin, these would be:

malum ei dedi
malum Mariæ dedi
malum magistro dedi
malum equo dedi

Observe also that in Latin, since the functions of the words are defined by the case forms or `endings' they bear, you can reorder them freely to emphasise one over the other.  Malum equo dedi, equo malum dedi, malum dedi equo, equo dedi malum, and dedi malum equo share the same literal meaning, and differ in emphasis. 

But when you change the case, you change the meaning: malum equus dedi can only mean "I'm a horse, and I gave an apple," or "While I was a horse, I gave an apple." It's not ungrammatical per se in Latin, but the unusual sentiment is hard to render in English. 

The `ablative' case in Latin is especially distinctive.  It inherits the role of three Indo-European cases, the original ablative case, plus two others called `locative' and `instrumental.' You'd have to cope with all three of these if you were studying Russian or Lithuanian, whose nouns are even more conservatively Indo-European.

The ablative case serves as the target of several very common prepositions.  It can also stand by itself, and takes the place of what in English becomes a whole prepositional phrase:

equo iter feci, I made a journey on horseback (or, by my horse)

The ablative is also used in a handy construction which grammar books call the "ablative absolute." It uses the ablative case to take the place of a whole subordinate clause in English:

Bello consummato, miles domum rediit. After the war was won, the soldier returned home.

The ablative has other uses, roughly similar to this one: whenever you want to specify the way something happened, how things are different, or why it happened so, you usually turn to the ablative case.  Grammarians give different names to each of these several uses, but once you have been through them all you start to see a theme developing.

Latin resembles Japanese more than it does English in the way it handles nouns.  In Japanese, you have various particles, which serve as grammatical markers that define how a noun phrase relates to the rest of the sentence.  You have some liberty of changing the position of these noun phrases if their function is defined by the particle.  In Latin, the case endings serve the same goal, and allow the speaker even more freedom to move things around, for the sake of emphasis and euphony. 

The Latin verb

The English verb has lost even more of its original structure than the English noun has.  In Latin, the verb retains much of its original Indo-European structure: it has voice (active and middle/passive); tense, number, and mood.

The Latin active verb is easy enough if you know Spanish, which of course descends directly from it.  As in Spanish, a pronoun subject can in most cases be omitted.  Spanish has retained most of the indicative tenses and many of the subjunctive ones.  The relationship is apparent enough from the following present tense active paradigm:

amo I love;
amas you (singular) love;
amat he, she, or it loves;
amamus we love;
amatis you (plural) love;
amant they love

In addition to these active forms, however, the Latin verb also has a set of passive forms that reverse the relationship between the subject and the action.  Historically, the passive forms are often distinguished from the active by the presence of an /r/ infix:

amor I am loved;
amaris you (singular) are loved;
amatur he, she, or it is loved;
amamur we are loved;
amamini you (plural) are loved;
amantur they are loved

The availability of these forms, unmatched by anything in a living Germanic language, again adds concision and expressiveness to Latin.  In English, the "passive voice" requires extra words to make the paraphrase.  The fact that it suppresses who is doing the deed makes it seem weaselly, and makes it suspect to style commentators.  No such opprobrium attaches to the passive voice in Latin, where these verb forms stand on an equal footing with the active voice.

More importantly, the availability of many inflectional forms gives Latin the power to express more in a single word; English, to do the same job, would require several auxiliaries and adverbs.  The single Latin word amer! in idiomatic English would have to be rendered as "let me be loved!" or "I hope I will be loved!" Such is the power of a language with living subjunctive and passive inflections. 

Language and Difficulty

Latin is supposed to be more difficult for English speakers than, say, German or Spanish.  This difficulty is in fact an advantage.

Looked at as a huge table to memorise, the Latin inflections may well seem daunting to the newcomer.  There are, of course, internal regularities in them as there are in the inflections of any language; the Spanish verb is only slightly less daunting than a Latin verb is.  The difficulty is only partially here.

Rather, the difficulty in learning Latin consists in changing your habits of thought out of the synthetic and positional world of English syntax into the analytic and inflectional world that Latin supplies.  There is nothing necessarily simpler about having to memorise dozens of prepositions and idioms that Latin can dispense with, since it uses cases for many of the same tasks.  It is, simply, different.  Mastering that difference has value.

To learn any foreign language is to learn how to draw distinctions that exist in that language, which may not map neatly into those drawn by your native tongue.  The Spanish distinction between ser and estar does not exist at all in English; those who would master that language must learn to think differently. 

Latin, with its inflectional syntax, requires even more adjustments to your habits of thinking than Spanish does. Writing Latin properly is less a matter of finding the right Latin word, and more a problem of moving from thinking in an English based structure to the quite different structure of Latin. 

For an example of how different it is, consider the opening of The Aeneid:

Arma virumque cano, Troiæ qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit
litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
vi superum sævæ memorem Iunonis ob iram;

Word for word, in English, this would be rendered as: (The) arms (arma) man-and (virum-que) sing-I (can-o), of-Troy (Troiæ) who (qui) first (primus) from (ab) shores (oris) to-Italy (Italia-m), from-fate (fat-o) a fugitive (profugus), Lavinian-and (Lavinia-que) came-he (veni-t) banks (litora), much (multum) that-one (ille) and (et) on-lands (terr-is) tossed (iactatus) and (et) by-high (alt-o) power (vi) of-gods (super-um) of-bitter (sæv-æ) remembering (memorem) of-Juno (Iunon -is) for (ob) wrath (iram).

In somewhat more natural English: I sing of arms and the man, destined to be a fugitive, who first came from the shoes of Troy to the Lavinian banks.  Only after he had endured much was he at last cast up on land by the high power of the gods; even so, he must always remember the wrath of bitter Juno. 

Obviously, moving from Latin to English, or vice versa, requires major adjustments in your thinking habits.  Acquiring the ability to make those changes is a benefit of learning Latin that is at least as important as the ability to read the language itself.

For further reference:

Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar online. New? Has it changed?

The Latin Library. A well organised collection of Latin texts.

Latin course for the Virtual School of Languages. A beginning online course in Latin; rather elementary.

Wheelock's Latin. Still probably the best introductory book on the language. An Amazon.com link.

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Poll
Were I a Roman Emperor, I'd be:
o Julius Caesar 3%
o Nero 11%
o Marcus Aurelius 23%
o Claudius 6%
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o Hadrian 14%
o Octavian Augustus 19%
o Elagabalus 3%

Votes: 126
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Related Links
o Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar online
o The Latin Library
o Latin course for the Virtual School of Languages
o Wheelock's Latin
o Amazon.com
o Also by IHCOYC


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A beginner's guide to the Latin language, part 1 | 137 comments (109 topical, 28 editorial, 0 hidden)
Eugapae! (I believe that's how it's spelled) (none / 0) (#1)
by artsygeek on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 02:33:13 PM EST

I can finally put my Latin to use....besides my uses in BS-ing my wayt through biology, being able to know what the Hell they're saying when i go to a Catholoic church for Latin Mass...and besides being able to make up really neat words.  "If you can't dazzle 'em with briliance, Baffle 'em with BS".

-1, flamebait (none / 0) (#2)
by eudas on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 03:27:12 PM EST

A beginner's Guide to Latin, Part 1.

Step 1.
Go out and buy a beginner's book on latin.

Step 2.
Take said book home, and commence studying it.

More information to follow in part 2!!

eudas
"Nothing is on fire, but the day is still young" -- Phil the Canuck

Latin Lessons online (4.50 / 2) (#3)
by graal on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 03:42:36 PM EST

Dr. Peter Jones of England did a multi-part series of elementary Latin lessons online. They disappeared from the Telegraph UK website, reappeared on a Latin/Greek resource website and but disappeared again. I've the whole series of lessons saved locally, but recently saw the whole set repackaged and sold in book form at the local Barnes & Noble.

(The google cache of the second incarnation of the lessons is here.)

He has an elementary Greek course, too, though it's really finely tuned for basic New Testament texts.

Oddly enough, I searched Amazon, but couldn't come up with any current entries for the book...just something in the zShops.

Wacky.


--
For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)

Ancient problems (3.00 / 2) (#4)
by Pac on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 03:45:54 PM EST

Troiæ qui primus ab oris

Translation: Trolls are our foremost horror.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners


Favorite Latin motto (4.00 / 2) (#6)
by bobpence on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 04:02:04 PM EST

Near the start of the U.S. Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress issued paper money, including a three-dollar bill with the motto exitus in dubio est -- "the outcome is in doubt." As the paper money was not backed with hard currency, the colonies soon experienced hyperinflation probably not seen again until the Weimar Republic. I like to think that while the construction "phony as a three-dollar bill" is often traced to the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, popular belief in the dubiousness of three-dollar notes might be traced to about four score and seven years earlier.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
Ecce! In pictura est puella. (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by Kellnerin on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 04:20:59 PM EST

*grumble* After all these years, I still remember how my first Latin book began. I'm sure there's some useful information I could be storing there instead ...

Anyway, this is just to say that I'll thwack anyone who makes the old "semper ubi sub ubi" joke. That is all.

--I'm pregnant. I'm stealing your pickle. -iGrrrl --

Better than traditional intro to Clasical Greek (none / 0) (#9)
by HidingMyName on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 04:23:51 PM EST

Historically, most U.S. (and probably in other English speaking countries), Latin was considered a prerequisite for Classical (Attic) Greek. So there are many older texts where the Greek language is explained in Latin.

From my limited exposure, Latin is more regular and easier to learn than Classical Greek, so perhaps this is why this model of teaching developed.

Huh? (4.00 / 3) (#11)
by Anonymous Commando on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 04:33:04 PM EST

It enhances your appreciation of the greatest music written in Europe.

How does knowing Latin enhance my appreciation of ABBA, A-Ha, and Ace of Base? I just don't follow the logic on that one...
Corporate Jenga™: You take a blockhead from the bottom and you put him on top...

Greatest music written in Europe (none / 0) (#23)
by IHCOYC on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 06:50:08 PM EST

www.sabbatum.com

Choke the last Santa with the guts of the last reindeer!
[ Parent ]

Latin and Great Music (none / 0) (#128)
by phliar on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 08:40:21 PM EST

I learned Sanskrit but (alas!) never took the time to study Latin properly. Its form is quite similar to Latin's, and there are many shared words with Hindi (one of my languages); furthermore, noun declensions and verb conjugations are quite regular in Sanskrit, so the grammar is not too hard to learn. (I had the advantage that I was raised trilingually so I learned about different grammatical structures quite early.) If you have any interest in English as a language you just have to learn Latin so I guess this as good a time as any. Thanks for the kick in the pants.

As for the greatest music written in Europe, that would be a tie between J. S. Bach and Beethoven, eh? Knowing Latin is great (maybe essential) for understanding Bach, but I don't see how it would apply to Beethoven!

(Currently working on Schubert's Ave Maria... learning the words and what they meant made a huge improvement in my phrasing.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

well, what do you know... (none / 0) (#95)
by han on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 03:50:27 AM EST

The Ace of Base hit "Happy Nation" begins with a few lines in Latin... I suppose knowing the language would help you understand that :)

I can't believe I still remembered that.

[ Parent ]

Pop music in Latin (2.00 / 1) (#106)
by IHCOYC on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 12:17:20 PM EST

A couple of years ago I set out to compile a list of pop songs with Latin lyrics. The list is probably rather out of date by now, but there are quite a few.

Choke the last Santa with the guts of the last reindeer!
[ Parent ]

music written in europe (none / 0) (#102)
by lennarth on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 10:59:52 AM EST

surely we must be talking about lyrics that are written in various european languages?

[ Parent ]
best latin phrase ever: (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by zephc on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 04:52:41 PM EST

"Pie Iesu domine, dona eis requiem"

I preffer... (1.00 / 1) (#40)
by Elkor on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 11:38:16 PM EST

Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum.

Roughly translated:
"I think I think, therefor I think I am."

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Obligatory Terry Pratchett references (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by Ricochet Rita on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 07:53:22 AM EST

For those not acquainted, Pratchett's "Discworld" books are littered with hilarious examples of "Dog Latin" (ie. barbarous Latin; a jargon in imitation of Latin).

A few examples:

CARPE JUGULUM - Seize the throat
FABRICATE DIEM, PVNC! -- Make my day, Punk! (motto of the City Watch)
MORTITURI NOLUMUS MORI -- We who are about to die, don't want to
SODOMY NON SAPIENS -- Buggered if I know

More can be found midway down this page.


FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!
[ Parent ]

That was then (3.50 / 2) (#15)
by theElectron on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 05:01:16 PM EST

In a world that was better governed than the one in which we are forced to dwell, Latin was the foundation of the educational system, and the fountain of literacy: to know how to read and write was to know how to read and write Latin. Knowing Latin, you could speak to anyone else who had been educated under the same régime.

The same can be said of English today.

--
Join the NRA!

You are wrong. (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by tkatchev on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 08:46:20 AM EST

Get your head out of the sand.

Your statement only holds for parts of the former British Empire.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

No, you are wrong (none / 0) (#67)
by transport on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 12:24:54 PM EST

While my personal travelling experience is limited to Europe (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Russia (St. Petersburg), Greece) plus Greenland, I can say that I have been nowhere where english was not sufficient to get me through. And I have heard plenty of accounts which tell the same story about eastern Asia. This may not amount to the entire world, but I'd say that it covers such a significant part of it, especially the non-Commonwealth part.

[ Parent ]
So? (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by tkatchev on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 01:12:56 PM EST

"Getting through" is quite different from "being the language of learning and culture".

I can use Russian to get around quite easily in Italy, for example; in fact, Russian seems to be more useful than English in this particular case.

However, that doesn't prove anything except my ability to use bastardized pidgin languages coupled with some universal gestures.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

So! (none / 0) (#82)
by transport on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 05:08:13 PM EST

As I understood it, you were originally objecting to replacing "Latin" with "English" in the statement: Knowing Latin, you could speak to anyone else who had been educated under the same régime. I don't see how pidgin-speaking is fundamentally an obstacle to a "learned" conversation or even discussion, except for a few specific subjects (like for instance, language itself or language-based arts). You would do well to consider that practically all discussion at international science conferences is in English, even though plenty of scientists have a less than perfect grasp of spoken English.

[ Parent ]
Sir, you fail history. (none / 0) (#97)
by tkatchev on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 08:05:04 AM EST

In Midiaeval Europe, Latin was essentially an artifical language that was used to communicate complicated philosophical and scientific knowledge.

The "common people" had no need to discuss philosophy or theology, and therefore didn't know Latin.

Contrast this with modern-day English, which is used mostly for ordering hamburgers and throwing cuss words at foreigners.

See the difference? English is the world's pidgin vernacular, not the world's language of learning and culture.

(Not that there is anything wrong with a pidgin vernacular.)


   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

your point would be clearer (none / 0) (#108)
by adequate nathan on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 12:30:34 PM EST

If you distinguished between Classical and Vulgar Latin. That said, I wonder if, in future, historians will distinguish Elizabethan and Debased English, or something.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

Maybe. (none / 0) (#110)
by tkatchev on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 02:30:32 PM EST

Although the usage of English in arts and sciences today is not at all as wide-spread as Latin once was.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 0) (#131)
by nads on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 09:42:53 PM EST

... This is wrong also. English is probably used by more of the learned world today than any other language at any other time. First of all, Latin was confined to Europe. Intellectuals in the Muslim world conversed in arabic (although had some translations from the Greeks and Romans). The Indians used their own langauge and the Chinese their own. Today, the predominant discourse for business as well as science is English, whether you are in Arabia, India, China, Europe, or America. Leading journals in all scientific disciplines are written in English. Latin may have had a stronger hold on Europe than English does, but it definitely does not have anywhere near the grip that English has on the entire world.

[ Parent ]
note on latin government (2.35 / 17) (#18)
by turmeric on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 05:51:31 PM EST

"A world that was better governed"???

YEAH BLOODY LOVELY> WOMEN WERE TREATED LIKE PROPERTY AND COULDNT VOTE.

SLAVERY WAS LEGAL

PUBLIC EXECUTION WAS A FORM OF ENTERTAINMENT AND PROFIT.

RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION DEVELOPED INTO A CAPITALIST ORGY OF BLOOD FOR PUBLIC SPECTACLE.

SOVERIEGNTY? RULE OF LAW? JUSTICE? SCREW THAT, THEY JUST TAKE OVER YOUR GODDAMN COUNTRY AND ENSLAVE YOU AND MURDER YOU AND STEAL YOUR LAND!

THEIR HEROES: SOCRATES, PLATO, ETC, A BUNCH OF MISERABLE GRUMPY OLD MEN WHO ENJOYED RAPING BOYS AND HATING WOMEN. AND MURDERING 'BARBAR'IANS (SINCE THE LATIN CULTURE WAS TOO GODDAMN STUPID TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN ANYONE THAT WASNT LIKE IT. TALK ABOUT YOUR GODDAMN HELLMOUTH. )

OH GOD BLESS LATIN CULTURE OH SO LOGICAL AND NOBLE, So WONDEROUSLY SCIENTIFIC THAT THEY COULDNT EVEN COUNT PAST 4000 NOR DO LONG MULTIPLICATION WITH THEIR BACK ASSWORDS STUPID MORONIC NUMBER SYSTEM. SO CREATIVE THEY HAD TO STEAL ALL THEIR CULTURE FROM GREECE AND EGYPT. SO NOBLE THEY RANSACKED EVERY INNOCENT VILLAGE FROM BRITAIN TO TURKEY.

THE ROMANS CAN KISS MY BIG AMERICAN FREEDOM LOVING ASS. SMOOCHY SMOOCHY. SHIT HEADs. MAY YOUR EMPIRE ROT IN HELL FOR ETERNITY ALONG WITH YOUR FREAK-ALICIOUS "LEADERS" OBSESSED WITH RAPING AND MURDERING EACH OTHER AND THEIR PEOPLE. WONDERFUL GODDAMN EXAMPLE YOU GOT THERE, FELLAS.

hmmm (4.33 / 3) (#22)
by t v on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 06:13:33 PM EST

I am split 50-50 in deciding if this post is for real or anti-american sarcasm.

[ Parent ]
You shoulda seen the other guy. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by Apuleius on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 07:03:36 PM EST

If you think the Romans were bad, check out some of their contemporaries. Like it or not, the Romans invented the institutions that the American Republic is based on.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Rule of Law (none / 0) (#37)
by R343L on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 10:00:42 PM EST

The Romans did have the rule of law, and before the arbitrary capriciousness of the emperors, was fairly equally applied to citizens. Yes, there were classes of people (women, slaves) who did not have as many rights. But the common citizen of Rome had its own legislative power (enforced by the fact that the ruling class needed their support). Historians generally give Rome (and Greece) as early examples of what would become modern ideas of equality and fair treatment.

Rome just got corrupted by its powerful position....Hmmm....that has some modern relevance...Maybe turmeric wasn't just trolling.

Rachael
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del
[ Parent ]

thast because historians are racist shit eaters (1.33 / 3) (#65)
by turmeric on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 10:28:31 AM EST

just about every indigenous culture has some form of 'rule of the people over the leader'. ie in africa many tribes had a penalty of death for bad leadership. native american tribes often had councils and endeavored to reach a consensus rather than imposing judgements from on high. and there were laws, like that you shouldnt hunt deer 'out of season'.

[ Parent ]
This just proves... (3.00 / 2) (#72)
by tkatchev on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 01:10:11 PM EST

...how useless and inefficient democracy really is.

Our ancestors had an almost perfect representative democracy, and yet they went ahead and got rid of it, replacing with monarchy.

Do you really think they were complete morons who didn't know what they were doing?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

What are you talking about? (none / 0) (#103)
by sean23007 on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 11:00:51 AM EST

If you are talking about the transition of the Roman Republic to the Empire, then you really mustn't understand what you're talking about. The Republic wasn't ended because the people who took it over were complete morons; quite on the contrary, they knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted as much power for themselves as possible, and by taking control of the most powerful nation on the planet at the time and ruling it alone, they succeeded in their quest for power. The Roman Republic did not collapse because its usurpers were morons, but rather because they were corrupt. And it worked because there was an army (the largest in the world at the time) sitting right outside Rome. They couldn't exactly have said "no."

Lack of eloquence does not denote lack of intelligence, though they often coincide.
[ Parent ]
Sir, you fail history. (none / 0) (#109)
by tkatchev on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 02:27:39 PM EST

Just about every single primitive society that ever was, or ever will be, functioned under a democratic system.

This includes not only various african and indian tribes, but also virtually all prehistoric European (i.e. "White") societies.

Now, for some reason, once a society gets past the "bang some rocks together to appease the Fire God" stage, it almost universally abandons democracy and implements a more rigid and hierachical autocratic system.

I'm not saying that autocracy is good -- all I'm saying is that advanced societies lean towards autocracy. This is an empirical observation that cannot be denied.

The transition from democracy to autocracy happens over and over and over again, and, what is even more interesting, is usually accompanied with significant technological and cultural advances.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Major technological advances... (none / 0) (#113)
by linca on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 08:50:21 AM EST

First, there are no "primitive" society. Even the nude South American Indians are much more evolved that one would like to think, and show strong hints of contacts with advanced civilization. We know nothing of "primitive" cultures.

Secondly, there have been at most two technological advances that really have changed the way people live. Recently, the Industrial revolution, which mostly happened in the quickly democratising societies of western europe. And the agricultural revolution that happened in times we have no memory of.

you're the one failing history and anthropology.

[ Parent ]

At a guess... (none / 0) (#134)
by Control Group on Mon Dec 30, 2002 at 03:27:15 PM EST

...and in an armchair quarterback sort of way, I'd make the claim that the reason groups move from democracy to autocracy over time is size. Up until the latter part of the last century, it would have been completely unfeasible to run a democracy consisting of more than 50-100 people. Communication and time become real factors. It's fine to solicit everyone's opinion when everyone fits in the town square...

The technological advances most certainly are related: advances in farming technology (the agricultural revolution to which linca refers) are what allow groups to grow too large to support community decision making. They also have the side effect of tying a group to one parcel of valuable land - as soon as that happens, you begin seeing territorial conflict, which demands the ability to respond quickly. Which, of course, has never exactly been the hallmark of democracy or any other representative government.

Or at least, that's how I see it. I'm not saying it's ultimate truth, but it's something I'd argue over a beer.

***
"Oh, nothing. It just looks like a simple Kung-Fu Swedish Rastafarian Helldemon."
[ Parent ]

The meaning of rule of law (5.00 / 2) (#98)
by R343L on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 10:22:57 AM EST

Rule of law doesn't mean that any system where people get together to decide how things work. It means that people (many or few) get together and decide in advance of any crimes occurring what punishments will be and what is necessary to prove a crime. If those laws are then applied fairly consistently and (somewhat) equally, a historian will say that society has the rule of law.

A society does not have the rule of law if some subset of that society gets together whenever something bad happens and decides what to do...even if that subset is the entire group. So a native american tribe getting together and deciding "how do we deal with this thief?" is not rule of law, unless they are just implementing previous rules about deciding if there was a crime/deciding the punishment.

Rachael
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del
[ Parent ]

hmm (5.00 / 10) (#39)
by nomadic on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 10:45:21 PM EST

And you're repeating one of the Roman's most egregious sins; writing everything in capital letters.

[ Parent ]
TAMEN ... (4.00 / 1) (#114)
by Enocasiones on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 08:19:02 PM EST

AVE DOMITILA!

HAVING FVN IN LVTETIA? TELL LVCIVS TO STOP ANNOYING WITH HIS LOWCASE TABLETS. I REALLY HATE IT WHEN YOUR BROTHER STARTS WITH HIS "mvrmvrs". CAN'T HE WRITE LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE?

TE VIDEO,

ALBVS

---

Enoc

[ Parent ]

Don't Dis Socrates and Plato (4.66 / 3) (#45)
by HidingMyName on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 12:38:09 AM EST

Socrates and Plato, etc. were outstanding scholars and really bright. Aristotle in particular laid the foundation for many modern disciplines (he was far from infallible, but not bad considering the ground he was breaking).

That is unless you are trying to tell us that you have authoritative intimate personal experience with:

MISERABLE GRUMPY OLD MEN WHO ENJOYED RAPING BOYS AND HATING WOMEN. AND MURDERING 'BARBAR'IANS
in which case I defer to your first hand experience.

[ Parent ]
give me a freaking break (2.00 / 3) (#64)
by turmeric on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 10:26:14 AM EST

all they did was steal a bunch of ideas from asia minor then sit around all day whining at each other

[ Parent ]
That's better than ... (5.00 / 3) (#69)
by pyramid termite on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 12:34:36 PM EST

... stealing a bunch of ideas from your freshman bull sessions and whining at us, isn't it?

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
no (1.00 / 2) (#89)
by turmeric on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 09:26:58 PM EST

because unlike socrates, i actually give a shit about things that actually exist and matter.

[ Parent ]
Free clue (5.00 / 2) (#96)
by pyramid termite on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 06:49:41 AM EST

Just because you have feelings about something doesn't make you right.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Well let's compare (4.00 / 1) (#105)
by HidingMyName on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 11:38:05 AM EST

First let's list some of the areas that Socrates cared about and contributed to:
  • Education/pedagogy (Socratic Method!)
  • Love of virtue
  • Psychotherapy (Socratic Dialogue)
  • Politics and democracy
  • Life and death
Now let's see what Turmeric seems to care about and his contributions:
  • Trolling on K5


[ Parent ]
HAH (1.50 / 2) (#132)
by turmeric on Fri Dec 27, 2002 at 12:24:10 AM EST

Education/pedagogy (Socratic Method!)

well you got the 'peda' part right, but left off 'phile'

Love of virtue

to the complete abandonment of all else

Psychotherapy (Socratic Dialogue)

like when he stopped his friend on the way to his dads funeral, delaying him, so they could blabber about the nature of virtue? how virtuous and psychotherapy

Politics and democracy

yeah, like how women shouldnt be allowed to vote, and how slavery is great?

Life and death

like life is a shit pile of misery and he hates his wife and society is stupid? so he should kill himself? wow why didnt i think of such brilliant insight? oh, i did, when i was about 15.then i got over it.

ohyeah, socrates fought wars. he went out across the ice in bare feet and slaughtered the enemy. damn if only i had done that then maybe youd admire me for my 'accomplishments'.

[ Parent ]

you were married when you were 15? (nt) (none / 0) (#137)
by bpt on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 06:51:42 PM EST


--
Lisp Users: Due to the holiday next Monday, there will be no garbage collection.
[ Parent ]
wow (5.00 / 1) (#107)
by adequate nathan on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 12:27:47 PM EST

I don't know which Socrates you're talking about. I believe the rest of us are discussing the one written up by Plato.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

You Mean the GREEKS in Asia Minor? (none / 0) (#90)
by HidingMyName on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 10:00:47 PM EST

all they did was steal a bunch of ideas from asia minor then sit around all day whining at each other
You see, the Greeks were successful, they carefully observed their world, recorded observations and cited them, much like someone who works at McD's (or aspires to work there) might observe their customers and quote them in their sig. However, the Greeks did oh, so much more, they had original ideas that made a difference and shaped the world.

The Greeks spread all over the Mediterranean coast, and were in Alexandria (home of Euclid), and in Asia minor too. Some early good work came out of Miletus, so if that is what you mean (e.g. Thales) it was also Greek. People like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle knew their peers and predecessors and Aristotle cited Thales. They did more than regurgitate ideas, they refined them and had some ideas that were original.

[ Parent ]

Err (none / 0) (#71)
by omghax on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 01:06:16 PM EST

A good deal of the structure of the United States government was drawn from that of the Romans, so...


I put the "LOL" in phiLOLigcal leadership - vote for OMGHAX for CMF president!
[ Parent ]
But the worst thing of all? (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by sean23007 on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 10:54:20 AM EST

But the worst thing about anything Roman is that all the characters are capitalized. You heard me.

Lack of eloquence does not denote lack of intelligence, though they often coincide.
[ Parent ]
oi barbaroi (4.33 / 3) (#21)
by paine in the ass on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 06:04:45 PM EST

kakos estin oi barbaroi kai o twn barbarwn dialektos.

(apologies for lack of a good Greek font, and for any error which may have occurred...my Greek is slightly rusty).


I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.

Match numbers and genders dammit! (none / 0) (#84)
by V P on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 05:20:49 PM EST

<center>Kakos estin o barbaros kai h twn barbarwn dialektos.</center>

But still, A- for effort!

[ Parent ]

Huh? (none / 0) (#85)
by paine in the ass on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 05:52:58 PM EST

Could have sworn dialektos was masculine. As for the barbarians though, as soon as I posted it I thought "gee, should have been kakoi and eisi" if I want that to agree..."


I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
[ Parent ]
TRANSLATION (none / 0) (#116)
by telosautomatos on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 05:40:50 AM EST

Thanks to the Greek Nerds who corrected him, but here's what the guy was actually saying: "Evil are the barbarians and their languages." Barbaros (the word I translated as barbarian) came from the Greek belief that foreign languages (and thus foreigners) all sound like "bar bar bar bar barbar." Thus barbaros in a way means foreigner, too, but specifically one who doesn't speak Greek.

[ Parent ]
It's All Greek To Me (none / 0) (#129)
by phliar on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 09:19:57 PM EST

kakos estin oi barbaroi kai o twn barbarwn dialektos.

... apologies for lack of a good Greek font

HTML entities, my friend.

κακοι εισι' οι βαρβαροι και ο των βαρβαρων διαλεκτοσ.

(I made the κακοι/εισι' change you mentioned in message 85.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

poll (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by slothman on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 07:27:10 PM EST

you forget the all important Cincinatus. I would want to be him. He was one of the best leaders in all of history. [us]Even Washington wanted to be like him.[/us]

Not an emperor (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by IHCOYC on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 08:14:47 PM EST

Cincinnatus was not an emperor; he was a dictator under the early Republic. Under the Roman Republic, a dictator was a temporary commander with supreme and extra-legal power, appointed as the chief executive in case of serious crisis. Cincinnatus's chief claim to fame was that he renounced the power conferred upon him when the crisis for which he was appointed had passed, and returned to cultivate his fields as he was doing when he was tapped for the job of dictator.

Choke the last Santa with the guts of the last reindeer!
[ Parent ]

If I were Emperor... (1.50 / 2) (#52)
by RaveWar on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 06:31:03 AM EST

I'd be Bigus Dickus
We don't need freedom. We don't need love.
We want Superpower, Ultraviolence.
[ Parent ]
Hmmpff (none / 0) (#70)
by LaundroMat on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 12:41:47 PM EST

/me tries not to laugh.
---

"These innocent fun-games of the hallucination generation"
[ Parent ]

and your wife... (2.50 / 2) (#104)
by vyruss on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 11:21:39 AM EST

...would of course be called Incontinentia Buttocks.

  • PRINT CHR$(147)

[ Parent ]
carpe bovum (4.16 / 6) (#29)
by ogre on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 08:26:45 PM EST

This would be a good article if it weren't for the trolling asides about English. Those comments might have been acceptable fifty years ago, but advances in linguistics have rendered such linguistic bigotry inane.

Everybody relax, I'm here.

Omnia vestra castrorum habetur nobis. (3.66 / 3) (#30)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 08:31:38 PM EST

Carpe testiculos meos, puer! Cupio ejaculare in tuum orem.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to be a slashdot troll in Latin.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."

delenda est trollo (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by martingale on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 09:28:57 PM EST

Unfortunately, your latinisms would pass the typical /. troll reader completely by, and languish in obscurity, shunned by their would-be peers.

You might have more luck with hieroglyphs, however. Pictographic representation is universally understood, especially the pictographi.cx kind.

[ Parent ]

An overenthusiastic boy might make you an eunuch (none / 0) (#34)
by Lord of Caustic Soda on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 09:38:21 PM EST

Careful with the carpe bit...

[ Parent ]
Non. (none / 0) (#42)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 12:04:53 AM EST

Testiculi potentes sunt, et non rumpuntur.

I think I got that right, it's been a while.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Not if say a gladius is involved..... (none / 0) (#59)
by Lord of Caustic Soda on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 08:20:34 AM EST

Nevermind it's not designed for slashing, I'm sure the edges are just as sharp.

Next time when you put them to use with someone, how about uttering this?

Testiculi mei derigent deis, ecce!

I'm sure he/she would appreciate it even more!

[ Parent ]

To answer your message (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by angus on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 07:15:03 AM EST

I would like to cite Catullus:

Pedicabo ego uos et irrumabo,

I'll fuck you in the ass and I'll come in your mouth
;)

[ Parent ]
And if you want to make use of that Latin .. (4.60 / 5) (#31)
by Eloquence on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 08:37:46 PM EST

.. there's actually a Latin Wikipedia. It's understandably small (unlike the impressively active Esperanto Wikipedia / "Vikipedio"), but probably still a good place to hang out with other people who speak/write this "dead language".

Also, since some Latin-fans will probably read this comment -- I'm looking for a modern translation of the Theodosian Code, what I've found so far is out of print and rather expensive. Is there any recent reprint or a new translation that I may have missed?
--
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy · Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!

I used to be an unedjumacated clown. (3.50 / 2) (#38)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Dec 20, 2002 at 10:12:01 PM EST

Now I can say things like "Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem" with grace and panache!

Thanks, IHCOYC!


--
Now, where did I put that clue? I'm sure I had one a minute ago....


fuck ya (1.50 / 2) (#43)
by ipex on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 12:09:05 AM EST

make us into academics, I love it

file this right next to the physics reviews

Emperor selection (4.33 / 3) (#55)
by anonimouse on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 07:01:14 AM EST

Of the selection, I'm surprised that Caligula and Nero have so many votes, voters obviously don't remember how long they lasted and how they died.

Julius and Elagabalus were both murdered, and it's believed that Augustus and Claudius may have had their demise hastened. Which leaves Marcus Aurelius (it's believed he died naturally despite what you may watch in Gladiator) and Hadrian.

Of the two I'd pick Hadrian; although he had to do a lot of marching he was presiding over a stable Empire, whereas Marcus was trying his best to hold the line. Besides, Aurelius was succeeded by Commodus, a world class twat if ever there was one, whereas Hadrian passed on a stable succession.
~
Sleepyhel:
Relationships and friendships are complex beasts. There's nothing wrong with doing things a little differently.

statu quo (none / 0) (#58)
by tichy on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 08:00:31 AM EST

Since we're at it, I had Latin in high school. I loved it, personally, but that's not the point. I was told back then that the well abused phrase is 'statu quo' (ablative) not 'status quo'. Anyone know where this expression comes from and can clarify?

It *is* status quo (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by R343L on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 09:56:40 AM EST

"status" is just (sg) nominative for state or condition. quo is "in which" (sg. ablative of quis/quid, which is what). So "status quo", which has elided words like all latin sayings, is just "the state in which [we live or it is]".

Rachael
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del
[ Parent ]

status quo (none / 0) (#86)
by omrib on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 07:26:09 PM EST

I thought it came from "status quo ante" - the state as it used to be, which itself came from "status quo ante bellum" - the state as it used to be before the war.

[ Parent ]
That could be (none / 0) (#99)
by R343L on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 10:46:36 AM EST

I was just guessing at what the elided part was (didn't find that part in a dictionary). But considering its modern meaning I think both are possible...I did some googling and came up with my translation mostly, but status quo ante a few times too.

Rachael
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del
[ Parent ]

Actually, it depends (5.00 / 1) (#115)
by Enocasiones on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 08:59:19 PM EST

Another search:
The state in which anything is already. The phrase is also used retrospectively, as when, on a treaty of place, matters return to the status quo ante bellum, or are left in statu quo ante bellum, i.e., the state (or, in the state) before the war.
Looks like the case matters. At least in Latin, but what about it when you use the expression in your own language? Another search:
[translated]In the complete latin expression - in statu quo ante - the word status (in Latin, "the state") doesn't appear in the nominative, but in the ablative statu, and as such must be in the reduced form.
If you want to decline in your language, choose status quo/statu quo accordingly. Otherwise consult your local (royal) language academy for a final verdict.

[ Parent ]
Makes sense. (none / 0) (#117)
by R343L on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 10:55:27 AM EST

And that's awesome...you cited a page in portuguese...which btw is not a language I know, but one of those I can puzzle out, having had a few years of spanish and latin. :)

Rachael
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del
[ Parent ]

Thx and disclaimer (none / 0) (#120)
by Enocasiones on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 12:26:00 AM EST

Spanish is my first language, but Port/Brazilian is similar enough to it to make a decent translation.

Anyway, if you got through the page you will have seen that they advocate the use of statu quo, without an s. Just to use it as in the original expression.

And, well, my status quo (I like to use the nominative!) will be altered if I keep on writing about those two words ... I'll start thinking in the mother language of my mother tongue!

--

Enoc

[ Parent ]

Write in: constantine (none / 0) (#61)
by local roger on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 09:49:03 AM EST

And this time I'd decide NOT to make chritianity the state religion. Instead, I think i'd try scientology. Yeah.

On the bloody morning after / One tin soldier rides away. -- Joan Baez
Not the best way to begin learning a langauge (4.33 / 9) (#66)
by Boldra on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 12:19:16 PM EST

Obviously trying to teach a langauge in 1700 words isn't going to get very far, but I think this was a largely useless introduction to a language.

Firstly, for people who haven't already studied a language, there's not a lot of point just listing the names of the cases that occur in the language. I think it's especially dubious when you're talking about latin - since most of the case names are latin words! Generally, a good place to start is listing some translations of common words, and conjugating the very useful verb "to be".

Secondly, a more standard approach to language teaching is to start by introducing some useful phrases maybe "where is the circus?" Of course being a dead language, Latin is a little unusual.

Maybe I'm just trolling, but I don't think this post was anything more than an opportunity for people to demonstrate their knowledge of latin, and as a "HOW TO" it serves no purpose at all.

BTW - in the third paragraph you refer to "me" as genetive. Unless you're talking about the rather dubious usage "I hurt me arm!", you probably wanted to say it's accusative.




- Boldra
There are other uses for the Genitive case... (4.33 / 3) (#74)
by watercrazy on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 02:22:03 PM EST

...but this intro implies that it's possession or nothing, I guess for the sake of not confusing the reader who only wants a simple knowledge of it, since it's that way in the vast majority of cases.  I always hated the "case and reason" part of Latin tests, there were a lot of obscure possibilities.  It's been several years, but I can still remember "genitive of the whole", where you use it for the whole that something's a part of, "pars mei" I think is one, "part of me" (no not the same as "my part"), in which case yea, me is genitive.

Overall, though, this intro reminds me of what kids would say about the "pre-latin" they took in eighth grade.  You learn some novel coincidences and some easy-to-remember facts; I'm surprised the article didn't digress into gladiators.  Learning a language is first about structure and vocabulary, which in latin is very systematic, and no better method has been found to learn it than through the memorization of austere tables.

After you have that down, studying the "style" of latin is more interesting and englightening; word order matters in only a few ways, which allowws for a lot of variety and weird devices (like if soldiers and peasants surrounded a city, you could write it so that the words "soldiers" and "peasants" came before and after the word "city", surrounding it; there are so many other devices with obscure names I can't remember), and the major writers each took advantage of that in a distinct way mostly lost in translations or summaries (and the stories still linger, just by virtue of their respective plots).  English isn't hardly as malleable I think, we have some devices but eh.  Forget the SAT-boost people always push, do latin to make an aesthetic comparison.
"Greatness recognizes greatness, and is shadowed by it." --Harold Bloom
[ Parent ]

And yet (4.50 / 2) (#80)
by Scrymarch on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 04:53:17 PM EST

The key point of the first 1700 words should surely be to grab the readers attention in the subject.  It did that.  It followed up by showing that you can think differently if you read or write in Latin.  That's surely the greatest reason for learning it.  It's not like there's a lot of opportunities to stammer out the Latin for "have you got any beds free" shy of the university Classical Club ball.

And maybe working from the grammar out isn't a completely daft way to approach new languages.  I seem to remember Sir Richard F. Burton tackled new languages that way.  I doubt there's any of his linguistic calibre on k5, but I for one welcomed the "Latin For The Impatient"[1] style of this article.  

In fact I think a few more classical language primers would be cool.  "Classical Chinese / Sanskrit for the Impatient", anyone?  All the same arguments apply for learning it.

(1.  There's a stylish primer for the Python programming language from which I stole that title.)

[ Parent ]

It's a Guide! (4.00 / 1) (#94)
by digitalmedievalist on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 11:19:54 PM EST

Boldra wrote:

Obviously trying to teach a langauge in 1700 words isn't going to get very far, but I think this was a largely useless introduction to a language.

Notice the title, yes, that's right it says "Guide." Not "introduction," not "primer," it's a guide. That is, an overview of the general features. Notice too, that it's only Part I. I suspect (and hope) that it will be followed by Part II.

For those who are interested in a "conversational" approach to Latin, I'm quite fond of C. J. Cherryh's (linguist and award winning SF author) Latin I: The Easy Way.



[ Parent ]
to all of you who think this was a bad intro (4.25 / 4) (#75)
by Dogun on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 02:55:32 PM EST

I should remind you that in fact he's conjugated first conjugation verbs, in the present tense, both active and passive, in addition to declining first declension nouns. In addition, he's breifly gone over some differences between Latin and other languages, Latin and english, shown you what you will be able to translate much later on, (the Aeneid), and though he hasn't gone over the specifics of any case, he's given a good INTRODUCTION to Latin. Assuming his next one starts with some more present tense verb work, more stuff with nouns, adjectives, and goes over in more detail one of the cases - whether it be dative, accusative, genetive, nominative, ablative, or the elusive locative case, I think this could be a rather interesting regular installment to kuro5hin. I took lating for 6 years, though it's been 3 years since then, but I still read the Amores, the Aeneid, some Catullus... a review would probably be good, methinks, as as time passes I seem to be able to translate less and less. Lucretius, once easy for me, has become obscure. So I would mod any subsequent posts up in hopes of seeing them on the front page. Out of greed and out of wanting to see some other people learn a useless but rich language. Oh, and for those of you who hope to read some signs or something from the movie gladiator, they've got grammatical errors, sorry to sink your battleship.

No, sir, you are wrong. (3.66 / 3) (#76)
by Trollaxor on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 03:21:12 PM EST

There is both way too much non-Latin language information, as well as way too much grammar, for a beginner to seriously begin learning the language with.

This piece, with a little work, would have made a decent essay on Latin in regards to its political and historical place in the world-- not as a primer for beginners.

[ Parent ]

Indeed (none / 0) (#78)
by nanook on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 04:20:19 PM EST

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.

--
"I am a charlatan, a liar, a thief and a fake altogether." -- James Randi

fancy phrases (none / 0) (#118)
by Wolf Keeper on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 02:39:11 PM EST

Roughly "Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound", right?

Hot diggety am I rusty.  I had an outstanding Latin professor at the University of Scranton, and if it wasn't for needing a marketable education, I would have minored in the subject.  If I had a chance to do college again, I would certainly try for fluency in the language.

[ Parent ]

CURSES! (none / 0) (#133)
by Control Group on Mon Dec 30, 2002 at 03:07:22 PM EST

It should be "Quidquid?"

I've had a sign reading "Quid latine dictum sit, altum viditur" hanging in my cube for a year now...this is what I get for trying to be funny in a language I never seriously studied. *sigh*

***
"Oh, nothing. It just looks like a simple Kung-Fu Swedish Rastafarian Helldemon."
[ Parent ]

A couple notes... (4.00 / 2) (#79)
by Sairon on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 04:44:52 PM EST

one, I have had to learn the Italian language for practical purposes, being an American in Italy. Alot is the same, and I can say that you do need to change the way you think. Native English speakers who try to directly translate word-for-word have a great difficulty communicating. Simply learning to think and speak another language works much better. It can be a tiring thing to do at first, but is well worth it. Pay attention to the flow and sound of it, and it becomes easier. It's the same as how something 'sounds' right in English.

Also, I was recently in a bar with several Spanish speaking people. I found that we were able to communicate quite freely in an odd combination of Italian, Spanish and English. French, though, just sounds horrid to me. Perhaps thats because I generally don't get along with the French people as well. :)

As a final note, I've found that English has replaced Latin as the language of education. Anyone I know that is educated in Italy knows English rather well. The uneducated do not. I've met people from many different nations who can speak English to a level where I can communicate with them. This, though, I think is a poor excuse for native English speakers to only speak English. I'm glad I've had a chance to be taught another language by its native speakers. Good luck to anyone learning Latin!

Jared

Your lackluster intro (1.57 / 7) (#81)
by uniball vision micro on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 05:07:41 PM EST

"In a world that was better governed than the one in which we are forced to dwell,"

Which 'world' was this? The Roman empire had a series of problems. Their modern counterparts the Byzantines were mostly just cheap people who bought off most of their enemies.

" Latin was the foundation of the educational system, and the fountain of literacy: to know how to read and write was to know how to read and write Latin."

So your point? And being able to read and write in America means you know english.

"  Knowing Latin, you could speak to anyone else who had been educated under the same régime."

Yeah it's called a classical education and thank god that disappeared from the face of the earth. Want to know what subject people on earth failed most (a hint the article is about it)?

"  Knowledge of the Latin language remains a matter worth pursuing. "

For antiquarians, and people with little to do in their lives.

"For speakers of English, Latin offers more than most others of the valuable intellectual exercise that comes from the study of foreign languages. "

Oh here it comes some rather trite explanation of why anyone would care. It's a *DEAD* language. get over it.

" It opens a door to the classical, mediæval, and renaissance worlds."

Which are written in more books than almost any subject for nearly 500+ years in English. You don't need to read and write latin.

"  The Latin language has a solemn beauty and cultural resonance that few others share."

Yeah whatever that's all relative.

"  It enhances your appreciation of the greatest music written in Europe."

Italian is more about music unless you count ancient monotonal chanting and even then that dosn't count for much.

" In this article, which your interest or lack of same may turn into a series of several, we consider the grammatical structure of Latin and how it contrasts with English. "

Boooorrrrriiiiinnggggg! How could anyone get through some <i>grammatical</i> analysis of one of the most pointless languages on earth. Reading the phone book is more interesting.
"So far as the record goes, no lover of drinking has yet gone out into the night and shot himself as a gesture of protest" Gilbert Seldes, The Future of Drinking 1930

boring? (none / 0) (#83)
by Rahaan on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 05:20:40 PM EST

Ovid was a pimp.  if you could read his works (hint:  they're in latin) maybe you could get laid, instead of bitching about decent articles on K5.

plus, Julius Caesar would've conquered half the world, if he were alive today, even though his main claim to fame is conquering Gaul.  I could conquer France.  but that's besides the point.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]

whatever (none / 0) (#112)
by uniball vision micro on Mon Dec 23, 2002 at 01:37:59 AM EST

"Ovid was a pimp."

Some sort of silly modern slang going on. See I assumed that a pimp was a prostitute manager but maybe that's just me.

Speaking of the 'factual' part here I doubt that some ancient has even a remote bearing on the concept of love and relationships.

I watched some decent documentary on PBS and learned at least enough about that man to assume that such a characterization is invalid.

"  if you could read his works "

If I wished I could because some people (who happened to have a large ammount of sense in the matter) translated the poem and made it readable from some obscure language into the de facto language of thinking people in the world: English.

"(hint:  they're in latin)"

not anymore read what I posted above

" maybe you could get laid,"

Oh come on do you really think that cheesy pickup lines from the 1st century AD are going to work on women? Even more likely would be some Shakespearean sonnet or something but how often does that work now honestly?

" instead of bitching about decent articles on K5."

Frankly I have no interest in such just trying to inform some silliness that most people in previous generations have already dealt with.
"So far as the record goes, no lover of drinking has yet gone out into the night and shot himself as a gesture of protest" Gilbert Seldes, The Future of Drinking 1930
[ Parent ]

Ave puella! (none / 0) (#119)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Tue Dec 24, 2002 at 10:02:44 PM EST

Vulneratus estne? Descensus ab caelo dolor est.

Roughly:

Hey baby! Are you alright? 'Cause it must have hurt when you fell down from heaven!

Literally:

Hail girl! Have you been hurt? To descend from heaven is pain.

And for all the K5 girls...

Catapulta in sinu estne...

Is that a catapult in your pocket...

(My latin is too far gone to have a chance at doing "or" or "to see me" without a few hours of study...)

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Ouch (4.00 / 1) (#121)
by Banjonardo on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 01:34:47 AM EST

Ok, as obviously trollish as this sounds, I'll bite.

de facto language of thinking people in the world: English.

de facto? That just hurts. You can't use Latin in a language like that! I thought you were a thinking man!

By the way, "thinking people of the world?" And what the hell do you know about the "thinking people of the world?" (We all think, but I know what you mean.) Just because many, many countries teach english as a second language does not mean they observe it as somehow 'better', it just shows how everyone is learning the language of the country they are most likely doing business with in their careers.
I like Muffins. MOLDY muffins.
[ Parent ]

Ouch (none / 0) (#122)
by Banjonardo on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 02:09:25 AM EST

Ok, as obviously trollish as this sounds, I'll bite.

de facto language of thinking people in the world: English.

de facto? That just hurts. You can't use Latin in a language like that! I thought you were a thinking man!

By the way, "thinking people of the world?" And what the hell do you know about the "thinking people of the world?" (We all think, but I know what you mean.) Just because many, many countries teach english as a second language does not mean they observe it as somehow 'better', it just shows how everyone is learning the language of the country they are most likely doing business with in their careers.
I like Muffins. MOLDY muffins.
[ Parent ]

you're right (none / 0) (#136)
by Rahaan on Thu Jan 02, 2003 at 10:30:59 AM EST

I forgot that, two thousand years ago, people didn't like to blingbling and bang women.  And even fall in love.  Both of which Ovid was fairly renowend for..

As for reading a translation, yeah, you can do that.  Have you ever seen a program ported from C++ to Visual Basic?  Yeah, you can kinda understand it, but it's not good, let alone pretty.  Your final remark about not repeating what previous generations have done, well, um, pretty much everything we do is repetitive or has been done before.  And that which is not is based upon the ideas of those previous.. sucks to your ass-mar.


you know, jake.. i've noticed that, since the tacos started coming, the mail doesn't so much come as often, or even at all
[ Parent ]

Latin -is- education (3.00 / 1) (#87)
by IHCOYC on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 08:19:06 PM EST

"In a world that was better governed than the one in which we are forced to dwell,"

Which 'world' was this? The Roman empire had a series of problems. Their modern counterparts the Byzantines were mostly just cheap people who bought off most of their enemies.

You get your pick here. Serious education was based on Latin throughout Western Europe, and most places settled by Europeans, until at least World War I, when the unfortunate educational philosophies of John Dewey began to have widespread influence.

At one point, Latin was for all practical purposes the chief object of education. John Locke damned the language with faint praise, and put it this way:

Latin I look upon as absolutely necessary to a gentleman; and indeed custom, which prevails over every thing, has made it so much a part of education, that even those children are whipped to it, and made spend many hours of their precious time uneasily in Latin, who, after they are once gone from school, are never to have more to do with it as long as they live.

Choke the last Santa with the guts of the last reindeer!
[ Parent ]

Latin & education (5.00 / 1) (#135)
by slippytoad on Tue Dec 31, 2002 at 10:26:16 AM EST

Your John Dewey link was more revealing about your viewpoint than Dewey's. The major objection on the linked page was to Dewey's "atheism" rather than any practical result of educating with or without his system. Having studied both Latin and logic, it's not hard to dismantle such a fallacious piece of tripe as little more than ad hominem.

The real reason Latin isn't a major focus in education anymore is #1 it's a dead language, and #2 it's no longer the language of science and learning. That language is now, for better or worse, English.

It's useful to study if you're a linguist, or you want to open the door to several major Romance languages at once (my Latin has helped me decipher many Spanish, French, and Italian signs and phrases, and I can easily pick up on what's being said in a foreign-language film without reading the subtitles too much), or if you want to trace the roots of English words. Other than that, it's got very few applications in our modern world. If you want to learn intellectual discipline, you can study just about any complex subject (try learning a low-level computer programming language -- you will learn both logic and intellectual discipline very rapidly). Sorry, but you haven't presented a very compelling reason why we should reintroduce mandatory Latin education into our schools. I'm not saying it's a bad thing; I did benefit from my Latin education, though very little of my actual ability to read Latin remains. It's just that your argument sucks.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain
[ Parent ]

Well, yeah, you really do need Latin (none / 0) (#93)
by digitalmedievalist on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 11:04:51 PM EST

>>" It opens a door to the classical, mediæval, and
>>renaissance worlds."

>Which are written in more books than almost any
>subject for nearly 500+ years in English. You don't
>need to read and write latin.

Yes, you really do need Latin if you want to deal with primary documents, though you need to move from Classical Latin to the more "vulgar" medieval forms to really get much out of the documents. If you look at scholarly monographs on things medieval and renaissance, they assume you can read Latin with ease.

And of course, don't forget that Latin will help with Celtic languages ;) .



[ Parent ]
I want to thank you for this intro. (5.00 / 6) (#88)
by Krankor on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 09:10:16 PM EST

Yes, I know there is nothing new in Latin, it's not some "must try it
now" Object Oriented fade like Slashdot likes to boast every week.  It
has in fact been here for a while, and this is the problem with it. It
is so ubiquitous that the same year I was to have my first "mandatory"
Latin course, they took it off the official cursus and cancelled all
classes.

At the time I wasn't too sad, since it meant one less subject to
fail/pass.  

But now, I'm not so sure.

I do speak 4 languages in total, mostly because I was born in a
bilingual place bordering France and Italy and after that because of my
travels.  English and German came after.  In all these cases I admit to
see things clearer and learn languages better if I refer to old Greek
and Latin.  Today I'm learning Japanese on my own and as you said, the
subject + something + verb structure is omnipresent since it is also a
language that expands to the left.

Latin, at a good level and not my pathetic and rudimentary one, would
have help a bit as it presents an other way very early of re-organising
your ideas. And since to speak a language you must do a sort of "NY
school of acting effort" to totally think in that language's logics, a
bit of Latin early on at school would have been a very good
saddle-braking of the mind.

An other great thing Latin and Greeks can be used to, is to see thru the
usual modern English corruption of words.  Compatibility vs
campatability is one example.

I my travels in the Old World, I have found in London a 1920 American
Webster dictionary.  It's a 2620 pages big huge book that has all the
roots in their respective language. Old Normand French, Germanic, Greek
and Latin. This is what your American well of all knowledge was, not so
long ago.  Check if there is such beast at your local library, this
really shows you a different America than the one that thinks"writeing"
is an English word.  Heck, I have visions of George Orwell's novlang
from 1984 as I am writing this.

Most misspelled English words today, or misunderstood, are of course
those alien looking Greek or Latin ones.  A bit of Latin would help here
or else you are going to find Italians, French or Spanish kids spelling
them and understanding them better than a native speaker.  Why should we
care? Well because each language is a sort of time capsule that contains
traces of contacts with other cultures.  You'll find some French words
in Russian (aristocracy), some old German in Scottish (old old roots
there), lots of them in bordering countries (obviously), and of course
in the case of English a patchwork of many roots. In fact English is one
of the most patchwork-ed languages I have ever seen, and of course there
is lots of Latin in it.  So an English speaker should be at least aware
of his/her patrimony.

A funny note, I have found that a few people take a pleasure out of
inverting Greek and Latin in modern words, claiming  a totally
different meaning just in order to put upset the "other guy". Is
hydroplaning THAT different from aquaplaning in meaning?  (water-planing
vs water-planing) Now that you know that both mean the same, would you
seriously fight over it? Some do, and I think the joke is on them.  Why?
 Because of Latin or Greek not being dead after all.

Of course there are those who say that Latin is totally dead as "English
is a Lingua Franca" very seriously without seeing the contradiction in
terms that sentence.  But I leave that sort of gaffe to G. W. Bush
himself.

Aquaplane or Hydroplane? (none / 0) (#130)
by phliar on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 09:38:22 PM EST

Is hydroplaning THAT different from aquaplaning in meaning?
All this is my opinion of course, and I expect it to make zero (0) difference to anyone else. I much prefer the sound of aquaplane to hydroplane since aqua- is from Latin, as is -plane; but hydro- is Greek.

That said, the two words have different meanings now: hydroplanes are those monster boats they race in the sea around Seattle, and your aeroplane (nicer word than airplane!) aquaplanes when you land it on a wet runway.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

applause (4.00 / 1) (#91)
by blisspix on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 10:25:46 PM EST

great article. I've tried a few times to learn Latin but it really does need a lot of time devoted to it. Thanks for explaining some of the basic structural stuff.

Languages are essential if you do any professional writing at all, whether that's at work, or at university, or if you write fiction. Not because of the language itself, but because learning a language gives you a really good understanding of how English works. I've paid a lot more attention to grammar and sentence structure since I started a Master's degree and it's been made easier because I studied Italian for four years at school and university.

I look forward to part 2.

If i were to write this article (none / 0) (#92)
by sye on Sat Dec 21, 2002 at 10:41:57 PM EST

i'll finish it in just one sentence. Get G.D.A. Sharpley's "Essential Latin - The Language and life of ancient Rome" and don't waste your time chewing kuro5hin Latin linguini.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
commentary - For a better sye@K5
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ripple me ~~> ~allthingsgo: gateway to Garden of Perfect Brightess in CNY/BTC/LTC/DRK
rubbing u ~~> ~procrasti: getaway to HE'LL
Hey! at least he was in a stable relationship. - procrasti
enter K5 via Blastar.in

Using Virgil as an example... (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by sean23007 on Sun Dec 22, 2002 at 10:47:48 AM EST

Using Virgil's Aeneid as an example of how different Latin is from English is deceiving at best. The Aeneid was a poem, and as such the words were often misplaced (even according to normal Latin conventions), many endings were changed or omitted, and many words are blended into the previous in order for Virgil to fit the poem into dactylic hexameter. This would be more accurate in comparison to something like Shakespeare, who often had to do the same things with his iambic pentameter.

A better comparison to English would be a work from Cicero, who was an orator rather than a poet. Virgil highlights a lot of differences between Latin and English, but so would many English poets were the positions reversed. How accurate a representation of the English language would we get if we only used the work of one poet to represent it? A comparison by Cicero might not show as many glaring differences, but it would be more accurate and more realistic.

Lack of eloquence does not denote lack of intelligence, though they often coincide.
Questions on English grammar (none / 0) (#123)
by omghax on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 03:53:21 AM EST

Dictionary.com says that an oblique case "designates any noun case except the vocative or genetive". You say that "me" is in the oblique case, but using the aforestated definition I am still unable to comprehend what it actually is. You say that "me" is genitive, but I was taught that the genitive case was the possessive case, and this contradicts the above definition, so I am even further confused. If you could explain this "oblique" case I would appreciate it.

Also, something has been nagging me - the English words "mine" and "yours". What are these? They appear to be forms of the words "I" and "you", respectively, but I do not know what case they would be in.



I put the "LOL" in phiLOLigcal leadership - vote for OMGHAX for CMF president!
A typo (Unless you're Popeye) (none / 0) (#124)
by IHCOYC on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 07:25:13 AM EST

"Me" is the oblique and "my" is genitive, while "mine" is an adjective.

The way you tell is whether they can be a predicate that follows the verb "to be." That is mine is a well-formed English sentence; **that is my is not possible. Only an adjective occurs in this position in Latin, and only a possessive adjective in English.

(With other nouns, English and Latin differ. In English it's possible to get away with The apple is the horse's, but in Latin you'd use a dative for the same purpose: malum est equo, literally, "the apple is for the horse.")

Choke the last Santa with the guts of the last reindeer!
[ Parent ]

Possessive adjective (none / 0) (#125)
by omghax on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 11:45:00 AM EST

If "mine" is an adjective, would it be correct to say "Mine knowledge is weak"? Isn't this a redundancy ("My knowledge" etc)?

Or can it only be used in the predicate form, IE some kind of "predicate adjective"?


I put the "LOL" in phiLOLigcal leadership - vote for OMGHAX for CMF president!
[ Parent ]
Genitives versus adjectives (none / 0) (#126)
by IHCOYC on Wed Dec 25, 2002 at 10:41:19 PM EST

My knowledge is weak corresponds exactly to the usage of the English genitive: IHCOYC's knowledge is weak. There is therefore no contrast in this construction that enables you to label one a genitive and one an adjective.

Historically, the difference between English my and mine was similar to the usage of a vs. an; the forms with /n/ stood before vowel sounds, the forms without before consonants. This was still the case in Tyndale's day, and in texts preserving the pattern as a poetic archaism: Mine eyes have seen the glory. . . Current usage prescribes my eyes, and allows mine in restricted situations that are relatively emphatic. These are usually, but not always, predicative. A sentence like Mine is the red one is also possible in contemporary English.

Choke the last Santa with the guts of the last reindeer!
[ Parent ]

Thanks =] (NT) (none / 0) (#127)
by omghax on Thu Dec 26, 2002 at 01:39:39 AM EST



I put the "LOL" in phiLOLigcal leadership - vote for OMGHAX for CMF president!
[ Parent ]
A beginner's guide to the Latin language, part 1 | 137 comments (109 topical, 28 editorial, 0 hidden)
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