Linguistics

Ok. I’m going to try to move some ‘comments’ to a new venue.

272 Comments

  1. HRHSpence

    [gentle music] Casimi wakes. He arises. He washes. [dramatic music] He rubs his hurting stomach. [major cords] He eats eggs and bread.

  2. smartcat

    Looking good, Nand’ Spence! 🙂 😀 😆

  3. tyr

    I was thinking this morning, inspired by the historical thread,
    In the times of the English fashion when men wore the ruff and
    cast their cloaks in the mud to save a ladies shoes, a new word
    came into the language.

    Apparently the belligerent bravos of the day began to wear giant
    ruffs 6 to 7 feet across and had swords made with extra long
    blades for use on any who bumped into their ruff. They were
    called Ruffians. The response of the authorities was to issue
    a pair of large scissors and blacksmith tongs to the watch who
    used the scissors to prune the ruff to reasonable dimensions,
    and the tongs to break the swordblade to 3 feet in length.

  4. HRHSpence

    OK, CJ I have a question on the pronunciation of a name from the Fortress series:

    Ninevrise

  5. Andrew_W

    Hi,

    I am trying to learn an alien language! May I post things here regarding the Latin I am trying to learn?

  6. Andrew_W

    Well here goes my attempt to learn an alien language.

    Here are the tools I am using:

    One copy Winne-the-Pooh by A.A.Milne
    One copy Winne-ille-Pu Latin translation by Alexander Lenard
    One copy Cassel’s Latin English dictionary
    One copy of “WORDS – Version 1.97F”
    LATIN-ENGLISH DICTIONARY PROGRAM (this thing is a hoot)

    Lesson 1
    I started with some simple stuff. Just going into Cassel’s and picking words and trying to fit them into short sentences.

    Poo / to Christopher / spoke Pu Christophorum eloqui

    To speak: Loqui from which we get eloquent?
    To speak a lot: loquatious? L, Loqui ad nauseum
    ===============================================

    Poo / food / eats Pu victis edere

    victis:eat From which we get victuals, or vitils? Literally eatables????!!!
    ===============================================

    Poo / to Piglet /walks Pu Porcelli ambulate

    ambulare:walk ambulate, ambulance?, amble (as in wander)
    ===============================================

    Poo / Christorpher /waves Pu Christophorum gestus
    gestus: gesture hoping it can equal “waves to”

    ===============================================

    Christopher Pu drags Christophorum Pu traho
    trhaho/tractus traction? sounds right

    ==============================================

    Pu Christorphorum gestus. Pu Christophorum eloqui. Christophorum et Pu Porcelli ambulare.
    =============Winnie the Poo 1st page translation =============

    My attempt at translating the chapter heading of chapter one.

    In this chapter we find Winnie the Pooh and some bees and the story begins.

    I had a lot of trouble with this as the latin didn’t seem to make sense. “Some Bees” was a misery.

    I am actually a little further along in Winnie-Ille-Pu now and I am concerned with my own ego.
    Sometimes the Latin just does not seem to make sense. So much so that I am revers engineering Lenard’s Latin and trying out different ways to get the English into Latin. My hope is that I will be better able to understand what I am reading. So here goes my attempt to get that chapter heading into a Latin that I can parse. If I am out to lunch here I would like to know. This is sucking up considerable amounts of time.

    What the original English text says

    In which we are introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and some bees and our story begins

    The Latin from Winne-Ille-Pu

    Quo in capite nobis ostentantur Winnie-Ille-Pu atque apes nonullae et incipiunt fabulae.

    When I translate into Latin based on Actor/Actee/Action I broke the extisting long sentence down differently and I get the first phrase
    Actor / Actee/ Action
    Qou in/ nobis /Winne-ille-Pu atque apes nonullae introductus et fabulae incipiunt.

    I dropped the word “capite” because Milne does not use the word “chapter”. He says simply “In which”. Also I have added the word “introductus” because according to Milne we are “introduced” to Winnie and some bees. Lenard uses the word ostentantur which by my electronic dictionary does not really mean “introduce” at all. Also I placed “introductus” at the end of the phrase about the bees following the model
    Actor / Actee/Action

    In which (the chapter is actor)/we (the acted upon)/ to Winne the Pooh and some bees are introduced. (the action).

    And I finish with;

    et fabulae incipiunt

    I inverted the phrase to put the action “begins” at the end.

    So that was my first attempt at lesson 1. I hope I am not completely out to lunch on my approach. I am just beginning and realize I am going to spending a lot of time on this lesson.

    • CJ

      Lol: you’ve found my Latin lessons on http://www.cherryh.com. I really do need to get the beginner comic books up.

      Loqui is not the easiest verb to master. Try ‘like’. The format for the conjugation (run-through) of a verb is: the I form, the you singular, the he (she, it); second column: the plurals, we, then you, then they.
      For ama, meaning like! as a command, it’s -o (remove the a); -s, -t. Plural -mus, -tis, -nt.
      Latin doesn’t speak the pronouns with verbs. Amo means I like or I love (they’re not particular about that, either.) Amas, you singular like; amat, he likes. Amamus we like, amatis, y’all like, amant, they like.
      WOrks with habe- (have)
      WOrks with veni! (come!)
      You want to change tenses and talk about the past? For an -a- verb, it’s vi,visti, vit; and vimus, vistis, verunt (v is pronounced like a u. ui, uisti, uit, uimus, uistis, uerunt. WHich we do kind of like a -w-)
      The past root of habe is just hab-.
      There are some other verb classes that change more radically. But you can make a past progressive (I was walking or I often walked or I used to walk instead of I [once or one time] walked) out of most anything with -bam, -bas, -bat; -bamus, -batis, -bant. Amabam means I used to like. Amavi means I liked. Ambula! walk! (ambulance) — ambulo—I’m walking; ambulabam–I often walked; ambulavi — I once walked. Implies ‘on that day’ I walked.
      Habeo–I’ve got. I possess. Habebam—I used to own a… (don’t use this as an auxiliary verb: Latin doesn’t use aux. verbs much.) Habui…once I owned a…
      Make sense?
      Now, there are some finesses: an -io type verb keeps its i but never has 2 i’s, and picks up a -u- on its plural they. Veni! Come! venio (I’m coming), venis, venit; venimus, venitis, veniunt. Note that -iu- it picked up on the last form. All -io ending verbs do that. Capi—take! capio, capis, capit; capimus, capitis, capiunt.
      Easiest way to learn verbs? Learn one -a- verb, a long-e verb, like habe; and an -i- verb. Any new word fits into one of those categories. A’s behave like a’s. Long-e’s behave like long-e’s, etc. They rhyme. Learn one, know them all.

  7. Raesean

    I started playing around with learning Latin as a teenager by working out the genitive via a facing column translation of Orff’s Carmina Burana, but then went on to take the language in college. I must say it is easier in a classroom.

    We presume that classic children’s literature is an “easy” read, but I don’t find Winnie ille Pu (That’s the Winnie the Pooh Latin translation) particularly easy at all. My spouse and I and a few friends taught ourselves Ancient Greek from a textbook and then decided to polish it up by translating Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit (inspired by all the marvelous translations into other languages available). I am here to say that Beatrix Potter does NOT write straight forward, easy syntax English! We have produced a fairly tolerable translation, Petros Lagwos (transliteration there) but the phrases and sentiments expressed are tough to nail! Same with Winne ille Pu.

  8. Andrew_W

    Oh my goodness, yes I was at your website checking stuff out when I happened on the link to learning an alien Lanquage. When I teach a history class I always try to get my students into the mindsets prevalent at that time. And, I stress that they should think of people in the past as Alien Species.

    I was taken by the idea of learning Latin the way I learned English. I have a Masters in medieval history and still have trouble wading through English grammar. I also like the idea that Latin, when it was alive in the 1st century would not normally be spoken or even used in some high n mighty always perfect manner. One wonders what a Roman carpenter would scream out when his hammer mashes his thumb. Or better how a drunken Roman would proposition of hooker. What does vile, slimy Latin without the veneer of civilization sound like?

    Hard syntax was a hallmark of just about anything written in fiction before the publication, of “Elements of Style”, (I forget the author’s name)re “Moby Dick”, and “The Leather Stocking Tales”of “Elements of Style”, and of course Hemmingway. J.R.R. Tolkien’s style was so 19th century that my wife, who can’t stand that wordy style, found The Hobbit to be an absolute slog. Hadn’t succeeded in finishing it in several attempts until after the Lord of the Rings films came out.

  9. Andrew_W

    So here goes my attempt at the 1st sentence.

    Lenard writes:
    Ecce Eduardus Ursus scalis nund tump-tump-tump occipite gradus pulsante post Chrisophorum Robinum descendus.

    And my very first question is, Why tump instead of thump?

    ugh, Anyhoot, here is what I can parse just off the cuff, no dictionaries just my best guess. I am going to do this, because every time I go to the dictionaries I find that there are a lot words present that I should have been able to guess at and get pretty close. I will use blanks to represent words that I just can’t figure out.

    ___ Eduard Bear with the steady, thump, thump, thump, of his head as he follows Christopher Robin down the stairs.

    Ecce, I don’t know what that means. Looks like EEK! oh dear. Maybe, untwist, de-mutate, … no way… I use EEK a lot in English especially when I am communicating with the typed word, online game text buffers, text messages etc. It’s goofy, gets a laugh it’s a favorite. EEK is an expression of surprise, yes, but of what? Of something that has appeared suddenly, as in “What is this HERE, or HERE IS something…

    Check the dictionary: Egads Ecce and EEK mean pretty much the same thing. Context, Pooh’s entrance isn’t described in alarming terms is it? So de-mutating EEK to Ecce and it looks like it’s just “Here is”.
    Dang another word I should have been able to guess at. So here is my dictionary pass:

    Here is Eduard Bear, the back of his head going Thump Thump Thump, as he follows Chrisoper Robin down the stairs.

    Or:
    Here is Eduard bear descending the stairs after Chistopher Robin the back of his head going thump thump thump on the steps. (that is soooooo academic sounding, “descending” sheesh. Can’t be right)

    Something doesn’t sound right yet. There is a complication I am missing here. I am going to have to break into the original text to see this I think.

    • Raesean

      “Ecce” basically means “behold” or “Look it this!”

      Why “tump” instead of THump? “Th” is a Greek “sound” (expressed by the letter “theta”). The Romans, speaking Latin, didn’t have that sound. “Th” in English stands for two sounds that both the Greeks and the Romans didn’t have (so, actually, that’s the better reason why it’s “tump” rather than ‘thump.”) There is the “th” sound in “the” and the “th” sound in, well, “thump.” Both are found in Old English, Old Norse and precious few other languages in the world (Fries, a dialect of Dutch that is closely related to English, does have it).

      If you listen to many non-native speakers of English (or descendants of non-native speakers like the Irish in Cork, Jamaicans and many, many more), the pronounce “th” as “d” (“dis,”dat,” etc.). In the case of Cork Irish, instead of saying “three,” they say “tree.” Quite fascinating! I love to tell my linguistics students about this!

      • jcsalomon

        Masoretic Hebrew (Biblical Hebrew as (re)constructed by 7th–11th-century scholars) also had both the “th” sounds [ð] & [θ]. In the letters that transliterate as [b], [d], [g], [k], [p], & [t], there is a marker, the dagesh, that indicates (by its absence) the fricative version of the letter: [v], [ð], [ɣ], [χ], [f], and [θ], respectively.

        Some of these sounds have been lost in actual pronunciation: [ð] & [ɣ] are now simply [d] & [g] (except where, under Arabic influence, [ɣ] became [j]); and [θ] became [s] in Europe, simply [t] elsewhere.

    • Hanneke

      @Andrew-W: I’ve been thinking about your remarks about onomatopoeia, like bump-tump-thump. Though they are based on the same sound, they are not written the same way in different languages. Some of that is because languages use different spellings for the same pronounciation. Also, though the vowel sound seems often to be very similar in the different languages (for the few examples I know), the consonants can be quite different. That is probably down to something like historic use or cultural conventions.
      For example a cow’s moo in Dutch is spelled boeh. Most of the difference can be reasoned out: the Dutch oe is pronounced exactly like the English oo; h makes the sound long (to differentiate it from the shorter peek-a-boo = kiek-e-boe), but why the first consonant is heard as an m in English and as a b in Dutch is something I can’t explain, except that these consonants aren’t that far apart in mouth-shape and sound.
      A cock’s crow is cock-a-doodle-doo in English, cocorico in French, and kukeleku in Dutch – quite different though clearly containing some related sounds, and I don’t expect the birds sound any different!
      A loud explosive sound might be ka-boom or bang in English, and knal in Dutch (a different a-sound); a dull thud would be bons (short) or dreun (long, reverberating dull thud) – in these cases even the vowel sounds are different.
      I don’t really see any way to systematically predict which elements of a sound a language will latch onto, to use in their onomatopoeia, or how they will choose to spell those sounds out. But it’s clear that letters or lettercombinations that don’t exist in ordinary words in that language will not be used in onomatopoeia either (like the Greek and English th not existing in Latin); and if you know how a language pronounces it’s letters, and especially the vowels, you can guess which of them come closest to the sound they are supposed to mimic.
      So unless some latin writer had used bumping or thumping in some surviving text, it’d be quite hard to predict what they’d use, and you can’t automatically assume it’d be the same as in modern English.

  10. Andrew_W

    Did any of you folks see “The 13th Warrior”? There is a really cool game played in that film where the main character begins his journey into an alien language. Those scenes bring a cheap pseudo barbarian movie up a couple of notches.

  11. Andrew_W

    Well I have worked on that first sentence a bit more. I have gotten to that point where have to look at the English version and compare notes.

    I found what was complicating things for me. First onomatopoeia: This is something that has baffled me in several instances in translations of a lot of things. Lenard translates “bump, bump, bump,” as “tump, tump, tump”. I have no idea why. When I go from English to Latin my electronic dictionary does not translate the onomatopoeia of bump as a sound something makes. When I go back from Latin to English, “tump” just draws a complete blank. One is left wondering if Latin has a “B” phoneme or not. So I came up with “thump” instead of “bump”.

    The next complication is something that I really need to explore, because this kind of thing is going to haunt me. “downstairs” Lenard is having a problem with this word. In two consecutive sentences he translates it two different ways. If he is confused of course his readers will be. In the second sentence Lenard translates it as “gradus … decendus” with the whole phrase “coming downstairs” reading “scalis nunc…gradus…decendus”. Good grief, that’s just plain over written however correct it might be. But I can tell Lenard is confused because in the very next sentence he struggles with “downstairs” again. He comes up with an even MORE elaborate translation for “downstairs” with “gradibus decendendi”.

    Here is his problem. Looking at the word order he is trying to figure out how to translate “downstairs” as an action. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s an action at all. “Downstairs is a location, like “uphill” or “downhill”. It is actually more of a descriptor than an action. In short it’s an adjective. It is just like the words “uphill” and “downhill” “Uphill” describes the place one gets to by “walking up hill”. Same with downhill, but in reverse. These two words have Latin equivalents. Downhill = devexa which my electronic dictionary calls and adjective. Uphill = ardua, also an adjective. So I think I need a new word here. I need the Latin adjective for “downstairs”. Unfortunately my electronic dictionary comes up blank on “downstairs” ugh.

    On a different tack, I did notice that devexa and ardua have “a” at the end. Given Lenard’s confusion, I wonder what the relationship between verbs and adjectives is in Latin?

    So I am going to have to rethink my translation of the second and third sentences. If my dictionary does not serve I may have to pull a trick out of German and make up a descriptor word/contraction that seems to make sense. Hopefully Latin allows such things. But, in the end I am pretty certain that “downstairs” should not be handled as though it were the action in this context.

  12. CJ

    There’s no relationship between verbs and adjectives. Adjectives take noun-type endings. Verbs take verbal endings.
    Latin pronounces p and b as fairly similar. I don’t know why Lenard did what he did with thump. Latin would probably use ‘subter’ and ‘supra’ for downstairs and upstairs. Their houses didn’t tend to be multifloor, except the insulae (apartments), which could be up to 8 stories.
    A warning about Lenard’s Latin. His is based on mediaeval usage, and when he doesn’t know a word, he makes it up, or constructs it out of pieces that sometimes don’t make sense together. I recall one of my students being very distressed that ‘unda’, a water wave, simply could not be used for waving your hand: if it did it in English, she reasoned, certainly all languages think the same. She had a person rather well rippling like Jell-o, when what she wanted was crispat manu mappam, eg. (she brandishes a handkerchief in her hand.)

  13. Andrew_W

    So, to check my understanding of what Lenard says, I re-translate back to English, and compare that to the original English. This has caused all sorts of distracting side hops. But here is the my translation of the first two sentences back into Latin from A.A. Milne’s original. {Crossing my fingers hoping I am not saying something really outrageous}

    Qou in nobis Winne-ille-Pu atque apes nonullae introductus et fabulae incipiunt. Ecce Eduarus Ursus decensio venio nunc, bump, bump, bump, occipite gradus pulsante Christophorum Robinum post.

    On bump, bump, bump. Maybe it really should be tump, but I am going to let bump stand. Translating onomatopoeia is really a rough concept for me. At one point I got confused and thought the original was Thump. Apparently Latin does not have a “TH” so tump would be right. But how about “bump”? I know Latin has a “B” sound from the name Brutus. So I think bump can stay.

    Andrew

    On to the third sentence.

  14. Andrew_W

    Poor Lenard is having conniptions again with “downstairs” He has it:

    Est qoud sciat unus et solus modus gradibus descendendi, nonnunquam autem sentit, etiam alterum modum exstare, dummodo pulsationibus desinere et de eo modo meditari possit.

    Milne:
    It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.

    Well, me being me, I had to try a different path. Here is what I came up with:

    Est quod, tamquam sciat, unus descensio venio, nonnunquam autem sentit etiam alterum modum exstare, si bumpio parumper desinere et de eo meditari possit.

    I chose “tamquam sciat” over just “sciat”, because just “sciat” seemed insufficient. The original passage carries the idea that the “understanding” of sciat has a limitation based on the parameters of Edward Bear’s knowledge base. OK so In Latin no personal pronouns but “tamquam” carries the meaning of “as much as” So mine reads “It is, as much as he understands” which is very close to the original “It is, as far as he knows”. Then, there is the mess with “downstairs” again, and I have applied my little solution to that, which my be really wrong. And, I have opted to do the bumping as bumpio. Because it just seems to make more sense than the elaborations that Lenard went through. {again with the crossed fingers}

    Egads I hope this worked.

    Andrew

  15. CJ

    Curiously enough, re ancient Latin (and I’ve read a lot of graffiti as well) we have no instance of anybody going up or downstairs, because the great houses didn’t tend to have stairs, and the insulae weren’t the home of literary folk. The word ‘scala’ or ladder, could be applied, and I shudder to think what the stairs of an insula might have been like. So far as I know, again, we’ve not found any indication. Considering the upper stories involved a lot of wood and some real chancy construction—(the chilling story of the creaking noise in the night followed by the slow collapse of a block-long insula starting from the far end) is enough to make me suspect they built around several air-wells, possibly involving balconies/walkways, like a 1950’s motel, with a set of open wooden steps going down.

    Those, outside of the stone steps of major buildings and fine houses, are about all there are in the way of a historic record of an upstairs/downstairs.

  16. joekc6nlx

    Gee, CJ, in your mini-lesson on verbs, you didn’t even touch on deponent, semi-deponent, or irregular verbs. Other than “loqui”, there was no mention of deponents. “Ferre”, being irregular, like “esse”, can really mess with the mind. And don’t even get me started on Ablative Absolute!!!! 🙂

  17. CJ

    Lol—if more people understood the abl. abs, we’d have more intelligent sentences out of Discovery Channel, fewer risings of the dead on the ID channel. (Lying in the grass with three bullets to the skull, the police believed the crime was one of passion.) The best thing to do is learn a handful of regular verbs of all classes, learn to rhyme-match verbs, eg, lego-legere is going to both rhyme with and match rego-regere, while capio-capere is going to behave like rapio-rapere, and audio-audire is going to be like venio-venire. The mistakes you’ll make by that process will at least be the sort of mistakes native speakers would make. I think all the exceptions should be saved for a unit taught in early May of first year.

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