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


  1. Raesean

    I never really mastered the delicate intricacies of translating the Ablative Absolute and especially the Passive Periphrastic (but I believe you can sing about the latter to the tune of Supercalifrasticexpialidocious).

  2. Andrew_W

    So, no exemplar of “upstairs” “downstairs”. No wonder Lenard was confused. I think I will stick with ascensio and descensio, as trying to wiggle around the idea like Lenard did just makes my teeth itch.

  3. CJ

    The ablative absolute is that sort of phrase English handles by the nominative absolute. “Case closed, Sherlock sank into deep depression.” “Case closed” is the Thing and the Verbal Situation. Latin does it by throwing noun and participle into the ablative case. English imitates this by adding the word ‘with’, but it also flowers it up with ‘when, since, after, if, although’ or ‘because’. It’s a way to have a complex sentence rather than a sequential, “Sherlock closed the case and sank into deep depression.”

    A nominative absolute in English presents a scene rather than a sequence, if you understand it from the readerly viewpoint. You are presented with Holmes sunk dejectedly in his armchair shooting V’s in the walls, rather than with Holmes actively concluding the case, then being depressed. It’s a delicate writerly tool. In Latin it’s elegantly simple, two words: in English, again, two words—OR the flowered-up version.

    The flowered-up version would still be translated by just two words in Latin: in English, once it’s expanded beyond two words, we call it a temporal, conditional, concessive, or causal clause, depending on which of those lead-in words you choose, and of course once it’s gussied up with a live verb and a subject, the poor thing’s no longer even a nominative absolute: it’s a whole freakin’ subordinate clause. English tends to be less succinct than Latin.

  4. CJ

    The passive periphrastic is English for “use the must-do form of the participle” [the gerundive] and add ‘is’ [est].”
    Again, simpler in Latin than in English. The gerundive form of the verb is -ndum added to the root (yes, it does have male and female forms: -um is the neuter)—and patch ‘est’ onto it. Thus Carthago delenda est. ‘Carthago destructible is.’ ‘Carthage has to be taken DOWN,’ to quote old Cato. Mihi (in my opinion) rapa non est edenda. [‘To me, a turnip is not edible’, or ‘I don’t think we ought to eat turnips.’) You can also say: Rapa inedibilis est. ‘The turnip is inedible.’

    In short, the passive periphrastic is a dramatic way to say what you could say with a plain old verb. Modern Latin tries to use debet (owes, has to, must) as ‘has to’ or ‘has got to’, or ‘must’…but that’s kind of a bastard structure, and can stray too close to foreign, ie, English. If you want to say something has got to get done, you just use the -nda est form (Nominative, gerundive, est or non est) and that’s it. It’s a really ancient structure, I’m pretty sure. You hear it more in the Republic than under the Empire. But it’s more Latinic. It covers a lot of ground: where we say–“Carthage really shouldn’t be destroyed,” you’d just say “Carthago delenda non est.” It doesn’t say anything about ‘can’t be destroyed.’ The implication is always should-shouldn’t destroy it. And if you think of it—it’s a grammatical shortcut past complex verbs and subjunctive uses. Handy little item for saying ‘we gotta.’

    • paul

      Don’t know nuttin’ about no Latin, even how English Majors have decomposed the language that way, but you do bring to mind old memories.

      One of my old flings had to be convinced she was really in love with a Swiss hydrology engineer. She did go marry him, and her daughter was born in Carthage. That Carthage! I thought that was so cool! (He was there on contract.)

      While I was a member of UCLA’s Computer Club it was said the club motto was “Nunquam faciendum”, which I was tole translated to something like “Don’t even think about it!”

      • paul

        p.s. She told me he had a choice of the Tunisian contract or one in Haiti, during the days of “Papa Doc”. I told her do NOT go to Haiti!

      • CJ

        Yep, nunquam faciendum, don’t never do it!

        And, uh-uh. Papa Doc’s Haiti was like Idi Amin’s Uganda, only without the crocodiles.

        Just finished talking an online acquaintance through a crisis: seems her husband and his best bud just landed in Cancun, were arrested, shoved around and robbed by uniformed police of all their gear, cameras, money, and credit cards, and this is not a unique case, apparently. Right now there’s a no-go for military and contractors in several states of Mexico…including do-not-get-off-the-cruise-ships. It really pays to do a little reading of the newspapers before buying tickets.

        I know this, because I booked a tour of Greece during the rule of the junta, and I and my companion were nearly flattened stepping off a curb as a truck full of soldiers with fixed bayonets, as I dimly recall the hurtling image—ripped past us on a red light. They were really moving, and most Athenian traffic never goes *under* 50 mph. We ended up with lost money, sharing a bus with a lady with a goat and staying in a village next to a military base, which attracted the modern version of the krypteia, the secret police…but it was a heckuvan adventure. Did I mention the wild dogs racing us for the car?

    • BlueCatShip

      [quote]Mihi (in my opinion) rapa non est edenda.[/quote]

      To me, this looks like it could be translated: “To me, turnips aren’t for eating,” which would be a more loose and slightly more “country” way of saying it in English. While one preposition doesn’t fit the Latin and the other is absent from the Latin, it matches English usage. But my translation wouldn’t hold up in all cases. (Keep in mind, I don’t speak Latin.)

      That wouldn’t hold for “Carthago delenda est.” I couldn’t translate that as, “Carthage is for destroying / deleting,” because that wouldn’t make good sense in English.

      But it shows there’s a similar construction in Modern English, and I’d expect a grammatical cousin to the Latin form in Old English or Common Germanic.

      I, however, like turnips occsionally, raw or cooked. 😉

      I’m trying to avoid joking about Rapa Nui, too. 😉

      Oh, a question: If “Carthage” were translated into Greek, would that use tau or theta? I don’t know if the original consonant for the Carthaginians was the hard-T teth or the soft-T taw

      Since I don’t speak Latin, but I’m interested in Common Romance and the spread into the daughter languages, I have another question: About when do they estimate that things like the change from always hard C/G to palatal C/G before front vowels (I/E/Y) and W/GW/QW into V/G/Q(K) took place, or the matching T/D into (T)S/(T)CH, (D)Z/(D)J? It looks to me like the palatals came in before the split into national languages (Old French, etc.) but that, based on Middle English and Middle French and Modern Spanish, the V came quickly but the GW/G, QW/Q happened late or not at all or on a more individual basis.

    • Raesean

      Interesting, what is passing for Doris here. While my PhD area is actually Scots Gaelic, I lived in lowland (but not Doric=Aberdeenshire speaking) Scotland for 4 years and was back there this summer. Currently for my novel, I am researching and working with Medieval Scots a lot. What I hear in the wedding ceremony is relatively straightforward Scots/English. The two languages, to the best of my research, do not significantly differ (and never have) in grammar and only somewhat in syntax. Pronunciation and vocabulary occupy the major area of difference. Here, the pronunciation of the shared English/Scots words is nicely on the Scots side (although not too stiffly Doric) but, frankly, I did not at all hear much uniquely Scots vocabulary. I think the press is making too much of a fuss here: yes, it may be secular, and no, folks were not trying to be stiff and school-English (or Scots) but it sounded pretty every day speech for Scotland for me.

      • tulrose

        I was surprised that I could understand it. The only language I speak is a hybrid Australian-American and I thought I should have had a lot of trouble with it. When I’m speaking I have to remember where I am because the vernacular can be quite different.

  5. Raesean

    Scots and English “English” (and Australian “English” and “American” English) are all different dialects of the same “language.” The Scots spoken in the video was, in my opinion, heavily influenced by the “standard” English of the BBC.” It was not all that “thick” (i.e. you could understand it even if you grew up elsewhere). Doric, the Aberdeenshire regional dialect, comes much “thicker.” So does Glaswegian. On the other hand, to speak Scots at all at an official and formal an event as a wedding is, the bridal pair and officiant found, quite a shocking thing, such is the status of English in Scotland from years of (here I will pull on more of a Scots Nationalist cap) cultural and economic domination of England.

    Incidentally, so-called “Black” American English, spoken by African-Americans of American South geographical descent, differs grammatically from standard American and standard British English far more than Scots does from either. Black English even has an additional tense, expressed by using “be” as an uninflected verb, as in “we be” (absolutely grammatically correct form of speech in Black English.). I can’t easily or automatically give examples in a sentence of how to use the tense because I find it very hard to think in different tenses than I grew up using in my pretty standard (if New England pronunciation and some vocab) dialect of American, “White” English. “We be church-goers” means, (she says fetching back into linguistic textbook memory) something like, “Even though we might not be in church right now, we habitually and regularly go to church and that is a permanent part of personal identity, whatever we happen to be doing at the moment.” I’d go fetch out one of my textbooks, but I actually logged on to the computer this morning to look at work e-mail and, um, took a detour over here to CJ’s site for a moment.

    • chondrite

      It sounds like that particular usage more closely resembles Appalachian Hill dialect, which wandered its way over from Scotland and country English, then became somewhat inbred in the foothills (‘balds’) and valleys (‘hollers’) of that mountain range 😀 Pidgin dialects are fun to decipher, and sometimes even more to the point than standard English: “If can, can; if no can, no can” means locally “We’ll try, and if we can do it, we will, but if we can’t, oh well.” Try working out “We stay go; you stay stay.” or “The car stay hamajang broke!” 😉

    • BlueCatShip

      My dad’s family is from that Appalachian mountain dialect. When we’d visit “up home” when I was a kid, I’d hear people talking like Loretta Lynn or the cast of Harlan County Wars (movie, authentic accents mostly) or the Foxfire books.

      That dialect retains things from colonial and earlier, older, usually rural English and Scots from the old countries. (You’d sometimes hear my paternal grandma say “hit’s” for “it’s” for example.

      You will also hear a construct comparable to that “we be, you be, he be” form as used in Black English, but it’s…hmm…very slightly different in usage, more rare in white mountain dialect than in Black dialect. As Raesean said, it’s an expression of, at least, an “imperfect” or continuing and habitual tense or mode: “Hit be a mite airish out today.” (“It’s a little chilly/windy out today.”) Or, “Het snake, hit were a hoop snake. Hit be all quiled up like to the base ‘un het tree.” (You wouldn’t usually hear it that thick dialect, except from the really old timers hamming it up, even when I was a kid. Now, you probably wouldn’t hear it that way at all. The het = that, but “that” is also used. Yon and yonder are still strong, over yonder. Hit = it, a form that dates back clear to Old English / Anglo-Saxon. Hit were is either non-standard for “it was” or a use of subjunctive –or– it’s a past tense form of the “it be” construct.” A “hoop snake” is a (semi-?) folkloric snake supposedly able to grab its tail in its mouth and roll like a hoop, ourobouros style. (But the folks there would have no idea what an ourobouros was.) …Or else a hoop snake is just a big snake, which are “ornery cusses” anyway. And “quiled” (kwiled, long I) is just dialect pronunciation for “coiled.”

      That digression was supposed to illustrate another instance of a construct like, “it be, we be,” expressing a general, timeless or unfinished and continuing state, about like Raesean explained. They used something like it in Middle English and early Modern English, and it traveled over to America with the colonists, educated, townsfolk, uneducated, country folks. From there, Africans brought over learned it from the Europeans, and since they didn’t have access (or legal route) to read and write unless freed, either from slavery or indentured servitude (because in the early days, they could be indentured and freed from indenture like whites) — anyway, because of class and educational differences, it stayed in Black speech along with several other forms. Most of those come from older English usage or from the interface because English was a foreign language for them.

      The irony is that there are holdovers in mountain speech too, of very old forms from earlier English. The two dialect groups developed differently from a mostly in-common origin. One difference was, it was native non-standard/non-educated speech for the whites, versus initially non-native and educationally-blocked/forbidden from improvement for the blacks incoming (against their will). — And it was also probably sometimes useful if the whites thought that was ignorant or incomprehensible, because it only meant they were too arrogant to *listen* and find out. If you can talk in code while someone from an unfriendly group is listening, it’s handy at times, or handy if they think you’re dummer than you are. 😉

      (I have noticed too, that older Black dialect, at least here, will use a few other old dialect word forms, like “hope” for “help” — “She hoped her” = “she helped her.”)

      When you begin realizing the older connections there, it’s not as different as it seems at first. Most people, white or black, don’t know that’s where the “non-standard” things in black dialect usually come from. (There’s also wordplay that comes into effect, because there’s a rich tradition of poetic and symbolic word usage going on, musical or oral tradition based and then literary. This was valued for preserving cultural identity, improving oneself, and enrichment. Plus, it made for good music and courting and fun….

      An older generation friend of mine tends to lay the dialect on thick, either when she’s really going and not thinking about the usage, or sometimes, I think, to mess with the white guy, haha. Be it noted (hmm, subjunctive there, but another source of the usage) be it noted, she made sure her kids (my age group) had as much chance at good educations and standard dialect as possible. Most of them use standard English and community dialect pretty much at will. To whites, they’ll use standard English for work situations, and only relax that if you’re a friend. (It has taught me a lot about expectations and relations between groups, too.)

      My original point for chiming in was because of the connection between the origins for the Appalachian mountain speech and black speech. I kinda wandered far afield from that.

      One thing, speech-wise, I’ve noted a lot lately is a creeping in of lack of subject-verb form agreement. I’ve seen and heard (print and audio/video) a lot of cases where someone who should know standard English (reporters, often) misses the subject-verb form agreement. It’s led me to think that not only is it an educational thing for the last generation or so, but that it’s an actual language change in progress. Especially with “there’s” and “there is and there are,” but other instances too.

  6. CJ

    lol! When I taught a little Italian to my students (I ran a volunteer class in the mornings before school) I told them, for starters, to say, in their thickest mock-Italian accent—“lasagna, spaghetti, ravioli” over and over. THEN to read a sentence in Italian. Accents improved instantly. They got the rhythm.

    And that means Italians had a far better change of understanding them.
    Rhythm matters even more than the finesse of e’s and a’s. If you have someone speaking English but perpeTUally acCENTing on the wrong sylLABle, it throws you, as a native speaker, even more than someone saying “come” with a long instead of short ‘o’.

    So if you hit the right rhythm, and if the language is already related to, say, English, as German, Dutch, and Nordic languages are…you might luck out on what you’re trying to say.

    The problem is sometimes compounded by the prevalence of British English in Europe. If they’re expecting ‘petrol’ and you say ‘gas’, they’ll miss it.

    I have literally heard Americans in France saying “Voo-lezzz vouzzz fay-wray la chain-jay” which is French—sorta—and talking louder, as if volume could boost the signal. They get points for effort, however.

  7. Andrew_W

    One of my favorite scenes in film envolves Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins and some knives. I chose a three step process to try to understand word order better. Hope I got this right.

    Richard: (prarphrased because I just can’t let ‘EEKK’ go.)
    EEKK he has a knife!
    EEKK A kinfe he has!
    Ecce culter habit!

    Of course he has a knife.
    Of course a knife he has.
    Quippe culter habit.

    You have knife.
    A knife you have.
    Culter habis.

    I have a knife.
    A knife I have.
    Culter habui.

    Your brothers have knives.
    Knives your brothers have.
    Cultum fraternum habis.

    We all have knives.
    knives we all have.
    Cultum conventus omne habis.

    It’s the 12th century.
    The 12the century it is.
    Duodecimus centuria est.

    And we are barbarians.
    And barbarians we are.
    Atque barbari est.

    Ecce culter habit!

    Quippe culter habit.
    Culter habis.
    Culter habui.
    Cultum fraternum habis.
    Cultum conventus omne habis.
    Duodecimus centuria est.
    Atque barbari est.

    • BlueCatShip

      Huh, aside from the nice language lesson and fun byplay (and points about pointy objects and watching one’s back) that tells me something I didn’t know:

      “Cutlery” goes back to something like “culteria.” (I just realized I don’t remember the French word for it. Not coterie or couture or couterie, all of those are (LOL) quite other things.

      Hmm, couteau, a knife, fourchette, a fork, cuiller, a spoon, plât, a plate.

      Ne pas “la service,” ni encore “l’argent.” OK, I’ve forgotten what silverware, cutlery, translates to in French.

  8. chondrite

    I just had an interesting conversation with a patron. We were trying to hammer out just what the ‘vernacular’ was for American English. He was of the opinion that Pidgin was a form of vernacular; I thought it would more properly be called a dialect, and that vernacular was a casual, rather than a formal use of the language (not the ‘King’s Speech’). Anyone have any input on the subject?

    • BlueCatShip

      I’d agree with you, chondrite. Pidgin English is a dialect well on its way to being a separate language, like the lingua franca of the Mediterranean. Given that Pidgin is spoken differently in the different interface points, they’d have the potential for forming various languages with enough time out of contact.

      The vernacular is more like plain common speech, less formal or standard, but understood by anyone native to the language. Not so much a dialect as a mode of speaking, the speech level, such as, we’d speak on one level for business and technical use, and another for informal use among friends and family or in everyday life, either as someone educated or not, we’d all understand vernacular usage as ordinary.

      Pidgin is only a vernacular, then, in that it’s common speech understood in common by the community of speakers and others who have frequent enough contact with Pidgin to be familiar with it in its vernacular form.

      (Now I’m likely to think of mahen trade pidgin.)

      Pidgin is a different form, another dialect, altogether, not a speech level within the native language of any group on the interface that uses the Pidgin. The Pidgin is a shorthand, a limited, oversimplified form used for convenience, so each side can communicate even if they aren’t fluent in another person’s native tongue.

      Vernacular is within the same language as any other usage level in that language.

      Pidgin isn’t, for example, childish or baby talk. It’s serious business. In fact, it’s often so people can conduct business and socialize to whatever extent.

      Just because Pidgin sounds rough and non-standard doesn’t mean it’s uncouth, either. It’s there to serve a need for the people using it. If enough people use it often enough, or primariy, and if it enlarges enough in how it does things, then it might become a language in its own right.

    • Raesean

      Pidgin, at least words that form a real pidgin, is not a language, by definition. Pidgin is a form of almost shorthand communication, using a basic set of agreed upon words, that adult speakers of different languages employ in order to, well, communicate with each other. Trade pidgins are some of the best known examples. The vocabulary does not form a complete language and cannot communicate just anything the speaker desires. Its verb forms are particularly limited. Pidgins also develop by necessity when adult speakers of different languages are thrown together unwillingly, such as in slavery. The children of these “mixed” adults will spontaneously take the crude pidgin and begin developing a real language, known as a creole, from it, which has a full verb system and can be employed to convey any idea the speaker wants. I’m fascinated by the concept of language birth: we emphasize language death and loss so much.

      All languages are dialects: there is no such thing as a “real, pure” language and then its sub-standard dialects. All versions of a language are “equal” to each other. What is popularly termed the proper version of a language is really the dialect of the speakers of that language who exercise the most power socially. That’s why so-called “Black English” in the United States is considered a dialect but the dialect of, say, Public Television or other “serious” TV is not. I had a college friend in the UK who spoke with a very upper class, English accent. She insisted that all of us (Americans, Scots, Irish, Welsh and other English) had accents and she didn’t. We were all studying Celtic linguistics. She should have known better but such is the power of social status and the ear.

  9. Andrew_W

    My Grandmother had a rant about this back in the late 60s. She was from the hill country of Ten. and really took offense at the term Hillbilly. Here rant was that those people spoke a closer version of The Kings English than anyone else in Amercia and that made the rest of America hicks not them. I would hazard a guess that the entire body of “American” English IS the vernacular of The Kings English. This is based on the notion that American English is too fluid to anything like a formal thing. My Russian Grandfather hated writing in English because the main rule of American English was that there were no rules for which there was not an exception.

  10. Andrew_W

    I am about to give up on Lenard’s Winnie-ille-Pu as a primmer. His Latin is really hard to get around even with two dictionaries. I am so new to this I hesitate to suggest that he might be out to lunch, but there are things that just don’t ad up at all. He uses “modo” to mean sometimes. With two dictionaries I can’t make it work. To the best of my ability “modo” means someHOW not someTIMES. My electronic dictionary gives ‘sometimes’ as nonnumquam. Nonnumquam is a cool word. Even when you break it down it parses in English just fine as “Not…never”, which is a fun way to say “sometimes”. But Lenard using modo is just plain confusing. And this is just one example of several in the first two pages that has sent me trundling through my dictionaries only be confused enough that I have to go to the original “Winnie-the-Pooh” and re-translate that to try and figure out some kind of Latin that seems to make sense. This could very well be leading me down any number of primrose paths that are completely wrong. For instance, Lenard uses “scalis gradus descendens” to mean “coming downstairs”, as though “coming downstairs” was the same thing as “coming down the stairs”. “Coming downstairs” is not the same thing as saying “Coming down the stairs”. So when I try to make sense of it all I come back with “venio descensio”. Basing my creation of descensio as an opposite to ascencio, which according to my electronic dictionary can carry the meaning “up stairs”. All of which is speculation on my part and probably wrong. But it is very very time consuming and one does not wish to spend so much time just being wrong.

    I need to find a better primmer to work with. 🙁

  11. CJ

    Winnie Ille Pu is not a good textbook, especially for classical Latin–it’s written in mediaeval Latin, which was highly regional, affected by the local languages.

    I recommend you go back to a used book store of the oldest sort, the sort that handles mostly real old hardbounds, and get a used Latin I text. *Using Latin* would be the best, followed by *Latin for Americans*. These have the tables you need, and some explanation. They also have little stories with vocabularies at the bottom. Actually—Latin for “I’m coming downstairs” is “descendo.” That’s the I, the present tense, and the verb for coming down or descending. “Stairs’ is not necessary to the expression. Sort of like modern Japanese, Latin was designed to rely on ‘context’, or the situation, —ie, it was conceived of ‘face to face’, with two people in the same situation, who would read into it what was logical given where they were and what was going on. It became a language of lawyers and a language of long distance communication, which necessitated a bit more precision, but it managed pretty well at that by framing the whole paragraph with enough description of the situation to make the word usage make sense.

    • Levanah10

      *Using Latin*. Oh, boy, that takes me back. “America est patria mea. America est patria tua. America est patria nostra.” Funny, what sticks in your brain after all these years! I really loved Latin…Miss Hauk, my High School teacher, was one of those classic “old maid Latin teachers,” very strict and old-fashioned, but oh, she made Vergil so poignantly beautiful!

      Didn’t do me a bit of harm on my SAT’s, either… 😉

  12. Andrew_W

    Downstairs/descendo. I had imagined it as descencio and I had figured that this single word would include the notion of stairs as well, depending on context. Even in English the word “downstairs” may have stairs in it but other like expressions don’t. I have heard my New England based in-laws use such expressions such as “downcellar” and such that are context sensetive. One just presumes one went down to the cellar using stairs instead of a dead-fall trapdoor.

    I have already gottem hold of Latin for Americans, but all I found was book II. I did locate a primer called Cornellia. It seems to be a lot easier to navigate than Pu. It has repetions in it very similar to what Levanah10 is quoting, in fact almost exactly the same. Are these the same book?

    A notable quote from the Introduction of Cornellia is,

    The acquisition of the language itself is a sufficiently large
    task for the beginner. He should not be called upon to deal
    with situations outside his own experience or to acquire
    knowledge through the new medium; neither should his problem
    be complicated by the necessity of learning a formidable
    grammatical nomenclature or a science of grammar that the
    Romans themselves managed to do without until its introduction
    by Dionysius Thrax, who was born 166 B.C.

    Cornellia is available as a free PDF download.

    Hopefully I am on a better track.


    • BlueCatShip

      This struck me:

      [quote]He should not be called upon to deal
      with situations outside his own experience or to acquire
      knowledge through the new medium;[/quote]

      In the classroom and in one’s native country perhaps, without having many native speakers handy.

      But outside the classroom confronted with a real world situation, in which the student is trying to take in the new concepts and guess at both meanings and usage rules, the student really is confronted with a lot of unknowns outside his/her experience all at once. Or at least, he/she is confronted with things he/she is not sure of, a lot of them, and all at once.

      Because I’m reading this on CJ’s blog, it also made me think how untrue that quote would be for someone trying to learn an *alien* language. Human languages have all sorts of cultural contexts and thinking styles and world-views associated, but at least they all rely on human-species thinking. An alien language? They’d think differently, even on the same planet. My cat obviously thinks in a different way than I do.

      (*) Cattus sejant meum interruptus. — Le chat en assisant m’a interrompu. — The cat in sitting down interrupted me. (He sat on my graphics tablet and threw off my reply, hahah.)

      That isn’t to say the textbook author is wrong, just that the assumption about how one learns and when and where, is different in practice in the real world versus in the classroom environment, where it’s (agreeing) best sense to reduce the number of unknowns to an easily manageable context for the new student, and then build on that as the student’s comprehension grows. Most language teachers and linguists would probably “get that” intuitively, though. It just leapt out at me, reading it.

      Cattus manet sejant proxima ad meum. — That’s bound to be more medieval and broken than actual Latin. Le chat mainteint assis prochain à moi. — “Sejant, siège” I know is heraldic and medieval, probably not classical at all. “Sedit, sedant, sedans,” something like that, like “sedentary,” I’d guess, is closer. Hmm… Old French GE/J from palatalization of D before a front vowel, same as Modern English -cha and -dja from -t+y, -d+y in final positions….

      • Hanneke

        @BlueCatShip and Andrew: I’m not so sure about the wisdom of not giving the student anything else new to deal with while learning the language. For instance, the Latin examples Andrew has been quoting seem not related to Roman life. Our Latin textbook was based on stories in Latin about life in ancient Rome: two kids living in a typical well-off Roman villa, going to the market, visiting a temple and watching a procession, being told the story about Romulus and Remus founding the city by their Greek tutor slave etc.. That gave the teacher ample opportunity to tell us lots of interesting new things about the Roman way of life, their culture, their myths, history etc., which made the lessons a lot more interesting than reading about boring everyday life in a new language.

        And what about immersive learning? If one has to do everything in a foreign language, with maybe only very occasional explanations in one’s own language, really learning any other subjects doesn’t get very far but learning the language tends to go really fast! I speak from experience: we emigrated to Australia when I was eight. I hadn’t a word of English, but there were still two weeks to go ’till the summer holidays and the school board wouldn’t allow our mother to teach us English at home until the start of the new school year (she’s a French teacher). No-one at school understood any Dutch, I didn’t understand English – I still remember the panic from having to ask to go to the loo and being stared at uncomprehendingly ’till I thought maybe I wasn’t being polite enough to be granted permission and an explanation where to go, and VERY politely requested “Madam may I please visit the lavatory?” – the posh Dutch word for that is ‘toilet’, and suddenly the teacher understood!
        Being thrown in the deep end like that wasn’t fun, and I still get tears in my eyes when I feel I can’t express myself clearly enough to be understood – but in two weeks I had enough English to survive in the school environment, and after the summer holidays and lots of Sesame Street, Richard Scarry books and practising at home (where we spoke English almost exclusively, to get used to it), I could function in English at a level normal for an eight year old both in school and at home.
        A year later we moved back to Holland, and I kept my English up by reading: there are so many more enjoyable books available in English than there were in Dutch, certainly at that time, that my life was much enriched by this experience.

        So, though I can understand the idea of keeping things simple for someone who has to learn a foreign language, I have a feeling that a broader challenge might help people learn more and faster, though it probably wouldn’t work if you can only devote a little bit of time and attention to this one subject.

        • Raesean

          A friend’s family came from Puerto Rico here to Massachusetts when she was 8 and she was simply dumped in an English speaking school, no help or quarter given. She cried all the time and still hates the immersion system (now mandated by law here in Mass.) with a passion. Her English is fine but not her psyche.

  13. Andrew_W

    I am using Cornelia now as my primer, but on page two they threw me for a loop by giving me the following.

    Estne hic mater Corneliae? Ita. Hic mater Corneliae est et hic est Cornelia quoque.

    First thing I have to do is throw out what I am geared to understand via word spacing and punctuation. These would not neccesarily apply to Latin as word spacing was introduced by Charlemagne’s scholars and punctuation is a convention imposed by publishers after the invention of mass printing. So, “ita” standing alone in a sentence in Latin might just be the same as “therefore” between two clauses in English. Which leaves me with the following translation, which I do not think is a very good one, but I can’t wrap my brain around it any better.

    Is this not the mother of Cornelia? So. In this case Cornelia’s mother is also Cornellia.

    Translated literally this would be very odd. I am guessing that this means Cornelia’s mom is also named Cornelia, and this exercise is aimed at getting me to understand the flexibility of the word “hic“?

    • Hanneke

      @Andrew-W: If I remember correctly from a bit of Latin 36 years ago, Latin didn’t have a simple one-word-fits-all-situations word for ‘YES’.
      This means that whenever you want to answer a question with ‘yes’ in Latin, you use a word like ‘ita’ (so) or repeat a word from the question. Your example above: “Is this the mother of Cornelia? (Yes that’s) so.” (or maybe, using modern speech instead of the literal translation, we could say it in one word as “Right” or “True”, instead of “So”).
      Or “Is this what you wanted?” (handing someone the salt) – the answer could be to repeat “(yes, )This”.

      And the second sentence is a clear demonstration of what CJ explains above: they are talking in a context, where you see both Cornelia and her mother standing there, so that would mean something like: This is Cornelia’s mother, and (this) here is Cornelia too. (Maybe Cornelia just came and joined her mother, or the conversants?)
      To make these situations clearer, our Latin primer had pictures at the heading of each lesson’s story.

      • jcsalomon

        I wonder if this carries over into legal question-and-response situations: “Do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife?” “I do.” (Not, “Yes.”)

    • BlueCatShip

      One thing helpful in learning another language, at least from the same language tree, (Latin and English being distant cousins) is to sort of “squint” at the meanings, blur them a bit, and figure context, connotations, denotations, what is likely “nearby” or associated with a concept or topic, and the likely intended meanings.

      Estne ~= isn’t, n’est-ce pas;

      hic ~= here, this-here;
      hoc ~= there, that-there;

      Ita — didn’t look like anything cognate, but seems like a yes/no answer, and “it is so” or “that’s so” is related to the origin of both “yes” in English and “si, oui” in French. si = so; yes, it’s so; yes = yea + so; (Ita did remind of “ah, it is” or “id e(st)” a little.)

      mater = matri-, mother, madre;

      Corneliae — it helps to know beforehand than -i/-ae was at least one way of saying -‘s, of/from (noun).

      est = est, ist, is, es, è;

      et = et, y, and;

      Cornelia = this looked like the subject (nominative) to me, but might be an object case of some kind.

      quoque = Here, I’d need to guess based on qu- = wh- and que meaning what/that (relative pronoun) in French and Spanish. Seeing the English vowel, (who, what, when, where, why, how (from another wh- word) and so on) helps guess context. I had to guess it meant “what or that,” or something that would go with “and”.

      That all relies on knowing a language or two descended from Latin, and one cousin (English) from another branch on the tree.

      So we get, roughly, “Isn’t this-here (the) mother (of) Cornelia-(‘s)? That’s so. This-here (the) mother (of) Cornelia-(‘s) is, and this-here (woman) is Cornelia-(object-case?) (what/that/some-other-word).”

      From that, we can guess that either it’s two statements about the same Cornelia we’re talking about, or else there are two women named Cornelia. Since Cornelia’s mother is being discussed, we can guess the mother might be Cornelia too, and that gives us “too/also” for the untranslated word.

      Now, if you threw a sentence at me in an unrelated language, with unrelated grammar, then I’d have a heck of a time. We’d need gestures, drawing pictures, pointing at poor Cornelia and her mom, whom we hope is very patient, and so on.

      But there, I have a slight chance that the word for “mother” might have something like “ma, am, na, an” in it, because these tend to come from baby talk. Mother is one of the first words a baby learns, usually, so it would tend to be one of the oldest words in any language, with a formal form (mother) and an informal form (mommy). — There’s probably some language that doesn’t have “ma/am, na/an” for mother, though.

      If the word form is so different from anything you know, then of course you have to guess or ask. (Ask, when possible!)

      • Hanneke

        @BCS: quoque = also, too; which in Dutch has become ‘ook’ (pronounced like ‘oak’, not the way the Discworld librarian would probably say it!). That seems rather similar, “kwoakw” losing the beginning and end sounds to become “oak”. French ‘aussi’ has kept the “oa” sound, but the “q/kw/k” has become an “s”.
        The more (western) European languages you pick up the more you find relationships and similarities between words from different languages.

        • BlueCatShip

          Hmm. “Ook.” Dutch and English are close cousins, closer than either is to German. Supposedly only Friese / Frisian is closer to English than Dutch is.

          I bring that up, because English “each” is from Old English, something like “ec” or “ecce,” where the K sound turned into a TCH sound. “OOK” and “ECCE” / “EEC” are fairly close. I could imagine “eec” and “ook” drifting from “each one” to “that one too,” and then to too/also.

          Yeah, it’s flimsy, but it’s an idea.

          French “aussi” would’ve come from “alsi” or “alsic” or “alsich” depending on if it came from Latin or from the Germanic Franks or Normans (Northmanni). (I don’t think it’s Gaulish / Gaelic.)

          A friend in junior high (middle school) was a new immigrant who had just arrived from Taiwan. For at least the first year, he went around with a tiny Chinese-English dictionary in his pocket, and would have anyone point to the English word so he could tell what they were saying in Chinese.

          He was motivated and friendly, despite the hassle from some kids, and learned English very fast.

          I grew up during the time when Vietnamese refugees were arriving here after the fall of Saigon. So from when I was around 10 and after, we began seeing more and more Vietnamese kids in school. Most stayed together initially, quiet and talking among themselves. But over time, more Vietnamese kids would interact with the American kids, especially the braver or quicker ones with language or picking up the culture. Assimilation was a real mix for most of them.

          I have occasionally surprised a few Vietnamese people because their accent usually doesn’t give me trouble. I got used to it. Likewise with a Chinese accent, though I can’t always tell which accent it is.

          I’m from a major city, so we’ve had a lot of people coming in over the years. I happen to like it, though I’ll confess I haven’t tried out all the food and other highlights; I should make a point to do that.

          So — I can see how it would feel for an immigrant faced with learning it all so suddenly. — It must be *really* challenging too, to be an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, with 30+ students, all from different languages, and to have to switch gears constantly for them.

          I’ve had only one trip outside the US, besides visits here in the US with foreign-speaking friends and family. Yes, the immersion experience, and only your own group speaking your native language, is very, very different. I was lucky in that it was to Mexico, and I still remembered all the Spanish I’d studied, up through 2nd year, so when we visited, Mexico City, I could make sense of a lot and guess at a lot else. I think I surprised my mom because I could mostly translate the museum placards. — I *think* I could still do most of that, thanks to French. Something I need to test myself on.

          What I’d do if you put me down in a country where I didn’t know the language, I’d have to start guessing in a hurry. In a non-European country, it would be a major challenge.

          My language skills are good, well above average, a natural talent for it. — But it was humbling for me to realize that most Europeans probably grow up learning several nearby languages, the equivalent of what I learned starting in junior high and going into college, and my skills (now rusty from lack of regular practice) are decent, but not as good, probably, as most Europeans. — Put me right now in France or Québec or Mexico, and I’d do so-so, but I’d have to (re-)learn very fast. Put me in Italy or the Netherlands or Germany and I’d have some chance, but I’d be learning something new every moment. Brazil or Portugal, oddly, I’d have a hard time with the spoken language until I absorbed the difference patterns.

          …Er, I didn’t intend to post all over the blog, it just happened. :blush:

  14. Andrew_W

    Ah. Good grief one could construct an odd sounding English counterpart that even sounds similar, “It is so” which hyphenated and spoken quickly might sound like “It’s’o”. I had quite forgotten that …something being so is an insistence that something is true and factual and should be agreed with and acknowledged. And, I am mistaken about the exercise being about the flexibility of hic.

    In the next few lines I run across the word Minime standing alone, which I would automatical, literally translate as “minimally”, but what I should understand (on reflection) to mean a contradictatory statement more along the meaning of “No it is not so”.

    The lesson being then that Ita and Minime are expressed opposites: “Yes this is so” and “No this is not so”, and can be read as “yes” and “no”.

    I have to be carefule. I can spend hours happily puzzling over these things, and they I look up and I’m late for work. ECCE!

  15. Andrew_W

    I just read the post about reading Latin with an accent, and getting the emPHAsis on the right sylLABle. (22 Mar.)
    It reminds me of a friend of mine who had a new rifle with a scope on it that was made in Russia. The manual for the telescope was written in English all right but the syntax was really strange and my friend simply could not understand what was on the page. He was really confused that something written in English could be completely unintelligible. So, he had me take a look at it, me being the book worm of the bunch. I figured it out pretty quickly. I stood up and in my best instructor’s pose and voice I began reading the manual word for word in my best thickest Russian accent. His eyes lit up, everybody fell off their chairs laughing, because suddenly it was all easily understood.

    It was kind of eye opening. I think I may have to make sure that when I get to something I don’t quiet get in my readings that I stand up and read it out loud in my best Neapolitan. (my best imitation of John Lithgow in Buckaroo Banzai ) Just the correct sound of the word may make things clear. Perhaps even adding in an over acted bit of body language. Europeans talk with their hands a lot, I’d wager the Romans did too.

    • BlueCatShip

      Being good with mimicking an accent was one of the clues I was good with languages. This isn’t flawless, as even if I know a “foreign” language, a speaker’s voice can throw me (usually means I’m concentrating, trying too hard to focus too narrowly). This happens easily in everyday speech (background noise, fast speech, blurring, head turned, etc.) and especially with songs. I recently tried a couple of French movies and discovered (ouch) both how rusty I was and how much of native conversational French I hadn’t been immersed in before. Mostly, I lack current practice (immersion) and review and vocabulary. (I took up through 2nd semester intro French lit in college, so above average fluency for a non-native.)

      So hamming up an accent really will help your pronunciation and rhythm/cadence.

      British English is odd for an American speaker, partly because they DO stree different syllables than we do in some cases. “Con-TRAW-ver-see” threw me, the first time I heard it from a Brit, and American English is native for me.


      Yes, exactly like your example of reading that translation in a Russian accent.

      I recently looked at a site by a Russian font designer. The translation into English is imperfect, charming, and very enthusiastic. Lots of “the” and “a/an” missing, a few grammar constructions that tell me a little about how it’s worded in Russian, and, at least for me, it was fun seeing that.

      I still remember one Christmas as a kid, getting a toy set, “Micronauts,” science fiction boy’s action figure toys. You could build things and play with the die-cast metal figures. Very space-age, and before Transformers and such; possibly before Gundam hit the US. Around the time of Star Wars first coming out.

      So this toy set is a present, and it’s a Japanese-made product. I look at the instructions, in mostly good English, but occasional very minor mistakes. One was at the top, and stuck in my memory. It was just barely off-key, and funny and memorable because it was trying so hard to be right, earnest, and polite. “Let us play with the Micronauts(TM)!” it said, with an exclamation point for the kids and with Japanese enthusiasm. “Let us” was what really got me, instead of “Let’s,” like one kid would say to another; “let us,” in a very formal and polite and earnest tone. There is not anything technically incorrect there; it’s textbook English standard. But for a bright boy around 11 or 12, who had already begun keying in on “foreign” languages and already had “foreign” speaking friends, I remembered the example because (to me) it was funny and the tone was just barely off from what the writer intended. (The writer was clearly intending to show off these toys he was proud of, to the eager young toy owner wanting to play. A gift is a big thing in Japanese culture besides, so it would be more formal there, just a little more. Yet there’d be a sense of fun and anticipation too.)

      Um, I have run across translations, technical or non-technical, that can go just slightly (or sometimes very, very) astray from what they meant. — I’m fairly sure there’s one I should recall that was unintentionally not exactly “family friendly” (aside from that being how they got a family, that is, hahah.)

      But on the other hand, when faced with something to translate, I know how I generally want to run some or all of it by a native speaker, to be sure I haven’t done the same sorts of things.

      Mostly, there’s some fun in seeing what happens to the instructions, and standing up and doing your best Russian accent gave some good entertainment to an otherwise dry manual. Hah, and after writing it, the writer might’ve wanted to join you for a vodka or at least some good tea!

      • brennan

        I think that an ear for accents may also be closely related to an ear for music – pace, tone, stress, etc. I played in a school band for 6 or 7 years and have a good ear and also five years of foreign languages. When all of that was still fresh, I would find myself at times sliding into my counterpart’s accent willy nilly. Quelle embarrasse! [shreds of French from mumble, mumble, 45 years ago]. Virginia, Georgia, Southwest, Midwest – whatever. I could only hope that it wasn’t noticed or presumed deliberate. After a soccer game against a team largely composed of 1st generation Europeans, I was chatting with one of them and he eventually asked me where was I from and I gave him my local and home towns. He gave me a look and asked again “Really from?” and I then realized that I had begun echoing his pure Continental vowels as we chatted.

        • chondrite

          I catch myself doing that as well. I play a MMORPG, and we decided to invest in a Ventrilo server (voice chat) to facilitate communication among players. It’s painful to attempt coordinating an attack if you have to type your intentions to teammates as well as steer your character or ship! At any given time, we’ll have people from multiple time zones playing and talking with us, including people from Europe, Australia, Quebec, and all the regional dialects of the continental US. I often unconsciously take on the inflections of James in Sydney, or ‘Poet from Toronto. As you said, quelle embarrasse!

        • weeble

          My father’s job dragged us up and down the east coast several times before I started school – Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, Maryland, then finally back to Mass. Most areas we were in were NOT really urban, so the local accents were very pronounced. Kindergarten was in Maryland, and we moved to Mass. in the first weeks of first grade, so Mass. in its infinite wisdom decided I needed to be pulled out of class every day for a few weeks until I learned to speak ‘properly.’ So, here’s a great plan, take the freaky little new kid and send her off to ‘Speech’ so the noxious twits have yet another reason to make fun of her. Oy vey.

          Anyway, as a result of all the early exposure to different dialects and accents (and NO thanks to the speech expert who thought learning to swallow my R’s was more important than learning where R belonged in the alphabet.. or whatever) I really have no problem understanding others with accents. One of my best friends happened to be Scottish, she didn’t have MUCH accent but her parents… whoohoo. THICK describes it! I really had to watch myself every time I spent any time around her parents or I’d start talking in a brogue. I was always afraid they’d think I was making fun of the accent, but it was totally subconscious.

  16. CJ

    Absolutely they did. 😉

    The little bit you gave and the puzzlement over ‘hic’—pronounced heek… 😉 is understandable. It’s part of a set of words. Hic can mean ‘here’ as in, ‘here is’ but not ALL instances of ‘here’. It means ‘here’ where we would also say ‘here-is’ as equal to ‘this is’ in the strictly limited and not very accurate case of an introduction…and the can of worms that little sentence opens by using hic in that sense is full of wigglers….

    Let me give you the easy definition. Hic means ‘this male person’… haec [hike] means ‘this female person…’ [they really should have used that word for Cornelia]. And hoc [hoh-k] means ‘this thing.’ They ARE the mysterious Latin pronouns for he, she, it…and they are also the specific words for ‘this male person near me’, etc, and also for just ‘this.’ So. Latin almost NEVER uses a pronoun as a verb subject. Their verbs are distinct and clear, and it’s just redundant and very foreign to do so.
    There are SEVERAL words for the ‘he’ or ‘this’ concept, and they differ in How Close physically a thing is; or Whether It’s Mine or Not; or Whether It’s The Closest or Farthest; or Whether I’m willing to be Associated WIth It.

    Sounds confusing; let me give you examples.
    hic est = this is. or ‘this fellow is’ ; haec est ‘this woman is’ OR ‘this female-thing-by-class is, eg— haec mea casa est. This my house [is]. / hoc est = this thing is.

    is est = he is, this guy is (close to you or related to the example you just gave someone—this guy, not that guy) ea est = she is ; id est — that is… it is; hence our ‘ie’ abbreviation meaning ‘that is to say’.

    ille est = that guy is; illa est —that woman is; illud est [that is] —remote in physical distance, or emotional distance; or in time.

    and my favorite,
    iste est (contracted in speech to ist’ est. Also translated as ‘that guy is;’ ista est, istud est; etc. And you can use it [and all above examples, to point out nouns of appropriate gender… as ille vir est. That’s a man. Or ‘That man is…’ with something yet to come.
    But ISTE (EESS teh) means ‘from days of yore,’ ie, quite remote in time, as compared to ille; or quite remote in emotional connection—ie, dissociated from me.
    A wife could approach her husband, using the vernacular ‘puer [p’wer] as ‘son’ instead of the nicer filius… [puer is also applied to slaves and male children and sometimes to lovers] —a wife, I say, could approach her husband with “Iste puer urnam fregit!” Literally—“That kid broke the wine jar.” —But what she means is “That kid that I couldn’t possibly have given birth to and that is totally YOUR son…broke the wine jar.” [Wine jars were quite large and would have gone all over the kitchen.) Latin is a great language for insults.

    • BlueCatShip

      Last year, looking at something about Sanskrit and the Devanagari syllabary, I ran across the same thing, that their “pronouns” for third-person were actually demonstrative adjectives, roughly “this-here, that-there, that-over-yonder,” with corresponding “these-here, those-there, those-over-yonder,” and masculine, feminine, and neuter forms, singular, plural, and I think dual, inherited from Indo-European grammar.

      So Latin did the same, basically?

      And this is also why Germanic third-person pronouns aren’t cognate, they all developed them differently, because before, their ancestors would say, “this-guy-over-here, that-woman-over-there, that-thing-way-over-there”?

      Huh. Well, it could be useful to distinguish the “he/she/it/one” next to you versus the “he/she/it/one” a little farther away, versus the one way the heck over thataway.

      Come to think of it, Southern American English (and for that matter, Spanish in a way) does something like that.

      nosotros = literally, we, the other ones (or the other form of nos, probably)
      vosotros = literally, you, the other ones (or the other form of vos, likely)
      (because “nos” and “vos” are object-case forms, while nosotros and vosotros are coinages from nos and vos, related to nuestro/a/os/as, vuestro/a/os/as, our and your, respectively, with adjectival gender and number agreement.)

      Then in English, Southern Americans sometimes make a distinction of inclusion/exclusion in the immediate group (or near/far degree to the group) like this:

      “Are you coming?” (You, one person, right beside the speaker.)
      “Are y’all coming?” (You, plural group, right beside the speaker.)
      “Are just y’all coming?” (Waving hands, indicating the local group, plural, but not the others around them or over there.)
      “Are all (of) y’all coming?” (The same as “just y’all” but more inclusive and not as specific of who’s included.)

      “Y’all” is “you all,” not “ya’ll, you’ll, you shall/will” (I rarely hear “shall” except in the most formal or educated speakers.)

      Then there is:


      “We-all” is that same level of specificity, the local group, usually included by a hand sign, as opposed to a “larger” or “farther” group of “we.”

      Hmm, just to confuse things, I suppose you could invert the specifics, in which case, “we” is more narrow and closer than “we-all” and “y’all” is more narrow or closer than “all y’all.”

      The funny point being, “all y’all” sounds like duplication to a non-Southerner, but it’s needed because “y’all” is a fixed/fused word, instead of “youse,” which sounds just as off to Southerners as “y’all” sounds strange to Northernerns. Note Northerners will say, “all youse guys” instead of “youse-all,” but they might occasionally say, “we-all.” Maybe.

      For third-person, though, I can only think of hand-signals or tone of voice, or some specifier like “him, that guy over there” or “her, right here,” that kind of thing.

      A single word, pronoun or adjective, that says who is wheee could be handy.

      We’ll just excuse whither and whence, hither and hence, thither and thence.

      These days, people look at you funny if you say, “whom!”

      Why people got mixed up over familiar and formal you, and dropped “thou” as singular and “ye” as plural, is exactly why we ended up with “you and you” and now need a “y’all” or “youse.”

      Somewhere, I’m just sure somebody’s grandmothe3r is saying it’s rude to point!

      While we’re at it, a generic, gender-neutral, third-person singular besides “one” would sure be useful. “It” would be rude and “one” sounds stuffy unless you stick “some” in front, to some people. Never mind that one is a perfectly good pronoun.

      Hmm. You-two, you-both, we-two, we-both, those-two, both-of-them….

      The mind, it boggleth.

      Gtst shall try not to Phase, however, as that would be most wearisome for all concerned (or unconcerned, the way gtst does ramble on…).

      Though to be fair, “gtst” conveys something entirely other than “he, she, it, both, neither, neutral,” more or less, “one” but with that tripartite or hermaphroditic gender of stsho involved.

      • chondrite

        Not at all. I refer you to my previous Pidgin construct: “We stay go, you stay stay.” To someone who speaks Pidgin (BTW, this is my limited experience with Pidgin as the lingua franca developed between Hawaiians and Western traders, and later the polyglot plantation workers) it simply means “We have to go, but you can stick around.” The variations on y’all make just as much sense. “All y’all” simply means not just those of your group in the immediate vicinity, but other members elsewhere as well. The stsho may take that or leave it, as required. 🙂

        I remember my father, first generation German immigrant who “Came over on das boot. Mit das shickens. Unt das cabbaches.” using some odd sentence fabrication. He would say “I do want…” where ‘do’ was the way he constructed his verb, not for emphasis as a native English speaker might use — “I DO want…” “I do plan…” “I do think that your mother has made many extra potatoes for the sauerbraten!” Once I started looking at how Latin sentences hung together, and later took a few courses in German, the way he spoke made all types of sense.

  17. Andrew_W

    It seems that context means a great deal in Latin. But getting a translation right when the context of the original text doesn’t make sense poses problems. I am at the following passage:

    Agricola fratrem non saepe videt quod frater non in
    America habitat. America non est patria nautae. Nauta non
    est incola Americae.

    My take is this, given the context that the farmer’s brother is a sailor.

    “The farmer does not ofter see his brother, because the brother does not live in America. America is not a country of sailors. Sailors do not live in America.
    Oh dear.

    Either I am reading this all wrong or whoever wrote this in 1933 was really woefully uninformed about America.

    • Hanneke

      @Andrew: note the word est in the last sentence: it’s the singular he is, not the plural. They aren’t talking about all sailors, just the one sailor with the farmer brother, who isn’t an inhabitant of America. It sounds to me as if either the farmer emigrated to America, or his brother the sailor emigrated to some other country, making America not the sailor’s homeland (as stated in the second sentence).

    • BlueCatShip

      I’d guess there, “America non est patria nautae. Nauta non est incola Americae.” is saying:

      “America is not the/that/this sailor’s country. The/this/that sailor is not (incola, something) of/from/by America.” (omitting -‘s from America in the last instance, with the preposition there)

      If that “incola” was “insula” then I’d say it’s “island, insular.”

      Hmm, we’ll ignore the anachronism that anyone speaking Latin prior to well past 1492 wouldn’t know who or where America was. I can’t recall when it was named after Amerigo Vespucci, for reasons that I don’t remember anymore either. Mapmaker, I think. Italian or Sicilian. By then, Middle or early Modern Italian, I’d think.

  18. Andrew_W

    “America is not the Sailor’s country”. I got it wrong thinking, “America is not a sailors’ country”. I need to pay attention here. If it sounds really odd then I am probably reading it wrong.

    As for anachronisms I just imagine what some historian 1000 years from now would make of Euro/American history if they accidently added 600 years to the history of Britain. Poor Joan d’Arc would go to the stake three times to account for all the references.

  19. Andrew_W

    To Hanneke, re: Too many new things.

    As an absolute newbie at this I really appreciate the approach. My initial efforts at learning Latin involved using Alexandar Lenard’s Winnie-Ille-Pu. It was a disaster. As a newbie I can testify that my biggest challenge is to balance a very keen curiosity about words and word usage against information overload.

    For instance, today I have spent an hour and a half enjoying all these posts, and have forgotten to get on with reading my primer. Too much new stuff tends to breed distraction in me.

    I may have to break up my studies with days of primer work and days of reading posts. Just to put some kind of organization on my thinking, lest my thoughts begin to resemble that ill-fated frog in the food processor.

    And, just to ad shrapnel to the grenade, I am trying to learn to play the harp as well.

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