Linguistics

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

272 Comments

  1. BlueCatShip

    BTW, thanks, everyone. This thread has been one of the most enriching and fun I’ve had in quite a while.

  2. Sgt Saturn

    Mentioning America in a Latin sentence isn’t necessarily an anachronism. Remember that people corresponded in Latin well into the Twentieth Century. I have on my shelf a copy of The Latin Letters of C. S. Lewis. These were written sometime between Word War II and Lewis’ death — sometime in the 1950s. I don’t recall that America is mentioned, but it easily might be.

  3. Andrew_W

    Oh that is cool.

    Amazing O_O!
    When I read that first article I can almost understand it. Since this has been in the news a lot anyway I can parse about half of it at a glance. That is a revelation.

    But here is a sentence that I cannot make flow when I try to translate it,

    Filius in agro laborat quod terra est nova et
    fortuna agricolae non est bona.

    I get that the son is laboring in the field. It is why that I can’t quite grasp. Because I can’t make it flow in English when I parse it I am unsure of my translation,

    quod terra est nova et fortuna agricolae non est bona.

    The closest I can get makes me think,
    “because the land is new and the possessions/prosperity of the farmer are not good.”

    That is so clunky that it makes doubt that I have it right at all. If that is accurate then the translation for effect would be.
    “because the land is new and the farmer is poor.” (as in too poor to hire farm hands who are not family). If I am wrong then I am going down the primrose path again and the next paragraph may just get way too confusing.

    • chondrite

      I would have thrown in a dura, just to emphasize that the work was harder than it ought to be. quod terra est nova et fortuna agricolae non est bona I interpret as “because the land is new (probably it was never tilled before, and is full of rocks, tree stumps, and gophers), and the farmer is having poor luck (with it).”

    • chondrite

      On second thought, the son might be working in the field because the farmer is in fact too poor to hire more help, and your second interpretation is correct. The son was hoping to leave the farm and make his fortune in the city, but is instead stuck down on the farm, rusticating…

  4. Hanneke

    @Andrew: I think fortuna means ‘luck’, in the sense of a person having the good fortune to … , or being fortunate. Except not necessarily being good luck.
    Then it would mean ‘because the land is new and the farmer’s luck isn’t good’.
    Or, changing the verb tense because that makes more sense to me, if the barrenness/paucity of the soil is the implied result of this bad luck: ‘the farmer hasn’t been fortunate’ (‘good’ left out of the translation, because that is already implied in the English word) or ‘the farmer hasn’t had good luck/fortune’ (especially if the land is distributed in a way that implies some people being lucky and others unlucky in which bits they get). Sorry, my Latin is very rusty and I haven’t tried to read the newspaper (yet), so I don’t know the exact circumstances.
    I really shouldn’t comment as much about this as I’ve done, knowing so very little, but this conversation is interesting!

  5. BlueCatShip

    OK, now I’ve got to try, with only daughter-languages and general language geekery to guess at it.

    [b][i]Filius in agro laborat quod terra est nova et
    fortuna agricolae non est bona.[/i][/b]

    (The/A) son works/labors in the field that(1) is new land/earth, and the farmer’s fortunes/luck are not good.

    I’ve translated that as “fortunes” as in, “the fortunes of war,” or more simply, luck, with the implication that luck or fortune/s can be good or bad, depending on one’s viewpoint. The farmer father and mother might feel fortunate to have their son working in the fields, but the son might not, particularly if the new (fallow?) field is proving hard to work or isn’t good farmland.

    Note (1) is: I’ve translated “quod” as “that” instead of “because”, where “that” is the relative pronoun linking two clauses or phrases, our “that” and French and Spanish “que”. The “quod” looks like “what” or “which” to me, again in the “que”/”that” sense. I’m also taking a clue from “quod erat demonstrandum” (that which is to be demonstrated). I suppose it could be “because,” but Spanish, French, and Italian (and I presume Portuguese and Romanian and others) have porque, parce-que/pourquoi, perchè and so on, all literally, “for what/that, because, why”, so I’m presuming “quod” is not “because,” but I could be wrong.

    The structure seems like an inversion of cause and effect to me, but maybe that’s because I’m so used to word order, while Latin’s inflection system makes word order mostly irrelevant.

    I agree I have the feeling I’m still missing something implied or outright stated.

    Let’s see how much sense I can make of that newspaper….

  6. BlueCatShip

    How strange. I can get a general idea, the gist of many of those, and I think I understood most of the meaning of a few articles. I wouldn’t vouch for understanding of fine detail, such as exactly what case or tense/mood in much of it, but it was enough to get the idea. I might even get some of it from hearing/spoken comprehension. One of the articles on Greece that I thought I should have gotten, I didn’t understand much. I noticed a few “ae/oe” that I didn’t know had been “ae/oe” in the original, since they reduced to long é/ei. I was surprised how much I could get from only English, without French or Spanish input. With those, though, I could make some guess on verb forms and noun/adj. forms more often. The strangest part is how much of the meaning is there, accessible, and yet how much the full meaning and nuance is just out of reach without studying the language. What else is strange is that I’ve seen a very few examples of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and that is more foreign and less comprehensible to me than the Latin was, I’d guess. — I wonder how I’d do if I were given a Latin 1st semester exam, if I’d make a C or above based on guessing. I’m not sure what that’d say, either, but I’m curious.

  7. Andrew_W

    Just took a quick look at lesson 8. There are some oddities there, and I would only spot them because I have a long association with the use of and histories of such things as swords and shields.

    Gladius: I guess in some social situations could be used to mean generically “a sword” in actuality though it is just a type of sword. It is short, under two feet in length, designed as a thrusting weapone, (during some periods a legionair could be scourged for putting an edge on it) and primarily the weapon of choice for line on line close order combat.

    There are other types of swords that fall into the category of “spathas” These are swords used most often from horseback. It was an edged weapon. They would eventually evolve into the Medieval broad sword. The Ancient Greeks had a beast of a sword called a zythos, that may have been what the spatha evolved from, anywhere from two to three and a half feet long and made of iron as opposed to steel. The Spartans used them as back up to the 7.5 long Dori, a double ended spear, which was a Spartan’s primary weapon.

    A very good example of a Spatha in use is in the film Gladiator with Russel Crow. In the arena when he saves his team with good tactics. Near the end of the contest he leaps on a horse and someone tosses him a long sword. That thing is a spatha.

    Centurion: On paper a commander of 100 men. Operationally this was usually 60 – 80. He is equivalent to a modern Captain. He was an officer not a sergeant. One would not, for instance, send a Centurion out to perform routine some task with a detail of one or two men. A centurion would pick the detail, assign a leader, (the equivalent of seargeant) and send them to execute the mission.

    From time to time Centurions would leap into the fray just to prove how capable they were or to just jump up the moral of their company (centurio).

    Just some oddments and details that might improve understanding certain things in certain contexts.

  8. Andrew_W

    This is alarming. Just what is going on here, exactly. And, If I guess to wildly will Cornelia’s brother come after me with a knife?


    Sunt nautae in terra sed nautae Corneliae pecuniam non
    semper dant quod pecuniam non semper habent. jnterdum
    ubi pecuniam habent, pecuniam dant. Nunc nauta pecuniam
    habet et Corneliae pecuniam dat. Cornelia nautae gratias
    agit. Cornelia nunc in via pecuniam portat.

    As I understand this it says,
    When the sailor is on land he doesn’t always give Cornelia money because he doesn’t always have money. Sometimes he has money and gives money. Now this sailor has money and gives money to Cornelia. Cornelia thanks the sailor. Cornelia is now on the road carrying the money.

    um…?

    From the previous pages I don’t recall there being any established connection between Cornelia and sailors. The farmer, her dad I guess, has a friend who is a sailor and they write to each other. But this is some kind of intro into the connections between Cornelia and that sailor. Or maybe I have this totally wrong and should be slapped.

  9. CJ

    Oh, I think you are right to be alarmed. Now if we say “Nauta frater Corneliae est,” it makes it much better: frater=brother. But if Cornelia is taking money from random sailors, we may assume Cornelia’s sandals leave a unique track, their tread stamping out the word “Sequi”…”follow.” That’s what the ladies of the evening did in one enterprising house of ill repute.
    Rome had standards about public behavior. You slipped some money to the high-class shady lady, sequi’d and ended up in the parlor. After which, well, every city had them. 😉 Lupa was one word for the lady. (Wolf, in the female.) Meretrix (off the word for ‘earn’) was nicer—we’d say a ‘working girl.’ Here’s a list of vocabulary you won’t find in the Latin I dictionary for Nice Students. These are largely collected to the definitive dictionary of the Latin language from, yes, wall inscriptions, aka graffiti, and be advised, they are not PG-rated.

    http://www.orbilat.com/Languages/Latin/Vocabulary/Latin-Forbidden.html

    And, on the higher plane, well above the gutter, here is a grammar source for more advanced study: http://www.orbilat.com/Languages/Latin/index.html which is something some of you have asked for. This site will provide you a dictionary and grammatical tables.

  10. BlueCatShip

    Non-Latin speaker: What is “agit”? That looks like it should be “he/she/it acts” (transitive or intransitive?) or…oh good grief, I need to look up French, “s’agir, il s’agit,” my memory says that’s either acts or requires, but it’s too rusty. …Grabbing my dictionary…

    —–

    I was getting the same impression as Andrew from the quoted exemplar, but somehow the English “pecuniary” had escaped me. Even so, there are enough present indicative verb forms there that did little more than drop a consonant and shift pronunciation slightly, once you account for “naut-” for sailor.

    “Sequi,” eh? Heheh, oh wow.

    I was trying not to besmirch Cordelia’s reputation, but well, the text does rather imply something. A girl’s gotta make a living, I suppose. Or a boy either. I would like to think I’d treat someone in that profession decently. It really is a strange old world out there.

    My high school French teacher kept a small dictionary on her classroom desk that had non-textbook French slang. Yes, including some expressions that high school students might get curious about or might have encountered. Students could look up things in any of the resource books and dictionaries. She wasn’t being racy or subversive. It was rare for a student to actually get curious and look at any of the books, which were ordinary foreign language resources. If a student did get curious about any books, I think she knew she had an above average language learner there. (I was one of the student assistants and handful of really motivated/interested language students. Our high school went from two to three foreign language teachers while I was there: Spanish, French, German, and I think finally Latin, but nothing else while I was there.)

    Given that it was Texas, we were around Spanish and Tex-Mex and other Latin American dialects, both the “proper” and the four-letter word varieties. Most of the kids who spoke Spanish natively did *not* speak the textbook flavor, but usually a primary or a bilingual or secondary mix.

  11. BlueCatShip

    S’agir: How did my memory associate that with “requires”? It means, “to concern, to be a question of”.

    Hah, I had not looked at my battered old pocket Larousse in too long. It dates to high school and college. From the price tag style, I’d say it was bought at either Ballantine Books or B.Dalton’s; it doesn’t remind me of Waldenbooks. The price back then? all of $2.95. Today’s prices, multiply that by at least five to seven and a half, I’d guess.

    I’d never thought to ask, but “agir” is to act, to act on, to work on. For “s’agir” to be a reflexive verb, that would lead to something about acting on oneself or the thing itself, so I don’t quite see how that leads to the meaning, “to concern or be a question of”. Yet there’s usually a thought-path that leads from one to the other, either in the language or its ancestor. …Or do I just regard it as a fixed expression usage, and say, it is because it is? 🙂

  12. CJ

    ago, agere, egi, actus —a Latin verb variously translated as “do, drive (a car), discuss, act” and yes, “involve,” under some applications. It changes its meaning (for English) depending on what the ‘thing’ is one is ‘ager-‘-ing.

    Res, rei is the noun equivalent of the totally indefinite noun, “thing, business, affairs of state, thingamabob, whatchacallit, matter, item”.

    So if you say rem ago, it means anything from “I’m discussing the matter, I’m doing something, I’m handling the item, I’m doing that job (in the extremely abstract sense), I’m conducting the affairs of state, I’m making a deal, I dunno what this is but I’m doing it,” or “I’m handling this, stand back!”

    Res publica, the word for ‘republic’ means, like la cosa nostra, ‘our little thing’ —‘the public thing.’

    And if you think Latin is the only language with catch-basket words, try defining ‘get’ for a foreigner to English.

  13. BlueCatShip

    [quote]I dunno what this is, but I’m doing it.[/quote]

    So wildly appropriate these days!

    So, would “in medias res” be about as much, “in the middle of the thing,” than, “in the middle of the action”? Or is that a different “res” there?

  14. CJ

    Perfectly accurate. Cept it’s actually “INTO the midst of it all…” Accusative case, not locative or ablative.

  15. Hanneke

    In defense of Cornelia’s reputation: in a previous fragment, the farmer (her father) had a son working the field, who had a brother who was a sailor, if I recall correctly. So Cornelia has at least one sailor brother, and her father the farmer is poor (or had bad luck). Of course, this doesn’t explain why sailors in the plural (verb ending in -nt) are giving her money when they’re ashore / in the country.

  16. Hanneke

    @ BCS: “il s’agit de…” (French) = “es handelt Sich um …” : in German and Dutch you can use a similar construction (old-fashioned and a bit pompous, at least in Dutch).
    The conversation itself seems to be the actor in this construction, and the action ‘it’ is taking is ‘talking about’ the subject.
    It is a pompous way of saying “In this speech/conversation, I/we am/are talking about …” or in modern parlance “It’s all about …”: nowadays one almost aways uses another shorter phrase.

  17. Hanneke

    @Andrew: I’d guess this exercise is about that pesky -ae ending, which can signify a lot of different things. I always get confused by them. I think I’ve still got the ‘rosa’ and ‘hortus’ series in my head, but I’ve forgotten which is ‘from or to the rose’, ‘belonging to/of the rose’, ‘ordering the rose about’, and ‘I’m adressing you, the rose’ – and the words for those grammar things have completely escaped. The only ones I remember are the first, the nominative, when the rose is the actor (subject) in the sentence; and the fourth, the accusative, when the rose is the acted-upon object of the sentence.
    I never understood why the Romans had all these variations, when they used the same endings for half of them (rosa-rosae-rosae-rosam-rosa, rosae-rosarum-rosis-rosas-rosis is what floats up, I don’t know if it’s correct).

    1- Sunt nautae in terra: “Sailors are ashore”. The -ae signifies the nominative plural of sailor.

    2- Nunc nauta pecuniam habet et Corneliae pecuniam dat. Cornelia nautae gratias agit.: “Now the/a sailor has money and gives money to Cornelia. Cornelia grives thanks to the sailor.” The -ae signifies the direction towards Cornelia in the first sentence, and the direction towards the singular sailor in the second sentence.

    3- sed nautae Corneliae pecuniam non semper dant: this is the sentence where the -ae could cause trouble, as an adjective can be recognised as belonging to a noun by having the same ending.
    So the nautae in this sentence could be an adjective to Cornelia, or a repeat of the subject of the first half (sentence 1, above).
    It could either mean “The sailors are ashore, but the sailors don’t often give Cornelia money” or “The sailors are ashore, but they (implicit in the verb) don’t often give the nautical Cornelia money”. This might be a possible meaning, if Cornelia is known to be a girl who likes sailing, and maybe the speaker wants to make a point about such ‘unladylike’ conduct leading to less financial support.
    And for extras add a small side-helping of unlikely confusion caused by the ‘belonging to’ variant of the -ae ending’s possible meaning: “this sailor of Cornelia’s” (her brother) – this is excluded by the plural ending of the verb dant.

  18. Andrew_W

    As I look over this primer. I think the exercise is primarily about vocabulary building. Grammar is definitely secondary and more along the lines of learning the grammar by context and exposure than by learning the “rules”. At least that is what the author says in the forward. So, this passage is about how to use the word “pecuniam”. Ealier passages introduced “nauta, nautea, nautaeum”,

    It just struck me as odd that in exemplifying the use of the word “pecunium” that the focus of the paragraph would be about a sailor, (who is the farmer’s/father’s brother, Cornelia’s uncle I guess), giving “good little girls” money. The book was written in the 30’s and that was definitely NOT a time of innocence anywhere I think. The whole sequence just distracted me a bit.

    Sequi…follow, egads, sequence, a bunch of things following each other in a particular order. But what does all of this say about a sequin dress? Oh my the paths this stuff leads us down. Could that really and truly be some kind of double entente?

    But how old is the word sequin…?

    Ok, sequin comes to us from the French word, same spelling (describing small shiny coin like decorations), which comes from the Italian zechino which is a word for coin that comes from the Arabic “sikka” a word that describes the die used for striking coins. It is also a slang expression describing the Ventian ducat. (Wiktionary is becoming a really handy resource)

    So, possibly the evolution of a double entente? Latin Sequi, (remembered during the renaissance perhaps as something naughty, or maybe still in use somewhere) having a peculiar similarity to a word for gold “ducat” and . . .

    People will think of these things. In my ongoing rebellion against political correctness I find myself amazed at just how much of the English language can be used in sexual double ententes. I suspect that this may be a factor in all languages and takes the idea of language itself right down to its most biological roots.

    If I am remembering The Andromeda Strain correctly, any life form must do three things in order to be classified as a life form. It must consume fuel for energy. It must eliminate waste, And, it must procreate. Given the pervasiveness of sexual puns, bathroom humor, and an absolute obsession about food I think there may be certain biological imperatives that drive the development of all language.

Submit a Comment