Latin IS English!

May 16, 2009

The States of Being of the Latin “State of Being” Verb: “sum” (6 Tenses)

As with all languages, there are a handful of verbs that, not being “active” (transitive) toward a “direct object” in their meanings and usage, they therefore fall into a category of verbs commonly known as “state of being” verbs, also referred to as “linking” or “intransitive” verbs.  Also, in each of the languages I’ve studied (and surely in many more), the “to be” verb always falls into an “irregular” category of verb structures.  The Latin verb sum = I am . . . is no exception.  Not to worry though, because there are still patterns of “constants” that may be observed among the variables, making this irregular verb more manageable for memorization. So, let’s observe the chart of “The Six (6) tenses of the Latin Verb sum” (PDF also available from sidebar) followed by some comments (below)—

The Six Tenses of the Latin Verb sum

First, it is helpful to notice—via the aid of color—that all but one of the six tenses of sum utilize the same “personal endings” (with the frequent alternation of –o / –m in the 1st person singular).  The Latin “Perfect” tense is the only tense revealing a unique grouping of verb endings (i.e.— ī, isti, it, imus, istis, ērunt). Meanwhile, it stays easy. The “Imperfect,” being a past time tense, conveniently throws us back into that former “era” (verb stem) when things were quite different.  Put the personal endings on, and it’s a done deal! Similarly with the “Future” tense, with a verb stem “eri,” which shows all through the conjugation except in the 1st person singular where, like Jonah inside the whale, the “i” gets swallowed up by the “o” ending.  It’s there (like Jonah); you just can’t see it (him)!

On to the “Perfect system,” which includes all three: the “Perfect,” the “Pluperfect” and the “Future Perfect”—all noticeably formed off the third principal part of this verb . . . Let’s see . . . uh . . . that would be . . . uh . . . Oh, “phooey!” — I can never remember it!  Wait! That’s it! The third principal part isfuī (pronounced “foo-ee”).  So then, the stem used is simply:fu-.  As noted about, the “Perfect” adds to this stem the uniquely used endings: ī, isti, it, imus, istis, ērunt, leaving you with two clues or “flags” to tell you what tense it is.  And finally, utilizing the same fu- stem, the “Pluperfect” and the “Future Perfect” simply add on the “Imperfect” conjugation of sum: eram . . . and the “Future” conjugation of sum: ero . . . , respectively.

So, observe; use discernment; think logically; look for structural patterns and consistencies. If you do, the irregularities of this “irregular” verb will seem less ominous to you.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

May 15, 2009

“Nothing personal, but this is gonna have to get ‘Personal’ (Pronouns)!”

Okay, this is really going to get “personal.” Personal Pronouns, that is. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd “Personal Pronouns” (PDF, also available from the sidebar) in Latin. For us English folks, that would be “I, you, and he, she, it with all their translated variations as they are used in “objective” (oblique) cases, and go through changes as they become plural as well.

And, these can be made simpler to learn (memorize), if you’ll simply pay attention to many of the consistent, repetitious “patterns” that also occur elsewhere within the whole system of Latin declensions. Also, you can easily observe the self-evident constructional patterns existing between the pronouns themselves, particularly between the structures of the 1st and 2nd personal pronouns.

Latin 1st, 2nd, 3rd Personal PronounsWhen observing the 3rd personal pronoun (is, ea, id = he, she, it . . .), what seems overwhelming at first, doesn’t have to be.  First, learn the triad as a “vocabulary” unit.  Then, looking at the chart, notice that both the Genitive case singular and the Dative case singular forms are identical for all three genders within each respective case.  So, learn each of those once, then use it three times!

Then, remember that a Latin “neuter” declension always repeats its Nominative form in the Accusative. The rest of the cases— with an e prefixed — are simply the “masculine,” “feminine,” and “neuter” case endings already learned when studying the 1st & 2nd declensions.  Pretty straightforward afterall, huh?  So, if you want, you may take it “personally.”  Not a bad idea!

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

 

January 17, 2009

“Significant within a Latin sentence is word order.”

“Significant within a Latin sentence is word order.” That’s right. Just look at the title of this post. What are the most significant words in that sentence? If you said “Significant” and “order,” you are correct. Simply from their positioning, the words on at the extremities (beginning and end) hold a greater degree of prominence. Once you’ve studied Latin long enough to be able to translate your first sentence, you’ll immediately notice (as we’ve discussed previously further down within this blog) that the word order of a typical “basic” Latin sentence follows the pattern of (1) Subject at the beginning, (2) Verb at the end, and (3) Direct Object behind (near) the subject within the sentence. And, while many if not most sentences will have more than three words representing these three basic parts of speech—in the example below an “indirect object” has been included— this is the basic word order pattern.

When Latin sentences are more complex in parts of speech used or kinds of phrases occurring, there are still—as in English—normal word order placement patterns that may be observed.  An “indirect object,” for example, would normally occur after a subject and just before the direct object:

Deus Christianīs salutem dat.

(Subj./Indir. Obj./Dir. Obj./Verb)

God to Christians salvation gives.

You will also remember that “Genitive” case possessive-descriptive words normally follow the words they modify:

Christus Filius Deī est = (literally) “Christ the Son of God (he) is.” —or— “Christ is the Son of God.
Christus Deī Filius est = (literally) “Christ the of God Son (he) is.” —or— “Christ is the Son of God. (positionally stronger)

But, what about sentences where the words appear in an atypical order from those examples presented above? What implications, if any, does a different word placement order have on the translation of a Latin sentence? Well, the answer is—quite a lot. As is true in English as well. Already the Latin subject and verb placement at the beginning and end of the sentence gives them, as—stand out” words—special significance. So, when re-ordering occurs, we should pay attention to the significance. For example, here is a paraphrase of Mary’s great doxological prayer, commonly know as “The Magnificat,” from Luke 1:46-49:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum . . . quia fecit mihi magna . . . et sanctum nomen ejus (est).

My soul magnifies the Lord . . . because he has done great things for me . . . and holy (is) his name.

The simple movement of the Latin verb (Magnificat) from its normal ending position in the sentence (phrase) to the beginning draws extra attention to it, giving it a heightened importance or stress in this famous and widely utilized prayer of Mary after she learns that she will be the earthly mother of Jesus. Also, with the relocation of the verb to the beginning of the sentence, the “direct object” (Dominum) now holds a greater prominence as the last word within its clause. As a result, the main thrust of this part of the passage—for Mary and for us—is magnifying the Lord! Paying attention to word order, therefore, will help the Latin student draw out these special nuances in emphasis that are reflected within a given Latin sentence.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

November 13, 2008

The Latin VERB & Its “Principal Parts”

When beginning to formally study Latin verbs, not simply for vocabulary purposes but also for their grammatical structures (i.e., Tense, Voice, Mode, Person and Number), it’s important to pay attention to, even memorize the various “principal parts” or appearances of the the verb. There are generally four principal parts of a given Latin verb. These four principal parts are the four basic structures of the verb from which all of its various forms are derived.

By way of example, let’s look at the four “principal parts” of a normal 1st conjugation Latin verb like laudo—


_____________________________________________________________________________________________

1st Prin. Part (Present Act.) 2nd Prin. Part (Infinitive) 3rd Prin. Part (Perfect Act.) 4th Prin. Part (Participle)

         laudo                  laudare                 laudavī          laudatus, –a, –um

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Since the first Latin tense studied is normally the Present tense (1st principal part, above), it’s important to know that this tense of the Latin verb actually derives its base or “stem” from the “Infinitive” form (2nd principal part) by removing the Infinitive’s ending (-re). So, 1st Conjugation Latin verbs are also known as “a-stems,” since the stem is lauda|… ending with an “a” (see above).

You might say, “But I don’t see the “a” on the end of the Present tense (1st principal part) of the verb!” True enough.  It’s actually hidden, superceded by the addition of the verb’s 1st person singular personal ending (“o“). Or, as I like to say, it’s been “swallowed up like Jonah inside the whale.” However, the “a-stem” immediately reappears as the verb proceeds through its conjugation:


laudo          =  I praise

laudas =  you praise

laudat =  he/she/it praises

——————————

laudamus    =  we praise

laudatis =  you (pl.) praise

laudant =  they praise        

 

While there are four (4) main conjugations of Latin verbs, with some “irregularities” or variations from the above paradigm that occur, this is the “model” or norm for how Latin verbs derive their various forms.

 

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

“TV Makes People Nauseas” —OR— How to “Parse” a Latin Verb

One of the most important considerations in studying the foundational elements of Latin must be given to the verb, that part of speech which affirms either action or state of being. The component elements of a verb are collectively referred to as its “parsing” (from the Latin noun pars, partis = part, piece, function). These components are:

1. Tense

2. Voice

3. Mode (or Mood)

4. Person

5. Number

Or, as my beginning Greek professor used to wisely proclaim (to our era of declining quality television programming viewers) via the acronym of the first letters of each of the above words:  TV Makes People Nauseas!”

The “parsing” of a Latin “model” 1st conjugation verb laudo (“I praise…am praising…do praise”) is: Present, Active, Indicative, 1st Person, Singular. Now, let’s take a closer look at what these “parsing” components represent—

1. Tense conveys “kind” of action and generally, in the Indicative Mode only, the “time” of the action. So, for the above verb, Present tense would mean both present time and continuous “action” (that is, activity in real, present time). Of course, from your additional study elsewhere, you’ll know that the Latin tenses are the Present, Imperfect (continuous “action” in past time), Future, the Pluperfect (equivalent to the English Past Perfect), and the Future Perfect.

2. Voice (”active” or “passive”) tells how the action of the verb is related to the subject. With the active “voice,” the subject of the verb is “active” through the verb, most often with a direct object.  For example, Deum laudo = “I am praising God.” With passive voice, the subject is being acted upon.  For example, God is being praised.” Observe the diagram below. Even the direction of the arrows will help you remember what is happening with “active” and “passive” voice verbs.

active-and-passive-voice-diagram

3.  Mode (or Mood) tells what the verb is affirming, its relation to “reality.”

Indicative — declaratives, simple assertions, interrogations.
Subjunctive — mildly contingent, hesitating affirmation; mode of probability.
Imperative — commands or entreaties; mode of “volition.” 

4.  Person denotes who is acting as the subject.  In Latin the 1st, 2nd and 3rd personal pronouns (i.e., I, you, he, she, itwe, you, and they) are included in the endings of the verb form.

5.  Number is the “singularity” or “plurality” of the person or persons represented by the verb form, included in the verb’s personal endings.

One final word about a Latin verb’s “parsing.”  Since a verb’s parsing contains all the information needed to translate the word—providing you know its original root meaning, of course—whether it’s Present Active Indicative 1st person singular or Future Active Indicative 2nd person plural or Imperfect Passive Indicative 3 person singular; no matter what it is:

 

“If you can parse it, you can translate it!” 
 

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

 

 

 

October 6, 2008

“Let the Vocabulary Bell RING!”

As a Latin student begins to make progress through the five (5) Latin noun declensions, he or she will soon begin to notice—maybe with some degree of consternation—that there are some noun endings that repeat themselves in different “cases” even within the same declension (e.g, the –ae ending used in three different locations [cases] within the 1st declension).  As well, there may be repetition of the same case ending from one declension to the next, even involving different genders and different cases (e.g., the ī ending that occurs as twice within the 2nd declension masculine [genitive sing. and nom. pl.] and once in the neuter [genitive sing.], and then again in the 3rd declension as a dative singular).  Even the 2nd declension -us masculine nominative singular ending is repeated elsewhere—four times—within the 4th declension noun structures!

But, do not fear and tremble unnecessarily, even over something as seemingly ominous as this!  “Let the vocabulary bell ring inside your head:  when you think about how you first wrote, saw, and said the original form of the word, it will help significantly in directing your brain (the most sophisticated “computer” on the planet) first to the appropriate declension, and then to the appropriate case usage for the context which you are observing.

So, remember:  “Let the vocabulary bell RING!”


Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

August 8, 2008

“The sailor land (he) sees.” (. . . Huh?!) — THE WORD ORDER OF A LATIN SENTENCE

When translating Latin sentences, identify and translate in the following order whenever possible: (1) Subject (Nominative case), then (2) Verb and (3) Direct Object (Accusative case). However, remember, the normal Latin word order in a sentence with a transitive verb (i.e., a verb of “action”) will appear in a different order:

Subject (Nominative case) . . . then Direct Object (Accusative case) . . . then Verb.

—OR, in Latin

Nauta (Nominative for sailor)…terram (Accusative for land)…videt (he sees3rd person sing. of video)

=

(Literally) The sailor land (he) sees.OR— (English flow) The sailor sees land.


Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

August 2, 2008

“Is everyone getting on your ‘case’ a lot lately?”

To get started learning an “inflected” language—that is, the nouns, pronouns, and adjectives having different “endings” depending on what grammatical function they have in a given sentence—the initial hurdle one must face and soon overcome is to become “friends” with the terminology of these various functions—called “cases”—and to learn their corresponding functions, and therefore how a given Latin word is translated within those respective case functions.

So, there’s no better time than now for everyoneto start getting on your case(s)! Below is a fairly simplified summary overview of the five (5) basic Latin “cases” (excluding the relatively infrequent “Vocative” case) which the beginning Latin student must acquire early on (right-click on the chart image to download to your computer, or for a PowerPoint of the same, click here).  You should become as comfortable with the grammatical concepts shown here as you are with pizza . . . or burgers and fries . . . or ice cream on a hot summer day! (Hint:  Make this part of your regular diet, too!)

To download a PowerPoint presentation on the above chart, including the five (5) Latin noun declensions—click by click—click here. The same is also *permanently available for downloading from the sidebar.  For a PowerPoint presentation of the declension of the 1st Declension Latin noun, terra, click here. For a PDF click here, or go to the sidebar for either.

*(Note: our English word permanentcomes straight from a Latin compound of per = through and maneo = (I) remain. So, the Latin permaneo = last, continue, remain, endure. Hey, it happens all the time: “Latin IS English!”)

July 31, 2008

“You ain’t nothin’ but a noun dog, declining all the time!” . . . OR . . . “The ‘Satellite View’ of the 5 Latin Noun Declensions”

The Latin Nouns Declensions chart below (also available here as a downloadable PowerPoint presentation), details the 5 declensions of Latin nouns with their respective “genders” that the Latin student will encounter. I know of no other paradigm in existence that condenses—in this fashion—all of these case endings into a single, concise chart of all Latin noun declensions. I call it the “satellite view” of all Latin noun endings. Apart from this, the value of this particular chart is found mainly in the horizontal relationships existing between nouns that can be clearly seen in this layout. Assisting in the memorization of these endings are the use of arrows showing either identical or similar continuity, and yellow highlights denoting 3rd declension stem qualities. Click here to view the JPEG image, then right click the image to download.

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

July 26, 2008

“What You See is What You Get!” —OR— “A Satellite View of Latin Verbs”

Based on my prior study of and longevity teaching another “inflected” language (Koiné Greek) that has many close structural parallels with Latin, it has long been my belief that students of beginning Latin grammar seek a systematic way to study and retain the structural elements of the various grammatical components of the language. Over many years as a New Testament Greek language instructor, and in more recent years Latin, my observation has been that many students have tried, in a sense, to “re-invent the wheel” when it comes to memory systems or paradigms for these ancient verbs, nouns, participles and the like.  Thanks to one of my former language instructors, I can offer you what I think works for almost any language to help promote memory work of structures via paradigms—in this case, Latin Indicative Verb formations in the “active” and “passive” voices.

latin-indicative-verbs-chart1

Built upon a “numbering” system for verb endings, coupled with the “stem” (or “base” quality) of model verbs representative of all four Latin Indicative Mode (or Mood) verb conjugations, with the various tenses (other than the Present tense) governed by “tense signs” (e.g. “-ba-” for the Imperfect, or “-v-” for the Perfect, etc.), one can readily see the relationships, the constants and the variables that exist within the entire verbs formation paradigm, below.  Right-click on image to save to your desktop.

The above paradigm reflects the last screen of a multiple click-through PowerPoint presentation of all four Latin Verb Conjugations.  To download the PowerPoint, click here.  For a 7-page PDF of the same, click here or download either from the sidebar (opposite).

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

May 28, 2008

Wermuth’s “Famous Quotes & Memory Joggers”

Here is an initial listing of classroom teaching quotes or “memory joggers” that are helpful over the entire course of Latin language study. I will add to this list from time to time, and I will also post revised PDF versions of it on the sidebar (opposite).

  1. Always study vocabulary and grammatical structures first before translating exercises.
  2. Make your own vocabulary cards. Write the Latin word not only on the front of the card, but also on the back of the card just above the definition.  This will instill in you a “conditioned” remembrance between the Latin word and its English meaning.  You may also want to include the “conjugation” (if a verb) or the “declension” (if a noun) from which the word originates.
  3. Neuter Latin nouns always repeat their Nominative endings in the Accusative (singular and plural, respectively).
  4. The Latin declined ending “ī” shows up in two declensions (2nd and 3rd) and in three different cases:  Genitive singular (2nd declension masc. & neuter), Nominative plural (2nd declension masc.), and Dative singular (3rd declension, all genders).  Look at the declensions side by side and you’ll readily notice this.  (Of course, what declension the word originates in plus the sentence’s context will help the reader determine which case is occurring.)
  5. The main characteristic (irregularity) of  a 3rd Declension Latin noun is that its true stem does not appear within the vocabulary word (Nom. sing.) itself, but first reveals itself within the Genitive singular form.  (Example:  lex, legis . . .)
  6. When translating Latin sentences, identify and translate in the following order whenever possible: (1) Subject (Nominative case), then (2) Verb, and (3) Direct Object (Accusative case).
  7. “Stick to your cases!” (when translating Latin sentences)
  8. Q. When you can’t find a subject (Nominative) noun or an adjective functioning as the subject (Nominative “substantive”) of the sentence, where can you always still locate the subject of a Latin sentence?  A. Hanging off the end of the verbal form (i.e., the personal ending) as the subject of the verb and also of the entire sentence!
  9. Don’t be intimidated by grammatical terminology.  For example, “transitive” verbs (Lat. trans = across, over) are verbs that have “action” (i.e. they’re “moving” toward an object).  As a result, we have the “direct object,” which receives the action of these verbs of motion.  Or, as one of my students brilliantly (and simply) stated:  “The subject ‘verbs’ the object.”
  10. Remember, transitive Latin verbs most often are positioned at the end of the sentence (or individual clauses within the sentence).
  11. 1st Conjugation Latin verbs are also known as “a-stems.”  In the 1st person singular, the “a” of the stem is swallowed up by the personal ending “o” (kind of like Jonah inside the whale; he’s there . . . you just can’t see him!)
  12. 2nd Conjugation Latin verbs could very well be termed “e-stems.”
  13. 3rd Conjugation Latin verbs (e.g., mitto, mittis, mittit, mittimus, mittitis, mittunt) present a thematic “i” in their Present Indicative stems, except in the 1st person singular and 3rd person plural. In this respect, they could be called “i-stems.”
  14. The “tense sign” indicator for all conjugations of Imperfect tense Latin Indicative verbs is –ba-.
  15. The “tense sign” indicator for Future tense Latin 1st & 2nd Conjugation Indicative verbs is –bi-.
  16. The “tense sign” indicator for Future tense Latin 3rd & 4th Conjugation Indicative verbs is a thematic “e,”  except for the 1st person singular, where it is an “a.”
  17. Remember:  All  Latin Indicative mode verb tenses except one (the Perfect tense) utilize  the Latin verb endings:    [or]m ,  –s,  –t,  –mus,  –tis, –nt in their formation.   Meanwhile, the Perfect Active Indicative utilizes the following endings:  i,  –isti,  –it,  –imus,  –istis,  –erunt.
  18. There is a significance to the Latin word order within a sentence.  Words at the beginning and end—Subject and Verb, respectively—obviously have prominence. For example, “Genitive” case words (showing possession or description), when moved in front of a word instead of their normal position following the word, signify greater emphasis.  So: “Deus, Pater hominum . . .” ( = “God, the Father of men . . . ”) would be even stronger written “Deus, hominum Pater . . .”

Interested in taking a “live, interactive” online Latin class?  Take the POLL here!

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