Latin IS English!

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!

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!”)

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