Wednesday, June 25, 2008

LATIN FOR BEGINNERS - June 26- Feast of Sts. John and Paul


I thought it might be fun posting the odd article on some aspect of the Latin language, after one day quite recently picking up one of my old Latin text books, (under my bed, and after blowing all the dust off it) a book which contains some sixty odd translations from Latin into English
The aim of this particular textbook is to introduce the Latin language to the BEGINNER by way of an interesting history of the Rise of Rome, the invasion and subsequent conquest of Britain, and finally in the final chapter LX (that’s 60 in Latin) chapter, [or perhaps I should refer to them as pieces because that is how the author introduces them] the End of the Roman Occupation of Great Britain. [ The book I will be using is “A FIRST LATIN READER, by C. J. Vincent, M.A. 1936, reprint 1966] ( It was thrown out of a public library some 20 years ago!)…thank you very much… There are accompanying exercises with each piece, and I haven’t as yet decided whether to include them, but as they are translating English into Latin it could be a good idea.

The Church in her wisdom, decided on the use of a ‘dead’ language, because as such, being no longer a secular language, it is immune from change associated with use over time. That is, its meaning can never change just as the unchangeable teachings of the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ can never change. _____________________________

PRONUNCIATION What about correct pronunciation of Latin? Apparently the way the Romans spoke Latin was slightly different to Church Latin…that’s what I was told….but, how does anyone know how the early Romans spoke in their day to day lives? We don’t have any tape recordings of them talking, do we?..(we were told that the “v” in Latin was pronounced as a “w”, so instead of saying “in vino veritas” ( which means “ in wine there is truth”), the Romans would have spoken it thus, “in wino weritas”, …

If you attend a Traditional Mass (in Latin, of course.) you should pick up correct pronunciation from Altar boys (servers/acolytes) and the Priest…so you are getting “from the horses mouth” so to speak, providing have been paying attention, of course…during Mass. So you are getting a free lesson there…don’t waste it …follow along in your Missal a few times is a good idea. {note there are several ways to pray at Mass, which I hope to cover in future ) “From the horses mouth”, wonder where that saying came from? Have to look up Google sometime… Anycase , I refuse to pronounce the way those early Romans did…it sounds much, much better in Church Latin…

THE COURSE –GETTING STARTED The early pieces for translation deal with some of the more Romantic episodes in the rise of Rome, while the remainder describe the invasion and subsequent conquest of Britain. The content therefore has the advantage of a continuous narrative interest The short historical introductions can be amplified according to the whims of the reader. At the end of this course (?) some knowledge of the early history of Rome and of Roman Britain should have been acquired (that’s what C. J. Vincent reckons ). At the outset only a minimum of grammar is assumed For the first five pieces all that need be known is the declension of mensa, annus, puer, bellum, bonus.

What are Declensions?
Well, as some of you probably don’t know, Latin is a very heavily inflected language, that is to say, the endings of words vary according to which part of speech they belong to….When we are discussing nouns or naming words, we refer to its form as the case of that noun… We are still talking about Nouns….Learn these CASES off ‘by heart’:

Nominative is the case of the subject of a sentence

The Vocative case is the addressing of someone or thing viz O, Henry! Wherefore art thou….etc

The Accusative case is the case of the direct object of a sentence

The Genitive corresponds to the English Possessive Case …belonging to

The Dative is the case of the indirect object, marked by the presence of “ to” or “for”

The Ablative case is indicated in English by prepositions “by”, “with’, “from” Latin nouns fall into five classes classes called


First Declension nouns are declined like mensa, mensae, f, a table.

CASE               SINGULAR                                   PLURAL

Nom.     mens-a       a table (subj.)             mens-ae        tables (subj.)
Voc.      mens-a       O table!                       mens-ae        table! O tables!
Acc.      mens-am    a table (obj.)               mens-as        tables (obj.)
Gen.     mens-ae      of a table                     mens-arum    of tables
Dat.      mens-ae     to, for a table               mens-is          to, for tables
Abl.      mens-a   by, with, from a table     mens-is       by, with, from tables

The declension to which the noun belongs is indicated by the ending of the Genitive singular That’s the nouns, briefly! You have to remember them by heart…

Second declension nouns are declined like Dominus, -i, m,. master or lord:

Thus murus, -i, m (2) wall is declined like dominus

CASE                SINGULAR                                    PLURAL

Nom. domin-us   a master (subj.)           domin-i        masters (subj.)

Voc.   domin-e     O master!                     domin-i        O masters!

Acc.   domin-um  a master (obj.)             domin-os       masters (obj.)

Gen.  domin-i      of a master                    domin-orum   of masters

Dat.   domin-o    to, for a master              domin-is     to, for masters

Abl.   domin-o  by, with, from a master  domin-is    by, with, from masters

VERBS Verbs like nouns are also inflected and more than English verbs, so that while English has lost it’s inflections (endings), Latin is a highly inflected language. Verbs may be inflected to indicate person, e.g. I run, he runs; or to indicate number, e.g, he runs , but they ran; or again to indicate tense, e.g. I run, I ran.

Verbs are classed into four goups called Conjugations.

The class or conjugation a verb belongs is shown us by the ending of its present infinitive active. For example, the present infinitive active of all verbs of the first conjugation or class ends in –are, e.g. amare, to love O.K. Now that you understand all that we shall start the adventure proper!. In Latin, as in English, the subject is in the Nominative Case, and the verb is in the same person and number as the subject: Graecus navigat, a Greek sails Graeci navigant, Greeks sail

… I am going to add the Present indicative of amare, to love.
That’s a first conjugation word….in the vocab section of textbooks, dictionary you will usually see a number after the verb bracketed thus: (1) or (2)…(5)

Yep, these five of these things to learn, but I don’t expect we will get beyond (1) the first declension, …. So, you will see that the verb to sail, navigo, navigare (1) is conjugated just like amare, to love…..just add endings thus, o, s, t, mus, tis, nt. And that applies to all first conjugated (1) verbs…..: If the subject seems to be missing, it is found in the verb: Navigat, he sails, navigant, they sail’

Adjectives (describing words) agree in gender (masculine, feminine or neuter), number and case with the noun they qualify. Murus altus, a high wall; muri alti, high walls Porta magna, a great gate The verb “to be” in Latin, as in English, is followed by the nominative case. Murus est altus, the wall is high The object in Latin is in the Accusative Case (except after certain verbs) Graeci portam oppugnaverunt, the Greeks attacked the gate Graeci murum aedificaverunt, Greeks built the wall.

Troy Paris, who was really the son of Priam, king of Troy, a city near the entrance to the Dardanelles , was brought up by a shepherd. When he grew up, he so distinguished himself at game meetings that the king acknowledged him as his son. Later, he went on a visit to Greece, where he stayed with Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Menelaus’ wife was Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris fell in love with her, and persuaded her to elope with him to his father’s city of Troy. Thousands of Greeks,in anger at the insult to the king of Sparta, joined together in an expedition to capture Troy and bring Helen back. The Trojans put up such a stout resistance that the siege lasted ten years, but in the end Troy was taken by a trick.

Troia erat oppidum magnum in Asia. Muri erant alti et validi. Graeci multi ad Asiam navigaverunt et oppidum oppugnaverunt; sed Troianos non superaverunt. Inde Graeci Troianos consilio novo superaverunt. Equum magnum et ligneum aedificant, quem viris complent.

Vocab…[to assist you a little or a lot…] Quem, which; rel pronoun., acc case sing., masc Viris, with men; abl case Oppidum,(2), town; Murus (2), wall; Magnus, adj, great; Validus,adj, strong; Equus (2), horse; Ligneus, adj, wooden; Consilium (2), plan; novus, new; supero (1), to overcome compleo,-ere, -evi,-etum, (2) to fill; oppugno,(1) , to attack; inde, then Graecus, -i, m. Greek .

Translate: (1) Troy was a town. (2) The wall was high (3) The walls were strong (4) The Greeks sailed (5) They attacked the town (6) He built a large horse (7) The horse was wooden _________________________________________________

The key to passages for translations:


 Troy was a great town in Asia.   The walls were strong and high.   Many Greeks sailed to Asia and attacked the town; but they did not overcome the Trojans. Then the Greeks overcame the Trojans with a new plan.  They build a great wooden horse, which they fill with men.


(1) Troia oppidum erat.  (2) Murus erat altus (3) Muri validi erant (4) Graeci navigaverunt (5) Oppidum oppugnaverunt (6) magnum equum aedificavit (7) Equus erat ligneus

How many of you know this famous catholic hymn in Gregorian chant mode:
"Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement. O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.

R. That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

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