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Latin for Dummies

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Dropped a Hobo off in Pittsburg last night, stopped by half price books on the way back, got Latin for Dummies for 6 bucks.


Im looking over chapter 15, "Translating and Reading Latin..... it said to look for the verb first, but the verb could be anywhere.....


How true is this? Can a latin sentence be completely jumbled?


They would have to read the whole sentence to understand what is being said.


My method was just to translate everything word by word, with examples of use, and also define any root's original meaning stripped of all its clauses, then stare at the mess for hours on the verge of crying, juxtapositioning everything till it makes sense. If it ever makes sense.


Or I avoid it, and just work on doing research on parts I sorta understand.


Its become nasty, entrenched, inhumane, demoralizing push after push into the text.


I know know to look for the verb first. Unless the dictionary tells me it is a verb, I wont know it. Something to do with the prefix or suffix..... dunno.


Sharpening my bayonet for another pointless, brutal trust out of my trench into the latin no mans land in the middle tonight.....

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I, too, have been struggling with basic Latin.


It's hard for me to grasp that Latin, unlike English, is a highly inflected language. What's that? Word endings change as they relate to other words in the sentence. And what the heck does that mean?


Two basic concepts: Conjugation of verbs (putting endings onto verbs) and a similar declension of nouns and adjectives.


English is easy. I run, you run, he or she runs, we run, they run etc.

Spanish (a language many of us know at least a little) has a harder verb conjugation for the verb run "correr". Yo corro...




In English, the word run requires a subject. Is it I run, you run, we run, they run, or what? In Spanish the verb conjugation let's us known the subject, so the subject is not necessary.


What makes Latin so hard is similar changes occur for nouns and adjectives, known as declension. Thus, we conjugate verbs and we decline nouns and adjectives. By their endings (which have to agree), we know whether a noun and its adjective are the subject(s), indirect object(s), direct object(s), possesive form(s), etc


So, in English we must have a sentence order to know whether Caesar hates the solder or the soldier hates Caesar.


In Latin, we can say : Casear soldier hates or Soldier Casear hates or any order and know the subject by the conjugation of the verb and the declensions of the nouns.


A Latin speaker immediately understands Caesar militem odit or Militem Caesar odit (both Caesar hates the soldier and not the soldier hates Caesar) by looking at the verb and its associated noun and not the word order. The soldier hates Caesar(I think) would be Miles Caeserem odit or Caeserem miles odit or Miles odit Caesarem, etc. Latin word order seems to prefer the verb at the end of the sentence, thus, we look at the end of the sentence for the subject.


And I'll be spending the next year trying to grasp this stuff in my feeble brain. I haven't bailed on Latin, yet, but...there's only so much memory space in this ossified brain.


I hope any Latin expert can correct or clarify further what I just wrote.



guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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This video and others in the series have been very helpful for me:




guy also known as gaius

Edited by guy

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A good summation guy. I've learned Italian & Russian with a combination of formal training and immersion. There's just no substitute for immersion unfortunately no Romans around though I'll bet somewhere in Vatican City you might find some few conversations in Latin.


Like I said before the issue of case is much more common in other Indo-European European languages as it was in Old English. Ironically I think it makes English grammar more difficult for those coming from other languages, or so I've been told by countless Russians. Living in St Petersburg, Russia I found they taught two kinds of English - American and British. I was told several times by people schooled in British English that they had difficulty understanding me.


As a side note I've noticed that the better one has a grasp of English grammar going into Russian the easier their grammar is to pick up, on the other hand your English grammar will get better if it wasn't all that great before.

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I had a Ukrainian girlfriend for years, my English got worst from it. Too much of me sitting on a mountain side hearing 'Aloot, Alllloooooottt' coming from each direction while they berry picked, wishing I had brought a snickers.

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I looked over the rules for identifying a noun in the singular, the M O S T rule. It came back the instant I saw it.


Weird, I spent all that time in Iraq trying to memorize those charts..... was completely defeated by it, then it pops back in quickly.


Middle English has alot of Latin words in it, but it respects word order for the most part, I can translate it with little difficulty. I can sorta do it with old English, I found some books in the San Francisco Library and did part of a poem.... but lost interest in it. Wasn't a whole lot of material there.


I found with middle english and early modern English, if you just sound it out, words tend to pop up that you recognize. I saw a documentary of a guy speaking old English...... I have zero chance of ever pronouncing that.


Latin for dummies has words phonetically spelled out so I can learn somewhat to pronounce it. I've always been very nervous saying Latin and French words in philosophy debates..... I might know the concept better than anyone, but it's from silent book reading..... I can get it very, very wrong to say it out loud. 


Take Bastogne for example..... silent G...... who the hell makes a silent G? It should be Bastone. Or Foucault..... it should be Fouco. 


I don't think the French ever learned how to speak proper English, despite being little more than a break away province of England from the hundred years war. They should just give up on speaking French and speak English like real people do if they want to pretend to be educated. There is no reason for all this silliness.

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Hi all,


Translating Latin is a matter of putting in a lot of practice. Just like it is hard for a non-native speaker to get the syntaxis right.

Start with prose and save writers like Tacitus for last. The latter produced sentences of more than a page long.

My advice is to start with Caesar (De bello gallico) or the bible.


In poetry almost every order of words is possible in Latin. Proverbs too. So the statistics in the post of Guy must include those.

But in prose there are some basic rules of the sequence of type of words in a sentence structure. This common practice could
be just a little bit different due to what was costumary in a region (foreign or dialectic differences) or for contemporary reasons.
Still, the structure didn't vary that much. Amazing if you think what the diffences are in the use of the English language in e.g.
Ireland, USA, Australia and GB.


Latin is a so called SOV-language: Subject, Object, Verb.

In the main clause: Temporis (clause of time), Subject, Object, (suburdanite clauses, indirect object or possesives) and Verb.

Adiectiva are always next to the nouns they relate to. Adverbs are always next or close to the verbs they relate to.

In the subordinate clause: Relative pronoun, Subject, (adverbs, indirect object or possesives) and verbs.


So try to focus on the structure of a sentence. Still, it takes a lot of practise to read Latin.


Practice makes perfect!
Or: Fabricando fit faber

(nice gerundium construction, like "agenda" = things that must be done)



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