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It is fish. It is a fish.

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It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby nov.ialiste » Thu May 06, 2010 6:55 am

Dear Textkittens,

I hope you can help me with the distinction between these two sentences.

It is fish (or it is some fish).

It is a fish. (Id est pisces.)

Here English uses the indefinite article to distinguish the sense of a countable noun and a noncountable noun (material).

Thank you.

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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby furrykef » Thu May 06, 2010 8:24 am

Well, I think context above all is the determining factor. In fact, I'd imagine the distinction is usually not very important in practice.

If, however, it is important to get across the idea that it is specifically a fish and not a bunch of fish, you could say "Ūnus piscis est."
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby adrianus » Thu May 06, 2010 6:09 pm

Quidam piscis est. It is [some sort of] fish.
Piscis est. It is a fish.
Paululum piscis [genetivo casu] est. It is some [a little] fish [genitive].
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby nov.ialiste » Thu May 06, 2010 7:57 pm

Thanks.

Finnish uses the nominative and partitive to make the distinction, which made me wonder how it works in Latin.

Finnish:

Se on kala. (Nom.) It is a fish.

Se on kalaa. (Part.) It is fish. It is some fish.
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby adrianus » Thu May 06, 2010 11:23 pm

Also, Etiam
What is it? It is [some, a few] fish
Quid est? [Nonnulli] pisces sunt.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby adrianus » Sat May 08, 2010 1:14 am

I gave four already, surely, Anthony.
Nonnè quattuor, Antoni, genera iam dedi?
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby nov.ialiste » Sat May 08, 2010 5:40 pm

Anthony Appleyard wrote:There are 3 possible meanings for "It is fish":
1) It is a fish.
2) It is some fishes.
3) It is fish flesh.


I'd say that "It is fish" means (2) and (3) but that (1) is distinct and requires the indefinite article to convey its meaning in English.
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby adrianus » Sun May 09, 2010 3:16 pm

Also, fifthly // Et quintùm

It is [emphatically and admiringly // emphaticè mirabundéque] a fish! = It is some fish! = what a fish it is! = Ut piscis est!
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby rustymason » Mon May 10, 2010 1:32 am

I've seen some beginner's books use hic, haec, hoc for the definite article in paradigms, which in this case would yield: hic piscis , "the fish."

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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby nov.ialiste » Mon May 10, 2010 5:41 pm

rustymason wrote:I've seen some beginner's books use hic, haec, hoc for the definite article in paradigms, which in this case would yield: hic piscis , "the fish."

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Has unus ever been used in Classical Latin in the sense of an indefinite article? I suppose that at some stage in Vulgar Latin it came to be used as an indefinite article to provide those of the modern Romance languages.

Does anybody know anything about the history of the inception of the Romance indefinite article?

It is curious that the Germanic languages also introduced definite and indefinite articles independently, I presume. Also, I suppose they arose independently in Old English and in German; on the basis that early Old English did not have them much, but late Old English did. So I suppose it occurred in English independently of German.
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby Damoetas » Tue May 11, 2010 9:16 pm

nov.ialiste wrote:Has unus ever been used in Classical Latin in the sense of an indefinite article? I suppose that at some stage in Vulgar Latin it came to be used as an indefinite article to provide those of the modern Romance languages.

Does anybody know anything about the history of the inception of the Romance indefinite article?


It seems that this started developing quite early, at least in Vulgar (spoken) Latin. One example that is frequently cited is from Petronius, Satyrica 26.8: unus servus Agamemnonis interpellavit..., where the classical standard would be unus ex servis Agamemnonis... The dating of Petronius is controversial: most scholars place it in the 60's CE (i.e. the reign of Nero), while others favor a date around 120.
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby adrianus » Wed May 12, 2010 12:36 am

Damoetas wrote:One example that is frequently cited is from Petronius, Satyrica 26.8: unus servus Agamemnonis interpellavit..., where the classical standard would be unus ex servis Agamemnonis... .

But Petronius in the Satyricon also writes "unus ex pueris" and "unus ex conlibertis" and "unus de nobis" alongside (once) "unus servus". Doesn't he mean there "one man, a slave", Damoetas?

Atquin ille Petronius ipse in hoc opere et "unus ex pueris" et "unus ex conlibertis" et "unus de nobis" unâ cum (semel) "unus servus" scribit. Nonnè illo in loco, Damoeta, "unus, servus" dicere vult?
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby Damoetas » Wed May 12, 2010 5:02 pm

adrianus wrote:But Petronius in the Satyricon also writes "unus ex pueris" and "unus ex conlibertis" and "unus de nobis" alongside (once) "unus servus". Doesn't he mean there "one man, a slave", Damoetas?

Atquin ille Petronius ipse in hoc opere et "unus ex pueris" et "unus ex conlibertis" et "unus de nobis" unâ cum (semel) "unus servus" scribit. Nonnè illo in loco, Damoeta, "unus, servus" dicere vult?


That doesn't seem very likely in the context. If the preceding discussion had been something like, "Various people were standing around, and one of them, a servant, did such and such..." that interpretation could have been possible. (Even though quidam would probably be more likely - or perhaps, ex quibus unus... etc.) Here, it seems to mean just, "One of Agamemnon's slaves..." or "A slave of Agamemnon..." (Agamemnon is already a known participant in the story, he's not being introduced for the first time.) The fact that Petronius uses the "unus ex + abl." construction elsewhere doesn't necessarily mean that he intended a distinction; he may have seen the two as equivalent.

At least that's my impression; it might be worth looking into some scholarly discussions of it, because the conclusions are probably controversial.
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Re: It is fish. It is a fish.

Postby adrianus » Wed May 12, 2010 6:50 pm

My comma is just a device to help think about the phrase in English "one, [who is] a servant" When Cicero says "qui sicut unus pater familias his de rebus loquor" (De Oratore, 1.132) it's obviously classical, and means "as one who is head of a household". Of course you can say "as a head of a household" but the "unus" underlines the individuality, "one". "Quidam", "unus ex"? I think not there.

Virgula mea dolus est "unus qui" indicans. Cicero, hoc in dicendo, classicè loquitur: "qui sicut unus pater familias his de rebus loquor". Usus "unus" vocabuli emphasin individualitati nominis conjugati dat. Non apta illo loco "quidam", "unus ex".

Post scriptum
I just noticed this nice interpretation in OLD: "an ordinary..."!
Hanc interpretationem quae placet modò in OLD animadverti: "an ordinary..."!
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