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coepi vs incepi

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coepi vs incepi

Postby phil » Mon Dec 22, 2003 7:57 pm

In Wheelock, we are told that coepi, -isse etc is used in the perfect system only, and incipio is used for present. Fair enough. When, though, is incepi correct, and when coepi? Or are they equivalent?
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Postby Skylax » Tue Dec 23, 2003 3:43 pm

We find incepi, meaning "I began" in Medieval latin.
In the Classical period, "I began" is normally expressed by COEPI. The perfect incepi is not used (so far as I know) in order to mean simply "to begin" (as in "the rain begins to fall").

See for example

VARRO, De lingua Latina, X, 9
Quem locum, quod est difficilis, qui de his rebus scripserunt aut vitaverunt aut inceperunt neque adsequi potuerunt.
« And just because this topic is difficult, those who have written of these subjects either have avoided it or have begun it without being able to complete their treatment of it. » (Translated by Roland G. Kent, Loeb)

Here, the verb means rather "to take in hand". It is about a deliberate undertaking, not simply the beginning of something.


Plautus, Trinummus, 465-470
male quod mulier facere incepit, nisi <id> efficere perpetrat, 465
id illi morbo, id illi seniost, ea illi miserae miseriast;
bene si facere incepit, eius rei nimis cito odium percipit.
nimis quam paucae sunt defessae, male quae facere occeperunt,
nimisque paucae efficiunt, si quid facere occeperunt bene:
mulieri nimio male facere levius onus est quam bene. 470

« A thing that a woman attempts to do in fraud, unless she is perfect in carrying it out, that same is as bad as disease to her, that same is as bad as old age to her, that to her, wretched creature, is wretchedness: if she begins to do what's right, soon does weariness of it overtake her. How very few are tired who have commenced to do what's wrong; how very few carry it out, if they have commenced to do anything aright. To a female it is a much less burden to do bad than good. » (Translated by Henry Thomas Riley [Perseus])

Here incepit = "has undertaken". It is more vivid so.

Note : needless to say, I don't agree with the underlying machismo.
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Postby Moerus » Tue Dec 23, 2003 5:14 pm

Really simple: 'Don't you ever dare to use incepi' = the first rule in the bibel of all Latin - speakers. If not, add it to it!
Classical Latin does never use 'incepi'.
Classical Latin uses: 1. normally: coepi
2. Sometimes coeptus sum, when there is a passive infinitive used with it, and when this passive infinitive has a real passive sense. So it's not used with deponents or verbs like vehor which is a passive but is mostly used as 'be transported --> to ride, ...'.
But we have: Domus aedificari coepta est. Coepta est with an infinitive passive with real passive sense.

Cura ut valeas,

Philippus Ludovicus Mauritius Moerus
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Postby klewlis » Tue Dec 23, 2003 6:31 pm

why must modern day latin speakers adhere strictly to classical latin usage, and rule out medieval latin completely?
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Postby Moerus » Tue Dec 23, 2003 7:19 pm

They don't have to!
But classical Latin is a stage in the Latin language in which the rules are most strictly applied. In all the periods after the classical period the language evolved in a stage with fewer rules. Then the modern languages came and mixed with Latin. So it's more and more difficult to understand what is understood. Gregory of Tours says himself that he didn't know Latin. Some of his texts are really hard to understand.

That's why neo-latin speakers mostly start form classical Latin. But indeed, there are things we can't say in Classical Latin, then we have to turn to other stages in the Latin language.
But if you want, you can also speak Medieval Latin, why not?
I think Medieval is very interesting for reading, but If I have to write Latin I always use Classical Latin, when I can.
But, it's up to you!

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Postby Episcopus » Tue Dec 23, 2003 11:17 pm

Benissimus and I were once reading a rites, rituals etc. medieval latin book. It was rather easy yet beware: it will give you bad habits as many tricky facets of the classical latin language have been changed: we recognised all words but word order was simpler and clumsy in places. We saw some strange, crude things done with the Perfect Passive Participles.
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