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Techniques for learning Latin

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Techniques for learning Latin

Postby pedrito » Wed Jun 16, 2004 3:31 pm

I'm very new to Latin. I just kind of started studying it on a whim and am finding it quite enjoyable.

Latin is my 3rd/4th language (I've been learning Italian recently as well).

I studied French for a number of years in school and lived in Mexico for a few years, so my Spanish is probably my strongest right now (My French is actually pretty rusty right now from a lack of real use in the past 7 or 8 years).

Obviously Latin is gramatically quite different from these languages, and I'm finding the memorization to be much more of a challenge than say, with Italian (which I find to be almost a mix of French and Spanish, gramatically).

Anyway, as I said, I'm new to Latin and I'm currently working on memorizing the first two declensions. To do this, I've been simply using the adjective "magna" in the masculine, feminine, and neuter, as a model. I find that it's easier for me to memorize the endings for the declensions this way. Are there any downsides to this? I find it much easier to use a single model word than having to memorize the endings for different nouns.

I know there are some exceptions such as the masculines in -er, and I'm simply treating them as I would irregular verbs in other languages and memorizing them separately.

For mapping the Latin back to English, I know there are a few techniques to help resolve ambiguities (such as the -a ending being 1st decl. sg nom, abl, voc, as well as 2nd decl. neut pl, nom, acc, and voc). It seems there are a good number of these ambiguities.

Since word order can't always be relied upon, is this simply an "art" that's learned with practice, of distinguishing the ambiguities? I assume, like English, sometimes it's simply difficult to resolve the ambiguities, no matter how comfortable you are with the language.

For pronunciation, I've found a number of sources on the web with recordings in MP3 format (some I've found from this forum). I'm a bit confused, though. The books I have (Wheelock's Latin and Reading Latin by Jones & Sidwell) both state the the latin 'v', as a consonant is pronounced like an English 'w' but almost all the recordings I've heard have a very english 'v'-like pronunciation. Are these incorrect or is the sound more of a cross between v and w?

Thanks and I look forward to asking a number of questions here over the coming year.

Pete
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Postby benissimus » Wed Jun 16, 2004 6:30 pm

I think that is a great way to learn the declensions, as long as you are able to do it with other words too. When you just use one word, you might remember to add the ending, but you might forget where to put them (where the noun stem is).

Since word order can't always be relied upon, is this simply an "art" that's learned with practice, of distinguishing the ambiguities? I assume, like English, sometimes it's simply difficult to resolve the ambiguities, no matter how comfortable you are with the language.

Usually the case ambiguities work themselves out after you have read the entire sentence. This will be more confusing if you jump around your sentences instead of reading them from start to finish. There is a great article on how to read Latin, but I can't seem to find it at the moment. Usually, there is just one interpretation of any given text that actually makes good sense. If you can provide examples, we can show how those ambiguities are solved.

For pronunciation, I've found a number of sources on the web with recordings in MP3 format (some I've found from this forum). I'm a bit confused, though. The books I have (Wheelock's Latin and Reading Latin by Jones & Sidwell) both state the the latin 'v', as a consonant is pronounced like an English 'w' but almost all the recordings I've heard have a very english 'v'-like pronunciation. Are these incorrect or is the sound more of a cross between v and w?

The Latin V definitely did not sound like the English V. Some people prefer to pronounce Latin as English because it is true that we will never know exactly how it sounded.

The Latin V must have sounded somewhat like English W, but it is most likely that it was pronounced, at least by some people, somewhat like a B. This is not hard to believe, since the V of some other languages sounds a lot like a B. You can see this in certain Latin writings, where words normally spelled with a V have been misspelled with a B. For another example, the verb ferveo, fervere has the third principal part ferbui, where did that B come from? It is kind of difficult to make a sound between W and B (it actually sounds a lot like V), but that is probably close to the Latin V.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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Postby Episcopus » Wed Jun 16, 2004 7:55 pm

Yes, it's an odd sound. It's not the totaly "Willy" nor is it "Bishop". For me I slur a B.
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Postby Michaelyus » Wed Jun 16, 2004 9:08 pm

Wouldn't it be a voiced bilabial fricative (like a B or V between vowels in Spanish) followed by a voiced lateral-palatal approximant (as in French huile?)
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Re: Techniques for learning Latin

Postby mind » Thu Jun 17, 2004 12:48 pm

pedrito wrote:Since word order can't always be relied upon, is this simply an "art" that's learned with practice, of distinguishing the ambiguities?

Preface to W.G.Hale's The Art of Reading Latin concerns this matter and looks convincing.
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Postby Episcopus » Thu Jun 17, 2004 2:58 pm

Michaelyus wrote:Wouldn't it be a voiced bilabial fricative (like a B or V between vowels in Spanish) followed by a voiced lateral-palatal approximant (as in French huile?)


Ah that lovely french sound which 99% of learners do not notice! It's my favourite. I would call it a voiced bilabial fricative but don't be too violent with it :wink:
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