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Sixteenth Century Latin!

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Sixteenth Century Latin!

Postby steventyra » Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:51 pm

Hello,

I am new to the Textkit community - I was hoping for some help with a passage from a sixteenth century author, John Calvin. Calvin was a trained humanist, and often quoted, alluded to, and generally imitated classical authors in his prose. However, I am having a very difficult time understanding his usage in the following sentence:

"Tametsi enim illic quaedam apparet humilitatis species, longe tamen abest, quin deiectio quaelibet, humilitatis nomine, apud Deum commendetur."

In the main, the sentence is actually fairly simple - "Although a certain appearance of humility appears here ("here" being a particular religious practice Calvin is discussing) nonetheless it is far (from true) . . . any sort of abasement, under the name of 'humility" . . . commended before God."

Basically, I'm struggling to understand the conjunction "quin." Every reference grammar and Lexicon I have consulted indicates that quin functions negatively. Here it would appear to mean the opposite - "it is very far away [from true?] that any sort of abasement . . . may not be commended before God" sounds like Calvin is affirming "every sort of abasement," at least to my ear. But the context renders that sense impossible - Calvin is in the middle of a long diatribe precisely against "forms of abasement."

I would love some suggestions how to render the conjunction here! I appreciate it.
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Re: Sixteenth Century Latin!

Postby Qimmik » Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:06 am

The negative is longe abest. The quin clause is stated in the positive but the main clause is negative, either explicitly or implicitly

Here are some examples from Caesar in Allen & Greenough, New Latin Grammar, sec. 558.

paulum afuit quin Varum interficeret
"he just missed killing Varus"

neque multum afuit quin castris expellerentur
"they came near being driven out of the camp"

So:

longe tamen abest, quin deiectio quaelibet, humilitatis nomine, apud Deum commendetur

means exactly what you think it ought to: "it is far from the case that any sort of abasement . . . is commended before God."

If you look at the other examples in the cited section (I think it's available on line), you'll see how quin is used.
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Re: Sixteenth Century Latin!

Postby Qimmik » Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:23 pm

Here's a discussion of quin in an out of print book: http://books.google.com/books?id=iufVAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA259&lpg=PA259&dq=longe+abest+quin&source=bl&ots=SqpXptmj9h&sig=jxaJiKeWwsxSgZcyT_VTf_MmF40&hl=en&sa=X&ei=uBJPUefIMY_F4APs7oDIDA&ved=0CEYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=longe%20abest%20quin&f=false

The discussion mentions non longe abest quin, but not longe abest quin. And the Oxford Latin Dictionary gives a few examples of abest ut, where abest is not modified by a word such as paulum, but none of abest quin.

I don't think there can be any doubt about Calvin's meaning, even if his usage of quin may be slightly irregular. If Calvin's usage is irregular (on first reading it didn't strike me as odd), maybe it can be chalked up to the phenomenon of "misnegation," the difficulty of getting strings of negative concepts right, which has been extensively chronicled on this blog for a number of years: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/index.php?s=misnegation (you can click on the "previous posts" link to find more entries under this category).

But you're right that 16th century intellectuals like Calvin wrote very elegant and classically correct Latin.
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Re: Sixteenth Century Latin!

Postby adrianus » Sun Mar 24, 2013 6:06 pm

Qimmik wrote:And the Oxford Latin Dictionary gives a few examples of abest ut, where abest is not modified by a word such as paulum, but none of abest quin.

"...quid abest quin proditis Sidicinis non Romanorum solum sed Samnitium quoque dicto pareamus...", Livius, Ab Urbe Conditâ, liber octavus, capitulum quartum [quod est in OLD citatum]
"what's lacking that, having abandoned the Sidicines, we should not submit to [i.e., what's stopping us from submitting to] the dictate not only of the Romans but of the Samnites, too?"
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: Sixteenth Century Latin!

Postby Qimmik » Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:31 pm

quid abest quin proditis Sidicinis non Romanorum solum sed Samnitium quoque dicto pareamus...",

This is more like paulum abest quin or non abest quin, where abest is explicitly or implicitly negative. In Calvin's longe abest quin, abest is positive, although it's semantically negative in that it negates the quin clause, just as non abest quin and quid abest quin are semanticallly positive although grammatically they're explicitly or implicitly negative but they affirm the quin clause.

Seneca might be an author in whose works to look for a usage of quin parallel to Calvin's--I think that Seneca's philosophical Latin was probably Calvin's model.
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