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Recommendations for Learning Latin Idiom?

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Recommendations for Learning Latin Idiom?

Postby rustymason » Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:49 pm

Salvete Amici,

How best to learn Latin idioms? I have studied two or three grammars over the last several years and can even teach basic grammar pretty well. I can do the exercises just fine. Just when I think I am getting to know Latin, I pick up a copy of Traupman's Conversational Latin, and become very discouraged. It's not his vocabulary, I can learn that easily enough. It's the constructions he uses that are so foreign to me. I'm guessing it's because I am so unfamiliar with Latin idiom, but I don't really know for sure because I can't tell which is simply unusual syntax and which is idiom. How could I know so many Latin words and rules, yet still not be able to put together simple phrases in real Latin? Here is where a real Latin teacher is most useful, I'd bet, but no money in the kitty for that just now. Any recommendations?

Gratias,
Rusticus Caementarius
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Postby rustymason » Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:24 pm

I found a couple of Google books I might try:

The First Part of Jacobs' Latin Reader: Adapted to Bullions' Latin Grammar

Latin Prose Through English Idiom: Rules and Exercises on Latin Prose
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Postby Twpsyn » Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:42 pm

What precisely is giving you trouble? In my experience, 'conversational Latin' does not wander too far from the usages of classical Latin, so if you're not understanding things you probably need to (assuming you have all the accidence down pat) learn more syntax, expand your vocabulary, and read, read, read.
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Postby rustymason » Fri Jul 11, 2008 2:09 pm

Maybe that's it, I don't know for sure. I'm sure you are right that I need to read more.

The problem comes when I come upon several Latin words together that each may be translated in several different cases, tenses, and usages. I simply cannot figure out which of all the possible combinations to use, and cannot translate the sentence at all without these key words. When I look up the English translation of such a sentence I find that I would never have guessed the real meaning of the Latin. I cannot tell if it's because I don't know the idiom and/or if it is a special exception to the regular rules, or what.

Gratias
Last edited by rustymason on Fri Jul 11, 2008 2:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby thesaurus » Fri Jul 11, 2008 2:12 pm

I would take the approach of reading whatever texts you're interested in, and then figuring out the idioms as they come. Depending on the author you may have very few to deal with. I imagine if you read Latin comedy and theater then you'll run into a lot more, but I bet if you find a good edition of the work you'll figure them out. I think idioms are best dealt with in context.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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Postby Essorant » Sat Jul 12, 2008 1:28 am

read, read, read


Well said. :)

I simply cannot figure out which of all the possible combinations to use, and cannot translate the sentence at all without these key words.


May you give an example of what you mean? Without seeing the kind of words/expressions that you are having difficulty with it is difficult to give an appropriate answer. <pre></pre>
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Postby rustymason » Sat Jul 12, 2008 3:27 am

The only one I can think of just now is Eripuit me morti. I don't recall ever seeing a rule for this use of the dative. So, having known quite firmly for years that the ablative is the case used for "from" and the dative is the case used for indirect "to/for" I "knew" that morti can't possibly be mors/mortis, it must be a different word. So, I spend fruitless hours researching nouns and verbs beginning with mort, trying every possible combination of endings for them.

I saw today that this particular phrase means, "He saved me from death," not "He save me for/to death." Now I know, but I would never have figured it out on my own. And I'm still not sure if this is a just a rule I've never heard of, or if it is an exception for this phrase only.

Most of the time the sentences which give me trouble are much longer and contain 2 or more of these. I can spend hours on one sentence, researching the wrong words and constructions simply because I don't know about a special idiom or exception to the rules.

Reading is of course very important. But how do I know when I have run into an idiom and when I have come across a little used rule? Maybe I need a more thorough grammar book.

Gratias,
Rusticus Caementarius
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Postby Twpsyn » Sat Jul 12, 2008 3:36 am

I wouldn't call that so much a special idiom as more advanced grammar. It's called the dative of separation and it's perfectly good, normal, and even, I dare say, commonplace syntax. I'd say a really thorough grammar is a good investment. If you study on your own, then picking up these rules will be more difficult; but sooner or later, everything will fall into place. Keeping a notebook with lists of things like uses of the oblique cases, and writing down examples of troublesome usages for future reference, is probably a good idea.
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Postby rustymason » Sat Jul 12, 2008 3:47 am

OK, looks like I need to keep studying and collecting grammar rules. Thanks for the help and the name of this rule.

How does one know when one has covered them all? Seems I keep running into many rules I've never heard of before, even though I've been studying for several years.
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Postby Twpsyn » Sat Jul 12, 2008 4:08 am

There's always more. A language is a more or less infinite object.

However, if you read all the way through, say, Allen and Greenough's, and you are not surprised by anything, I'd say you're in a good place.
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Postby rustymason » Sat Jul 12, 2008 4:22 am

Is that the best one, A&G? I have several Latin books: Wheelock, Moreland/Fleischer, D'Ooge, Orberg, Henle grammar, and Oxford grammar. Only the Oxford seems to cover the dative of separation; and even then says it is actually the dative of disadvantage. It looks as though I need to graduate to a big boys grammar now. :lol:

What grammar did you vote for in the poll?
http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-forum/viewtopic.php?t=8314&highlight=grammer+grammar
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Postby Twpsyn » Sat Jul 12, 2008 4:35 am

Allen and Greenough's is the only one I've needed so far; originally I got it because it's the main source for NJCL certamen, and with good reason. It's quite thorough. I'm sure other reference grammars are just as good, though.
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Postby rustymason » Sat Jul 12, 2008 4:40 am

Here's an online version that seems organized and well formatted:
http://www.hhhh.org/perseant/libellus/a ... tents.html

Gratias tibi ago et Vale,
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Postby Essorant » Sat Jul 12, 2008 4:58 am

The only one I can think of just now is Eripuit me morti. I don't recall ever seeing a rule for this use of the dative. So, having known quite firmly for years that the ablative is the case used for "from" and the dative is the case used for indirect "to/for" I "knew" that morti can't possibly be mors/mortis, it must be a different word.


It may be a bit confusing. But in such cases there are other things that may signal the meaning more. For example, the context of the sentence, and the prefix <i>e</i> of <b>eripuit</b> here implying "out of" instead of "to/for". If those meanings are present, the dative is probably being used as an ablative so to speak, and should be translated as one. <pre> </pre>
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Postby Twpsyn » Sat Jul 12, 2008 5:11 am

Essorant wrote:If those meanings are present, the dative is probably being used as an ablative so to speak, and should be translated as one.


That's misleading. The dative is still a dative, and the ablative of separation is still an ablative. The difference in meaning and usage is quite subtle (I'm not sure if I could explain it myself), but it does no good to confound the two.

Good luck with the grammar, rustymason. That on-line version you linked to is a bit funky and it uses acutes instead of macrons, which I find distracting. You can find the complete text also on Perseus and scans of the book on this very site and on Google Books.
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Postby Essorant » Sat Jul 12, 2008 4:16 pm

I don't mean to say it is not dative, for it is the dative inflection. But its meaning appears to be ablative instead, therefore, I do think it is a dative (inflection) used as an ablative (meaning). <pre> </pre>
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Postby Twpsyn » Sat Jul 12, 2008 5:15 pm

But it's not correct to allocate the meaning of separation to the ablative, then say that the dative of separation is ablative-ish. The dative of separation is, in fact (as Allen & Greenough tell us) closely tied to the dative of reference, and is a core sense of the dative. So it is not a dative 'used as an ablative', but a dative used as a dative. That was my point.
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Postby Interaxus » Sat Jul 12, 2008 6:06 pm

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Postby Essorant » Sun Jul 13, 2008 7:16 pm

Alright. Would it be correct to think of these datives as implying "being given to".

For example:


<b>Eripuit me morti</b>
"He took me from (being given to) death."

<b>hunc mihi terrorem eripe</b>
"Take this terror from (being given to) me."

<pre> </pre>
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Postby Interaxus » Mon Jul 14, 2008 2:53 am

I’m not sure such ‘strange English’ helps.

Maybe we just have to accept the alien idiom.

For example, German can use a first-person-singular personal pronoun dative (mir = ‘to-me’) in this way:

…der Hut flog mir vom Kopfe (…‘the hat flew to-me from the head’ = ‘my hat flew off my head’)

…das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn (…’that comes to-me not out of the mind = ‘I can’t it get out of my mind’)

The word-for-word translation can help one understand the construction, but scarcely the sense. :(

Cheers,
Int
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Postby Kasper » Mon Jul 14, 2008 3:04 am

INteraxe,

your german is probably better than mine, but isn't mir an amalgamation of dative and ablative?
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”
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Postby Alatius » Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:55 am

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Postby Essorant » Mon Jul 14, 2008 5:09 pm

Perhaps the different categories of the dative seemed more or less like one and the same to a Roman. While the grammar books may give a grocery list of different usages, the Roman probably had a <i>general</i> sense by which he basically seemed to be using the dative almost the same way every time he used it.
<pre> </pre>
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Postby vir litterarum » Mon Jul 14, 2008 5:10 pm

The best way to learn and internalize Latin idiom is through prose composition. Buy a copy of Bradley's Arnold Latin Prose Composition and, in spite of the drudgery of some of the passages, keep working through it. Gradually the language and constructions will feel more natural to you.
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