Textkit Logo

Placing of commas in strange places

Are you learning Latin with Wheelock's Latin 6th Edition? Here's where you can meet other learners using this textbook. Use this board to ask questions and post your work for feedback.

Placing of commas in strange places

Postby TonyLoco23 » Fri Aug 06, 2010 5:35 pm

In ch. 22 of Wheelocks, it says the following:

Languebam: sed tu comitatus protinus ad me
venisti centum, Symmache, discipulis.

The translation is:

"I was sick: but you, Symmachus, came to me immediately, accompanied by one hundred students."

I cannot think of any logical reason why ", Symmache, " was placed between centum and discipulis. It completely threw me off and made me think that "centum" cannot be connected to "discipulis".

Why is the comma and name placed there? Is it to emphasize that the 100 were students?? It seems like a totally irrational place to put a comma, it almost seems like it was placed there deliberately to throw off the reader. :lol:

This is not the first time I have noted that commas are placed in strange places that seem to break up the sentence in places that should not be broken up at all. Did the comma have a completely different meaning in Latin than it does today in Modern European languages?

Are there any rules that govern where commas should be placed in Latin sentences?
User avatar
TonyLoco23
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:53 pm

Re: Placing of commas in strange places

Postby furrykef » Fri Aug 06, 2010 6:17 pm

That's Latin poetry for you. :lol: Martial very often puts the name of who he's talking to just before the last word of a line. There's actually an example earlier in Wheelock, too ("Nōn cēnat sine aprō noster, Tite, Caeciliānus..."). I don't know why, except of course the placement can depend on meter -- remember that Latin poetry has fairly strict rules about where light and heavy syllables go. That doesn't fully explain it, though... "Tite" could have been moved to before "noster" (a more natural position from our point of view) without problems. At first I thought it couldn't be shifted over and still fit into the proper meter, but I took another look at the line, and it can. I guess Martial just really likes putting vocatives before the final word. :P

Watch out for the Latin poetry later in the book, too. Word order in Latin poetry can get really @#!!*ed.
Founder of Learning Languages Through Video Games.
I also have a lang-8 journal where I practice Spanish and Japanese.
User avatar
furrykef
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 365
Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 7:18 am

Re: Placing of commas in strange places

Postby spiphany » Sat Aug 07, 2010 3:34 pm

The commas "set off" the vocative from the rest of the sentence. We would do the same thing in English when a vocative interrupts a clause the way it does in the Latin (as in the translation: "you, Symmachus, came"); it's a good way of indicating that it doesn't belong with the words around it.

I think it's really more a problem with the odd word order rather than the comma usage. In English we aren't inclined to separate a noun from its modifiers this way, since in an uninflected language this tends to cause confusion.

I don't think it's nearly as strange in Latin (I'm sure I've seen similar constructions in poetry before), but it takes a while to get used to this, I think.
IPHIGENIE: Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS: Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE: Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.
(Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris)
spiphany
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 425
Joined: Tue Dec 27, 2005 3:15 am
Location: Munich

Re: Placing of commas in strange places

Postby whalenburns » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:24 pm

Take a look at how the original word order is related to the English translation, too:

centum, Symmache, discipulis
"...Symmachus...accompanied by one hundred students..."

Symacchus himself is among the 100 students in the original Latin word order
whalenburns
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat May 22, 2010 6:37 pm

Re: Placing of commas in strange places

Postby furrykef » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:15 pm

I'm not an expert, but I really do not think the word order implies that. "Symmache" is in the vocative, so it's a vocative and that's all it is. Grammatically it has no connection at all to the word "comitātus".
Founder of Learning Languages Through Video Games.
I also have a lang-8 journal where I practice Spanish and Japanese.
User avatar
furrykef
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 365
Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 7:18 am

Re: Placing of commas in strange places

Postby whalenburns » Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:29 am

I'm no expert either, and I understand your POV that it's strictly a vocative. I just find it peculiar that "centum discipulis" was separated by the vocative, rather than it being worded, for example, "venisti, Symmache, centum discipulis" or something like that. Obviously, meter dictated the sentence's word order. But, IMO, that further reiterates that the word order has some significance to it.
whalenburns
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat May 22, 2010 6:37 pm

Re: Placing of commas in strange places

Postby furrykef » Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:24 am

I dunno. If you read Martial, you'll find that he uses the same position (penultimate word of the first line) for vocatives all the time. I don't think it has any particular significance.
Founder of Learning Languages Through Video Games.
I also have a lang-8 journal where I practice Spanish and Japanese.
User avatar
furrykef
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 365
Joined: Sun Feb 07, 2010 7:18 am


Return to Wheelock's Latin

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 14 guests