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A couple of stupid questions

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A couple of stupid questions

Postby pster » Sat Jan 22, 2011 7:40 pm

The Lewis and Short entry is tĭmĕo, while the Elementary Lewis entry is timeō. I guess the Lewis and Short convention is to indicate the short vowels, while the Elementary Lewis convention is to indicate the long vowels with macrons? Is that correct? Why would Lewis change conventions himself?

And how many irregular verbs are there in Latin, not counting verbs that lack some moods, tenses, persons? Italian has quite a few. Latin not so many it seems.

I wouldn't normally post such basic questions, but I've got so many language issues on my plate right now. I'm actually learning no fewer than FIVE languages at once and I am trying to better understand specifically how Latin verbs have influenced Italian verbs. If anybody knows any really good material on the influence of Latin verbs on Italian verbs, I would pay ya for it. :)

Thanks in advance.
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby calvinist » Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:07 pm

First, I have to give my advice and strongly recommend against studying five languages at once. In my experience it is best to focus on one language until you are comfortable with all of the basic grammar/syntax and have a decent working vocabulary. Only then would I start on another language. Otherwise you will be slowed by 'interference' which is confusing grammar/syntax/vocab/pronunciation etc. from different languages. Interference theory is an established principle in the psychology of learning. I am currently studying Chinese, but only because I already have a good handle on Latin, Greek, and Spanish, which I learned in that order, one at a time.

On to your question. My experience has been that textbooks prefer to mark long vowels and leave short vowels unmarked. Dictionaries on the other hand like to use a scheme where they only mark vowels in cases where the 'learned' Latinist wouldn't already know. So, the -us ending on nouns isn't marked short but neither is the -o ending of verbs marked long because presumably any intermediate Latin student would already know that. Since the Elementary Lewis Dictionary is meant for first-year students, it would make sense to use the textbook convention which would be more familiar (and useful) to the beginner. Also, there should be an explanation somewhere at the front of the book explaining the scheme used. Hope that helps!
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby pster » Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:53 pm

Ah, OK, I understand how the dictionaries work now. Thank you. I don't have the hard copies. I was just using the perseus ones. And it is not so easy to find the front of the book explanations for the dictionaries at Perseus. I managed to find some of it for the Liddell and Scott Greek, but it was not straightforward. Then I bookmarked it. Then they moved it! Argh. So I said screw it, I'll just bother somebody at textkit. Sometimes you just get into these regresses studying languages and you just have to say enough is enough!

Actually, I don't mind the FIVE languages at once. I'm way way too deep into four of them to give up and the fifth is kinda unavoidable since it is the language in the country where I'm visiting at the moment! Two of the five I have studied in some detail in the past, French and Latin, so it is more a matter of clearing out the cobwebs and (re)digesting as much vocabulary as possible. One is Italian and I actually have greatly enjoyed mapping out the differences and similarities with French. And Italian has a love hate relationship with Latin so Latin keeps bubbling up. For example. The major subdivision of -ere verbs in Italian seems to be the result of where the accent was placed in the original Latin. Furthermore, assuming that one wants to learn several related languages at once, I think it is arguable that it is actually better to do them simultaneously because the similarities and differences stimulate the mind making it easier to remember them. Despite my low opinion of education theories and psychology, I might be persuaded of the applicability of Interference Theory to (typical) children. But I'm somewhat skeptical when it comes to serious adults. How general is the theory? Can one not learn the piano and the violin at the same time? And what of the most proficient language experts, the people who know ten languages? It seems unlikely they learned them sequentially. There will no doubt be interference. Sometimes one will confuse one language with another. But sometimes there will be reinforcement. I guess the reason I'm skeptical is that I think that the Comparing and Contrasting Principle is an extremely powerful principle of education and one that gets diluted to some extent when we restrict ourselves to a sequence in time. Synthesis is superior to analysis.

Thanks for the information and I'm sorry to pick a fight with ya! :)
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby furrykef » Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:55 pm

pster wrote:The Lewis and Short entry is tĭmĕo, while the Elementary Lewis entry is timeō. I guess the Lewis and Short convention is to indicate the short vowels, while the Elementary Lewis convention is to indicate the long vowels with macrons? Is that correct? Why would Lewis change conventions himself?

L&S does indicate long vowels with macrons. The only times L&S does not mark a vowel are:
* When the vowel length is unknown.
* When the syllable is heavy, as in "cōnsilium" -- they leave the "o" unmarked because the syllable is scanned as heavy whether the "o" is long or not, so it doesn't affect poetic meter.
* When the vowel length is obvious (though not necessarily obvious to beginners). A terminal -ō is always long for verbs and nouns, so it won't be marked, which is what you're seeing with timeō.

The Elementary Lewis text is aimed more at beginners, who are less likely to know things such as the final -ō rule I mentioned, so it'll mark all long vowels.

calvinist wrote:First, I have to give my advice and strongly recommend against studying five languages at once. In my experience it is best to focus on one language until you are comfortable with all of the basic grammar/syntax and have a decent working vocabulary. Only then would I start on another language. Otherwise you will be slowed by 'interference' which is confusing grammar/syntax/vocab/pronunciation etc. from different languages.

I study four languages (Spanish, Italian, Latin, and Japanese) and virtually never encounter interference.
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby calvinist » Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:44 am

Let me clarify my earlier statement. I was advising against starting five languages from scratch at the exact same time. I wasn't saying anything about the ongoing study of the language into advanced syntax and building a large vocabulary. I believe that had I started Latin, Greek, Spanish, and Chinese all on the same day with no previous knowledge of any of them it would have made things more difficult for no reason, that's my point. It's true that I'm still studying Latin, Greek, and Spanish along with Chinese, but Chinese is the only one that still feels 'foreign' to me. Comparison and contrast is excellent in language learning, but I think there is such a thing as overload, and I do believe that learning will be faster and more deep processing will occur if one language is focused on intently until its basic structures are internalized.
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby pster » Tue Jan 25, 2011 11:28 pm

I'd still like to know:
And how many irregular verbs are there in Latin, not counting verbs that lack some moods, tenses, persons? Italian has quite a few. Latin not so many it seems.
Thanks in advance!
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby furrykef » Wed Jan 26, 2011 2:37 am

Very few, I think. I think these are the only ones:

* esse
* posse (derived from esse)
* ferre
* fierī
* ēsse (edō, etc.)
* īre
* dare -- irregular due to its shortened vowel
* velle
* nōlle (derived from velle)
* mālle (derived from velle)

Plus a few that have abbreviated imperatives (facere, dīcere, dūcere, maybe one or two others)

The reason the Romance languages have many more irregular verbs is that they've adopted stem changing for stressed vowels due to "diphthongization" -- a feature that has affected all words, not just verbs (e.g. Latin "focus" -> Spanish "fuego"). Also, it's not so typical to have to memorize principal parts for Romance verbs, so something that's considered regular in Latin (typically a preterite or participial form) can seem irregular in the Romance languages.
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby pster » Wed Jan 26, 2011 3:29 pm

Excellent. But I am not sure that I follow your last point. Or maybe I do follow it but only by reworking what you say. Let me try to restate it:

Latin has very few irregular verbs.
The Romance languages have more because:
(1) Diphthongization (very exciting by the way!)
(2) They count more verbs as irregular because any verb that is not formed in one of the three or four standard ways starting from the present stem gets counted as irregular. In the Romance languages regularity is defined relative to the present indicative but in Latin it is defined relative to the principal parts and thus more verbs get counted as regular in Latin.

Can we put your point that way? I hope so! Assuming that is correct, then my question becomes one about the principal parts in Latin. How many principal parts patterns are there in Latin? In Attic Greek, there are roughly 15 with some sub variation due to different kinds of labials, glottals, liquids, etc. (Jeez, almost sounds like I know what I'm talking about. Hehe.) One can find these in Mastronarde's book and I'm sure elsewhere. Do you or does anyone else know a succinct crisp discussion of this question for Latin in print or online? I'm sure it. has been treated.

Thanks so much. And thanks in advance.
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby pster » Wed Jan 26, 2011 4:02 pm

Seems like there is a similar number in Latin. 15 or so. Wikipedia has a discussion and I'm sure there are some elsewhere. Now I just need to map this onto Italian! Wish me luck!
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby calvinist » Wed Jan 26, 2011 8:20 pm

Latin has four conjugations, which roughly correspond to 'principal part patterns'. The third conjugation is the most unpredictable, meaning that in the other conjugations the principal parts almost always follow a very predictable pattern. Furrykef's point is that Latin students are expected to memorize the infinitive, present stem, preterit (perfect) stem, and the past participle (perfect passive participle). Because of this, Latin students are not surprised by 'unusual' preterit forms. Spanish students, however, do not learn 'principal parts' but only the infinitive. Take the Spanish verb 'producir'. This is considered irregular because the preterit stem is different: 'yo produje' as well as a change in the present stem in the first singular (and all of the subjunctive): 'yo produzco'. If Spanish were taught the way Latin is students would learn this verb as: 'produzco, producir, produje, producido' and it would not be considered irregular because all verb forms could be formed with only this information and some general verb-forming rules such as the present subjunctive uses the 1st principal part as its stem, etc. However, Spanish students learn this verb as 'producir', and just have to remember the 'irregularities'. Basically, it is a difference in pedagogical methods. The 'irregularity' of a verb depends upon how much you think should be predictable and how much you think should just be memorized. These are long traditions which probably won't be changed, so that's just how it is. I personally think of Spanish verbs in terms of 'principal parts' like Latin because I think its a better method. I assume that French and Italian teachers view verbs the same way as Spanish. So yes, your understanding is correct but I just wanted to give an example to make it clearer.
Last edited by calvinist on Wed Jan 26, 2011 10:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby pster » Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:13 pm

Right, exactly calvinist. We are on the same page. Did you make your own verb lists for Spanish? I want to come up with such lists for some 40-80 paradigmatic Italian verbs and map them onto their Latin ancestors. If you have any tips for how to go about it I'm all ears. I think that your principal parts for Romance languages approach is clearly superior and especially so for Italian because, more so than in Spanish or French, the verbs are king in Italian. Why exactly this is so and what exactly it means I'm not sure, but my Italian tutor (who has strangely disappeared!) made the point to me and I think you could probably show that Italian has a higher % of verbs per page than the others.
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Re: A couple of stupid questions

Postby calvinist » Wed Jan 26, 2011 10:37 pm

I didn't make verb lists for Spanish, mostly because I don't like to write things out (other than flashcards), and just prefer to recite things aloud until it sinks in; I'm an audio learner, which makes sense since I've been a musician (piano/guitar/sing) my whole life. This is the way I recommend, at least for Spanish: I put the 'principal parts' on the card, but in this order: [infinitive, present, preterit, past participle] --> [poner, pongo, puse, puesto]. I put the infinitive first because all Spanish texts/dictionaries list only the infinitive as I mentioned before. So, I think of the verb 'poner' primarily as 'poner', but then I think 'pongo, puse, puesto' which my mind instantly rattles off every time I see/think of 'poner'. The great thing about this method is that thinking in principal parts condenses all the information about irregular verb forms. Otherwise, when you see 'poner' you have to think 'oh yeah, it's irregular in the preterit... the stem is puse, and the participle is puesto'. Obviously, at some point you reach fluency with a particular verb and you don't have to remember the irregularities, they come as natural as 'go, went' in English. But until that time comes I think the principal parts method gives an excellent short-hand for remembering the irregularities in verb forms.
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