Latin adjective rules

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DOCTOREXIMIVSETPIVS
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Latin adjective rules

Post by DOCTOREXIMIVSETPIVS » Mon Aug 05, 2019 12:24 pm

Hi, I'm trying to figure out the rules of using adjectives after nouns.

For example, if I want to say "Helen was a great empress and scholar". What form of "magnus" should I use? Should I say "Helena fuit imperatrix et scholaris MAGNUS" or "Helena fuit imperatrix et scholaris MAGNA"? What determines the form of the adjective? Is it determined by the closest noun? (In this case, it is scholaris, a masculine noun. Or in another order, it can be imperatrix, a feminine noun.) Or is it decided by the subject of the sentence? (In this case, it is Helena.)

Thank you for your helps in advance!

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bedwere
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Re: Latin adjective rules

Post by bedwere » Mon Aug 05, 2019 2:38 pm

Beside the fact that scholaris does not mean scholar and is an adjective, while imperatrix is a dubious choice (augusta would be better), the adjective should agree in number, gender, and case with the subject. Hence, magna.

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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Latin adjective rules

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Mon Aug 05, 2019 2:59 pm

When I first saw the title for this thread I thought it sad "Latin adjectives rule" and I was going to write a response in favor of the sovereignty of Latin verbs, but oh well...

As it is, Latin adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in number, gender and case. That means they have to have the same number, gender and case as the noun. Not necessarily the same ending. Puella bona but agricola bonus -- both follow the number/gender/case rule.
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Hylander
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Re: Latin adjective rules

Post by Hylander » Mon Aug 05, 2019 11:13 pm

Magna in such a sentence would not qualify the subject's standing as a "scholar", unlike English "a great scholar." It would simply mean "big", referring to physical size and conjuring up the image of a large woman. You would have to use a word applicable to scholarship, such as doctissima or eruditissima.

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Re: Latin adjective rules

Post by DOCTOREXIMIVSETPIVS » Tue Aug 06, 2019 2:40 am

Hylander wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 11:13 pm
Magna in such a sentence would not qualify the subject's standing as a "scholar", unlike English "a great scholar." It would simply mean "big", referring to physical size and conjuring up the image of a large woman. You would have to use a word applicable to scholarship, such as doctissima or eruditissima.
I don't think it can only mean physically big. For example, the Romans referring Saint Leo I and Saint Gregory I as SANCTVS LEO MAGNVS or SANCTVS GREGORIVS MAGNVS, or we can see the sentences like "Suarez fuit maximus theologus e Societate Iesu"; also, Charlemagne simply means "Carolus Magnus". Maybe you're strictly referring to the usage of the word in Classical Latin?

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Re: Latin adjective rules

Post by bedwere » Tue Aug 06, 2019 2:50 am

DOCTOREXIMIVSETPIVS wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 2:40 am
Maybe you're strictly referring to the usage of the word in Classical Latin?
He probably means something more subtle.


Labienus, vir mea sententia magnus, Teanum venit a. d. viiii Kal.
Cic. Att. 7.13A.3

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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Latin adjective rules

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Tue Aug 06, 2019 3:19 pm

Magnus referring to a person generally means "great" in a very broad sense, e.g., Ille Alexander magnus, Alexander the great. Rarely is it used of size in regard to a person -- one generally uses something like "ingens" or "procerus" or "crassus" for physical descriptions of that nature. Hylander is right in that you wouldn't normally use it directly to describe someone as great with regard to a particular quality or office, although maybe an ablative of specification would be possible, eruditione magna (great in learning). Much more likely to use the superlatives as Hylander suggested.

Of course, medieval Latin can be a real hash, and there is a separate subforum for it... I was surprised, however, to see that imperatrix was attested in Cicero, although not in the sense of "empress" (any more than imperator during that period meant emperor).

Edit: Just really looked at the letter of Cicero that Bedwere linked above, and "vir mea sententia magnus" uses an ablative of specification... :D
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Re: Latin adjective rules

Post by Callisper » Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:35 pm

Won't weigh in on magnus, or the other lexical issues, for the moment.

The adjective need not agree with the subject - it ought to agree with the predicate. Unless scholaris, clearly a noun in your sentence, is taken (wrongly, I think) to be common-gender, you would indeed want the masc adjective to agree with it.

That is without the presence of an additional noun in the predicate, "imperatrix", which complicates things. In this situation, with [Fem+Masc]+Adj, I would expect a masc adjective, as both pressures (the overlap of Fem and Masc, and, proximity to the adjective) point us towards masc. Strong desire for emphasis on the Fem would, if that were the case, be an opposing pressure but would rarely make a difference here: in such cases as [Fem+Masc]+Adj I'd expect masc adjectives with almost grammatical consistency.

A few studies have been done on this in Cicero and maybe others, but I'd be happy to hear of any contradictory findings.

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