Classicist or Romanticist

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Classicist or Romanticist

Classicist
15
83%
Romanticist
3
17%
 
Total votes: 18

vir litterarum
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Classicist or Romanticist

Post by vir litterarum » Sun Oct 01, 2006 6:17 am

Believing that,in order to save the English language from the attrition from which it seems to perpetually suffer, we must adopt many of the characteristics of both Latin and Greek both literarily and linguistically, I consider myself a pertinacious classicist. I was just curious to see the distribution between these two philosophies within this site.

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Post by bellum paxque » Sun Oct 01, 2006 8:44 am

Where's the pragmatist option? It seems that both classicists and romanticists may be labeled as idealists, the former being idealists of the past, the latter being idealists of the future.

But there are those who are neither...

Also, what is this "attrition from which it [the English language] seems to perpetually suffer"? I hope you don't refer to split infinitives, from which your sentence shall perpetually suffer unless edited. Of course, the split infinitive is a characteristic mark of healthy, unpretentious English, though it is impossible in Latin. What other linguistic characteristics of Latin do you wish to adopt?

Provocatively but respectfully yours,

David
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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Sun Oct 01, 2006 4:00 pm

You mean I have to PICK between being a Classisist and a Romanticist. But I love both of them *pouts*.

I suppose I lean slightly more towards Classicism than Romanticism (hence why I am studying the language of Ancient Greece rather than Medieval Latin and French, though I still hope to learn Old English someday). However, I believe in a balance. I actually find classicists more future-oriented than romanticists, but I may be operating under a different defintion than other people. For example, Lord Byron (who was clearly a romanticist) died for Greek independence on account of the acheivements of Ancient Greece. Intense devotion to the acheivements of the past, and claiming that we are lesser people than we were then, is a strongly romantic sentiment in my book. Though deliberately ignoring anything which is intellectual is also very romantic, so go figure. Whereas more classicist eras (Renaissance and Enlightenment) were more interested in mining what was useful in the past and doing something new with it, IMHO.

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Post by vir litterarum » Sun Oct 01, 2006 6:27 pm

Bellum, I can clearly see a definite attrition of the language when I juxtapose the works of Shakespeare, laden with anastrophe and peculiar word order, to those of contemporary writers. The crux of the problem is the contempt with which many inane English teachers, whose breadth of understanding is so provincial, being limited to only one language, that they scorn any type anastrophe or use of the passive voice, treat such issues. I have witnessed these problems first-hand, which is why I can state I have seen this degradation of the language. Unless you believe these viewpoints are not harmful to the language, then you must admit that a serious problem is developing within its syntax.

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Sun Oct 01, 2006 7:47 pm

vir litterarum wrote:Bellum, I can clearly see a definite attrition of the language when I juxtapose the works of Shakespeare, laden with anastrophe and peculiar word order, to those of contemporary writers.
I have not read/seen very widely from Shakespeare's Elizabethan and Jacobean contemporaries, but what I have seen/read definitely gives me the feeling that they are definitely lesser masters of the English language than Shakespeare. I haven't been exposed to enough of their work to gauge whether they were more open with the English language than we are generally or not, but I don't think you can compare one writer (Shakespeare) to an era (contemporary), only era (Elizabethan/Jacobean) to era (contemporary).

What they definitely had in Elizabethan/Jacobean times is a much stronger emphasis on rhetoric in schools at all levels, whereas I have only had 1 English class which had a stronger emphasis on rhetoric than content, and even that class, I felt, did not delve deeply enough into rhetoric (probably because most of the class was struggling with even the basics of rhetoric). I think it is sad that rhetoric is not more widely taught in the current school system, but I don't think it is a crisis.

Also, much of the literature of the 20th century is hevily influenced by the film industry. Sure, Strunk & White's book on clean, direct writing (discouraging use of the passive) came out before that, but I don't think it would have become the standard guide to style if the public did not become accustomed to that style via movies. American theatre came to maturity at the same time as the American film, which is why we 'see' a play rather than 'hear' a play as we did in Shakespeare's time. With a heavier emphasis on visuals, the language becomes less important (though it is still crucial - character dialogue is still usually considered supreme over stage directions in contemporary plays). That's why we have plainer language in today's plays than in Elizabethan/Jacobean plays - the epitomy of which, I think, are David Mamet's plays which, in my opinion, are mostly

Character A : F*** you
Character B : No, f*** you

(I have never managed to read an entire Mamet play, so there).

Though the influence of film has not been so direct on the printed word, I think it has made the reading public prefer direct, fast-moving prose (fast moving includes having quickly graspable language - not much fancy word order). But I don't think all of contemporary literature follows this mode. I find that the contemporary writers which stretch the English language the most are African-American writers (not all of them, some of them) - the likes of Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange, and [name escapes my mind].

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Post by vir litterarum » Sun Oct 01, 2006 8:35 pm

Your comments on rhetoric are accurate: The subject was the cornerstone of the Greco-Roman education, while it is sorely neglected in today's schools. There is no possibility that this has not affected the manner in which we view and interpret language.

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Post by bellum paxque » Mon Oct 02, 2006 12:37 am

Perhaps I don't fully understand your argument, vir litterarum, but I feel as if you're conflating language and literature. Contemporary writers, you say, having been misled by their ignorant teachers, have forgotten how to use rhetoric.

Maybe this is so - at least, it is an arguable point - but what does this have to do with the attrition of language?

In brief, literature can be plotted on a graph ranging from ARTIFICIAL (that is, rhetorical, diverging from common speech) and NATURAL (approximating or at least imitating common speech).

The tendency of literature to be artificial or natural has little, at least in my opinion, to do with the health and vigor of a language. After all, English is built upon certain rules of syntax, among which is word order: Subject - Verb - Object and Preposition - Object of the Preposition, etc. Anastrophe (at least as this website explains it) departs from this rule for particular emphasis. It is not obvious to me that English suffers because few authors use anastrophe. In other words, does the presence or absence of rhetoric in literature constitute a degradation of language itself?

Methods of teaching the passive voice are problematic, on the other hand--I've also had personal experience in that regard--but I hardly think it is "damaging" English. Mostly, it only confuses young writers.

One final thought: it is my opinion that rhetoric is ignored in public education because the literacy of students is much lower than the students who were raised with a "Greco-Roman" education. No doubt, the film industry (and television) also affect this trend, but I think that far more important is the necessity of teaching students how to write COHERENTLY before they can attempt writing ELOQUENTLY.

Regards,

David
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Post by vir litterarum » Mon Oct 02, 2006 1:34 am

I agree heartily with your ideas concerning teaching coherency before eloquence, but I took AP English Composition my junior year and am currently taking AP English Literature, and every year we only touch upon grammar in the most simplistic fashion. Furthermore, usage of the passive voice has always been condemned as "weak" by my teachers. At such a level, teachers need to begin telling students to experiment with the language and test its boundaries, for coherence should already be present. However, grammar schools present the language in such a simplistic manner that this is impossible. My biggest problem with both Classical language and modern English classes is that they emphasize reading over composition. Coherence is the stuff of middle school, eloquence that of high school and college.

Concerning the attrition of the language, I must admit I witness foremost in my own speech. The colloquialisms I have assimilated from my environment remind me every day how degraded our language is relative to previous times. The relative pronoun has become a joke; some people even believe "that" and "who" are on their way to becoming purely interchangeable. Anyone who uses the words "thee" or "thou" are considered archaic pricks. You must admit that every language reaches its apex then begins to decline e.g. Classical Latin to Medieval Latin to Ecclesiastical Latin; Classical Greek to Koine to Modern. I believe the health of a language's literature and that of the language itself are directly proportional. I do not think there has ever been a case in history where the literature of a certain language has waned while the language itself concurrently became stronger. Tell me the last time a major poem was #1 on the bestseller's list. The problem with English is that it has become so structured that any syntactic experimentation is discouraged. This rigidity stifles the creativity of potential writers before it has the time to germinate. I do not think there has ever been a case in history where the literature of a certain language has waned while the language itself concurrently became stronger

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Post by Silenus » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:25 am

vir litterarum wrote:The relative pronoun has become a joke;
Does one really need an -m at the end of the relative pronoun for comprehension that it is being used obliquely?
vir litterarum wrote:some people even believe "that" and "who" are on their way to becoming purely interchangeable.
They are. Collapses occur often. So do differentiations which give new nuances to words.
vir litterarum wrote:Anyone who uses the words "thee" or "thou" are considered archaic pricks.
Maybe that's because "thee" and "thou" are not words of contemporary english. Shall I also use "Ic" because it was once part of the English language? "Thee" is scarcely more a part of contemporary english than "yo" (i.e. the Spanish first person singular pronoun).
vir litterarum wrote:You must admit that every language reaches its apex then begins to decline e.g. Classical Latin to Medieval Latin to Ecclesiastical Latin; Classical Greek to Koine to Modern.
What means the "apex" of a language? Who are you to say that Classical Latin was somehow better than Medieval Latin, which in turn was better than Ecclesiastical Latin? Can you provide any evidence for this? Languages are neither good nor bad but merely exist. Indeed, if different versions of a language can be ranked, surely different languages can themselves be ranked. What standards should we use? Of course the primitive aboriginees languages must be placed last, with all modern languages a close second :roll:.
vir litterarum wrote:Tell me the last time a major poem was #1 on the bestseller's list.
So the taste of the people dictates the state of the language?
vir litterarum wrote:The problem with English is that it has become so structured that any syntactic experimentation is discouraged. This rigidity stifles the creativity of potential writers before it has the time to germinate.
Do you mean to suggest that people in the time of Shakespeare (or Classical Latin) spoke regularly with anastrophe and perfect poetical rhetoric? What a useless language! The purpose of everyday language is communication! And who has been more playful with language than the modern and contemporary poets? Look at E. E. Cummings. How about Jazz poetry? I'm sure I could find more examples. Even David Mamet, whom GlottalGreekGeek seems to greatly dislike, though using fairly simple syntactical styles, manages to create texts with language quite different from the rigid structure you seem to think is so pervasive. How long did it take before someone was able to use the second person in a novel convincingly?

I hardly think that teachers were any more open to change and play with language in the past than presently, although that is not to suggest they couldn't stand to be more open now.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:30 am

I believe it may be more clearly stated, that English is prædominantly composed of classical tongues (namely Latin and Greek), and that it is necessary for every English speaker, in order to be truly fluent in our language, to know both Greek and Latin well. As Anglophones, our speech is directly connected to those of the Romans and Greeks, and there can never be English without them. Ignorant of them, we are blind and bound as the poor fools in Plato's allegorical cave, seeing without understanding, speaking without knowing.
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Post by annis » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:43 am

vir litterarum wrote: You must admit that every language reaches its apex then begins to decline e.g. Classical Latin to Medieval Latin to Ecclesiastical Latin; Classical Greek to Koine to Modern.
I certainly do not. Modern Greek is no more than fallen Attic? What rot.

By that standard even Shakespeare's language is no more than a fading, puny whisper of the majesty of Beowulf.

All languages change, all the time. The literary or rhetorically minded modern needs to take up the current language and use it as well as possible, not reanimate the mummified words of our ancestors. That glory is past. It's not ours to appropriate, though it have much to teach us. [Revived subjunctive!] You're asking careful writers to seek their future in a tomb.
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Post by annis » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:46 am

Lucus Eques wrote: Ignorant of them, we are blind and bound as the poor fools in Plato's allegorical cave, seeing without understanding, speaking without knowing.
:shock:

Are you honestly suggesting that someone without Latin has no true understanding of what a "refrigerator" is?

Wait, are you a Platonist?
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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Mon Oct 02, 2006 3:23 am

I agree with annis and Silenus that English is not any worse a language now than it was then (I wonder why I did not make this clear in a previous post, but maybe I thought you could all read my mind or something).

By the way, there are a number of recent bestsellers which contain poetry, namely the Harry Potter books and the Redwall books. I think the Harry Potter poetry is okay but not great, and I find Redwall poetry a bore, but it still is poetry and bestselling.
Silenus wrote: Even David Mamet, whom GlottalGreekGeek seems to greatly dislike, though using fairly simple syntactical styles, manages to create texts with language quite different from the rigid structure you seem to think is so pervasive. .
My dislike for Mamet specifically (and I actually do like his adaptations - I merely cannot stand his plays) should not be confused with a dislike of contemporary literature, which I do not dislike at all. I'm sorry if I confused anybody by this. After all, the play "Proof" is written in a very plain colloquial style, and it is one of my favorite plays of any era (and better than most Pulitzer prize winning plays IMHO).

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Post by Lucus Eques » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:45 am

annis wrote:
Lucus Eques wrote: Ignorant of them, we are blind and bound as the poor fools in Plato's allegorical cave, seeing without understanding, speaking without knowing.
:shock:

Are you honestly suggesting that someone without Latin has no true understanding of what a "refrigerator" is?

Wait, are you a Platonist?
I am not a Platonist, though I found the fusion of Plato with John Lennon / George Harrison to be pleasing. Anyway, considering the broad protetial for my statement, I will have to admitt to at least some hyperbole.

Mamet, though, I think is pretty good; his work is honest, and rather clever. The language is harsh and dialectical and sometimes crude, but that is præcisely the style, honest repræsentation.
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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:17 am

Lucus Eques wrote:I believe it may be more clearly stated, that English is prædominantly composed of classical tongues (namely Latin and Greek), and that it is necessary for every English speaker, in order to be truly fluent in our language, to know both Greek and Latin well.
I disagree with the statement that English is predominantly made from classical tongues - perhaps all the words in a dictionary are mostly from the classical tongues, but the words we use regularly, particularly the strong words, are Germanic in origin and not from Latin/Greek. By strong words I mean words which have a strong emotional impact - "trash can" has a lot more emotion than "refuse receptacle". Not to mention the predominantly Germanic grammar. I'm sure you can find exceptions, but I have found that English is mostly driven by a Germanic engine. Note that the last sentence had only three words of romance origin, and no words of Greek origin. As for a mastery of Greek and Latin being needed for a mastery of English, Shakespeare himself was hardly fluent in Latin, French, or Greek, but still managed to use words like "cicatrice" with ease.

Not to knock learning Latin and Greek - I think studying these languages is a very rewarding experience.

My biggest gripe about what's wrong with our education system is not related to rhetoric and is only indirectly related to classics, and sadly is a cultural problem rather than something which a mere school reform could fix. That is the lack of respect for physical education. However, I will say no more about it in this thread, and I advise anybody who wishes to discuss this with me and other Textkittens to start a new thread.

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Post by Silenus » Mon Oct 02, 2006 12:35 pm

GlottalGreekGeek wrote:I agree with annis and Silenus that English is not any worse a language now than it was then (I wonder why I did not make this clear in a previous post, but maybe I thought you could all read my mind or something).
Ah, sorry. I did not read that in your posts, and I apologize if my reference to you in that post suggested I did. Your post was perfectly clear.
GlottalGreekGeek wrote:My dislike for Mamet specifically (and I actually do like his adaptations - I merely cannot stand his plays) should not be confused with a dislike of contemporary literature, which I do not dislike at all.
Once again I did not mean to convey this. I only meant to show that even someone with "plainer language" is in some ways more playful than older writers. Forgive me for being unclear.

To a certain extent I do believe a knowledge of Latin and Greek is helpful in some writings, but that is only because some authors use the ancient meanings to guide or even completely change the modern meanings. But this is completely artificial, as old words have taken on completely new meanings and nuances; to understand the meaning of a word in modern english one need not look back to the Latin or the PIE root. Of course the same could be said for Germanic roots, or the rare roots from other families.

Nevertheless, looking at the etymology does offer interesting insight into what people were thinking, and occasionally may explain (indirectly) the nuances of a word better than a dictionary definition. But in other cases the etymology can be deceptive. A knowledge of the classics doesn't hurt and occasionally helps, but it should not be considered necessary.

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Post by CharlesH » Mon Oct 02, 2006 7:24 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:I believe it may be more clearly stated, that English is prædominantly composed of classical tongues (namely Latin and Greek)[...]

I find that hard to believe.

How do you define "prædominantly composed"?


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Last edited by CharlesH on Fri Dec 08, 2006 12:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Mon Oct 02, 2006 7:46 pm

Word formation -- particularly in the sciences -- is atrocious these days because people simply do not know what they are saying. We don't use big fancy words from Latin and Greek for no reason; should we not know the inhærent meanings of these terms, it would clearly be better to explicate, that is, to unfold these terms into what we mean to say in so many little Germanic words. Yet we use them. For they are more efficient and clear at communicating what we wish to say — if we know what they mean. Without knowing what they mean, we are idiots.

But, as now, when so many do not know what these words actually mean, they misuse them, and ridiculous terms are the result. And there a perfect example: "result." This word means to convey the sense of "jump back," "jump again," "rebound," a physical, vibrant action. We have simplified our understanding of word to mean no more than "consequence," though even that word denotes an extremely physical, real movement, and its application, just as "result," is rather metaphorical. The metaphor was not lost on the Romans or the Greeks, but it has been lost on many of us, leaving us a comparatively dull tongue whose poetic life resides just below the surface, which is just what we gain from knowing the origins of the words that we use. Full command of the language is suddenly before us.

I never prætended that Latin grammar in its strictest sense were something applicable to English, althrough French grammar has significantly influenced our language, and we share with it 70% of our lexicon.
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Post by Hu » Mon Oct 02, 2006 10:04 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:Word formation -- particularly in the sciences -- is atrocious these days because people simply do not know what they are saying.
Could you give some examples?
But, as now, when so many do not know what these words actually mean, they misuse them, and ridiculous terms are the result. And there a perfect example: "result." This word means to convey the sense of "jump back," "jump again," "rebound," a physical, vibrant action. We have simplified our understanding of word to mean no more than "consequence," though even that word denotes an extremely physical, real movement, and its application, just as "result," is rather metaphorical. The metaphor was not lost on the Romans or the Greeks, but it has been lost on many of us, leaving us a comparatively dull tongue whose poetic life resides just below the surface, which is just what we gain from knowing the origins of the words that we use. Full command of the language is suddenly before us.
What do you mean by "actually mean"? And who uses "result" to communicate the idea of a physical action? The word has lost that meaning and gained a (metaphorically) related one.

Certainly "result" had that first meaning in Latin, but to suggest that we should be bound to the original meanings of words in that way is ridiculous. It doesn't matter if words like "result" and "consequence" had those shades to the Romans; nobody nowadays actually looks up word eytmologies and pretends that words should still have their original meanings. I use "result" to communicate an idea, not to marvel at a metaphor that I've never encountered before.

To give a counter example, consider "reactant" and "reagent", which obviously come from two different principal parts of agere. My chemistry professor told us that these are used interchangeably in chemistry, which is silly. All you need is one term (preferably "reactant", since it's used in everyday speech more) to specify a particular thing. It doesn't matter that "react" means "do again" in Latin, because the original sense of the meaning has changed. It's now no more Latin than English, since it's taken on a different use and can be considered fully English. Sure, it came from Latin, but the word itself (like "result" and "consequence") no longer has its original force.

This discussion reminds me of a quote by Winston Churchill:
Winston Churchill wrote:By being so long in the lowest form [at Harrow], I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys. They all went on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that. But I was taught English. We were considered such dunces that we could learn only English. ...As I remained in the Third Fourth...three times as long as anybody else, I had three times as much of it. I learned it thoroughly. Thus I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence - which is a noble thing. ...Naturally I am biassed in favor of boys learning English; I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat. But the only thing I would whip them for is not knowing English. I would whip them hard for that.
To me, it's much more important to know English, and know it well, than to be able to rattle off roots or whine about how "leap back" doesn't express the exact concept it once did.

As to the original thread topic, I identify much more with the ancients in whom (See, vir litt.? it's not a joke yet) our civilization has its roots than in peoples of the middle ages (I think this is what "romantic" means). The comment about idealizing the ancients vs. taking what's useful from them is, I think, very much how I think. I certainly don't think humanity reached its apex or whatever in ancient times and that everything afterward has been some slow downward spiral.
vir litterarum wrote:some people even believe "that" and "who" are on their way to becoming purely interchangeable
So? All relative pronouns do is make speech more efficient. What difference does it make if we only have one instead of two?
Anyone who uses the words "thee" or "thou" are considered archaic pricks.
That would be because nobody's used those in a few hundred years except to seem archaic.
You must admit that every language reaches its apex then begins to decline e.g. Classical Latin to Medieval Latin to Ecclesiastical Latin
"Decline"? Do explain. Does the fact that the Proto-Indo-European aorist and perfect coalesced into the Latin perfect (or that the PIE locative, ablative, and instrumental merged with the dative in Greek) mean those languages "declined" relative to PIE?

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Post by Agrippa » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:44 am

I think rebelling against the flow of language is just stupid. Language will change. When Middle English changed to Early Modern English, people probably thought that English was doomed and never again would we see a poet as great as old Geoffrey, and then came William. Even in the twentieth century we had Eliot, whom I consider a poet worthy to be compared with with the former two. I love Latin: I find it beautiful and I studied it because I loved it, but I doubt I'll ever be convinced that a Roman poet can beat Shakespeare, nevermind that he wrote in a "declined" language, and that little humorous ending to "A Game of Chess" is genius, even if it's written in language that could hardly be considered elegant.

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Post by cdm2003 » Tue Oct 03, 2006 2:13 pm

Hu wrote:
Anyone who uses the words "thee" or "thou" are considered archaic pricks.
That would be because nobody's used those in a few hundred years except to seem archaic.
Actually, some sects of Quakers in America use them in daily speech today and their intent has nothing to do with being archaic.

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Post by Hu » Tue Oct 03, 2006 3:13 pm

I think it can be safely said, however, that they're in the minority.

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Post by thesaurus » Wed Oct 04, 2006 3:28 am

I just want to add that if anyone thinks that the poor Roman/Greek of the city streets spoke refined Latin/Greek, they are quite mistaken.

I am new to Latin, but I'm aware that there was a Vulgar latin spoken by the common people, and that some of our knowledge of it comes from the prescriptive writings of classical grammarians. My point is that every literate culture has always thought of its language in decline, ancient civilizations being no exception.

Also, be sure to look at this issue from all sides, including the positive. The 'decline' of the English language of late corresponds with massive increases in literacy. Most English speaking nations today have almost universal literacy. What do you think the literacy rates were in ancient civilizations (be sure to include women and slaves)? When your cultured language is only spoken/written by the aristocracy you can be sure that it will be closely guarded. But, would you rather have a handful of nobles with with impeccable grammar, or universal literacy with slight annoyances here and there?

It's important that we learn to appreciate the value of our native language in addition to those of the ancients. I'm majoring in both English literature and the classics, and I've found both of them to be a source of immense pleasure and illumination.

With that said... classicist.

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Post by Democritus » Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:22 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:Word formation -- particularly in the sciences -- is atrocious these days because people simply do not know what they are saying. We don't use big fancy words from Latin and Greek for no reason; ...

The word "result" is not being misused. The meanings of words drift over time. You know this. It's not necessarily decay, it's just change.

I think you are giving the modern world a bad rap. Word formation in the sciences works very well. Classicists can enjoy the large number of technical terms that come from Greek or Latin. No one should fault a chemist or a geneticist for not knowing sufficient Latin.

Remember the story about Einstein -- one of his teachers complained that he would never amount to anything? It was his Greek teacher.

Even Classics enthusiasts like us need to maintain some perspective.

You should stop misspelling words like inherent and pretend. It's bad English. Five points off. ;)

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Post by quendidil » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:06 am

thesaurus wrote:I just want to add that if anyone thinks that the poor Roman/Greek of the city streets spoke refined Latin/Greek, they are quite mistaken.

I am new to Latin, but I'm aware that there was a Vulgar latin spoken by the common people, and that some of our knowledge of it comes from the prescriptive writings of classical grammarians. My point is that every literate culture has always thought of its language in decline, ancient civilizations being no exception.

Also, be sure to look at this issue from all sides, including the positive. The 'decline' of the English language of late corresponds with massive increases in literacy. Most English speaking nations today have almost universal literacy. What do you think the literacy rates were in ancient civilizations (be sure to include women and slaves)? When your cultured language is only spoken/written by the aristocracy you can be sure that it will be closely guarded. But, would you rather have a handful of nobles with with impeccable grammar, or universal literacy with slight annoyances here and there?

It's important that we learn to appreciate the value of our native language in addition to those of the ancients. I'm majoring in both English literature and the classics, and I've found both of them to be a source of immense pleasure and illumination.

With that said... classicist.
Prostitutes and gladiators wrote their graffiti on the walls of Pompeii in Vulgar Latin I believe. That being said, it was VULGAR latin, but I guess by the Christianisation in the Late Empire, literacy had probably fallen a lot more.

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Post by IreneY » Thu Oct 19, 2006 12:01 pm

I most certainly resent the implication that Modern Greek is a fallen form of the Greek language! Sure, we've "lost" some things that I wish we still had but that does not mean that MG is inferior.

The "let's go back to the classics" has been tried in Greece really. We had Katharevousa (an artificial form of language, a sort of amalgamation of Attic and Modern Greek) which did more bad than good really.

Literacy in Greece is not at the level I would like. I believe we should learn both Greek and Latin classics as well as other, more contemporary works of worth from all over the world. More emphasis should be given in the language as opposed to the technical knowledge than today (that does not mean of course that technical knowledge must be considered of secondary importance. I'd rather see both be of an equal value).

Same goes with English. I am one of those who likes whom, thus even ergo. If they ever become ectually extinct and not just "formal" (it looks as if that's the road down which they travel) I will be saddened but it won't be their loss that will make the vibrant English language poorer.

English has a big enough vocabulary (the biggest as far as I know) and can do without them.

What people need to study is their own language. The contemporary form. As I mentioned, I think that studying the classics helps. If however one wants to dispense with that and can gain a deep knowledge of his/her language without learning AG or Latin then that's all it's needed.
(and yes, as I mentioned in another thread, I always enjoyed knowing what παιδε?ω meant and not knowing ancient Greek means that a modern Greek will miss the fun of knowing how educating came to mean giving a hard time to somebody or how γαμέω-ω changed meaning from marrying to F***ing but that is not really the reason some Greeks have a poor vocabulary and can't back up an argument tosave their lives)

Shakespeares are not born everyday anyway.

P.S. When we're talking about classic Greek are we talking about i.e. Aristotle and Plato or Aristophanes and Lucian ;) ?

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Post by Aristoklhs » Thu Oct 19, 2006 3:06 pm

I don't know what English people should do.

I am an electical engineering student who has had only 2 years ancient greek in school (now they start with 13 I have been informed), and to pass an exam one didn't have to know any ancient greek at all.

Many people who have a profound knowledge of ancient greek- professors, poets of the past etc- say this is not a handicap, but they do not convince me. I think they use from this tank without realizing that themselves.

One can learn by heart some expressions but always be insecure how they are spelled or what exactly their meaning is. This is important if someone wants to read something other than thrillers.

One can lend expressions or ways of expressing or vocabulary by the ancient greeks, if he wants to write about something other than gossip.

So I envy the younger generations, that they learn ancient greek for 5 or 6 years.

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Post by Kinadius » Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:18 pm

What I'd like to know is, what does Romanticism have to do with English teachers discouraging the use of anastrophe or the passive voice?
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Post by thesaurus » Thu Oct 19, 2006 10:44 pm

Kinadius wrote:What I'd like to know is, what does Romanticism have to do with English teachers discouraging the use of anastrophe or the passive voice?
I'm not sure Romanticism is responsible, but this event can be explained by the deemphasis on classical languages. When teachers belived that Latin and Greek writing was the best that writing could be they sought to duplicate it in their English. But English is grammatically different from these langauges and attempting to force foreign standards on it yields awkward results. When English teachers discourage anastrophe and passive voice they are teaching their students how to best use the aspects of their native language.

There's nothing inherently wrong with these constructions, but they need to be qualified for English usage. Passive voice often creates vague and overly wordy sentences (e.g. "mistakes were made" hides who's to blame for the mistakes). Anastrophe can be awkward because it reverses the normal syntactic order. English naturally assumes the order Subject, Verb, Object, and altering this creates confusion. Using them effectively requires discretion.

Linguistically, English is mostly an analytic language, while Latin and Greek are mostly synthetic. This needs to be taken into consideration when we are using the same construction in different languages. Here is a good explanation of the difference if anyone is interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morphological_typology

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Post by cdm2003 » Thu Oct 19, 2006 11:57 pm

thesaurus wrote:
Kinadius wrote:What I'd like to know is, what does Romanticism have to do with English teachers discouraging the use of anastrophe or the passive voice?
When English teachers discourage anastrophe and passive voice they are teaching their students how to best use the aspects of their native language.
It has much, much more to do with simplicity than grammatical rules. As Kinadius pointed out, the passive voice can sound wordy and cumbersome and anastrophe can be down right confusing. We're not teaching students about how to write timeless works of literature in every instance of English education. We're teaching literacy and clarity. When a college student writes a paper, phrases such as "The Jubilee Year was proclaimed by Boniface VIII" or "Quiet flows the Don" are not as straight forward as their active or ordered counterparts. It's not that those two phrases are necessarily incorrect according to the rules of grammar (although the anastrophe can and quite often does). It's that the reader will spend more time trying to decipher the content (and read over a lot of unwarranted was's and by's) and less time analyzing the content.

In a world where everyone has a vested interest in being literate, writing with clarity is a necessary step. Let me reiterate that I'm not talking about breaking the hands of poets and prose writers who have a psychological desire to express themselves using the above voice and literary device. It's only that, in almost all cases, clarity as to what you're saying is more important to the reader than your motivation for saying it. If you need to stop a car at an intersection, the best sign language to put there is

STOP

not

YOU ARE TO STOP HERE

not

CARS STOP HERE

or

HERE STOP CARS

and certainly not

It is requested of you, by the governing authority of this area, that you, by any and/or all means, stop your car, right here, at the line seen below. A traffic ticket awaits those who violate this law!

Granted, the above is a ridiculous example, but it does highlight the extremes of what I'm trying to express.

Chris
Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae

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Post by Kinadius » Fri Oct 20, 2006 3:05 am

thesaurus wrote:I'm not sure Romanticism is responsible, but this event can be explained by the deemphasis on classical languages.
Oh, okay. I was gonna say, a lot of Romantic poetry seems to use anastrophe. I'm less familiar with Romantic prose, and wondered if that device fell out of use in English during that era.
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