Thursday, August 11, 2005

Latin Lesson of the Week I

One of the members of my CPE group was ordained a Catholic priest prior to Vatican II. He left the priesthood to get married around 1970. So, we have been bantering in Latin a bit. I had a bit of an idea for my blog: Latin Lessons of the Week. We will see if this is something that my readers might be interested in.

Lesson I: Understanding the Latin Case System

English has essentially 3 case systems because it is totally dependent on prepositions and word order. Latin uses 7 cases, 5 of which are major and the other 2 minor. The majors are: Nominative, Genitive, Datative, Accusative, and Ablative. Vocative and Locative are the two minors, which I will dispense with for now.

Nominative: Like in English, the nominative is used to express the subject of the sentence or any noun that agrees with the subject. For example: 'The Archer is writing a blog' or 'The loser is Miami. Archer and Miami are in the nominative case.

Genitive: This case in Latin is used to limit the noun or other word. This is accomplished in English by prepositional phrase "of ____". For example, Jesus of Nazareth. "of Nazareth' in Latin would be the Genitive case.

Dative: The case expresses possession, indirect objects, or reference. This is usually in English as preposition phrases containing 'for' or 'to' For example, Who did this for you.

Accusative: This is the direct object in English. I broke my hand.

Ablative: This case is used to express manner, agency, motion away from, separation, and instrumentality. This is rendered into English usually as prepositional phrases using 'from,' 'in,' 'with,' and 'by.' For example, from the city. by the student.

The Minor Cases: Vocative is used in terms of direct address. Usually this is absorbed into the nominative. Locative essentially was absorbed into ablative case by the 5th Century.

In Latin: Singular Plural
Nominative: vita (life) vitae (lives)
Genitive: vitae (of life) vitarum (of lives)
Dative: vitae (for/to life) vitis (for/to lives)
Accusative: vitam (life) vitas (lives)
Ablative: vita (from life) vitis (from lives)


BrotherBeal said...

Excellent idea, Archer - one that I hope you stick with. If there's a language more systematic and logical than Latin (computer languages aside - they're a different animal), I would very much like to know. The best argument I ever heard for the teaching and learning of Latin is that clarity of grammar leads to clarity of thought - by phrasing and communicating one's thoughts clearly, one learns to think clearly and avoid ambiguity, incoherence, and other symptons of "diarrhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain." The years I spent mastering Latin had a huge impact on the way I think, and I would challenge any seminarian to study it's grammar if for no other reason than to sharpen their minds.

Stephen Newell said...

You're forgetting Greek and Hebrew, brotherbeal. Both are insanely systematic, Hebrew probably more so, and Greek is heavy on the logic quotient. But I agree--seminarians of all stripes (including we Baptists) should study Latin as well.

BrotherBeal said...

I know Greek - never had any reason or inclination to study Hebrew, though (not being of the seminarian persuasion). However, I still find the grammar of Latin to be the clearest of the languages I've studied - and certainly the most helpful to my own English.

Just out of curiosity, what's the Hebraic grammar like?

The Archer of the Forest said...

I can't really speak to Hebrew. I essentially know the alphabet and that's about the sum of my knowledge. I had a year of Koine Greek and studied Latin for some years.

Actually, the Cherokee grammar makes the most logical sense...go figure.

Stephen Newell said...

Hebrew grammar, in my two-semester opinion, is extremely structured and deliberate. That makes mounds of sense to me when set against the painstaking care Hebrew scribes took in copying down the Scriptures--it was an extremely structured and deliberate task. I think that Hebrew has its own way of causing the reader to think logically, though I don't have enough experience with it to really verify that (I have 3 years' worth of Greek as compared to only 2 semesters of Hebrew), but if my education thus far can point me in any direction, I've found Hebrew to be very much a language of clarity as well.