History of Latin

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History of Latin

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Fev 27, 2009, 10:48pm

For anyone interested in the history of Latin in Europe, how it was taught, regional variations and how it gradually declined, "Latin, or the Empire of a Sign" by Francoise Waquet is a great read. It's full of fascinating snippets, eg the Finns were very reluctant to abandon Latin as it meant they could join in and be understood in academic discussions which they couldn't do using their own obscure language.

Mar 2, 2009, 7:39am

The Finns still do Latin - the Finnish national broadcaster has broadcast the news in Latin since 1989. See Nuntii Latini - http://www.yleradio1.fi/nuntii/audi/


Mar 5, 2009, 4:23am

Have been perusing this with great enjoyment. One item begins "Crisis in Gaza' and for a minute I thought, hang on, that's English, until reading the next word "crudescit" and realising that of course "crisis" is latin originally. I love the mention of podcasts intertwined with the Latin.

Mar 6, 2009, 7:56pm

Actually, crisis (krisis) is Greek rather than Latin. But the big news is that I'm glad you've gotten this group active again (assuming people are still around now).

Mar 6, 2009, 11:25pm

Oops! I shoulda known as I dabble in ancient Greek too. Are there immersion Latin camps in the US? We have them here in Oz and the idea is you speak only Latin for a week. I don't know how they manage with things like iPod and computer.

Editado: Mar 7, 2009, 1:42pm


Yes, we do have our Latin immersion programs, but I don't know much about them. Some high school / upper school (grades 9-12) students go to such camps for a few weeks during the summer. I don't think they do any ex tempore conversational Latin to speak of (which is fine with me: that's not what Latin is for), but I do know that one such camp culminated with a production by the students of a Plautus play in Latin: I think that's great. There is an important distinction here. I see conversational Latin as essentially a waste of time and energy (in part for the reason you mentioned: things like iPod and computer and thermonuclear reactor and incalculably many other things that are commonly familiar to us are entirely alien to any group that ever used Latin as an active language); but reading Latin (or Greek) texts aloud is imperative to the study of the literature: the ancients themselves always read aloud, and the sound was considered an important feature of the text. Writing for the sole purpose of silent reading came later.

Another exercise that I strongly recommend is Latin (or Greek) prose composition: this practice greatly increases the students' appreciation for and familiarity with the unique characteristics of the original language. But composition should not be done free-form: it should be done by translating sentences that are carefully constructed by competent scholars to reflect Latin (or Greek) diction, structure, and idiom. In almost all cases, this will mean the sentences in the textbook, or in a good primer like North and Hillard's Latin Prose Composition (or the same authors' Greek Prose Composition).

Some "immersion" programs just get students through the fundamentals of the language, or through a particular author or text, or through a sample of texts, etc. very quickly. Many of these offerings are "post-baccalaureate" programs, designed, for example, to provide further preparation for graduate studies than the students were able to get as undergraduates.

Mar 8, 2009, 9:36pm

kathymoo - where are these immersion camps? I'm intrigued. Is there a website?

Mar 8, 2009, 9:58pm

But composition should not be done free-form: it should be done by translating sentences that are carefully constructed by competent scholars to reflect Latin (or Greek) diction, structure, and idiom.

I really disagree with this approach. That's not composition, that's translation. Sure, there's a place for translation too, but it's not a substitute for trying to express your own thoughts in the language.

Editado: Mar 9, 2009, 3:08am

Stevia, I found out about them when I was attending a Latin Summer School at Sydney University and our tutor, who also teaches Latin at high school, had just attended such a week. I assumed it was at one of the Unis but don't know for sure. Sorry I don't have more details - I'll be seeing her at the next LSS but that's not until next Jan!

Abr 18, 2009, 11:18pm

Stevia, (newby here), I taught high school Latin until retirement last June. I can, if you are still interested, get you some info about immersion Latin in the states. I mostly lurked on a listserve called "Latin Best Practices." These fortunate folk started Latin students in the early grades, kept them for several years, and taught Latin as though it were a modern foreign language through TRP. Their thinking is that students thus acquire the language rather than learn about it. I found that doing even a little oral Latin with my students was helpful.

Jul 4, 2009, 4:39am

"The Finns still do Latin . . ." Appaloosaman (m.2)

Glad to hear it. Iʻve heard, too, that the last parliamentarians in Europe to do their proceedings in Latin were the Hungarians (19th c.) And their own language is said to be distantly related to Finnish.

Dez 11, 2009, 9:30pm

Finnish and Hungarian are the largest consitutents of the Finno-Ugric Language family, which along with Samoyedic languages comprises the Uralic Language family.

These languages have more noun cases than does Latin. Some people think that their case endings are just postpositions that got glued to the noun.

If you believe in the Nostratic hypothes, then one can say they are related to the Indo-European language family, one of whose branches is the Romance family headed by Latin

Editado: Dez 17, 2009, 6:42pm

"...one can say they are related to the Indo-European language family...." (#12)

The same has been said of the Polynesian languages (and I think that claim was made before there was a
Nostratic hypothesis). The idea was
Indian IE languages > Maylasian/Indonesian >
Proto-Polynesian. I don't know of any modern llinguistic historians who accept this.

I don't have an opinion on the Nostratic hypothesis, because all the languages I know are in the IE family, except for Tongan and Hawaiian (Polynesian), so I suppose that it would require a wider knowledge spreading across different families to evaluate the hypothesis.

I have a "Teach Yourself" series book for Finnish,, but haven't really attempted it yet. For Hungarian all I have is a Hungarian translation of a Dan Brown novel,and I have done a little comparing of it with the original. (The same ploy for language-learning as used to be done with Bibles in the learned language. This was highly recommended by Prof. Joshua Whatmough of the Harvard Lingusitics Dept.) Haven't got very far with it.

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