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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

314                The Loom of Language
CLASSICAL LATIN
Two conclusions are now well established by what we are able to
glean about the living language of the Roman Empire from inscriptions
and from writings of authors with no pretensions to literary or rhetorical
skill One is that it was not so highly inflected as the Latin of the classics
The other is that the word-order was more regular. To emphasize the
contrast for the benefit of the reader who has not studied Latin at
school, our bird's-eye view of the Romance Group will begin with a
short account of Classical Latin. The next few pages are for cursory
reading, and the home-student who aims at becoming more language-
consaous may take the opportunity of recalling English words derived
from the Latin roots used in the examples ated Thus the second
example in the ensuing paragraph (gladiis pugnanf) suggests gladiator 9
gladiolus (why2), impugn^ and pugnacity.
Like the English noun (p 115 et seq ) before the Battle of Hastings,
the noun of Classical Latin had several singular and plural case-
forms Old English (p 266) had four: nominative (subject), accusative
(direct object), genitive (possessive), and dative (indirect object). In
addition to four case-forms with corresponding names, the singular
noun of classical Latin sometimes had an ablative case-form
distinct from the dative, and occasionally a vocative distinct from
nominative
In reality, what is called the ablative plural is always identical with
the daave plural, and the singular ablative of many nouns is not dis-
tinct from the singular dative So a grammarian does not necessarily
signify a specific form of the noun when he speaks of the ablative case
The ablative case refers to the form of the noun used by classical
authors in a variety of situations: e g. (a) with the participle in expres-
sions such as the sun having onsen., they set out for home> (U) where we
should put in front of an English noun the instrumental directive with
(glacbw pugnant—they fight with swords), from as the origin of move-
ment (oppidtf fiigit—he fled from town), at signifying time (media
nocte—at midnight\ or than (doctior Paulo est—he is cleverer than
Paul}
If Latin were the living language of a country in close culture-
contact with the English-speaking world, it might be helpful to empha-
size its regularities and to give serviceable rules for recognizing the
proper case-affix for a Latin noun. Since it is not a living language, the
chief reason for discussing the vagaries of the Latin case-system is that
it helps us to understand some of the differences between noun-endings