Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Latin: The Ne Plus Ultra of Languages

A quick look by Michael Poliakoff at two new books on Latin. Here's the opening:

For generations of adults, the simple word-series "amo, amare, amavi, amatus" used to act as a kind of madeleine, calling to mind long classroom hours spent conjugating Latin verbs (including this one, meaning "love"), then exploring Gaul in its three parts and eventually trying to puzzle out the syntax of the rugged lines that followed "Arma virumque cano," the opening phrase of Virgil's "The Aeneid."

A few lucky students, in that era of required Latin, reveled in the ablative absolute and exulted at their ability to piece together the meaning of a Latin sentence from the seemingly random scattering of stems and inflections. Most students, it is safe to say, found the experience more trying than pleasant; some, like Winston Churchill, might even recall primitive pedagogy and physical brutality from their Latin teachers. But no one finished his years of Latin class without at least a grim respect for a language that could demand so much of young readers centuries after the fall of Rome.

You can read the rest here.

1 comment:

David said...

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