fabulam Flavi laeti audiunt pueri

By itaque, in 'Latin Beginners', Jan 7, 2019.

  1. itaque Member

    I'm translating "fabulam Flavi laeti audiunt pueri" for self study, but both of the following options seem correct:
    • The boys listen to happy Flavi's story
    • The happy boys listen to Flavi's story
    How do I tell which of these is correct, given that "laeti" could either be genitive singular (referring to Flavi), or nominative plural (referring to the boys)?
  2. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Lol, the author of the sentence just slightly messed up. Unless there's some more context to clarify things, there's no way you can tell for sure; it's just ambiguous.

    My first instinctive reading of it was "The boys listen happily (literally "happy") to Flavius's story". I think that would be the more likely interpretation in authentic Latin, because the other one sounds slightly less natural or more stilted for some reason.

    However, contextless practice sentences for beginners aren't known for always being particularly natural, and I think people writing them more often than not tend to put adjectives after their nouns, which would be in favor of the "happy Flavius" version.

    No way to be sure, really. ;)
  3. john abshire Member

    fabulam Flavi laeti audiunt pueri.
    they heard the story of Flavius's happy boy.

    I know this is a stretch, but could the sentence be translated this way?
    i.e. if the previous sentences were about a happy boy?
  4. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    In theory it's possible, yes, though less likely.
  5. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Just keep in mind (as Pacifica translated it too) that your second interpretation/translation wouldn't be really that the happy boys are listening but that "they listen [while being] happy [as a direct consequence]" - not that they have already come happy. That is, that laeti wouldn't be an attribute to pueri, it would be an apposition, so they would share the case, but they wouldn't share the syntactic phrase, two distinct (disconnected) syntactic phrases: NP = a Noun Phrase (pueri) and an apposition (laeti).

    I also think that particular interpretation makes most sense (as Pacifica read it intuitively)... This part of linguistics is called pragmatics: you pick the interpretation that would be most probably uttered without sounding bizarre but most congruent with normal reality and yet the sentence some real meaningful new information for the reader.

    - "The boys listen to happy Flavi's story" = the rhema/focus of sentence is to communicate what the boys do and such a meaningless attribute of the agent of the story narrating (that he was [always] happy) just wouldn't get normally (statistically) mentioned at all, it seems incredibly redundant/bizarre, that's why you would exclude that interpretation (on pragmatic grounds) IF there is a better one
    - "The happy boys listen to Flavi's story" = the same problem as what I've just mentioned, if laeti is a part of the Noun Phrase (NP) "pueri", although the problem disappears entirely if "laeti" is made an apposition, then the rhema/focus of the sentence is both that they listen and feel happy while doing it (listen happily), not just being happy for no reason beforehand and listen.
    - "they heard/hear the story of Flavius's happy boy" = Latin is a little bit more reluctant to never (even beforehand) mention (to keep secret) the subject while using the third person plural (to make the subject some generic "they"). When the subject is to be kept secret you will much more likely see the passive construction or perhaps a subject of a sort quīdam - now, I don't say this is some golden rule, I just say that statistically it's unlikely; also the rhema/focus of the expression being "hearing story of a happy boy" seems rather bizarre in comparison to a rhema "hearing [his] story happily"

    So, when you read classical Latin, you deal with this sort of stuff all the time. You have to always seek for the meaning that would make sense as a meaningful everyday proposition/expression made by you at this time and age: it's true that there is a difference between the modern and the ancient world but the basic psychology of talking/speaking is exactly the same, the propositions we utter today never seek to be bizarre, neither the Roman ones. Whenever the Latin text you read seem bizarre and makes little sense, it's not because Romans talked weirdly or in perpetual jokes, it's because you interpret it wrong, trust me : P But then, it's true that in none of your interpretations there was the (most probably correct) laeti made an apposition (Pacifica wrote that and I'm not sure you noticed it ;) ).
    Last edited by Godmy, Jan 9, 2019
  6. itaque Member

    Thanks, makes sense!

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