Formal & informal greetings

By teaques_mondoque, in 'English to Latin Translation', May 14, 2008.

  1. Chamaeleo New Member

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Fully half the Latin books I see in the shops are these silly things with lists of modern expressions allegedly in Latin. It seems to me they are not taking the Latin language seriously; it is presented as an amusing code in which to write English, rather than the actual language of a civilisation. It reminds me of the sort of scenes you find in American teen movies, where a grandma or school principal will turn on some rap and start dancing. You're supposed to laugh at the clash between old and cool. I've always just found it lame.

    Do we need specifically colloquial expressions in order to speak a language? I don't think so. There is no need for language to be divided into these registers. Remember that all formal language was once colloquial. The language used by the esteemed Classical writers would have been considered quite slangy by speakers of Early Latin. “Where are the subjunctives such as “faxim”?”, they might ask. “How uncouth to put V instead of O in all these second-declension nouns!”, they might exclaim.

    In any case, we're not really talking about colloquial versus formal, but attested versus invented. In particular, there are many situations in which you or I might utter a certain English phrase, and yet the Romans might not have said anything — and vice versa. I am reminded of an occasion when an Italian acquaintance of mine asked me how to say “buon appetito”. I told him, “we don't”. As I continued to explain how, where I'm from, we don't feel the need to say anything to people just because they are eating, he got more and more annoyed. He just wanted me to say something like “good appetite”, but I refused. The fact is, we just don't habitually say anything of the sort. We're aware that people do so in other countries, and that's why we're familiar with the French term “bon appétit”, but only pretentious people would actually use it themselves. You might occasionally get “enjoy your meal” in a restaurant (especially if the waiter has watched too much American TV), and really religious people might say grace. But the norm is not to say anything, in the same way that we don't feel the need to say “have a good pee” to people heading for the toilet. He didn't get this. He felt that his Italian customs were universal, and that every language had to have an exact equivalent for them.

    The fact is that English is a language perfectly adequate for all everyday conversations, despite the fact that we don't have an exclamation to utter if we see, for example, someone eating a handful of peanuts.

    Therefore, it seems that Latin is quite adequate in that it has “salué” as a greeting. There is no need to force individual translations of “good morning”, “good afternoon”, etc. Is anything actually communicated with such things that you cannot communicate with the actual, attested greeting? And why must English be the king of languages and define what modernity is? Why not force Latin into the Spanish mould instead, where “buenos días” serves during the morning and early afternoon, and “buenas tardes” is for the late afternoon and the evening?

    I say to use made-up Latin only when strictly necessary.

    P.S. Sorry to be a nerd, but I use grammar-observing book-English when I speak too. ;)
  2. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Your long article is greatly appreciated! Observing correct grammar when speaking is not nerdy, it is what everyone should do, if they really care about their native languages. However, most people on this planet are not scholarly and therefore don't speak this way. You should hear some American teenagers and their slang...maybe it's all proof of the decadence of the West.

    So in other words, those 'modern-Latin' expressions are good for nothing? Someone just forced them into an English mould and they ought to be avoided, correct? I still have to contend that during its over-two-millenia career span, Vulgar (spoken) Latin had to be full of various colloquialisms and idioms, just like English today. It's very possible that people during this time developed all sorts of colourful exclamations and profanities. The fact is, they have not survived, if ever they were recorded, aside from inscriptions like graffiti. We can only refer to the modern Romances, but that only gives a glimpse, and even then we will never be sure how Latin was regularly spoken, aside from the comedies of Plautus and Terentius. Any other comments on this? :)
  3. Quasus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Águas Santas
    What is so special about Latin?

    First of all, it’s a language with no native speakers. In this respect it’s analogous to a lot of ancient languages (e. g. Old Egyptian). No Roman is alive, it’s impossible to travel in time, so all the sentences of the kind “if we met a Roman” are essentially nonsense. Roughly speaking, all we have is a number of texts (books, graffiti) and modern descendants of Latin. It turns out that the language of the Romans is a Ding an sich for us, something we can never come in direct contact with.

    On the other hand, the available Latin material is quite abundand and it’s sufficient to reconstruct a rich language suitable for communication. This is the Latin we learn. According to my philosophy this Latin is incomparable with the language of Romans (in the sense that we can do our best to follow ancient samples, but in principle we can’t learn the Ancients’ opinion on our efforts).

    Latin is vulnerable. My posts seem to me all right, but it would be no surprise for me if for example Chamaeleo says one day, “You know, Quasus, your English is abhorrent, I’d never read any of your posts if they were not so smart.” :D As for Latin, there are very few people who can judge the quality of the language used by some person. That is why we can learn and talk in Latin, but nón nisi doctissimís fás est librós Latínós cónficere.

    Latin is a dead language. From the point of view of linguistics the language is dead if it does not evolve spontaneously and such evolution can take place only if a language is spoken by a reasonable amount of people. Of course, Latin undergoes changes. The Copious… lexicon contains a lot of words and expressions marked with asterisks, that is recommended for expressing recent notions. But it’s not a spontaneous evolution, but rather a voluntaristic act of certain professors. As a whole Latin is stationary, because we dare not to change grammar or the meaning of the words. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t like Latin to resurrect. Take Hebrew as a sample of revived language: it is a language quite different from old Hebrew. Ergó, if Latin becomes a living language it will undergo certain changes that someone may dislike: it will be greatly influenced by modern languages, the grammar will probably simplify (no more gerundives and conjunctive), no one will care for nuances with Latin synonyms and some of them will die while others will expand their meaning. And this process can be hardly controlled. (By the way I don’t think that people who know this New Latin will plainly understand ancient writings.) So if (according to Ockham’s principle :) ) we don’t want to obtain a new Romance we should treat Latin with care. And it’s not easy, because the language is vulnerable.
  4. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Well, have you considered that people, over the centuries, had constantly added neologisms (new words) into their Latin vocabulary? They must have had words for tobacco, sugar, potatoes, tomatoes, harpsichords, pianos, and all the wealth of philosophical and theological terminology that had accrued as a consequence of the spreading of Christinanity, like bapisma (lame example, I guess, for this is a Greek term). Anyway, I guess this made their neo-Latin more enriching. Not having Latin originals for these words, they must have resorted to other languages, i.e. the Romances and others, like Greek and Hebrew. Could this dependence upon words from other languages have been a factor that brought about the downfall of Latin's status quo as a superior language?

    What is Ockham's principle, prithee? I confess my ignorance and am not ashamed. :p
  5. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    According to this theory, wouldn't English have died off long ago? Or don't you consider English "superior"?

    Occam's razor
  6. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    And yet English lives on, whereas Latin evolved into the Romances? My conclusion is that Latin lost the competition to them.
  7. Quasus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Águas Santas
    Here: linguae non sunt multiplicandae praeter necessitatem. :D

    To tell the truth, I begin to lose the thread of our discussion. Mattheus, I hope you don't mean that the fact that Latin vocabulary enhanced throughout the centuries is a good excuse to introduce a new meaning "excellent" of the word tepidus.

    I can tell what I have concidered although I don't know what I want to prove.

    Latin has been alive during the Middle Ages. No matter that it was no one's first language: it was used as a language of everyday communication by a lot of people (at least by the clergy) and for this reason it just had to evolve according to laws of language evolution. It not only comprised a lot of other words, but in fact it became a kind of new language as compared with the classical Latin (all of us know that medieval Latin has lots of pecularities). The course of nature stopped at the Renaissanse. The scholars discovered the antique heritage and at the same time they discovered that Latin abounded in barbarisms and was not at all similar to Ciceronian language. They established new standards and decided to be guided only by ancient samples. Latin has been dead since then. The vocabulary growth does not contradict to the status of Latin as a dead language because it isn't a spontaneous evolution.

    What I wrote above is not my personal point of view, I had learned it from a textbook. And here comes my own viewpoint.

    On one hand, I don't mind the fact that Latin is dead. I wouldn't like it to develop into a new language. Existing languages seem to me quite sufficient for all purposes. So I'm against changing Latin grammar, meanings of words, idioms. There are means to say "excellent" in Latin, so we'd better leave tepidus alone; there exist a lot of Latin greetings and there's no need to introduce doubtful "mane bonum" as a new formula.

    On the other hand, I admit that Latin is a unique dead language. No one is likely to use Old Egyptian or Sumerian for communication (what we know about them is insufficient). But Latin is a full-fledged language. So it is worth bothering of adding new words and expressions for new notions. I don't mind any barbarisms in a simple conversation, but I believe that only the most educated people dare to contribute to the "official version" of the language. And it's not my business at all; I don't care if professors borrow words from vernacular languages or propose new meanings of existing words (e.g. Desserard grounds the meaning ticket for tessera).

    Quid plura?
  8. Quasus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Águas Santas
    Don't you think that Latin lost its "superior" status just because essentially it lost its uniqueness? In the Middle Ages vernaculars were not so refined as Latin, so they could not compete with it; but they gradually developed and eventually they could completely substitute Latin. So why use a complicated dead language, if one's mother tongue is just as good?
  9. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    I never said anything about tepidus, where did you get that from? I still think learning the language for its own sake is a great cultural accomplishment for onself, and in me that breeds a desire to speak it. What's wrong with that? Insanity? Eccentricity?

    What do you make of this site http://avitus.alcuinus.net/schola_latina/invitatio_en.php? Scroll down and read about their methods. There are supposedly two schools where the language is taught to young pupils, obviously speaking it.
  10. Quasus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Águas Santas
    We began with sharing opinions about amateurish formulae presented in the first posts of the thread. The fact that a discussion arose implies that we didn't agree on that. Mattheus, I have tried to express what I think and I can hardly add anything; on the other hand, now I don't understand at all what we're arguing about. So I'll just answer your questions.

    So do I and nothing what I have written above contradicts these words.

    It's the site of the organization Schola Latina Universalis. I have a high opinion of SLU. By the way, the administrator of http://www.linguaeterna.com (a virtual acquaintance of mine) graduated from it.

    I made up this example to illustrate my point of view. If I have been too tongue-tired, pay no attention to it.
  11. Chamaeleo New Member

    Location:
    Melbourne
    Additions should be considered on a case-by-case basis. If you wish to talk about tobacco in Latin, you have no choice but to say “tabacum”. But if you wish to greet someone early in the day, there is no good reason for saying “mane bonum” instead of the perfectly adequate “salué”. This is the crux of the entire thread.

    It really is the same for all languages. If I'm speaking — say — Italian, and I want to mention the neighbourhood where I grew up, I'll import the English name “Chadwell Heath” — with its normal spelling and pronunciation — on an ad hoc basis. I won't, however, import “London”, because Italian already has a perfectly adequate name for the city: “Londra”.

Share This Page

 

Our Latin forum is a community for discussion of all topics relating to Latin language, ancient and medieval world.

Latin Boards on this Forum:

English to Latin, Latin to English translation, general Latin language, Latin grammar, Latine loquere, ancient and medieval world links.