If an ancient Roman woke up today

By JaimeB, in 'General Latin Chat (English)', Jun 4, 2010.

?

Language easiest for a Roman to learn?

French 1 vote(s) 4.2%
Italian 15 vote(s) 62.5%
Portuguese 0 vote(s) 0.0%
Romanian 2 vote(s) 8.3%
Spanish 5 vote(s) 20.8%
Other (specify) 1 vote(s) 4.2%
  1. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    Location:
    BC
    Jaime, you might have let a beast out into the forum with this thread (which is a good thing) :)

    OK, Imprecator, you have me shifted somewhat more toward Italian now. I changed my vote from Spanish.
  2. EX CALCEO New Member

    Yeah I know about the Hapsburg's "domination" (thanks for trying to keep this friendly my Spanish friend lol). When you're a nerd for Italy you don't miss things like that. Actually that was what I was referring to when I said "imported" different words like frontera. Frontera and frontiera are close enough to think it may have developed in southern Italy as well as Spain.

    I'd also like to bring up a personal handicap I have. Which is a reading and writing comprehension disability. In short if it wasn't for spell check I don't think I could show my "face" on this forum. Looking at Latin and then looking back to both Spanish and Italian, they both look like Languages developed by Latin speakers who may have had the same handicap. :roflred:

    Back to my point my Spanish friend you referred to Neapolitan and Sicilian making a distinction between the both and Italian.

    One last thing JaimeB, thanks for noticing my post. I didn't mean to post it were I posted it. I was and still am trying to make sense of the whole forum. :)
  3. Reziac Member

    Actually I was wondering about something along those lines: why do most of the descendant words derive from just about anything EXCEPT the nominative? Frex, instead of dux, descendant languages have duke/duce. What's with that??

    An ancient Roman would thing we talk funny, because per the grammar he learned, none of our sentences have any subjects. :wondering:
  4. JaimeB Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    Long explanations about the decline of the Latin case system in various Romance descendants. Quick version:

    Romanian keeps three cases: nominative/accusative, dative/genitive, and vocative. It also keeps three genders m, f, n. Other Romances keep only m & f genders, case distinctions only in pronoun forms.

    Generally, Italian went with the accusative forms for singulars (this is evident if you look at nouns derived from 3rd decl. in Latin, e. g., cane < canem, notte < noctem), but with the nominative forms for the plurals (-i < -i, -e < -ae). Romanian does something similar with m & f plurals. The other Romance languages generalized accusative forms in both sing. & plur., always dropping the final nasal in the singular, keeping -s in the plural. Neuters migrated to the masculine, except when they were more commonly used in the plural, in that case migrating to the feminine, with some exceptions in Italian: e. g., uovo < ovum, uova < ova; and of course, in Romanian, which kept the neuter gender.
  5. Reziac Member

    So that's why some consider Romanian to be Latin's nearest modern descendant?

    What I'm really wondering is why the forms that are NOT the emphasis word (subject) survived most often. You'd think it would be the other way around, just from common speech patterns.

    Maybe our ancient Roman's opinion is right -- we are a bunch of ill-spoken barbarians :silenced:

    I'm reminded of another question I've been meaning to post but haven't got around to: in historical fiction set in an era when Latin was still the single common tongue, there is often a reference to some speaker's "execrable Latin". This always makes me laugh and wonder what this "execrable Latin" sounds like. But now I'm thinking it must be Latin that is skewed toward using the wrong forms, ie. the ancestor(s) of the Romance languages (as you describe).

    I'm also wondering how such forms developed in the first place. You'd think that language would logically develop from the simple to the complex, but it seems to have worked the other way around.
  6. JaimeB Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    I would question Romanian as a candidate for being Latin's "nearest modern descendant." For one thing, Romanian shows extensive sound-shifts, to the point where it is difficult to recognize Latin-cognate vocabulary without knowledge of complicated sound-shift laws. Visit "Romanian Language" in wikipedia and you'll see what I mean. Also, Romanian shows extensive vocabulary borrowing and other features from its surrounding Slavic language neighbors.

    If you think of the educated speakers' English, and then think of the way people use English informally, you will see what "execrable English" is like and get an idea about the same phenomenon in any language. "He ain't got no money" and "He don't know nothin'" are examples of this in English. I can give you examples in Spanish and French as well, and so not every native speaker of Latin spoke the language equally well either. We tend to think of Vulgar Latin as coming after Classical Latin, but it was the contemporary of the Golden Age writers, just spoken by a different class of people. When classical Latin culture was gone in the West, different forms of Vulgar Latin were all that was left to most people, and so developed into the modern Romance vernaculars.
  7. Reziac Member

    Now there's another thought: does our ancient Roman speak classical or vulgar Latin? and how would that affect his ability to understand and learn modern Romance languages?

    Do we have any examples of vulgar speech from the classical era?

    As to Romanian, I suspect those who contend it is Latin's nearest descendant may do so on the basis of grammar and structure, not vocabulary, which as you say has much Slavic input.
  8. Reziac Member

    There actually is a science fiction novel about a Roman soldier discovered frozen and brought back to life in the modern era. <goes looking for it, can't find it offhand, but learns that fact there are (at least) two, tho I'd never heard of the one mentioned here: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/M ... anPopsicle >

    The one I'm thinking of was written by a mainstream author, someone like Morris West -- that era and general style, but damned if I can recall title or author, 30-odd years later. And gods know which box of books my copy is in!
  9. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    Location:
    BC
    Probably vulgar...
    I have no idea.

    Graffiti? :oops:

    I do not think they like to admit the last point :)

    So we are not the first ones to spend hours wondering of how this would work :) I guess, this is comforting :roflred:
  10. JaimeB Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    Yeah, well the grammar is also somewhat influenced by Slavic languages.
  11. Gregorius Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Not really. I'm more curious as to how the more complex forms evolved in the first place given the preference for simplicity evidenced by the prevailing Latin-to-Romance transformations. Also, this is not unique to Latin/Romance. English once had genders and case declensions, but their distinctiveness eroded over time until they could no longer fulfill their purposes adequately. Of course, modern English has since acquired a whole new sort of complexity. Not even mentioning the ridiculously archaic spelling system (that's a rant in itself), there's also the disproportionately high incidence of phrasal verbs that make little or no sense in relation to their constituent parts (most of them are of the verb-preposition compound variety). The words "give" and "up," for example, each have very basic meanings that are readily understood and used, but put them together as a block, and - abracadabra, hocus-pocus - they magically mean "to abandon or relinquish a pursuit, endeavor, belief, or habit." At least if you say 2 + 2 = 5, you're staying in the same semantic domain (numbers and math). The meaning of "give up" is like saying 2 + 2 = breakfast! No language is completely devoid of such seemingly illogical constructions, but English seems to take them to a whole new level!

    Based on this, one might propose that complexity in languages does not diminish over time but rather shifts between various manifestations.
  12. Imprecator Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Colchis
    <snip>

    Imagine two cavemen, one holding an apple, and the other, the more muscular and imposing of the two, demanding that he receive it. How would the former hand it over? By giving it to the latter, of course, while kneeling on the ground and raising it up to him. C.f. 'surrender' (sursum+re+dare). English makes perfect sense when you actively strive to understand it.
  13. metrodorus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Londinium
    abra k dabra is a grammatical sentence in Aramaic: I will create as I speak!
  14. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    :nono: :nono: :nono: Manners please gentlemen...

    As an aside, I was unaware that the cavemen spoke English ;)
  15. Reziac Member

    These cavemen do ;)
  16. Gregorius Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    That works fine for objects, but if you'll notice, I'm more focused on the phrase's use with pursuits/endeavors. For example, imagine a boy trying to housebreak a stubborn dog. After countless attempts, he finally declares, "I give up! He'll never learn!" Even if we assume some type of symbolism (i.e. the "apple" of your previous example representing victory in this face-off between man and beast), the metaphor just seems too weak to stand the test of time. The absence of "it," which would logically be used if we are to follow your example, probably has alot to do with this. I can understand if, in a competitive context, one player/contestant or team says to the other "Give it up!" where "it" obviously refers to winning, but just saying "give up" without even implying a direct object (literal or metaphorical) just doesn't add up right. Perhaps this is subjective, though.

    Your analogy with "surrender(e)" is interesting, but it does raise the question of why the components were fused together in Latin but not in English. Why don't we simply have the compact verb "givup"?
  17. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    Finally dug out the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. It derives surrender from the French - sur + rendre.
    Larousse gives the derivation of rendre from reddere, which the OLD explains as Re + Do.

    Looking at it in more detail, it seems that the original use was legal referring to the rendition of documents or land to the lord or sovereign, i.e. to ones superiors. The earliest recorded military use is over 40 years later. Not conclusive evidence of course, but it doesn't support the caveman hypothesis.

    Even if some phrases such as give way, give ground are explicable, there are many which aren't, to put out for someone, put up, pull through, pull up (ie stop)...
  18. Imprecator Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Colchis
    Literal meanings of words or phrases throughout linguistic history have been extended metaphorically (and have often lost their original meanings in the process), exempli gratia "fleece" with the meaning 'remove the wool from a sheep' extended to 'strip another of his possessions', extirpare meaning 'exhume the roots of a plant' (ex + stirps) -> 'utterly destroy, annihilate', tribus meaning 'member of one of the three ethnic groups constituting the early Roman state' -> 'any group of related people', etc. The example of a boy taming a recalcitrant dog is likewise a sense evolution of "give up" via the analogy of the defeated conceding victory, as an object, to the victor.

    There are extremely few instances in English where a composite verb developed as a fusion of two separate verbs, and not through the ubiquitous verb+prefix/suffix process. In most cases, phrases are used instead, such as the ones aforementioned here. And in any case, a combined form such as "givup" would be unwieldy phonetically: English speakers would probably collapse it over the centuries to a form easier to pronounce which would no longer be recognizable in light of the original.

    And French sur itself comes from L. sursum. Hence my sursum+re+dare explanation.

    Our surviving records (quite sparse, to be honest) of the term's earliest legal usage in Rome in no way reflect the way that the commoners of that city, let alone those far-off in Gaul whose everyday parlance gave rise to French, used the word.

    I disagree- all of these examples are perfectly explicable. "Pull up" probably derives from how, in an emergency, a horse-rider quickly pulls his reins backwards and upwards to bring the animal from a brisk gallop to a sudden halt. I would explain "pull through" as coming from the image of an exhausted individual pulling his weary body along (the "through" part of the phrase meaning 'through the entire ordeal').
  19. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    My point is that the word for surrender in English seems to have originated as a legal term with first reported usage in 1466 (as opposed to the dim distant past), and originally meant to return something to one's social superiors rather than to give something literally upwards.
  20. Imprecator Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Colchis
    My dictionary attests that the verb surrendre, as used in 13th century French, meant "to hand something over, give in to another, acquiesce". It's more likely that the verb's modern usage in our language developed from influence of the everyday French usage, and not as an extension of the English legal term.

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