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Composed by J. B. Calvert Last revised 8 August 1999
Latin For Mountain Men
A short course in practical Latin
. Here are two dozen short lessons on learning Latin designed for "mountain men" (and women: montani montanaeque), engineers, philosophers, and anyone else looking for entertainment and with lots of free time by the campfire. My course is quite different from Peter Jones'
(New York: Barnes and Noble, 1997), but it is just as devoted to interesting you in Latin. If my course doesn't please, by all means have a look at Jones' book, which is published by, and available at, Barnes and Noble in the US. Elsewhere on this site, I have suggestions for the more formal study of Latin and Greek. There is also a huge amount of material available to you on the web and elsewhere. Another excellent supplement is Alexander and Nicholas Humez's
Latin for People--Latina pro Populo
(Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1976). The best aspects of this book are its vocabulary, that answers are given to all the exercises, and its witty presentation. Bears populate the earlier lessons, as in this account. Unfortunately, there is no actual classical Latin in it, and the exercises include such useful phrases as: "A chamber pot is not a suitable place for a pear tree." Nevertheless, such exercises are entertaining and useful, though I do not use them very much. All long vowels are marked, which I do not do because it is inconvenient in HTML, and also because real Latin does not do it. The authors also give explanations in terms of Indo-European, an imaginary language, which are worth reading but should be taken with a grain of salt. The brothers Humez also claim the genitive plural of
, which it ought to be according to modern linguists' rules, but is not.
is the only attested form. As Alexander Humez will inform you, Latin is an Indo-European language, and gives a kind of history that is often elaborated, but is pure wind. Linguists would almost claim to know the Indo-European flag, and the history of its people, but there is really nothing there, not even the Caucasian origin of the race. All that they have are existing (including classical) languages, and from this they construct fables about how they must have originated, like the tale of how the elephant got his trunk. It is a good story, with much intelligent reasoning, but it is just a story and one can learn no
from it. No Indo-European survives, and no appropriate wanderings are historically attested. Scraps of information are swept together into a heap that it is hoped will pass for a science.
languages change with time is especially obscure, though
is well-described. The Romans thought Latin descended from Greek, but it did not, it is merely cognate. Modern "romance" languages are not evolved forms of Latin, but created languages that existed in parallel with Latin. Each has its peculiar ontogeny, which is mainly unknown. Anglo-Saxon is a Germanic language, but English, not being Anglo-Saxon or any evolution of it, is not. English was created by people who spoke Anglo-Saxon (and other tongues), however, so the similarity is not unreasonable. In fact, such classifications are largely useless and devoid of meaning. At least so I believe. My explicit aim in this course is to enable you to decipher short Latin phrases, such as the Latin names, abbreviations, and nomenclature in biology, astronomy, medicine, law, and scholarly work. I can't help but mention that school and scholar are from Greek
, spare time, and that student is from
, zeal. These lessons are meant to be done in your spare time, and enjoyed. I don't expect you to memorize, but only to recognize, and look up if you don't. I explain some tricks about learning, including some things students do that are perfectly useless for the purpose, besides being unpleasant. I have used real Latin, written by native speakers, throughout the course, rather than the doubtful stuff created by our contemporaries, especially me. Toward the end of the course there are some more extended selections from authors not usually included in Latin courses, the engineers Vitruvius and Frontinus, who are both educated and intelligent men with interesting things to say. A song from Carmina Burana is translated, that you can hear sung in Latin in a recent CD by Charlotte Church. I have made a special effort to show you the power and beauty of Latin by these examples. Latin has
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