The Roundup #72

It’s been a week of finding things, including some rather joy-inducing Canadian things. Here’s this week’s roundup. Enjoy!

From the CBC:

Two of the nine prototypes of the Avro Arrow, Canada’s first and only supersonic interceptor, have been discovered at the bottom of Lake Ontario. Kraken Sonar is looking to retrieve all nine models to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the first test flight for a program abruptly scrapped by Ottawa in 1959.

Two ships – a wooden freighter and a steel-hulled steamer that sank 20 years apart – have been discovered in Lake Huron.


Another well-preserved shipwreck, this one in Stockholm, Sweden, may be the Scepter, archaeologists say.

23,000 year old artifacts from an inland site have been discovered in Brazil.

Fragments of small votive objects have been discovered in Lebanon, leading archaeologists to believe that the Phoenicians may have manufactured disposable figurines of divinities.

Neapolis, possibly the largest centre for the production of the infamous Roman fish sauce called garum has been discovered at an underwater site off the coast of Tunisia.

From the Smithsonian:

The earliest known Latin commentaries on the Bible, lost until 2012, have been translated into English and are now available online.

Palimpsests containing not only a variety of manuscript texts but also a variety of languages, some obscure and defunct, have been discovered during research at St. Catherine’s monastery near Mount Sinai.


Latin – Unit Two


A. The Perfect Active Indicative System of All Verbs

B. The Subjunctive Mood

C. Formation of the Subjunctive

D. Present Subjunctive of the Verb sum

E. Conditional Sentences

F. Genitive with Verbs of Accusing and Condemning


A. The perfect system is perfect. All Latin verbs, regardless of conjugation are formed identically in the perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect tenses. There are no irregularities, and the perfect tense endings are only used in the perfect tense. So I reiterate: the perfect system is perfect.

B. We have now been introduced to the second ‘mood’ of Latin grammar: the subjunctive. The indicative mood is used for statements of fact and direct questions. The subjunctive mood expresses notions of ideas, intent, desire, uncertainty, potentiality, anticipation, and the like. This shift in notion is accompanied by a vowel shift in the present active subjunctive, at least in the first conjugation so far (switching the long ‘a’ to a long ‘e’).*

To form the imperfect subjunctive, take the present infinitive, lengthen the final ‘e’ and add the personal endings.

To form the pluperfect subjunctive, take the perfect stem, add ‘-isse-‘ (with a long ‘e’) and add the personal endings.

Remember: the final long ‘e’ is shortened with -m, -t, and -nt personal endings.

? – QUESTION: why are the first person plural and the second and third singular AND plural present subjunctive active (in first conjugation, at least) the same construction as the future perfect indicative?

E. There are three (but arguably four) kinds of conditional clauses, as follows:

  1. simple or general conditions (where both clauses are in the indicative)
  2. future conditions:
    1. future more vivid – both clauses are in future tense but are translated as present indicative plus future tense
    2. future less vivid – both clauses are in present subjunctive and are translated “should… would…”
  3. contrary-to-fact conditions:
    1. present contrary-to-fact – both clauses are in imperfect subjunctive
    2. past contrary-to-fact – both clauses are in pluperfect subjunctive
  4. mixed conditions = mix’n match anything goes, and are arguably translated logically (I personally have yet to discover the logic in many of these types of conditional sentences)

Latin – Unit One


A. The Verbal System

B. The Tenses of the Indicative

C. The Infinitive

D. The Four Conjugations

E. The Principal Parts

F. The Present Active Indicative System of the First Two Conjugations

G. The Irregular Verb sum, ‘(to) be’

H. The Noun System

I. The First Declension



The first unit of this book throws a lot of basic ideas at you right away. It is an intensive course, after all, and this information will be vital to all other grammatical constructions you are introduced to throughout your studies.

A. Verbs are identified grammatically using five key characteristics:

  1. Person (first, second, third)
  2. Number (singular, plural)
  3. Mood (indicative, subjunctive, imperative)
  4. Tense (present, imperfect, future, perfect, pluperfect, future perfect)
  5. Voice (active, passive)

E. Many people are familiar with the English boarding school classroom scene where young students in uniform are memorizing the conjugations of a verb by rote (think: amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant, etc). This is not only tedious by highly ineffectual, since there are exceptions and irregularities littered throughout the Latin verbal system. Instead, it is recommended (and I’m going to attempt this during this year’s study ahead of the CMS exam) that students memorize only the Four Principal Parts of all verbs. Ultimately, you need to understand how to use these four principal parts to conjugate a verb rather than memorizing every single one of the conjugated endings.

NOTE: vowels can be absorbed into the tense sign of a verb (such as ‘-ba-‘ for imperfect and ‘-bi-‘ for future). This can be understood as a kind of ellision.*

D. There are four main conjugations in Latin. They are:

  1. verbs ending in -are (long ‘a’)
  2. verbs ending in -ere (long ‘e’)
  3. verbs ending in -ere (short ‘e’)
  4. verbs ending in -ire (long ‘i’)

C. Infinitives are only defined by tense and voice. They are not limited (as other verb constructions are) by person, number, or mood. Infinitives are, therefore, abstract verbal nouns, something I’m still clutching at for a foothold to understanding.*

G. The irregular verb sum, ‘to be’ – learn it by rote; there’s no better way that I’ve found.

H. As verbs are conjugated, nouns are declined and are identified by the following three characteristics:

  1. Gender (masculine, feminine, neuter)
  2. Number (singular, plural)
  3. Case (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative, and, occasionally, vocative)

Case endings are created from the stem of the noun, formed by removing the ending from the genitive singular construction. This is why nouns are listed in the dictionary with both the nominative singular and the genitive singular forms.

Case endings “indicate the grammatical and syntactical relationship of the given noun to the other words in the sentence”, so pay attention, especially to a noun’s gender.

Nouns and adjectives agree in gender, number, and case.

NOTE: there are no definite or indefinite articles in Latin, such as ‘the’, ‘a’, or ‘an’. These can be added in to your English translation where appropriate based on context.

Latin – Moreland & Fleischer Introduction


A. The Alphabet and Pronunciation

B. Syllabification

C. Accentuation

D. Word Order


A. The alphabet and pronunciation were something that I picked up on quickly back in high school when I first started taking Latin. Because we don’t really know how Latin was pronounced phonetically (ie what Latin sounded like), the alphabetic pronunciation of letters is similar to the language you learn Latin in (in my case, this is English). Long and short vowels have slightly different sounds than do English vowels, but that’s neither here nor there, at least not until you get to syllabification and accentuation, below.

B. In Latin, every word has as many syllables as it has vowels or diphthongs. When identifying syllables, if there are two consonants together, divide them up between the prior and following syllable (for example: for/tu/na). From this example, you can also see that a single consonant after a vowel goes with the following syllable.

C. One of the things I learned much later, and therefore am working backwards to strengthen, is an understanding of long vowels, short vowels, and diphthongs so that I can scan primary sources for rhythm and poetic meter. I am also hoping to develop a more readily accessible knowledge of where stress falls on a word depending on its consonants.

Interestingly, reviewing the ultima, penult, and antepenult was something I started doing when I was studying Ancient Greek in graduate school and am now rediscovering as I review Latin grammar.

Several tidbit rules here:

  1. The law of the penult – if a word only has two syllables, the accent goes on the penult
  2. The accent gravitates towards long syllables – if the penult is long, it gets the accent; if the penult is short, the antepenult gets the accent (it can go no further back than the antepenult, same as in Greek)
  3. There are two ways a syllable can receive an accent: 1) if it is long by nature (a long vowel or a diphthong), or; 2) if it is long by position (if the syllable is followed by two consonants or an ‘x’)

By the end of the year, I would like to be able to translate the Curse of Dido from Book IV of the Aeneid of Vergil and also be able to read it aloud with correct accentuation. Wish me luck!

D. Word order is very fluid in Latin because of its inflected and conjugated endings, which can show how words relate to each other regardless of their position in a sentence. However, the two most emphatic positions in a Latin sentence are the first and last words. Since the simplest Latin sentence is the subject-verb construction, these two words are vital to creating the sentence in the first place, and so their positions are coveted for their emphatic value.

Otherwise, the more unusual a word’s position in a sentence, the more emphatic that word. Here is the basic, ‘usual’ construction of Latin sentences:

  1. the subject (usually in nominative) is the first word
  2. the verb is usually at the end; forms of the verb ‘be’ come last if they are to be used as connecting or linking verbs, but are otherwise often assumed rather than stated in a sentence (ie. if you see a sentence without a verb, there’s a good chance that verb is a form of ‘be’)
  3. the accusative (direct object) and dative (indirect object) usually come before the verb, in marked contrast to how these words are used in English sentences
  4. the genitive usually follows the word it depends on
  5. adjectives that modify nouns regularly come after the noun (feminae decorae); however, demonstratives, interrogatives, numerals, and adjectives denoting size or quantity usually come before the noun (for example quattuor milites)
  6. adverbs and equivalents regularly precede the words they modify

Of course, all this simply means that words are often found in just about any order. This is just a rough sketch to base your translations on.


Putting it out there once and for all: I’m studying for the University of Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS) Latin Level One exam. There are two reasons for this: first, I did not complete the requisite four years each of Latin and Ancient Greek to apply for doctoral studies in Canada and this is a way to certify that I, at the very least, know something of what I’m talking about; and second, I don’t feel that I’ve seriously challenged myself in the last few years, and this is a way to test not only my language skills but also my staying power.

I’m working with Floyd L. Moreland and Rita M. Fleischer’s Latin: An Intensive Course (9th printing, 1991) supplemented with Wheelock’s Latin (***citation to follow***) that I used during the Latin courses I took during my undergraduate degree, and Cambridge Latin Course, Unit One because the phrase “Caecilius est pater” will always generate giggles from classics students of a certain generation.

On the advice of a newly discovered colleague, I am also translating sections of original primary source texts to test my instinctive understand of grammar, syntax, and comprehension. So far these have included Suetonius, Horace, Vergil (although that one is rather tricky), the Vulgate, and the Historia Augusta (in conjunction with Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire).

One of the things I hope these posts will do is allow me to develop a comprehensive understanding of the work I’m doing as well as offer a chronological history of how my Latin language knowledge develops over time.

The exam is scheduled every April and September, and I’m aiming for the fall 2016 sitting. Here goes!