Sunday, August 01, 2004

Defensio Linguae Latinae

I've been studying Latin of late, with the end in view of attaining sufficient proficiency to be able to read Caesar's De Bello Gallico in the original, a goal I've been assured is eminently attainable, in light of the clear style in which the work was written. At any rate, given my recent immersion in Latin language study, I found this apologia for the subject which recently appeared in the Guardian rather amusing.

studere linguis antiquis omnium hominum interest multas ob causas.

litterae et philosophia auctorum priscorum lectores e stultitia in sapientiam semper duxerunt. qui operibus Homeri, Vergilii, Ovidii, Ciceronis, Taciti non studuerunt, vitas maxime inanes agunt. praeterea, si historiam cognovisse tibi videtur, ut inter omnes constat, tum fabulae scriptorum priscorum sua ipsa lingua legendae sunt. qui suam rempublicam vult vere aestimare, fontem et originem debet animadvertere. haud satis est credere eis qui sermonem e Latino in alias linguas vertunt. nam is qui vertit non solum explicat, sed etiam corrumpit.

pueri puellaeque qui has linguas antiquas experti sunt, etiam litteras, philosophiam, fabulas, tabulas pictas, artem fingendi, res gestas degustaverunt.

o fortunati! omnia gaudia omnes voluptates vestrae sunt. ut dicit orator ìqui primoribus labris gustassent genus hoc vitae et extremis, ut dicitur, digitis attigissentî cursum suae vitae sapientissime deligunt.
Although I've only chosen to quote from the Latin portion of the article, it is worth noting that it also contains an accompanying full English translation.

One thing I've found interesting is just how easy learning the language is turning out to be thus far; the influence of Latin on the English language is so pervasive that few are the words whose meanings don't immediately suggest themselves to the educated reader, while anyone who's familiar with another highly-inflected Indo-European language like German ought to find Latin declensions pretty much second nature, the only real surprise being the Ablative and (rarely-used) Vocative cases. If anyone had told me long ago that learning German would prove helpful in learning Latin of all languages, I'd have suggested he have his head examined.