Category: Ancient Language

  • When ‘comprehensible input’ is not enough

    I’ve been on Latin reddit discussions for years and one single educational theory comes up again and again as if it were the only way to learn a language: Krashen and his comprehensible input hypothesis. Put simply, a learner should be introduced to the each feature of the language incrementally, by receiving input that contains […]

  • ‘Palatina Medea’ or ‘Medea Palatina’? A preference for adjective-noun word order in Latin

    We’ve been told that adjectives in Latin ‘tend to’ or ‘prefer to’ follow the nouns they describe. But on the contrary, the statistical evidence shows that Caesar and Cicero actually preferred putting adjectives before nouns. We didn’t learn that ‘noun then adjective’ rule from reading unadapted Latin. We didn’t discover it from real usage. We […]

  • The accent of words ending in -que

    TL;DR: Latin words ending in -que should be accented on the syllable before -que only if that syllable is (or has become) heavy; otherwise, the word should retain its original accent. If this sounds new to you, that’s probably because you’ve been following Allen & Greenough and other nineteenth century scholarship. The rules of accent […]

  • Twelve tenses: When English outdoes Ancient Greek in precision

    I have sometimes heard people say, “Ancient Greek is the most precise language in the world.” This usually comes from people who have not studied Greek for themselves and haven’t really seen its quirks first-hand. I don’t know how best to respond. True, there are distinctions which Greek makes that English doesn’t make, but in […]

  • A Latin counting song and thoughts on Primary Latin

    I’m sorry that I missed an update in April, but there has been at least one reason for that. I’ve been involved in a pilot program to introduce Latin to a public primary school, and so far it has been a blast. Here’s a song I sung to the children yesterday on my guitar. First […]

  • Latin and Greek for your pets

    Your dog can learn Latin and Ancient Greek! And everyone in the family can pick up a bit of Latin or Ancient Greek along with you and your four-legged pal. The internet may be chocked full of cat and dog videos, but did you know there aren’t any videos of dogs responding to (grammatically correct) […]

  • Grammar or reading: which type of Latin or Greek textbook is better?

    If ever you read Amazon reviews of Latin and Ancient Greek textbooks, you’ll find some very lively discussions on the relative merits of grammar- and readings-based textbooks. (If ‘lively’ is the right word to use!) In this video, I outline the main differences between these two kinds of textbooks, and weigh in on the pros […]

  • Keep calm, taxonomic Latin lives on

    As of this week, taxonomic descriptions need not be written in Latin. But wait a moment – contrary to what some news reports have implied, the names of plants and animals actually still do need to be written in Latin (or, Latin with an expanded Greek vocabulary, with some loan words from English cleverly snuck […]

  • Septimus: a Latin novella from the 1930s

    My neighbour Pat has recently given me her Latin textbook, a 1950s reprint of a beautiful 1930s classic, which may actually have been the forerunner of a revolution in Latin textbooks. First published in 1936, it is titled Septimus, not because it is the seventh book in a series, but for its main character, a […]

  • Moving words: which languages have the closest word order to Ancient Greek?

    There’s an art to translation. It involves moving concepts from one language into another while trying to refit the same thought into a different set of grammar rules. In this study I’d like to look at one obvious part of the translation process: word order change. In studying this, I don’t mean to suggest that […]