Cards on the table: Why I am so strongly opposed to grammar-translate

I seriously struggled with Latin when I was in high school. I had an absolutely amazing teacher (I realized that both then & now as I go through my teacher training courses), so I know that that definitely wasn’t the problem. I got nearly straight As in the class, so clearly I was doing something right. But when it came time to translate a chunk of Latin, I seriously had no idea what was going on. It was like I was solving a giant puzzle and I had to figure out what setting of all the variables produced a sentence that made some sort of sense – just by itself! Not even in context! I ended up with complete word salad and was  super inventive with rules. I saw Latin as a series of rules I had to manipulate until something vaguely comprehensible emerged – sort of like a proof in Logic. It didn’t occur to me until much later that Latin was a language that people acquired and manipulated with ease and grace—and without needing an advanced degree in linguistics! Continue reading


An Unhealthy Obsession with W (and its pronunciation in Latin)

Oh! Hello there! It has be a very long time since I’ve been around, but with good reason – I’ve gotten a new apartment with my wonderful boyfriend, and I’ve been starting up my life as a student and grad assistant at Villanova. I thought as a ‘returning to my blog’ post, I would write about my favorite linguistic topic: [w]. Continue reading

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya

Finishing my thesis and viva means that I now spend obscene amounts of time reading silly things on the Internet. It also means that I spend many of my nights out having fun and then I write my blog while hungover the following morning. In short, I apologize for another post about a linguistic point from a humor site.

This is an article from from 2007: 9 Words That Don’t Mean What You Think.

It lists 9 words that are extreme or very visible examples of relatively recent semantic shift (except for #1, irregardless1, which my spell check doesn’t even correct…). Of course, semantic shift is a known phenomenon, and once the change is Continue reading

Hiatus Resolution: ‘Your search returned no results’

So, my posts have been distinctly sparse as of late. There are two reasons for this; the primary one is the arrival of my boyfriend in Cambridge, but running a very close second is my thesis.

As is the way with theses, they do tend to take up a lot of one’s time, especially when left to the last minute *coughmighthavedonethatcough*. What I found particularly challenging about my topic though was the odd lack of literature. What I’m researching is hiatus resolution. Classicists may have encountered this term when dealing with Homer and epic correption, ‘vocalis ante vocalem corripitur‘ (a vowel is shortened before [another] vowel). This Latin phrase refers to the tendency in epic poetry for a word final long vowel or diphthong to shorten before a word initial vowel:

τὴν δ’ ἐγὼ οὐ λύσω: πρίν μιν καὶ γῆρας ἔπεισιν
(the final omega in ἐγὼ scans short, even though omega typically scans long, because it is followed by a vowel – in this case omicron)

This is one method Greek (and in a sense Latin – more later) employs to deal with hiatus. Hiatus can be Continue reading

Hitherto Unknown Language??!?!!!11!

Sure, why not.

My first reaction to this article was skeptical, as it almost always is whenever someone has ‘discovered a new X’ and bases their discovery on miniscule evidence. I would certainly prefer the evidence were something other than names. However, it’s not such shoddy evidence as it might appear at first. Though I make zero claims to knowing much at all about Semitic languages or really anything at all about the big puddle of languages that lived east of the Aegean (reread the phrase ‘big puddle of languages’ and imagine the simultaneously crestfallen and disdainful look of the Assyriologist who just read that phrase), I would have to agree that when a whole bunch of names we’ve never heard before show up, it makes sense that they would have come from another language.

So, sincerely, well done dudes and dudettes who deciphered the tablet.

What irritates me is Continue reading

Linear B Exam and Awesome News

It took me a minute to figure out how to put two unrelated things into simple and relevant title; turns out English has a nifty word for doing just that: ‘and’.

Anyway, I’m going to start with the latter first, because it’s definitely cooler than Linear B: I got full funding to Villanova + a Stipend!!!!!!!1!1 (I’m so happy I can’t type properly!). So yeah. I’ve been bouncy and giddy about this since last night. Walking into one’s room after a celebratory-post-exam night out with friends to find that Villanova is giving me lots of funding is pretty much the best way to end a day.

The stipend comes in the form of a graduate assistantship, which means the Classics department will employ me as their glorified bitch. I couldn’t be happier! Talk about a tri-fold blessing: tuition waiver, stipend, and work experience. Life is awesome.

Anyway, that’s the super exciting part of my day. The other Continue reading

Weni Widi Wici – How to respond to annoying Classicists

“You know, Caesar would have said ‘weni, widi, wici’,” your annoying over-educated friend tells you as you say the famous lines after a night out (or perhapas you fancied yourself clever and said ‘vidi, vici, veni’ you dirty-minded scholar, you); maybe you were the friend offering the correction. In either case, the v-pronouncing culprit may not have been far off the mark.

Let me be clear about one thing first though. In Classical Latin, V (or as I’ll be writing it henceforth, u) could definitely represent [w], and it definitely did so in Caesar’s famous lines. But whether or not Caesar Continue reading