A New Perspective on Verbs, I

salvēte, amīcī! As promised, today I’ll share some the grammatical introduction for deponent verbs … assuming that we’ll introduce them very early in the Tres Columnae system. I’m actually thinking about Lectiō V of Cursus Prīmus, so that “you” the Tres Columnae participant know, from the beginning of your experience with Latin, that there are two types of verbs, the –t ones and the –tur ones.  Then, tomorrow, we’ll look at the first real story where deponents and normal verbs appear together.

How might we actually go about this? Imagine a picture with two captions:

prīmā hōrā Lollius domum Valeriī intrat.

prīmā hōrā Lollius domum Valeriī ingreditur.

And now another picture, also with two captions:

Milphiō Lollium salūtat. “salvē,” servus inquit.

Milphiō Lollium salūtat. “salvē,” servus loquitur.

And another:

Valērius in tablīnō sedet. Lollius in ātriō manet.

Valērius in tablīnō sedet. Lollius in ātriō morātur.

It’s probably obvious to participants by now that intrat (a familiar word) and ingreditur (a new word) are more-or-less synonymous, as are inquit (familiar) and loquitur (new), and manet (familiar) and morātur (new).  So we proceed to:

quid novī?

  • From the beginning of Lectiō Prīma, we’ve seen Latin verbs like intrat and inquit. They ended with the letter t.
  • Now we’ve begun to see verbs like ingreditur and morātur. Instead of ending with t, they ended with –tur.
  • Romans called the -t verbs “verba actīva” (if it makes sense for them to have a nōmen cāsūs accūsātīvī with them) or “verba neutra” (if a nōmen cāsūs accūsātīvī doesn’t make sense). They called the –tur verbs “verba dēpōnentia.”

For participants who really want more information, we’ll have a hyperlink for each term to the relevant sections of Donatus (probably in translation for them at this point, but also the Latin in case they’re curious).  We’ll then show them some examples:

  • Lollius ātrium intrat. intrat ends with a t, and ātrium is a nōmen cāsūs accūsātī. intrat is a verbum actīvum.
  • Lollius in ātriō manet. manet ends with a t, but you can’t “remain” someone or something. A nōmen cāsūs accūsātīwould not make sense here!  So manet is a verbum neutrum.
  • Lollius ātrium ingreditur. ingreditur ends with –tur, so it is a verbum dēpōnēns.

As usual, we then ask:

On our typical scale from 1-5, how well do you understand this distinction?

As usual, with a self-rating of 4 or 5, you continue to the next “quid novī?” But with a rating of 1, 2, or 3, you have some sample sentences to practice classifying verbs as actīvum, neutrum, or dēpōnēns. You then can proceed to the next task:

quid novī?

In Latin dictionaries, including the Glossa and NoDictionaries.com resources that we recommend for Tres Columnae participants, verbs are usually listed like this:

verba actīva et neutra:

salūtō, salūtāre, salūtāvī, salūtātum: greet

  • salūtō means “I greet.” It has a tremendously long name in Latin.
  • salūtāre means “to greet.” Romans called it infinītīvus.
  • salūtāvī means “I greeted.” It also has a tremendously long name in Latin.
  • salūtātum means “in order to greet.” Romans called it supīnus.

verba dēpōnentia:

loquor, loquī, locūtus sum: speak

  • loquor means “I speak.”
  • loquī means “to speak” and is infinītīvus.
  • locūtus sum means “I spoke.”

Of course, we’ll ask again:

On our typical scale from 1-5, how well do you understand this distinction?

As usual, with a self-rating of 4 or 5, you continue to the “next thing,” but with a 1, 2, or 3, you practice matching principal parts to their meanings and/or their Latin names.  Then comes another

quid novī?

Notice the relationship between the infinītīvus and the verb forms we typically see – the one where someone or something (a “he” or “she” or “it”) is doing the action.

  • salūtāre becomes salūtat
  • manēre becomes manet
  • currere becomes currit
  • dormīre becomes dormit
  • morārī becomes morātur
  • pollicērī becomes pollicētur
  • ingredī becomes ingreditur
  • mentīrī becomes mentītur

On our typical scale from 1-5, how well do you understand these patterns?

As usual, with a self-rating of 4 or 5, you continue; otherwise, you have a lot of practice changing infinitives into 3rd-person present verbs, and vice versa.

But why have we included this explanation so early?  In a grammar-translation system, one would obviously begin with even more forms (for example, all 6 present indicative active forms), but  a “typical” reading-method textbook would not introduce the “standard” dictionary listing until much later.  Of course, Tres Columnae doesn’t fall neatly into either of those systems.  Our emphasis on understanding Latin qua Latin sets us apart from the grammar-translation approach, but our emphasis on content creation sets us apart from the reading method.

I think it’s important for Tres Columnae participants to learn about the connection between a “standard” dictionary entry and the forms they know as early as possible. For one thing, they’re independent learners; for another, they want and need to create with the language. This means that, in all probability, they’ll want to use verbs (and nouns, and “other stuff”) that they haven’t formally learned. But if they turn to an online Latin dictionary, or even to a paper one, they won’t find third-person singular verbs; they’ll find traditional Latin dictionary listings with first-person singular present, present infinitive, etc. In order to have ownership of any new words they want to use, they need to be able to take the dictionary information and use it to make the forms they know. Or at least that’s my thought at the moment! 🙂

quid putātis, amīcī?

  • Does it make sense to you to introduce deponents so early?
  • Do you agree with my thought about ownership of verbs and principal parts?
  • If not, is it that you think our learners should only use words they’ve formally learned?
  • Or do you think it’s just too challenging to ask a beginner to make forms in this way?
  • Or, if you’re strongly committed to a grammar-translation approach, is it that you’d want learners using a lot more forms, a lot sooner?

Tune in next time for the story, which features a near-death experience for poor Lollius … let’s just say it was a really bad beginning for his day! 🙂  And in the meantime, please keep those comments and emails coming.

Published in: on February 12, 2010 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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