Perfect and Future Infinitives, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! veniam vestram petō quod tam tardus haec scrībō! 🙂 You may have noticed that, in a normal week, there are blog posts at least five days a week (Monday through Friday), and there’s often a post on Saturday as well. Unfortunately, last week was not very normal, and there were only four posts. I’ll try to do better this time :-), and I appreciate you for continuing to read.

In a normal week, I sit down over the weekend, plan out blog posts for the coming week, and write drafts of the first few by the end of the day on Sunday. That way, Monday’s post is ready to go, and those for Tuesday and Wednesday are usually in pretty good shape … so even if “life intervenes,” as it sometimes does, we’re able to keep to a regular schedule. Then, on Tuesday evenings, I work on the posts for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Somehow that didn’t happen last week … but a lot of “intervening life” did, including a constellation of meetings and other evening activities on Wednesday and Thursday. So that’s why there wasn’t a post on Thursday, and it’s also why Friday’s post wasn’t followed by one on Saturday.

In any case, I had promised you a look at the presentation of the remaining infinitives in the Tres Columnae system, as well as a set of stories that use ōrātiō oblīqua with the non-present infinitives. We’ve already looked at perfect active infinitives last week, so today we’ll consider the perfect passives and deponents. Those are fairly simple once you understand the workings of the perfect participle (and its role in forming the perfect passive and deponent verb system), so we doubt that our learners will have too much difficulty. We’ll begin with a fabella like this:

  • heri Fabius tremōrēs sēnsit.
  • heri tremōrēs ā Fabiō sēnsī sunt.
  • hodiē Fabius sollicitus dīcit tremōrēs heri sēnsōs esse.
  • heri Caeliōla in hortō aliquid mīrī olfēcit.
  • heri aliquid mīrī ā Caeliōla olfactum est.
  • hodiē Caeliōla mātrī dīcit aliquid mīrī heri olfactum esse.
  • tertiā ante diē Caelius Cnaeum vituperāvit.
  • tertiā ante diē Cnaeus ā Caeliō vituperātus est.
  • heri Secunda Prīmae scrīpsit Cnaeum ā Caeliō vituperātum esse.

And then, as usual, we’ll find a quick explanation:

quid novī?

You probably noticed something different about the ōrātiō oblīqua in this fabella, too. Once again, there was a new type of infinītīvus in use:

Its action is marked as completed at the time of the main verb in its sentence or clause, so it’s perfective in aspect.

Its genus, however, is passīvus rather than actīvus.

The Romans called these infinītīvus temporis praeteritī perfectī (et plūsquamperfectī) generis passīvī. English speakers usually call them “perfect passive infinitives” for short.

I’m sure you can imagine the exercises and the self-assessment cycle with which our learners will build up their comfort with the new infinitives. We’ll use a similar cycle, of course, with both the future active and future passive infinitives … yes, even the “rare” future passives, which really are quite common if you read, for example, Cicero’s letters.

Once we know about all the major types of infinitives, we’ll experience them in their full glory 🙂 in stories where various characters recount their escape from Herculaneum (and other characters’ unsuccessful attempts – heu! vae!), describe their current feelings, and explore their plans and hopes for the future.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Does it seem reasonable to you to introduce ōrātiō oblīqua in this way, near the end of what might be the equivalent of a “traditional” Latin I course or (depending on the learner’s or teacher’s pacing) the beginning of Latin II?
  • If not, when would you put this concept? And what other changes in our order of presentation do you think we should make?
  • On the whole, how are you feeling about your introduction to the Tres Columnae project?
  • Have you had the chance to explore the Version Alpha Wiki? If so, what do you think … especially now that there are images and audio for much of Lectiō I?
  • And do you think you – or your students – would be interested in subscribing after the end of the free-trial period?
  • And, if so, what type of subscription would you be interested in? And would it make a difference if cost were not an object?

Tune in next time for a summary of your responses, and for an example of a story where all 6 infinitives appear (naturally, we hope) in a meaningful context. And in the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Perfect and Future Infinitives, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! In yesterday’s post, I closed by saying

Now that we know how participles work, it will be a lot easier to deal with the perfect passive and future active infinitives, won’t it? 🙂 We’ll also find out a bit more about our characters’ experiences during the eruption of Vesuvius … and afterwards.

This next series of posts will deal with these three points in order, beginning with the presentation of the non-present infinitive system in Tres Columnae. Then, over the weekend and early next week, we’ll look at some of the stories about our characters’ experiences during the eruption of Vesuvius. We’ve already seen what happened to Caelius and Cnaeus in this post, which quotes a story that can be found here on the Tres Columnae website. We’ll have more to say about the presentation of vocabulary after that!

By the time that we reach Lectiōnēs XXVII and XXVIII, the eruption has occurred, and our surviving characters have the opportunity to retell their experiences (a natural setting for ōrātiō oblīqua with perfect-system infinitives) and to make plans for the future (which can reasonably involve the future infinitives). Here’s how the introduction of perfect infinitives will work, beginning with the perfect actives in this fabella:

  • Cāius cum mātre apud Lolliam et Vipsānium in urbe Neāpolī manēbat.
  • Lollia trīstis, “cūr pater nōn effūgit?” frātrem mātremque rogāvit.
  • “nōnne pater fortissimus erat? nihil perīculī timuit?” respondit Cāius.
  • Valeria haud crēdēbat Lollium nihil perīculī timuisse.
  • Caelius in domō urbānā lacrimāns stābat.
  • “pater, cūr lacrimās?” rogāvit Cnaeus. “nōnne fortūnātissimī sumus, quod iam vīvimus?”
  • Caelius, “mī fīlī, iste mōns vīllās nostrās dēlēvit. iste mōns multum pecūniae cōnsūmpsit. et tū asinus stultissimus fuistī, quod urbem Pompēiōs petere mihi iterum suādēbās!”
  • Cnaeus libenter cōnsēnsit sē asinum stultissimum fuisse.

As usual, there is a brief explanation:

quid novī?

You probably noticed something about the ōrātiō oblīqua in this fabella. The infinitives were different!

In each case, the action of the ōrātiō oblīqua is marked for completion before the main verb in the sentence:

  • Lollius was already done with his lack of fear (and, in fact, was dead as a result!) before Valeria found his stupidity difficult to believe!
  • Cnaeus was already done being stupid (or, at least, advising Dad to go to Pompeii because it’s a shorter trip!) before he admitted this.

So a perfective-aspect infinitive was needed! And that’s what timuisse and fuisse are. Donatus and the grammaticī called this form infinītīvus temporis praeteritī perfectī (et plusquamperfectī). English speakers usually call it a “perfect active infinitive” for short.

What I find amazing – and very revealing – is that Donatus calls this form the infinītīvus temporis praeteritī perfectī et plusquamperfectī, while he calls the “present” infinitive the infinītīvus temporis praesentis et praeteritī inperfectī. I think it’s clear that the distinction, for Donatus, is between completed, or perfective action (the perfectī et plusquamperfectī) and incomplete, or imperfective action (the praesentis et praeteritī inperfectī).  In other words, infinitives are “about” aspect rather than tense!

If you’re a veteran reader of this blog, I’m sure you can imagine the cycle of self-assessment and exercises that we’ll use to practice the new forms. And then, of course, we’ll see the deponent and passive perfect infinitives, which we’ll look at in more detail tomorrow, and then the futures.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • I’m not sure how many Classicists read what the Romans themselves said about their language! Until I started working on the Tres Columnae project, I must confess that I had only scanned and skimmed through the grammaticī. Was that a defect of my preparation and personal reading, or is it common?
  • Obviously the grammaticī didn’t have a perfectly scientific understanding of the grammar of their language, but still … they were native speakers, or were trained by native speakers! At the same time, they were deeply influenced by the Greek grammarians, and they may have (consciously or unconsciously) attempted to force Latin into Hellenic categories. (Ironically, English grammarians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in turn, tried to fit English into Latinate categories … I once saw an old English grammar book that presented the “declension of the English noun” with five or six cases, all of course the same except for the possessives!) How much stock do you think we should put in their ideas or their terminology?
  • More directly on our topic, do you find the fabellae comprehensible and reasonable?
  • And what do you think of the grammatical explanations?

Tune in next time for a bit more about the presentation of the infinitive system, and for a story or two. And, in the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus et respondentibus.

A Story with Participles

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Here, as promised, is the one of the first “real” Tres Columnae story that features participles qua participles, not just as slightly-unusual adjectives.  It was originally scheduled to appear on Wednesday, but life intervened! 🙂  In Tuesday’s post, we looked at the introduction of the aspect of participles and at some of the exercises that we’ll use to practice the idea. We deliberately said very little about the voice of participles; we’ll look at that in more detail later.

A bit of background: as you may recall, if you’ve been reading for a while, the Tres Columnae metastory features three primary families:

  • the wealthy Valeriī;
  • the rather poor Lolliī, their clients; and
  • the very wealthy Caeliī (Valerius’ wife is the sister of Caelius the paterfamiliās).

Many of the stories we’ve shared have focused on the children of each family:

  • Lucius Valerius, his older sister Valeria, and their little sister Caeliōla;
  • Cāius Lollius and his big sister Lollia; and, of course,
  • Caelia Prīma, Caelia Secunda, and their annoying little brother Cnaeus.

By the time of Lectiō XXIV, the girls are all old enough (at least in the Roman world) to be married, and there are a number of weddings in this part of the Metastory. There are probably also some bruised feelings, as children who have grown up together (and, if human nature hasn’t changed that much, possibly had crushes on each other from time to time) are moved into the adult roles required by Roman arranged marriage. Another factor, of course, is the difference in social standing among the families: Valerius, as we’ve seen, is unusually solicitous of this set of clients (and we still don’t quite know why!), but the Lollii are of a distinctly lower social standing than their equestrian patrōnus. We’ll explore the social and emotional issues along with the linguistic ones in the stories in this Lectiō.

In any case, with Valerius’ help, Lollius has arranged for his daughter to marry young Marcus Vipsānius, a slightly-poorer cousin of Valerius’ daughter’s future husband. In this story, we see the family preparing for their daughter’s upcoming wedding. If you’ve read Cicero’s letters regarding his daughter (especially when he mourns her untimely death), you’ll see the inspiration for Lollius’ emotional reaction. Of course, the “official” party line among Roman men was that daughters were distinctly inferior to sons….

Maccia in cēnāculō stābat et lacrimās retinēre temptābat. Lollia mātrem lacrimantem audīvit et sollicita “māter mea, cūr lacrimās?” rogāvit. “num trīstis es, quod diēs nūptiārum meārum advenit?” Maccia ā Lolliā sīc interrogāta, “ō mea fīlia,” respondit, “lacrimās laetās effundō! mātrem tamen decet lacrimāre cum fīlia nūptūra sit. tertiā enim post diē tū mātrōna et uxor eris! tertiā enim diē ille Mārcus Vipsānius tē in mātrimōnium dūcet! laetissima sum; ergō lacrimō.”

Lollia “ō māter mea, tē amplectī cupiō!” exclāmāvit. mātrem vehementer amplexa sē quoque lacrimīs trādidit. Cāius ūlūlātūs fēminārum audīvit et attonitus, “heu! num quis mortuus est? num in servitūtem pater vōs vēndit? num in servitūtem nunc iam vēnītis? cūr igitur lacrimātis?” rogāvit. fēminae tamen haec dicta neglegēbant et continuō lacrimābant. Cāius attonitus “fēminās īnsānās! vae virīs!” exclāmāvit et per iānuam cēnāculī celeriter exiit. “domum Valeriī festīnō, ubi omnēs iam mentis sānae sunt!” ēgrediēns clāmāvit, et iānuam firmē clausit.

Maccia fīliō ēgressō valēdīxit et “virōs īnsānōs! nihil intellegunt! vae fēminīs!” exclāmāvit. tum Lollia et Maccia cachinnīs, nōn lacrimīs, sē trādidērunt. Lollius, ē popīnā regressus, fīliam et uxōrem cachinnantēs per fenestram audīvit. “vae mihi!” sēcum susurrāvit, “quid nunc? mē valdē taedet nūptiārum! quārtā post diē maximē laetābor, quod fīnem īnsāniārum vīderō!”

haec verba locūtus Lollius ad popīnam regressus “heus caupō!” exclāmāvit, “fer mihi pōculum maximum!” mox caupō attonitus Lollium quoque lacrimantem cōnspexit. “num ēbrius es, mī amīce?” rogāvit sollicitus. “multōs enim per annōs tē amīcum habeō, numquam tamen tē ebrium cōnspiciō? quid agis?”

Lollius haec rogātus rīdēre temptābat et, “mī amīce,” respondit, “tertiā post diē fīliam in matrimōnium ductam vidēbō. lacrimō ergō quod laetus sum.” caupō, “certē, mī amīce,” respondit, “nōnne ego quoque nūptiās fīliārum quattuor iam celebrāvī? nōnne laetissimus quoque sum, quod iuvenēs optimī eās dūxērunt?” tum caupō pōculum vīnō implēvit. pōculum vīnō implētum hausit et lacrimīs quoque sē trādidit.

As you might imagine, reading-comprehension questions will focus on the time (or aspect) relationships between the participles and the sentences in which they occur. For example, consider the sequence in the second and third paragraphs:

Cāius “domum Valeriī festīnō, ubi omnēs iam mentis sānae sunt!” ēgrediēns clāmāvit, et iānuam firmē clausit. Maccia fīliō ēgressō vale dīxit et “virōs īnsānōs! nihil intellegunt! vae fēminīs!” exclāmāvit.

We’ll ask questions like this:

quandō Cāius “domum Valeriī festīnō” clāmāvit?

  • postquam exiit
  • quandō exībat
  • priusquam exīret

Learners who correctly choose quandō exībat receive positive feedback like this:

ita vērō! ēgrediēns is a participium temporis praesentis, so the exiting is not marked for completion.  It happened at the same time as his shout.

Those who choose the other responses receive corrective feedback like this:

heus! Please take a closer look at the word ēgrediēns. cuius temporis participium est?

with choices of praesentis, perfectī, or futūrī. If they correctly choose praesentis, they see this:

ita vērō! So, since a participium temporis praesentis is imperfective, quandō Cāius “domum Valeriī festīnō” clāmāvit?

If they wrongly choose perfectī or futūrī, we’ll probably send them back on a “loop” through the quid novī cycle about participial aspect or tense, as we described it in yesterday’s post.

We’ll also ask this question about the next sentence:

quandō Maccia fīliō vale dīxit?

  • postquam Cāius exiit
  • quandō Cāius exībat
  • priusquam Cāius exīret

Again, if you correctly choose postquam exiit, you’ll receive sustaining feedback:

ita vērō! ēgressō is a participium temporis perfectī, so the exiting is marked as complete before Maccia spoke. If you are (or ever have been) a teenager, you may be familiar with conversations that involve slammed doors! 🙂

Otherwise, you can probably imagine the cycle of feedback.

quid respondētis, amīcissimī?

  • First, what do you think of the story itself?
    • Do you find it culturally authentic … or at least plausible?
    • Or are you skeptical of so much emotion from those “stoic” Romans?
  • Then, what do you think of the use of participles?
    • And what do you think of the comprehension questions?
    • And what about the feedback for correct and incorrect answers?
  • For those who haven’t tried using Latin questions to get at the meaning and the grammar of a passage, can you see how this could actually be made to work in your classroom or learning situation?
  • Or are you still skeptical?

Tune in next time (which may be Saturday, not Friday, depending on life!), when we’ll take a look at your comments … and we’ll also return to our previous theme of infinitives. Now that we know how participles work, it will be a lot easier to deal with the perfect passive and future active infinitives, won’t it? 🙂 We’ll also find out a bit more about our characters’ experiences during the eruption of Vesuvius … and afterwards.  In the process, we’ll also take up the issue of participles’ voice.

In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus et respondentibus. Please keep those comments, emails, and Trial Subscription requests coming!

Introducing Participles, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I promised in yesterday’s post, we’ll look at the way that Tres Columnae handles the formal introduction of participles today … or, to be more specific, at the introduction of participles as distinct from other adjectives or nōmina. Though we start to see present, perfect, and future participles fairly early as adjectives, we’ll wait until Lectiō XXIV for a formal introduction of the verbal side of participles. By then, our participants are thoroughly familiar with

  • adjective agreement;
  • verbal aspect; and
  • the relationship between aspect and a verb’s stem (i.e., that imperfective-aspect forms are made from the infinitive, while perfective-aspect forms are made from the third or fourth principal part of the verb).

With this background, we think participles will be a relatively trouble-free addition to our learners’ repertoire of forms and constructions.

So we’ll begin with fabellae like these:

  • ōlim Lollia in cēnāculō sedēbat.
  • Maccia cēnāculum intrāvit et circumspectāvit.
  • Maccia Lolliam in cēnāculō sedentem cōnspexit et salūtāvit.
  • Lollius vōcem Macciae Lolliam salūtantis nōn audīvit.
  • hodiē Cāius per viam ambulat.
  • Lūcius per viam currit.
  • Lūcius Cāium per viam ambulantem salūtat.
  • Lūcius, per viam currēns, Cāium salūtat.
  • Lūcius, per viam currēns, Cāium per viam ambulantem salūtat.

And then, as always, we move on to a brief explanation:

quid novī?

From very early in Cursus Prīmus, we’ve seen words like sedentem, ambulantem, and currēns. We treated them as if they were the type of nōmen that English speakers would call an adjective; that is, a nōmen that describes another nōmen. But you may have noticed that sedentem, ambulantem, currēns, and salūtantis are also verba – that is, they’re forms of verbs like sedēre, ambulāre, currere, and salūtāre. Because they’re partly verba and partly nōmina, the Latin word for these types of words is participium.

We move on, as always, to a cycle of self-assessment:

On our normal scale from 1-5, how well could you recognize a participium? Would you like an additional explanation?

You can probably imagine the self-checking exercise that will appear if you say you don’t want an additional explanation, or if you rate yourself at a 4 or 5. If you do want more explanations, or if you rate yourself at 3 or below, you’ll see this:

quid novī?

Take another look at the participia in these sentences:

  • Maccia Lolliam in cēnāculō sedentem cōnspexit et salūtāvit.
  • Lollius vōcem Macciae Lolliam salūtantis nōn audīvit.
  • Lūcius, per viam currēns, Cāium per viam ambulantem salūtat.

You probably noticed another thing about the participia we’ve seen in this Lectiō: they are imperfective in aspect.

  • They’re made from the infinītīvus, the imperfective stem
  • Their action is ongoing (or, at least, not completed) at the time of the main verb in their sentence.

The Roman term was participium temporis praesentis. English speakers usually call them present participles for short.

Of course, there are also perfective-aspect participles, the participium temporis praeteritī. We’ll see some examples of those in the next fabella.

And then, of course, we’ll see this little fabella:

  • Cnaeum Caelius audīvit. Cnaeus enim “vae! heu!” identidem clāmābat.
  • Caelius Cnaeum arcessīvit. Caelius Cnaeum arcessītum castīgābat.
  • Prīma et Secunda in vīllā librōs legēbant. Planesium puellās cōnspexit et laudāvit. puellae laudātae nūruī fābulās nārrābant.

After it, we see this explanation:

quid novī?

Take another look at the participia temporis praeteritī in these sentences.

  • Caelius Cnaeum arcessītum castīgābat.
  • puellae laudātae nūruī fābulās nārrābant.

Now compare them with some participia temporis praesentis:

  • Ūtilis Caelium Cnaeum arcessentem audīvit.
  • Fortūnāta Planesium puellās laudantem audīvit.

Can you see and hear the difference between these two types of participia?

  • The participia temporis praesentis were formed from the infinītīvus, the imperfective stem.
  • The participia temporis praeteritī were formed from the supīnus.

I’m sure you can imagine the self-evaluation cycle. But I do want to show you one of the exercises: you, the learner, will be to choose the right participle to summarize or combine the two sentences, paying attention to the aspect of the verb you’re changing:

Cnaeus in agrīs Ūtilem quaerēbat. Lupus in silvā proximā rem tōtam spectābat.

Lupus in silvā proximā Cnaeum in agrīs Ūtilem ____ spectābat.

quaerentem / quaesītum

In this case, you’ll choose quaerentem because it accurately reflects the time relationship. Cnaeus was searching while the wolf was watching him, so we need an imperfective-aspect participium temporis praesentis.

canēs Lupum olfēcērunt. canēs vehementer lātrābant et Lupum agitāre volēbant.

Canēs vehementer lātrābant et Lupum ____ agitāre volēbant.

olfacientem / olfactum

In this case, you’ll choose olfactum. The dogs smelled the wolf before they started barking, so we need a perfective-aspect participium temporis praeteritī.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Do you find this treatment of participles to be helpful, or confusing?
  • More importantly, do you think that learners will find it helpful or confusing?
  • Does it make sense to you to separate the issues of case and number (the nōmen issues, as we’ve called them) from those of aspect and voice (the verbum issues)?
  • And do you want to know what we’ll say about voice of participles? Or are you, perhaps, hoping that we’ll finesse that issue for a bit?

Tune in next time for an actual early story with participles. Then we’ll talk more about voice, and on Friday we’ll return to infinitives with the perfect and future infinitives. Of course, we think you have to talk about participles before you talk about those, since many of them are made from participles! And, in the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus! Please keep those comments, emails and Free Trial Subscription requests coming … there’s still a bit of room if you’re interested!

Introducing Participles, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As you may recall, on Saturday I promised that we’d return to “core” Tres Columnae stories and concepts today, with a series of posts about participles and infinitives. One thing you’ll notice in the mature and complete project is that present, perfect, and future participles show up quite early, but they show up as vocabulary items, not a grammatical concept. For example, in Lectiō IX we’ll see this little sequence, from the boys’ first day at school. Quintus Flavius turns out to be the son of Flavius Caeso, owner of Sabīna mustēla, whom we met in the story of the disastrous dinner party. As you might imagine, he is a firm believer in old-fashioned Roman discipline, even if he does (shockingly!) recline at table with his wife! Mirabile dictu, young Quintus Flavius is even more annoying and ill-behaved than Cnaeus!

As we pick up the story, Q. Flavius’ paedagōgus has just told him to behave because teachers normally beat bad little boys, and Fabius the lūdī magister has just greeted the students and invited them to enter the school:

Quīntus Flavius attonitus, “quid dīcis, mī magister? nōnne puerī in lūdīs vapulāre solent? nōnne magistrī sunt dūrī et crūdēlēs? nōnne etiam plāgōsī?”

paedagōgus attonitus Quīntum Flavium prēnsat et, “nihil audīs, nihil cūrās, nihil pārēs!” exclāmat. “nōnne tē crūciāre dēbeō quod tantum īnsolentiae ostendis?” Fabius tamen manūs paedagōgī exclāmantis prēnsat….

There’s no need to have an extended grammatical lecture (or even a quid novī? explanation) about present participles at this point. We’ll gloss exclāmantis (in a way that I’ll explore later this week, or possibly early next week) and move on. The most we might do with it is to check for understanding with a question like this:

Fabius manūs paedagōgī exclāmantis prēnsat.

quis exclāmat?

Fabius / paedagōgus

If a learner chooses Fabius, we’ll have a brief reminder about adjective agreement:

Take a closer look at exclāmantis. cuius cāsūs est?

  • cuius cāsūs est Fabius?
  • cuius cāsūs est paedagōgī?
  • quis igitur exclāmat?

Our only grammatical concern, at this point, is that the learners can tell that exclāmantis describes paedagōgī; our concern with comprehension is that learners can tell that the paedagōgus was shouting, and that Fabius grabbed his hand before he could beat poor little Q. Flavius. He turns out to be a very energetic, wild little boy who speaks first and thinks later (usually ‘way too late) … if at all! As you might imagine, he and Sabīna mustēla do not get along! 🙂

We take the same approach to perfect participles at this point: our only concerns are with adjective agreement and with comprehension. For example, just a bit later on the same Lectiō, we see this:

tum Fabius, “nōnne vōs intrāre dēbētis? nōnne multum discere dēbēmus?” inquit, et iānuam lūdī aperit. puerī avidī et timidī per iānuam apertam intrant.

Here, we’ll ask this question:

quid Fabius aperit?

iānuam / puerōs

I highly doubt we’ll need an explanation for wrong answers! 🙂 I hope it’s obvious that he didn’t open the boys!

We’ll continue to see participles in this way for quite a while before we pay “formal” attention to them around Lectiō XXIV. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Participles are, after all, verbal adjectives (or, as a Roman would say, verbal nōmina). We want to separate the two functions – verb and adjective – and address each one individually.
  • As vocabulary items, participles aren’t difficult. sedēns, sedentis means sitting, and is a nōmen dēclīnātiōnis tertiae (since Romans didn’t distinguish nouns from adjectives in their grammatical terminology). apertus, aperta, apertum means open. No problem!
  • Participles are all about aspect, as we noted in last week’s post. We want our learners to have a good grasp of aspect in general before we talk formally about this.
  • Once you have a good grasp of noun-adjective agreement and aspect, participles are simple! They’re also a convenient review of these two (or, actually, more than two) large concepts.
  • Like any concept, participles can be made to seem easy or hard depending on how … and when … they’re presented to learners. We prefer to make them seem easy, since our learners are more likely to be successful if we do so.
  • Participles are a critically important feature of the Latin language, and Latin participles are very different from their English equivalents. We want our learners to see them, but not worry about them, early on, and we want to build up the concept gradually.

quid respondētis, amīcī? Do you think we’re on the right track, or should we introduce participles a lot earlier … or a lot later? And do you agree or disagree with the way we’ve separated the adjective agreement issue from the aspect issue?

Next time, we’ll begin to look in more detail at the formal introduction of participles … and at some sad cases of unrequited and impossible love (or, at least, infatuation) among our primary characters as they grow up. Roman marriage customs are also an area that’s vastly different from the experiences of most of our potential learners, and we want to address them carefully. Many Tres Columnae subscribers will be teenagers (and a bit “over the hill” for marriage by Roman standards), so we don’t want to break their hearts unnecessarily. But we also want to paint a realistic picture (or as realistic as possible) of the patriarchal, arranged-marriage society that the Roman Empire was. We’d really like your input on how well we’re doing, as these Lectiōnēs are still in a preliminary draft state, and we can make significant changes to them if you, the community, think we need to.

In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus et respondentibus! And please keep those comments, emails, and Trial Subscription requests coming!

An Infinitive Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, as promised, we’ll look at a story from Lectiō XXV of Cursus Prīmus, in which we see a great amount of ōrātiō oblīqua with present infinitives. The setting is Herculaneum, in mid-August A.D. 79, about 8 years after the time when Lectiōnēs I-XXI are set.  So Lucius, Caius, and Cnaeus are now about 16 years old … young men in the eyes of Roman law … and their sisters are all married, in many cases with children of their own. Lectiōnēs XXV-XXVII will explore the eruption, including the fates of characters who live and who perish in the disaster.  Of course, some of our animal friends are no longer among the living … but Ridiculus the mouse has some lineal descendants who continue to occupy the “cēnāculum” in Valerius’ house. 🙂

Today’s story focuses on Caelius and Cnaeus; other stories in the Lectiō will feature Caius, Lucius, their old teacher Fabius, and poor old Flavius Caeso, who has (unfortunately) gone to Pompeii for a few days on business (!) with his new mustēla, Livia.  As this story opens, our friends are a bit worried about what seems to be going on up on Mt. Vesuvius….

Caelius sollicitus prope larārium stat et dīs parentibus precēs effundit. “quid mihi suādētis, ō dī parentēs?” rogat. “heri, cum per agrōs ambulābam, subitō vīdī fumum flammāsque ē summō monte ascendere! hodiē māne, quandō istum Cnaeum vituperābam, subitō sēnsī terrās vehementer tremere! quid facere dēbeō, mī pater? quid mihi suādēs, mī ave carissime?” Caelius trīstis et sollicitus prope larārium manet.

in vīllā proximā, Caelia Prīma quoque sollicita cum marītō suō colloquium habet. “mī Flavī,” inquit, “nōnne sentiēbās terrās vehementer tremere? nōnne flammās fūmumque ē summō monte ascendere etiam nunc vidēs?” Flavius sollicitus Prīmae respondit, “uxor mea, nōnne nōs decet ab hāc vīllā paucōs diēs abīre? nōnne nōs decet sorōrem tuam marītumque eius in urbe Neāpolī vīsitāre?” Prīma celeriter cōnsentit. paucīs post hōrīs Prīma Flaviusque cum īnfante suō ad urbem Neāpolim contendunt, Secundam Aeliumque vīsitātum. servī tamen perterritī in vīllā manent. Flavius enim, “vōbīs necesse est,” inquit, “hīc manēre et vīllam custōdīre. nōnne facile est furibus lātrōnibusque vīllās vacuās intrāre? vōs enim istōs hominēs ā vīllā arcēre potestis.”

intereā Caelius iam prope larārium stat. “ō dī,” iterum iterumque exclāmat, “quaesō, dī mānēs, nōs adiuvāte! quaesō, mihi cōnsilium praebēte!” imāginēs māiōrum tamen tacitī et immōtī in mūrō ātriī pendent.

subitō Caelius “vae! heu!” audit et īrātus sē ad iānuam vertit. per agrōs currit Cnaeus, fīlius Caeliī sēdecim annōs nātus. “vae! heu!” identidem exclāmat ille, “ubi est iste servus neglegentissimus? nōnne intellegit mē vehementer ēsurīre? nōnne cognōvit mē servōs negelegentēs semper crūciāre?”

Caelius attonitus, “mī fīlī,” rogat, “cūr servōs ita castīgās? quis erat neglegēns?” et Cnaeus īrātissimus, “mī pater, nōnne servōs oportet aquam trahere? cum tamen ad fontem prōcessī, nihil aquae aderat. fōns vacuus erat! nōnne mē oportet istōs servōs crūciāre?”

Caelius, “tacē, mī fīlī, et mihi rem mōnstrā!” exclāmat. tum pater fīliusque per agrōs contendunt. Caelius ipse videt nihil aquae in fonte stāre. tum ad montem oculōs vertit et multum fumī ē summō monte ascendere videt. Caeliusque Cnaeusque subitō sentiunt terrās vehementissimē tremere. “heu! vae!” exclāmant ambō, “dī magnī, nōs servāte, quod maximam pietātem semper ostendimus!” Cnaeus agnum, Caelius vīnum quaerit. servī attonitī vident āram maximam ā dominīs in agrīs aedificārī, sacrificium splendidum dīs īnferīs offerrī. tum Caelius cum Vipsāniā Cnaeōque ē vīllā celerrimē effugit. “quō contendere dēbēmus, mī pater?” rogat Cnaeus. “nōnne melius est nōbīs urbem Pompēiōs petere, quod iter brevius est?”

“mī fīlī stultissime,” clāmat Caelius perterritus, “breve est iter, sed necesse est trāns istum montem iter facere! istī montī appropinquāre haudquāquam volō! longius est iter ad urbem Neāpolim, sed tūtius, quod istum montem vītāre possumus.”

Cnaeus “vae, heu, mē taedet itinerum,” respondet, sed celeriter per viās prōcēdit.  servī in vīllā perterritī precēs et vōta dīs omnibus offerunt.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, how do you like the story … as a story?
  • How do you respond to the characters and situation?
    • If you’ve read the previous stories in which Cnaeus appears (a much younger Cnaeus – he’s 8 in those stories and 15 or 16 in this one), do you find his character consistent?
    • For purposes of future stories – and of historical accuracy – how many of our characters do you think should survive?
  • Second, how do you like the incorporation of ōrātiō oblīqua?
    • Does it fit naturally? Does it illustrate the concept, as developed in yesterday’s post, without “beating the learner over the head” with the new material?
    • Do you find enough examples, too many, or not enough?
    • If the number is wrong, where would you suggest that we add … or subtract?
  • And would you like to see the story that practices ōrātiō oblīqua with perfect-tense infinitives?

Tune in next time for a series of posts in which we explore the editing and revision process for user-contributed stories. Our subscriber David H has provided a pair of interesting, exciting, but slightly imperfect stories, and (with his generous permission!) we’ll take a look at the editing process that such stories will undergo in the Tres Columnae system. When we’re done, you’ll have a greater understanding of the time commitment involved (both for the editor and for the contributor), and we hope you’ll see why an editing charge will be necessary.

In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus! I truly appreciate you for continuing to read the blog, visit the site, and be part of the Tres Columnae family! 🙂

Participles, Infinitives, and Aspect, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Welcome to the second of a series of posts about verbal aspect as it applies to non-finite verb forms. Coming up tomorrow, we’ll see an actual story; today, we’ll look at how we’ll go about introducing this important idea in the Tres Columnae system. First, though, a quick review for those who haven’t read Saturday’s post:

On Saturday, we looked at these examples:

  • Valerius, haec verba loquēns, ē sellā surrēxit.
  • Valerius, haec verba locūtus, ē sellā surrēxit.

Of course, there was also an example with a future participle, but I want to save a bit of space today! 🙂 I then made this claim:

In both sentences, Valerius did two things: he spoke and he stood. He even used the same verbs both times! In the first sentence, though, the actions were simultaneous: he stood while still speaking (or, in any case, the speaking isn’t marked as complete). In the second sentence, though, the speaking happened before Valerius stood. Rather than talk endlessly about “sequence of tenses of participles” or some such terminology, we prefer to make this simple distinction clear to our learners.

I also made this claim:

The same principle applies, of course, to infinitives, both by themselves and in ōrātiō oblīqua.

Our goal for today is to explore (and, I hope, prove) this claim Then we’ll begin to look at the ways that an aspect-oriented presentation of participles and infinitives will work in the Tres Columnae system. And yes, lectōrēs cārissimī, there will be stories! I’ve noticed that blog readership goes up on story days and down when more theoretical (or logistical) posts are published. Pretty soon, when we have some regular contributors, almost every day will be a story day! 🙂 And we’ll take a look at the process of editing and revising contributed stories later this week.

Today, though, let’s return to our topic of aspect as applied to infinitives, with this important point:

  • A “present” (that is, imperfective-aspect) infinitive is not marked for completion, so its action occurs at the same time as the main verb in its sentence or clause.
  • A “perfect” (that is, perfective-aspect) infinitive is marked for completion, so its action has occurred before the main verb in its sentence or clause.
  • A “future” infinitive is marked to indicate that its action has not yet started at the time of the main verb in its sentence or clause.

Suddenly the whole “sequence of tenses of the infinitive in indirect statement” lecture – the long one that Latin teachers repeat, multiple times, with tears 🙂 in intermediate and advanced classes – can be reduced to this simple concept. Again, let’s take a look at some examples, beginning with ōrātiō rēcta:

  • Cāius in ātriō sedet. (imperfective: he’s just sitting there)
  • mustēla mūrem cōnsūmpsit. (perfective: she’s finished her dinner)
  • Caelius Cnaeum mox vituperābit (future – but that happens a lot, doesn’t it? Wonder what he’s done, or will have done, this time!)

And now we’ll look at some examples with ōrātiō oblīqua:

  • hodiē Lollia videt Cāium in ātriō sedēre. (imperfective: the seeing and sitting happen at the same time)
  • heri Caelia vīdit Cāium in ātriō sedēre. (again, the imperfective infinitive shows that the sitting was happening when she saw it).
  • mox Valerius vidēbit Cāium in ātriō sedēre. (again, the imperfective infinitive shows that the sitting will be going on when Valerius sees it).
  • hodiē Lollia videt mustēlam mūrem cōnsūmpsisse. (perfective infinitive: the eating is over before Lollia sees the weasel. I guess she saw the bones?)
  • heri Caelia vīdit mustēlam mūrem cōnsūmpsisse. (again, the perfective infinitive shows that the eating had been completed before Lollia saw the weasel)
  • mox Valerius vidēbit mustēlam mūrem cōnsūmpsisse. (again, the perfective infinitive shows that the eating will be completed before Valerius sees the weasel)
  • Prīma Secundaque crēdunt Caelium Cnaeum mox vituperātūrum esse. (And, given Cnaeus’ character, they’re probably right. But the cursing has not yet begun when they believe this.)
  • omnēs servī dīcēbant Caelium Cnaeum mox vituperātūrum esse. (And, given Cnaeus’ character, they’re probably right. But the cursing had not yet begun when they were saying this.)
  • crās Prīma Secundae pollicēbitur Caelium Cnaeum mox vituperātūrum esse. (And, given Cnaeus’ character, she’s almost certainly right. But the cursing will not yet have begun when makes this promise.)

This is the second of a number of posts on the subject. As you may recall if you’ve seen our planned grammatical sequence, we meet present active infinitives, and the other principal parts of verbs, quite early, in Lectiōnēs V and VII. In keeping with our early introduction of deponent verbs, their present infinitives are introduced at about the same time, and both types soon begin to appear as complementary infinitives (with verbs like dēbēre, posse, velle, and decet) and in phrases like decōrum est, necesse est, and commodum est. We’ll meet present passive infinitives when we meet passive verbs. Both present and perfect participles will appear, incidentally, as vocabulary items from early in Cursus Prīmus. But near the end of Cursus Prīmus, and going on into Cursus Secundus, we’ll begin to work with these forms (and the other infinitives) “for mastery” rather than just in passing. As we do, we’ll notice that these non-finite verb forms have a lot more connection with verbal aspect than with tense. Our focus on aspect should make what’s often called the “sequence of tenses of the infinitive in indirect statement” – and made to seem complicated and confusing – seem simple and straightforward.

We’ll meet ōrātiō oblīqua, as the Romans called it, in Lectiō XXV, near the end of Cursus Prīmus. The time is mid-August, A.D. 79, shortly before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Oplontis. Several years have passed since Lectiō XX, when Lucius, Caius, and Cnaeus were still young boys. By now, they’re young men of 16; Lucius’ sister Valeria and her husband Vipsanius are settled in Naples with their children. Much to the surprise (and horror!) of Caius, his cousin M. Vipsanius has recently married Caius’ sister Lollia, and they have also settled in Naples. Recently, everyone has begun to notice earthquakes and other unusual things going on, but, sadly, no one has made the connection with the “extinct” Mount Vesuvius.

In this context, we’ll begin to explore ōrātiō oblīqua with present-tense infinitives with a sequence like this:

  • hodiē Valerius in tablīnō sedet.
  • servus dīcit Valerium in tablīnō sedēre.
  • heri terra tremēbat.
  • Lūcius sentiēbat terram tremere.
  • duōs diēs fūmus in āera ascendēbat.
  • Lollius vidēbat fumum in āera ascendere.
  • hodiē aquilae ā monte volant.
  • cīvēs vident aquilās ā monte volāre.

quid novī?

You probably noticed that the second sentence in each pair summarized or restated the first one, but the forms changed a bit.

  • The nōmen cāsūs nōminātīvī in the first sentence became a nōmen cāsūs accūsātīvī.
  • The verbum in the first sentence became an infinītīvus.
  • Romans called this construction ōrātiō oblīqua; English speakers usually render this as “indirect statement.” The Romans called normal sentences ōrātiō rēcta or “direct statement.”

Self-assessment: On our usual scale from 1-5,

  • how comfortable do you feel with the concept of ōrātiō oblīqua?
  • how well do you think you could recognize ōrātiō oblīqua?
  • how well do you think you could make ōrātiō oblīqua out of ōrātiō rēcta?

You can probably imagine the exercises we’ll use to practice. Then, as usual, comes a brief explanation:

quid novī?

Did you notice that, in all these sentences, the action of the ōrātiō oblīqua took place at the same time as the other verb in the sentence? That’s why the “present” or “imperfective” infinitives were used. As you might suspect, there are also perfective-aspect infinitives, used when the action in the ōrātiō oblīqua is marked for completion at the time of the main verb. We’ll take a look at those in a bit.

And, of course, there’s the normal self-assessment.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • Have I successfully “sold” you on the idea of aspect, rather than tense, as the governing factor for infinitives?
  • What about participles?
  • Whether or not you agree with the linguistics, do you think this approach will help learners? I’m especially interested to hear from people who do agree with the linguistics but don’t think the approach will be helpful!
  • And are you eager for more examples … such as a story or two?

If so, you’re in luck, because we’ll have a number of “story days” this week. Tomorrow we’ll look at a story that practices ōrātiō oblīqua with present infinitives. Then, starting on Wednesday, we’ll look at the revision process for stories that participants submit. Gratias maximas to our trial subscriber, David H, who graciously agreed to let his two stories be guinea pigs for this process! And if you’d like to become a trial subscriber too, just let us know with a comment here – or, better, go ahead and register for free at (so we’ll have your email address on file) and make a comment on the Trial Subscription page. Trial subscribers will get “premium” access (so they can submit unlimited content) until June 1, 2010, and they’ll be eligible for a discount after that.

Whether you choose a Trial Subscription or not, we’re so glad that you’re reading and participating in our Joyful Learning Community! grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus! And please keep those comments and emails coming!

Infinitives, Participles, and Aspect

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! I hope I haven’t scared too many of you away with our series of posts about logistics and money! 🙂 Even if you don’t want to become a paid subscriber down the road, we hope you’ll continue to

  • read the blog (which will feature new stories and other content as they’re added);
  • visit (which will always have a lot of free “stuff”); and
  • tell your friends, colleagues, and students about us if you like what you see – or if you think they’d enjoy being part of the project.

We’d like to welcome our new subscriber David H, who has contributed two excellent stories to the project. Check out

Best of all, from our point of view, is that the minor errors in the stories (and we’re sure you’ll find them if you look closely) do not prevent communication or understanding.  Of course, if you’ve ever used a non-native language in conversation, you already know this principle, but some of our more perfection-focused colleagues may need to have the experience for themselves.  We’ll look at the process of editing user-submitted stories in a series of posts next week.

Today, as promised, we’ll return to Language and Story – specifically, to the ways that Tres Columnae will handle participles and infinitives. As you can probably guess, we’ll be looking at them through the lens of verbal aspect – specifically, with what’s known as “markedness” or “unmarkedness” for completion of the action to which they refer. We’ll say that imperfective-aspect participles and infinitives are not marked for completion (that is, the action they refer to isn’t necessarily complete; it might be, but it might not be) while perfective-aspect participles and infinitives are marked for completion (that is, the action they refer to is complete at the time of the sentence in which they occur).  The Latin future system is quite complicated, and we’ll have more to say about it another day.  Today, though, let’s agree that future participles and infinitives are marked to indicate that their action has not yet begun at the time of the sentence in which they occur.

The tense (or, as we’ll say, the aspect) of participles, in particular, has been a hot-button issue recently on the AP-Latin listserv, where (as it so often happens) people are worried about the “proper” or “literal” translation of perfect deponent participles. (Both the AP Latin Teachers’ Guide and the AP Latin Course Description are actually quite clear about what’s required for such a “proper” or “literal” translation, but for some reason, people ask every year.) Given a word like amplexus, they wonder, would it be acceptable to translate it as “embracing” (which preserves the voice but not the “tense” or aspect), or would students be required to translate it as “having embraced” (preserving both voice and aspect)? If you click on either of the links above and search for “participle,” you’ll find the official answer … but that would apparently spoil the fun of asking and speculating. 🙂

For us at Tres Columnae, the translation question is an interesting sidelight, but the underlying issue about aspect is central to what we are doing. How can this be? First, Tres Columnae is not an Advanced Placement® curriculum; it’s designed for learners at the novice and intermediate levels of proficiency, and it does not contain any of the passages specified on the AP® Latin syllabus. Second, while the AP® teachers are concerned about translation, translation is not our primary aim – nor our primary method of assessment for either comprehension or grammatical analysis – as it is for the current version of the AP® Latin Examination. That doesn’t mean that we’re opposed to translation; it just means that translation isn’t our primary emphasis, as I’ve said before.

So, while the “correct translation” issue is interesting but peripheral, we are quite interested in the voice and aspect of participles, infinitives, and other non-finite verb forms. As a perfect or perfective-aspect participle, amplexus is “marked for completion”; it implies that its action was completed before the main verb in the sentence (or clause) in which it appears. Since the root meaning of amplector, according to Lewis & Short, is to “wind or twine round” something, Vergil’s routine use of the perfective-aspect participle makes a lot of sense: it’s not that the embrace was completed before the main verb, but the process of winding the arms around the other person.  As soon as we move from focusing on “proper translation” (or “acceptable translation”) to focusing on how the language is actually working, the situation is much less complicated!  Then, if we want or need to develop a proper or acceptable translation, that falls naturally into place.

Now consider these three almost identical sentences:

  • Valerius, haec verba loquēns, ē sellā surrēxit. (imperfective)
  • Valerius, haec verba locūtus, ē sellā surrēxit. (perfective)
  • Valerius, haec verba locūtūrus, ē sellā surrēxit. (future/not yet begun)

In all three sentences, Valerius did two things: he spoke and he stood. Our narrator even used the same verbs both times!

  • In the first sentence, the actions were probably simultaneous: he stood while still speaking (or, in any case, the speaking isn’t marked as complete; perhaps the narrator neither knows nor cares about the temporal relationship).
  • In the second sentence, the speaking clearly happened before Valerius stood.
  • And, of course, in the third sentence (where the participle is marked as occurring in the future), Valerius stood up before he started speaking.

Rather than talk endlessly about “sequence of tenses of participles” or “the relative tense of participles in regard to the main verb of a sentence,” we can simply focus on the aspectual distinctions and the marking.  It seems to make things much clearer for everyone.

The same principle applies, of course, to infinitives, both by themselves and in ōrātiō oblīqua, but we’ll look at specific examples next time.

intereā, quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • My hope is that aspect makes participles and infinitives much less complicated for learners – but do you agree?
    • If not, do you think we’re oversimplifying?
    • Or are we actually making things more complicated?
  • Another hope, of course, is that we’re keeping our focus on the Latin rather than on the “proper translation.”
    • That way, I believe, we’re only asking the learner to do one or two things (understand and analyze a Latin sentence).
    • Adding translation to the mix requires the learner to do several more things (express this understanding and analysis in another language – and do it “the way we expect”).  The more things involved, the more potential for error and confusion … and the harder it is to find out where the error happened.
    • If you happen to speak a non-standard English dialect – or if you don’t speak the same dialect of “translationese” as your teacher – your understanding and analysis may be perfect, but your expression may be “wrong” … or you may have a problem with understanding, or with analysis.
    • But there’s no way to tell if the only thing you see is a “wrong translation!”
  • Can you see how translation, if you use it, is more effective after understanding has occurred than it is when it’s used as the one-and-only tool for understanding?
  • Even if you can accept this in theory, do you want more practical examples?
  • And, if so, do you want examples with participles, with infinitives, or with a mix of the two?

Tune in on Monday for some posts with such examples. And in the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus! Tres Columnae is for you, and we want to know if something seems particularly effective – or particularly problematic – to you. So please keep reading, keep telling your friends, and keep those comments and emails coming.

Published in: on March 6, 2010 at 2:25 pm  Comments (6)  
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