The Latin Summer Fun Challenge will use the 6th edition of Wheelocks's Latin. There is a revised sixth edition which corrects some of the errors in the original 6th edition, none of which are all that important. (The link is actually to the revised edition.) Those with earlier editions of Wheelock should be fine following along. The chapter structure, and most of the exercises, have changed very little. Editions after the first edition mostly added more and different types of practice exercises and self-tutorials. The fifth edition saw the addition of longer reading passages and a small amount of shifting around of grammar, principally introducing the imperfect and future tenses earlier to give students the ability to work with something other than present tense. The changes in the sixth edition were mostly cosmetic, the addition of maps and photographs of artifacts, but also contained a substantial revision of many of the chapter exercises in order to increase clarity.
The Latin Summer Fun Challenge will move through Wheelock at about the speed of one chapter every two weeks. For the first week of each two week segment, a general overview of what Wheelock has to say will be posted along with some tips, tricks, and (where appropriate) links to other resources. The second week of each two week period will see a translation of the practice sentences posted. As there are forty chapters in Wheelock, this will result in not having the entire book completed over the course of the summer. If there is sufficient participation, this will leave the future open to possible future seasonal Latin Fun Challenges.
Chapter one of Wheelock deals mostly with verbs. Verbs in Latin are a bit complex. This is due to Latin's heritage as a highly inflected language. When a language is highly inflected, the form (morphology) of the words changes according to the grammatical use of those words. By way of contrast, highly analytical languages such as English tend to use auxiliary vocabulary and word order to do the same thing. (Few languages are entirely inflected or entirely analytical.) An example will best illustrate the distinction.
In English, subjects and objects of sentences are most often determined by word order. The subject usually comes before the verb. Object, whether direct or indirect, usually come after the verb.
The dog bites the man.We know that The dog is the subject and that the man is the direct object because of where they fall in the word order in the sentence. If we changed the order, we would change the meaning of the sentence.
The man bites the dog.This second sentence means something entirely other than the first. The man is now the subject and the dog is now the object. We can change it even further.
The man the dog bit.Now, the dog bit is a modifier explaining which man we are talking about. And if we change the order significantly enough, the sentence may not even make sense.
Bit the dog the man.Admittedly, there are some people who might understand the last of these sentences. I suspect that most of those people are mrgoat.
Verbs in Latin are modified in five aspects in order to designate their grammatical function: person, number, tense, mood, and voice. Person, in Latin corresponds to English use of first, second and third persons. Number, again as in English, varies between singular and plural. These two characteristics will always agree with the subject of the sentence. The remaining three attributes inform how the verb is to be used in a sentence. For the first few chapters, Wheelock holds these latter three aspects constant save for a brief discussion of imperative rather than indicative moods.
Another thing that mystifies many newcomers to Latin is that the subject of the sentence is often implied. A verb unaccompanied by a separate subject in Latin, it can be assumed to have a personal pronoun that matches in number and person as its subject. One only needs to actually insert a pronoun as the subject for stylistic reasons. For example, Descartes infamous statement: Cogitō ergo sum is translated as ``I think, therefore, I am,'' but the Latin does not actually employ a personal pronoun as English requires. Rather, the fact that the verbs cogitō and sum are in their first person, singular form implies the I.
To make things more complex, Latin has not one but four different conjugations. Chapter one of Wheelock introduces the verbs laudō and moneō as paradigmatic for the first and second conjugations respectively. Unfortunately, the student of Latin will eventually need to memorize each of the four conjugations. The first two conjugations, however, are relatively simple. The present, active, indicative declension of laudō and moneō follow.
laudō (I praise)
laudās (you praise)
laudāt (he/she/it praises)
laudāmus (we praise)
laudātis (y'all praise)
laudant (they praise)
moneō (I advise)
monēs (you advise)
monet (he/she/it advises)
monēmus (we advise)
monētis (y'all advise)
monent (they advise)
There are a few important things to point out here. The first is that first person singular first and second conjugation verbs can end in -m rather than -ō. The second is that it is critical to memorize the macrons. Many Latin forms differ only by a macron. (Wheelock's text will also have accent marks. Feel free to ignore or memorize these at your convenience.) The last is that note that the third person forms have no macron on the final vowel like the other forms. This is not because they are third person. Rather, this is because Latin shortens vowels (drops the macron) before the letters m, r and t if they appear at the end of a word and before the letter combinations nt and nd regardless of where they appear in a word.
There is a study tip that bears pointing out. In Wheelock, dictionary entries for verbs give several principle parts of the verb. For example, the entry for laudō looks like:
laudō, laudāre, laudāvī, laudātum
- first person singular, present, indicative, active
- present, active, infinitive
- first person, singular, perfect, indicative, active
- neuter, passive, active, singular, participle
Lastly, there are three keys to learning any language: repetition, repetition, and repetition. For some people, the easiest way to do this is through flash cards. I, myself, prefer writing. Rather than making flash cards for the verb forms or the vocabulary, I will write each out over and over again until I can write them all from memory. This is painstaking. It is tedious. It also burns the words and the word forms deep into the base of my brain.
And that is all for this week. Next week, translations for the exercises at the end of chapter one will be published.
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