Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Catullan corpus

The other day, I finished typing in the whole of the Catullan corpus as part of my Catullus project. Sure, I could have just cut and paste, which would have been a lot faster, but then I wouldn't have been able to get a sense of the whole thing. I'm glad I did it. To be sure, Catullus didn't leave volumes of poetry or mountains of prose. I wouldn't have wanted to do this with Cicero.

In the process I got to appreciate why people have enjoyed his work over the centuries. He's not just a love poet, but he does that very well too. To modern readers, his poems about his life come across as ordinary. What poet wouldn't write about his life? Heaney does. Except that in antiquity, to write about some aspect of your life wasn't the thing to do. You'd write about something epic. Like the Iliad. Or the Odyssey. Or the Aeneid. Or, well, you get the idea. Catullus, along with the neoteric poets broke the norms. Can you imagine poetry as familiar as Catullus's being avant garde? It's really hard to imagine. I also got to see the changing norms of how we present ancient texts, which I blogged about already.

So where to go from here? I don't know. This is kind of where I want to go, but I'm not sure about doing that for each poem. I'll probably want to do a few more movies where I recite the poems. That would be cool. I enjoy the challenge of writing vocabulary in Latin. But am I fired up enough about Catullus to do the whole mess?

Friday, June 6, 2014

When Latin's word order drives you batty

Latin's got a well deserved reputation among English speakers for having a complex word order. I can't argue that it isn't complex from an English point of view. But I'm going to throw out this bit of English song. (If you know the source, fine. But no Google if you don't!)
You can fix this fixer-upper
Up with a little bit of love!
What's going on with the verb fix up? It's been split up with the determiner phrase this fixer-upper, which in turn is derived from the verb it is splitting. 

To make the matter more tangled, there are patients in -er. For example: My wife is a keeper. But keep is hardly a phrasal verb. In deverbal agent in -er, like bricklayer, there's only one -er added to indicate that the word is a noun. But fixer-upper? Both morphemes in fix up get the -er.

English, what's wrong with you? How could you put linguistically complex stuff like this in a kids' movie like Frozen

Monday, June 2, 2014

Changing norms in Latin

And I'm not talking about antiquity. I'm talking about how we present texts. Right now I'm slowly grinding through a Catullus project. And in the course of transcribing the text, I've noticed several differences. In Catullus 62, line 60 is presented this way in a Latin/English edition from 1894.
Non aequomst pugnare, pater cui tradidit ipse,
Similar, yet quite different, is the Perseus presentation of the same line.
non aequum est pugnare, pater cui tradidit ipse
The differences are editorial. The words are the same, but the capitalization and prodelision are gone. The spelling is also changed to fit the standard better.

I suspect that the capitalization thing is a style choice that we have been moving away from in English over the last hundred years. I can't prove it (or rather I'm not going to crunch the data to be certain), but it's my hunch. I'm somewhat surprised at the archaic spelling in a book of this vintage, since that era has always felt like a time of standardization to me. But I could be wrong. Either way, there's an argument to be made. On the one side, it is useful to use standard spelling for less experienced students and simplicity of data management. On the flip side, (provided it's the textually attested form) it is what was written. There's a part of me that feels that we serve the text before it serves us. But this is all a digression.

Where did the prodelision go? It's all over this edition. It's taught in meter. I've heard people do it at conventiculums. It's easy to screw up if you're not smart to it, so a reminder of its existence won't hurt anyone. Besides, written Greek is full of elisions (though maybe not prodelisions). I'm probably just tilting at windmills, but here's how I handled the line from above.
non aequom'st pugnare, pater cui tradidit ipse
It strikes me as a balance and maybe an English speaker's solution. I'm sticking with the 1894 spelling and punctuation. Mostly. I hate semicolons.