Learning Latin from basics!

TalkLingua Latina

Join LibraryThing to post.

Learning Latin from basics!

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Edited: May 17, 2010, 5:53 pm

Hello everyone!

I'm interested in improving my Latin knowledge a little bit more. Also, I'm interested specifically in the Latin of the Classical period: Classical Latin. If you know any book, manual or document which can be of help in learning Latin, please, tell me!

Also, for the sake of pronunciation, if you know any software, program or web page which can accurately teach its pronunciation, it will be more than welcome!

Thank you very much brethren!

Apr 29, 2010, 8:54 pm

Librito, felicitations on wanting to learn Latin, it's such a pleasure. There's a book called Wheelock's Latin which imho is the best for adult beginners. It takes you very gently step by step through the grammar and even in the first lesson you are reading simple Latin sentences, some of them from actual classical sources.

Apr 30, 2010, 12:15 am

As to pronunciation, I just did a search on Amazon for Keyword = Latin and Format = Audio book, which brought up several choices, including one that is based on the readings in Wheelock's Latin.

I'm quite tempted by the audiobook of Minimus: Starting Out in Latin; I have the books, which are charming!

Apr 30, 2010, 4:39 pm

Oh, thank you both kathymoo and staffordcastle. These are great resources. But, may I ask, how good is Wheelock's Latin? I've heard of his work, but haven't gone deep into his book. I've found a facsimile of pronunciation of Classical Latin (but no disc included so far I can tell), but I'd guess Wheelock's Latin & Readings from Wheelock's Latin should do the work. Anyway, thank you very much!

Apr 30, 2010, 4:56 pm

Well, it's the leading textbook in the field, AFAIK; the eminence grise if you will.

Apr 30, 2010, 11:48 pm

Yeah Wheelock's the one they use at my university in lieu of a textbook, actually. It has its faults to be sure, but I still think it succeeds in helping you dive right into the language. You'll obviously work through it faster at first if you already know your English grammar, but if not, it's not a big deal since Wheelock teaches you that too as it comes up.

May 5, 2010, 3:34 pm

Oh, thank you very much! I just ordered a copy of Wheelock's Latin and Workbook for Wheelock's Latin. After all, they're complementary, aren't they?

I'll look forward to Readings from Wheelock's Latin as well.


May 5, 2010, 4:32 pm

That's probably overkill, actually but good luck ;-D

May 8, 2010, 10:37 am

I found Wheelock probably the best although I'm afraid I can't count myself as one his "successes". But one thing that was a slight "anti" was that Latin primers in UK always seem to order the noun declensions as:
vocative if given is given 2nd but several texts omit it on the grounds it's often the same as nominative

Wheeler uses a different order (N;G;D;Acc;Abl; voc) which involves mental gymnastics unless it's the only book you use. Is his order normal in USA?

May 8, 2010, 7:14 pm

That's the one that's "normal" to me, yeah. N-G-D-Ac-Ab-V, though usually vocative isn't given.

And for Greek it is pretty much the same, just no ablative, obviously.

May 8, 2010, 7:27 pm

Dictionaries always give the nom/gen pair for the declension, so ISTM more sensible to put those two first...

May 9, 2010, 2:54 am

>9 PossMan:
I believe you are correct, it is US usage; all my American Latin texts are arranged that way.

May 9, 2010, 9:22 am

It's interesting; my Cambridge Latin Course is arranged that way too--it's a North American edition. Is the UK version different?

May 9, 2010, 11:51 am

That's interesting; I wonder if it is indeed an American thing because every single language I've learned has arranged the cases in that exact same way!

May 9, 2010, 12:44 pm

Wikipedia has a survey.

It's not a perfect separation: I learned Latin in the USA, but using Kennedy's Latin Primer.

May 9, 2010, 2:45 pm

15#: The Wikipedia survey link is useful and also adds the locative case. When I did Latin at school in the 1950s locative was never mentioned and I only came across it later. I'm fairly sure Kennedy's Primer was one of our text books. Not very long ago I got a second-hand copy of Kennedy's Revised Latin Primer and the main tables for noun declensions use the order I gave in #9 but with vocative 2nd. Locative is not given in the basic tables but is discussed elsewhere. I seem to remember reading that the original Kennedy was hugely influential in English schools so I wonder if its example made this order the standard in UK or was it following an order that had already been the usual usage.

May 9, 2010, 3:07 pm

>15 MMcM:
Down at the bottom of that page, Wikipedia says that Wheelock is particularly well-adapted for independent study.

Edited: May 10, 2010, 12:25 am

> 16
Those Wikipedia pages do indeed credit Kennedy with the change in case order in English schools. The idea was not original to Kennedy, of course. His Preface credits Thomas Hewitt Key, Johan Nicolai Madvig, and Henry John Roby. That's the publication order (1845, 1849, 1862; Kennedy 1866) that their elementary grammars appeared in English, but Madvig's original German was 1843.

Madvig's Observations credit the order in Sanskrit and Rask's work on modern European languages.

In terms of what Kennedy replaced (Wikipedia being pretty vague and a little hyperbolic in its "medieval"), I believe that would be the Eton Grammar or the King Edward's adapted from it. The Eton Grammar was from the 1750s and itself adapted from William Lily's Grammar that had been authorized since Henry VIII (around 1540).

Edited: Jul 12, 2015, 11:00 am


Edited: May 12, 2010, 2:07 am

Oh Father, deliver us from infernus' hell

May 12, 2010, 2:08 am

This message has been deleted by its author.

May 15, 2010, 7:35 am

I confess that I was a little nonplussed to find some modern Latin and Greek accidences have the N;G;D;Acc;(Abl) order in declensions. There is, of course, no reason why I should be other than familiarity with the N; Acc; G; D; (Abl) order in which I learned Greek and Latin. I too initially used Kennedy for Latin accidence and Rutherford's First Greek Grammar Accidence for Greek.

I was going to say that the order of cases in declensions is essentially arbitrary. However, it came to mind that there were grammars and accidences compiled in ancient times and that some compiled by Greek or Roman scholiasts have survived - although I think you would be hard pressed to find one in a modern edition. There certainly aren't any in the Loeb Classical Library. If anyone is familiar with the work of these ancient grammarians, perhaps they would care to comment what order of cases they use in their declensions? It may be that older texts like those of Kennedy and Rutherford and their sources followed the order of a particular scholiast.

May 16, 2010, 12:05 am

appaloosaman: From what I can recall, most Roman grammarians (whose works survive, at least) used the standard NGDAAV order. Priscian provides the rationale (search for "ordo quoque naturalis") here (he notes, for example, that the genetive case is used to form the rest of the oblique cases):


As far as the NAGDA order, I was once told that it was because the nominative and accusative cases are the most common cases one encounters.

May 17, 2010, 7:24 am

Thanks for that! Your link didn't work when I tried it but I did find the Priscian text from another online source. I think the seven years of Greek/Latin learning drills I had are too firmly burned into my memory for me to start reciting declensions in a new order now. However I now understand why other texts adopted the NGDAAV order and it doesn't seem quite so alien.

Perhaps I should share another surprise I had. While I was in Boston I idly perused in a bookstore Morwood's Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek and was surprised by the guidance it gave on how to pronounce classical Greek. I learned my Greek from a sizable team of classicists all of whom received their degrees in Classics from either Oxford or Cambridge universities. The pronunciation they taught me seemed to bear no relation to the guidance this book gave on how Greek was to be pronounced. I learned my Greek in the 1960s - has there been a radical upheaval in the world of classicists in the last half century that has revolutionized pronunciation of classical Greek?

May 17, 2010, 3:09 pm

Honestly I don't know and naturally I think of the way I learned to pronounce Ancient Greek as "the right way" :-) However I do seem to remember a section in Nicholas Ostler's Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin where he mentions that back when he learned Ancient Greek in school, its pronunciation and accent was based heavily on that of Latin, and for instance, regardless where the accent marks were, they were taught that each word was to be pronounced in the typical Latinate way as opposed to relying on the "penult-antepenult-ultima" formula. Could it be this that you are referring to?

But all told, I think our understanding of the ancient languages tends to grow over time. I have always been taught "classical" pronunciation of Latin, with hard C's, no J's, etc. But my uncle learned Latin in the 60s and he pronounces almost as if it were modern Italian. It could be a similar process at work in what you describe regarding Greek.

May 17, 2010, 3:31 pm

Thanks for that. Feicht. I'm happy to say that at least my 1960s Latin is not Italianate. I too am all hard Cs and no Js (or Vs for that matter).

Edited: May 17, 2010, 3:58 pm

Latin lacks j, u, and "c" always sounds as /k/. That's how I was taught. Spanish is my native language, therefore, I know a lot about how Latin might have sounded, though both of them are quite different. Feicht, the only Latin I can think your uncle might have learned is some sort of Ecclesiastical Latin, which is highly italianazed in pronunciation. Classical Latin has peculiar aspects in pronunciation, therefore, Old Latin sounds very different from Classical Latin, and this one from Vulgar Latin, and this one from Ecclesiastical Latin. The problem's to differentiate them, since almost all of them sound similar. I remember I once went to a mass and the priest recited the Lord's Prayer in Latin (Pater Noster), but it sounded sort of wrong in my ears. The problem was that is sounded too Spanish-like, and Latin can't be pronounced as any of the Romance languages, though they're their direct descendants.

May 17, 2010, 5:14 pm

Yeah Librito, I think that's exactly it. The Latin that people used to learn in America (at least, as far as I know, the non-Classics oriented people) was probably more "church centered", if you like, since that was where most people were realistically going to be using it. Nowadays since Catholic mass isn't in Latin anymore, perhaps the result is that people are more likely to learn the "correct" way of pronouncing the language.

Though I have to say, I often wonder if we are a bit too canonical at times regarding classical Latin's pronunciation and its difference in sound from modern Romance languages. After all, Spanish, French, etc might all sound the way they do today for a reason :-)

Edited: May 17, 2010, 5:58 pm

You're right Feicht. In fact, I've researched enough to know that the two Romance languages more similar to Latin are Spanish and Italian. I noted this when I was a little kid and surfing the web I found a facsimile from an ancient Latin codex and to my wonder I understood it almost completely. Of course, now that I've studied the declensions, cases, and singular Latin words and idioms, I understand almost all of Cicero's Lælius de Amicitia and many other Latin-writers' works. Sadly, pronunciation keeps me from achieving the 100% of my Latin-learning. I keep moving forward!

May 17, 2010, 5:59 pm

I was taught in linguistics that the phonology of late middle age and early modern Latin was the phonology of the country in which it was spoken. That had to vary some, though, because the academics who spoke it moved from country to country, especially when academia was ecclesiastical. Furthermore, speakers could have made assumptions about how it should be pronounced that were false, so English Latin had some characteristics of English and some characteristics of Italian, the grand tour and all.

It is possible that some of those things that did or didn't exist actually existed in forms that we don't usually talk about in English, and, librito, possibly in Spanish, like bilabial fricatives which can come across as rounded, so W, or labiodental, F or V. I took French in public schools. My friends who took Latin had V always as W, but did CI as ČI. That was late '50's to early '60's in the Northeastern United States.


Edited: May 17, 2010, 7:56 pm

I read a number of years ago that there were a couple of dialects of Italian which kept the hard c. Doing a google search I found that Logudoro dialect of Sardinia pronounces cento (hundred ) as kentu.

The Wikipedia article on Sardinian ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sardinian_language ) confirms this.

Join to post