Weaponms manmand singi

“Weaponms manmand singi, Troyof who first from shorefroms Italym, fateby fugitive, Lavinianmsand comedhe shorems, greatly he both landbys throwed and seaby forceby godofs savageof vengefulm Junoof becauseof angerm; muchs also even warin sufferhaving, until foundmightedhe citym, inbroughtmightedheand godms Latiumto, race wherefrom Latin, Albansand fathers, and highof walls Romeof.”

(Aeneid 1, 1-7, translateedhaving)

A while ago, I mused, with a Sixth Form Latin class, on what it might be like if English, rather than using lots of little pronouns, prepositions and such like, were to have developed to attach various bits of information to the ends of words, as Latin does.

Urged on by the students, I got them to write a translation of some passage of Latin, attaching indicators to the end of words rather than separating them, but using English vocabulary. So nominative stayed the same, accusative added an -m, genitive added ‘of’, dative added ‘to’ or ‘for’ and so on. For a plural, add -s after the case. Verbs get mood, voice, tense and person (in that order) stuck on the end. Crucially, each Latin word must be translated by no more than (and no less than) one ‘English’ ‘word’ (i.e. English word with attachments), and in the same order.

It ended up being quite an interesting lesson (for me at least!) in how much information tends to be tacked onto the end of Latin words, and how different the word order often is. It was also an opportunity to demonstrate a couple of things:

1. If you break Latin words down, particularly verbs, you can work out what each bit of the word is there for – whether stem or part of the ending.

2. Translating is more than looking up vocab in the back of the book and writing down what it ‘means’ (traduttori, after all, traditori, as they say…).

3. It’s quite easy to get me distracted from the original lesson plan…

I’m sure the first 7 lines of the Aeneid above have mistakes, even in the weird language we devised (we never ended up giving it a name – ideas anyone?). Please do suggest them!

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