Rules for Construing Latin

Well, this was interesting. I found a book for doctors on how to read medical books written in Latin (Gregory’s Conspectus: A Literal Interlinear Translation….. It actually includes guidelines for consistent Latin translation! It’s pretty much what I do anyway, but it’s odd that nobody actually teaches this in Latin books (except this one, I guess).

1. Find the nominative case noun (subject of the sentence) and every word connected to it first, and figure them out. Then find the verb and do the same thing. Then find the object of the verb – ditto. Then find the prepositions and all their connected words – ditto.

2. If you do a noun and there’s a genitive connected to it, do that genitive right after the noun.

3. If there’s an infinitive connected to a verb, do that right after the verb.

4. If adjectives or participles aren’t modifying anything else, do them next. Otherwise, wait until the other word’s done before you tackle adjectives or participles. If you get two agreeing with the same word, you have to put down both before or both after, because breaking them up is confusing.

5. Relative clauses should be put down as soon as possible after their antecedent noun.

6. Interrogatives and buts and so forth can go before the nominative case noun.

There’s more, and it’s pretty interesting.




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3 responses to “Rules for Construing Latin

  1. That’s an excellent method. One of the things that I always liked about Latin was that reading it was similar to solving a puzzle. Of course, nowadays, I find that I can often just read sentences without spending much time piecing them together. Oh, the benefit of having studied Latin for eight years and keeping up with it for four more!

    Now, I just have to be able to compose good poetry in the language and my life will be complete!

    • My problem is that I often think I understand the sentence on sight, but then find out upon examination that I was wrong. 🙂 Of course, it helps to get familiar with authors’ individual quirks of sentence construction.

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