Sunday, November 01, 2009

Translating Cicero in Word Order

I have encouraged my students this year to read and translate their Latin passages in the order in which they appear, left to right. We have endured the "Yoda-speak" and seem to be making progress. After we translate in the word order, we do, of course, go back and "English it up."

In his First Oration Against Catiline, Cicero writes in chapter 11:
Tune eum quem esse hostem comperisti, quem ducem belli futurum vides, quem expectari imperatorem in castris hostium sentis, auctorem sceleris, principem coniurationis, evocatorem servorum et civium perditorum, exire patiere, ut abs te non emissus ex urbe, sed immisus in urbem esse videatur?
When we approach this from the beginning and move from left to write, we end up saying, with appropriate inflection of our voice in English,
"Do you [something] him whom you have discovered to be an enemy, whom you[etc.], whom you [etc.], whom you know to be an author of crime, a chief of conspiracy, an inciter of slaves and of evil citizens, to leave you will allow..."
The advantages of this technique allows the student to know immediately that the speaker of the passage (in this case, the personified Republic) is asking a question of Cicero about Catiline (Tune eum). Then there are three full relative clauses and then three more relative clauses abbreviated by ellipsis, and then an infinitive and (finally!) the main verb. If a student were to hunt and peck through this sentence, she would be hopelessly lost. Indeed, after the first reading in Latin, the relative clauses would be easily identified and mentally bracketed, then leading to a easier discovery of exire patiere to complete the main sentence. The students do need, of course, a prompt that patiere is really a patieris. The student then passes to the rest of the sentence, a subordinate clause, happliy marked by the ut.

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