Language Learners' Library

This is fascinating!

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@bugcat why are you so interested in Latin? Usually this is something that remains in the heart of who made Classical studies (as far I know there are no much countries where this is made in public schools).

This is just my curiosity because in order to learn Latin you have to gain also a quite large knowledge of the history especially of Roman Empire and classics.

Do you know? Are really few the people in the world that can speak and understand spoken Latin. I want to just remember an incredible episode happened in Rome few years ago.

One day (not an ordinary day at the Vatican: the anniversary of the Lateran pacts) Pope Ratzinger convenes a consistory for the canonization of some saints. The reunion per se is nothing extraordinary as the Pope is used to make this kind of happening one per week for different reasons. At the end of the “ordinary” meeting, however, Benedict XVI rests in his place and will begin to read a declaration, in Latin as per Vatican norm. He said he had to announce something “important for the Church”, speaking of “advanced age” (“ingravescentem aetatem”). Two non-random words, because “Ingravescentem aetatem” is the title of the document with which Pope Paul VI, in 1970, set the maximum number of cardinals at 80 years (who beyond this threshold, then reduced to 75 years, are required to consider their own resignation to the Pope). The most of the cardinals and journalists who followed the final part of the speech were getting a little bored and they - evidently - did not pay close attention to what he was saying in Latin or were not quite able to understand it (who knows?).

Only one journalist - a woman (Giovanna Chirri) who is a talented Latinist was also present. She was sent by the newspaper as the correspondent in Vatican for his declared knowledge of Latin (but no one in the editorial board made actually any exam to her since no one was able to understand such dead language and - more important - no one was interested in this boring assignment).

Well… she was the only one among the presents who understood what Benedicto XVI was saying. For the first time in history a Pope was going to resign!

She reported later:

“«I wasn’t breathing, I felt a balloon inside my head, I think the pressure also rose. I immediately understood what was happening but I was terrified. Managing such news alone is a huge, almost dramatic responsibility.”

"Even before the Pope pronounced the renunciation formula, explained the reasons and gave indications on the beginning of the vacant seat, I understood everything. In that moment I was terrified. And when you are afraid, there is little you can do! Ratzinger’s accent, despite the German inflection, when he speaks in Latin is very clear so I understood his words very well, even if uttered in a low, almost subdued tone. I understood that the Pope had resigned but now it was a question of giving the news ».

"As soon as the Pope finished the speech I looked around in disbelief because everyone was leaving as if nothing had happened. I then looked for the director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, who called me back in a few seconds and confirmed everything. In the end I called the editorial staff. There was a very good colleague who I really struggled to convince him of the news I was giving him because I was the only one who had it! It is not easy for a colleague to be told that the Pope has just resigned and announced it in Latin ».

What a scoop! She was there, she listened, she did the checks. Even today many people don’t believe the story and they think that some good Vatican sources called her that morning to tell that the Pope would shortly resign. The reality is that probably, in that room, after the Pope the best Latinist present in the room was just Mrs. Chirri.

Funny, no?

Just a challenge for you. What do you think to translate the Pope’s announce made in that day? Probably it was the most important speech made in Latin in the last thousand years or so. :grin:


That is just really really really REALLY not what an infinitive is for. What you wrote is There to be three continents…They to be seperated by the Med. S. The city of Rome to be in Italy. Here be prettl land. In north be Gaul and Germany. Here be in Roman Empire…

Whatever happened to est and sunt?

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I wasn’t quite sure est and sunt could be used for permanent things. I got a bit confused. Won’t make that mistake again at least.

why are you so interested in Latin?

Three of my biggest interests are

  1. Linguistics and languages
  2. Classics
  3. Ancient history

So Latin ties in very nicely. Also I’ve tried to learn Latin a couple of times before so I already had the recommended textbooks.

In fact Ratzinger was probably speaking in Ecclesiastical Latin. There are some differences in pronunciation compared to Classical Latin ( Not as many though, it seems, as between Classical Latin and

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Vocabulary, uninflected

hag venēfica
(I) hunger ēsūriō
goblin mōnstrum
rags pannus
(I) rend scindō

spirit phantasma
(I) stand stō
naked nūdātus
man vir
book cōdex

moon lūna
(I) defend dēfendō

Vocabulary, inflected

hag venēficae (dat.)
it hungers ēsūrit
goblin mōnstrō (dat.)
rags pannum (acc.)
it would rend scinderet

spirit phantasma (nom.)
it stands stat
naked nūdātus (agreeing with vir)
man vir (acc.)
book cōdice (abl.)

moons lūnārum (gen.)
it shall defend dēfendō


Venēficae et ēsūrit mōnstrō
Ad* pannum scinderet
Phantasma stat juxta vir nūdātus
In cōdice lūnārum dēfendō.

This was fun because I get to put the first word, venēficae, in the dative because of the very last word, dēfendō. eg. “Against the hag…”

  • This is probably wrong, I don’t know the grammatical structure here

aka. giving Sanonius a tension headache

Good afternoon Sanonius o/


Quite so. When translating stuff, you gotta structure it at first, thoroughly. What is the subject in your sentence? What are predicates? And so on. So, the Goblin is hungry, but the Spirit is the one doing the defending against the goblin. What now? That’s where subordination of clauses comes into play. The spirit defends against a goblin. The goblin hungers. The spirit defends against a goblin who hungers/a hungering goblin. Know whadam sayin’?

What you’ve got here is:

The ghost, the naked man, he hungers to the hag and to the goblin to rags he would rend [implied: if he could, but he doesn’t], he stands next in a book of moons I defend.

With to nominatives, phantasma and vir nudatus (nudus would be enough) that have to be one and the same thing, because the verbs are all singular, plus an enigmatic “I defend”.

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Hmm, right…

I think I have to take a break from any complex translations and just read some grammar, seems like I need a lot more work on expressing the basic relations between things in a sentence. I’ll make the daily challenges easier.

An interesting little table about writing systems.

Script System
Sumerian / Akkadian cuneiform Logographic / syllabary / abjad
Egyptian hieroglyphs Logographic
Chinese characters Phonosemantic characters*
Japanese kana Impure** syllabary
Phoenecian alphabet Abjad
Hebrew alphabet Abjad
Arabic alphabet Abjad
Greek alphabet Alphabet
Latin alphabet Alphabet
Nagari Alphabet

(*) Because of phonetic shift, now logograms in practice
(**) Almost all writing systems are impure to some degree

The path of evolution seems to be hieroglyphs => Phoenician => All other alphabets and abjads

And, of course, Chinese characters => kana.

But the question that is most fascinating is what the connection is between the three ancient root systems of cuneiform, hieroglyphs, and Chinese characters: they all rely heavily on logograms, and they were all connected by trade roots. Did, one asks, hieroglyphs and Chinese characters evolve from – or under the influence of – cuneiform or were they invented by their native populations?

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This is a similar debate to whether spoken language is monogenetic (arising from a single source) or polygenetic (arising independently from multiple sources.) My impression is that monogenesis is more likely – if we already were speaking languages by the time we migrated out of Africa, then they must have all originated at least in that continent. And it seems to me that paleontology-archeology supports that first claim.

while in Japanese syllabary 1 symbol means 2 sounds (か ka, に ni)
in English 2 symbols often means 1 sound (th, ch, …)

and you can’t just code any sound, you have to ask with word examples
and when you see new word, you can’t be sure how it pronounced, like in Chinese
So, is English - really alphabet?

By the way, interesting fact about Japanese syllabary. There is way to cut vowel from any syllabary and add any vowel instead. Just use small size of symbol
にや - Ni Ya
にゃ - Nya
(in hiragana some pairs never used, but in katakana loanwords everything is possible)
there is also ッ symbol for double consonant, and ー for long vowel

In Russian there are some words that written not as pronounced (for unknown reason)
but its always possible to write pronunciation exactly. Our alphabet don’t need additional transcription symbols for that.
(But of course we can’t accurately represent foreign sounds. “J” is Д and Ж united, we can’t pronounce them at the same time, only one after another)

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Wait, what? It’s not like you can do this with any two characters, just a select few, even for loanwords. For example, you can’t create a “tra” or a “sta”.

I mean add any vowel to any consonant,
not any consonant to any consonant

ウィキペディア - Wikipedia

“Di” don’t exist, only Chi + "
so テ Te -> デ De is used and small i ィ -> ディ Di

Ah, ok, sure. I was confused by your examples of にゃ then, with what you meant.

Still, many Japanese will pronounce ウィキペディア as ウイキペジア anyways.

Since @bugcat did not put up a language challenge, here’s a grammar challenge.

The cook grills a steak.
The cook grilled a steak yesterday.
The cook will grill a steak tomorrow.
The steak is grilled by the cook.
The steak has been grilled by the cook.
The steak will finish grilling. (in 10 minutes, after that we can focus on plating the food)
The cook wanted to grill a steak.
The cook would have grilled a steak. (if you hadn’t had dinner yet)
The cook could grill a steak. (or he could bake an egg instead)
The cook couldn’t grill a steak. (he never learnt how)
Hey cook, grill a steak!
I saw the cook that grilled a steak. (I didn’t see the other one that boiled vegetables)
The steak grilling cook was tired.


In English you just say “The cook grilled a steak yesterday.”
or… “The cook has grilled a steak.” <- (usually implying it was very recent, immediate)

“The steak will be grilled tomorrow.”

Very informal / rude (circumstancial)

Grammatically correct, but a little vague. How do you know the other cook didn’t also cook a steak? Usually, you would be more specific; such as “I saw the cook that grilled my steak.”


This one never makes sense to me, since the steak grilling has finished, so it should be a perfect tense, right?

“The cook grilled a steak yesterday when suddenly the phone rang” → both actions are ongoing in the story
“The cook has grilled a steak yesterday, so we still have some other leftovers as well” → the action of grilling a steak has finished

How about “The steak will have been grilled by tomorrow” (it’s a huge steak that takes days to grill!)

But not ungrammatical :wink: Imagine a grumpy hungry millionaire ordering his kitchen staff to get him his dinner.

But that will unnecessarily make the sentence more complex as well

Has doesn’t depend on whether or not the action is finished. That’s mostly implied by the word yesterday unless otherwise stated. Has, being the past tense of have, has a strong sense of connection. To use it in relation to something that happened yesterday feels wrong precisely because it finished so long ago. Has is usually only used instead of another time indicator (such as yesterday), not in conjunction with it.

“The steak will finish grilling tomorrow.” It is unusual to use the past tense on an ongoing item.

This example I gave implies the process will both begin and finish tomorrow.

Correct. Just adding context.

It is only unnecessary if you know for sure that the other cook didn’t grill any steaks. Because you’re specifically differentiating between one cook from another, specific details are warranted.