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Understanding Language

A Guide for Beginning Students of Greek and Latin

Donald Fairbairn

Publication Year: 2011

Understanding Language includes major sections on the noun and verb systems of the classical languages.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

Tables and Figures

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

My conviction that a book comparing Greek and Latin might be useful to beginning students emerged through conversations with my Latin students at Erskine Theological Seminary in 2007–2008. Future groups of my Latin students in 2008–2009 and my Greek students in 2009–2010 were the test audiences for early drafts of the manuscript, ...

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Preface: For Teachers

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pp. xiii-xvi

It is well-known among teachers that the hardest thing about learning any foreign language is breaking out of the mental box in which people unconsciously live, a box that tells us subliminally that the way we express ideas in our own language is the best or even the only way to express those ideas. ...

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Introduction: For Students

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pp. xvii-xxiv

Greek and Latin are normally referred to as the “classical languages” because they were the languages of the two great ancient cultures—Greece and Rome—that helped to forge the modern Western world. Because of the vast impact those cultures have had on Western society, ...

Part I. Getting Started

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1. Learning a Foreign Language: The Bad News and the Good News

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pp. 3-12

Early in Thomas Hardy’s last novel, Jude the Obscure, published in 1896, the title character catches a glimpse of the great university city Christminster (which, in Hardy’s fictional world, corresponds to Oxford) and is consumed by the desire to become a scholar. ...

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2. Studying a Dead Language: Why Bother?

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pp. 13-25

When you ask why one should study Greek or Latin, you may be thinking that the only reason you are doing so is because you have to. If this is the case, then you should remember that the reason someone is making you study the language is because that someone is convinced that there is some purpose in learning it. ...

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3. The Building Blocks of Language

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pp. 26-50

During one of my creative writing classes in college, the professor started a discussion with the question, “What do writers want?” After the surprised students fumbled around a bit, the professor answered her own question by stating, “They want to be read.” ...

Part 2. Nouns and the Words That Go With Them

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4. Expressing the Relations between Nouns

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pp. 53-78

The previous chapter introduced the distinction between analytic and synthetic languages—that is, between languages that use word order and helping words to show how the main words are related, and languages that use changes in the forms of the words to convey those relations. ...

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5. Adjectives, Articles, and Pronouns

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pp. 79-100

In the previous chapter we saw that when a noun changes form (in the classical languages, it adds different suffixes or endings) to assume different cases, grammarians say that the noun is “declined.” In Greek and Latin, nouns are not the only words that decline. ...

Part 3. Verbs: The Heart of Communication

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6. What Do Verbs Do?

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pp. 103-115

My twelfth-grade English teacher was fond of telling her students that the strength of the English language lies in its verbs, and so great writing is built on the use of strong verbs, whereas poorer writing neglects its verbs and relies on piles of adjectives and adverbs to convey meaning and force. ...

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7. Finite Verb Forms: A Closer Look at Tense and Mood

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pp. 116-138

In the previous chapter, we considered five major questions that verbs answer about the event (action or state) that the clause or sentence describes. From these five questions, we eventually arrived at the grammatical categories of voice, person, number, mood, and tense.1 ...

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8. Special (Non-Finite) Verbal Forms: Infinitives and Participles

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pp. 139-152

By now it should be clear that Greek and Latin verbs present challenges to English speakers in several ways. First, it is a challenge to recognize the verb forms, since they are marked by changes within the word, rather than by the addition of helping verbs as in English. ...

Part 4. Looking at Sentences as a Whole

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9. Words, Phrases, Clauses: Putting Them Together

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pp. 155-172

Even if one is working in a highly inflected language such as Greek or Latin, sentences that express only a single thought are relatively simple. Once one learns the vocabulary words, the case endings, and the indicative verb forms, such sentences are not at all difficult to translate. ...

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10. Reading a Greek or Latin Sentence: Some Suggestions

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pp. 173-184

This book has repeatedly proceeded from function to form, but as you learn Greek or Latin you will find that your book is probably arranged on the basis of the forms you have to learn. Of course, arranging textbooks in order of forms is perfectly logical, and one might argue that there is no other way to do it. ...


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pp. 185-190

E-ISBN-13: 9780813219073
E-ISBN-10: 0813219078
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813218663
Print-ISBN-10: 0813218667

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1