'Lectoribus S.P.D.' is an online magazine published by The Latinum Institute

A Learning Methodology for Latin

by Evan der Millner

There are things that a student of a new language should take note of - to get really good, fast, you need to immerse yourself in the language. There is no other method that will get you to fluency with speed. The secret is TIME. LOTS OF IT, all devoted to listening to the language you are trying to learn.

You can go a certain distance by focusing on grammar, but my suggestion is to go light on the grammar, only learning a little of it at a time. Spread your grammar learning over a period of months.



by Evan der Millner

November 2012

An early 'modern method' teacher, called Jean Manesca, appears to have written the first fully developed modern language course in the early 1820's - designed for French; he was keen to see it adopted for the classics, and actively promoted the idea. His "Oral system of teaching Living Languages Illustrated by a Practical Course of Lessons in the French through the medium of English" was entered at the library of Congress in 1834.


Certainly, read a grammar text to get an overview. Start making an effort to learn verb forms and the declensions, but don't kill yourself with the effort. You will learn the verb forms through exposure, through listening. That being said, there are methods one can use to commit the verb tables and declension tables to memory with relative ease, using artificial memory techniques.

If you are learning to read, you need to be able to recognise structures, not reproduce them. The level of detailed grammatical knowledge needed to do this is much less than that needed to produce the language. Most Latin courses 'over-teach' the grammar.

Get your head out of a book, and spend your time listening. Listen. Listen more. Read as well. Use the Adler textbook, and the audio lessons, and learn the lessons. Try to generate speech (it will be really hard for the first year or two, then it will click into place). Take your Latin to the gym. Go for long walks, and do your heart a favour. Walk somewhere quieter - where you can happily mumble to yourself, and repeat what you hear, aloud. Do it in the busy City streets - no-one will pay attention anyway. Do this, in order to etch the patterns of the language into your very being.

You may possibly find it useful to engage in the following activities to be successful quickly using this course material.

  1. Writing and transcription of the Latin in each chapter: Read each Latin sentence aloud. Write it down very slowly and neatly, repeating each word aloud as you do this. Read the completed sentence out loud a second time. Each sentence is, as a result, said 3 times, and written once.

  2. Listening to the chapter's grammar section, both before and after you have done this.

  3. Reading and listening to recorded books in Latin.

  4. Grammatical study and practice.

  5. Memorising declensions and vocabulary using the method of loci (see below).

  6. Shadowing = listening to the recorded material and repeating it out loud as soon as you hear it - speaking 'over the voice' you are listening to. Doing this while walking or moving about is good. It will be hard to do in the beginning.

Also, focus on learning vocabulary, even more than you focus on grammar, especially in the beginning. Gaining a large vocabulary, quickly, will boost your confidence enormously. You can listen to the vocab files on Latinum. Listen to them regularly. Building up your vocabulary is about 80% of the job. You will be surprised how many words you learn by listening to the vocabulary recordings. These also give you the correct quantity, (vowel length) from the word go. This is important, as when you eventually read proper Latin texts, the vowel quantities are not marked. If you ever get really good, and want to write sonorous prose, or poetry, having correct quantity is a huge advantage. It also means that you will be able to pick up a Latin or Renaissance author, and read his or her poetry without much effort.

Also useful for learning vocabulary and declension tables is the 'Memory Palace' system:

A Memory Palace for Latin

Using the Method of Loci to Memorise the Verb Table and Vocabulary.

The use of mnemonics can help speed up the learning of various elements of Latin Grammar. Methods like this were used successfully by Roman Orators, and studying how to apply mnemonics formed an important part of the curriculum, as one of the tools needed for rhetoric. The method comes down to us through a work in Latin by an unknown author. The piece, called Rhetorica ad Herennium, is estimated to have been written around 85 BC, though it is unlikely that it was original with this author. The author of this textbook of rhetoric examines each of the five parts of rhetoric, including as the fourth part memoria in which he explains the method of loci. It is the only complete source from the classical world to survive, although there are brief references to the method by others, including Cicero and Quintilian, the chief teachers of rhetoric in the ancient and medieval worlds, and later in the Renaissance.

NOTE - not everyone can 'see' images in their mind's eye - I can't - at least - not clearly, yet the system can still work well for me. I can remember the shape and texture of objects very clearly, so, instead of 'visualising' them in the boxes, I imagine running my hands over them to feel them - very odd it is indeed, running my hand over an imaginary eyeball with an arm growing out of it - but I can then 'see' - for want of a better word, the object very clearly. I don't really 'see' it, but I know exactly what shape it has, and where it is. So the method of loci is still a powerful system for me, even though I can't imagine pictures clearly and consistently. If you have an auditory memory, you could do the same thing, but with sound.

read more....

In his introduction, on pg xix, Manesca writes:-

" If I have not spoken of the advantages that may be derived from the present mode of teaching applied to dead languages, it is not because I entertain the smallest doubt of its efficacy in that particular; for, on the contrary, I am confident that many years of toilsome, tedious, and almost fruitless labours, would be saved by the adoption of such a method for these languages. A well disposed young man, between eighteen and twenty, well versed in the principles of his mother tongue, would, in twelve months, acquire a sufficient knowledge of Latin or Greek for all the purposes of life. Such a consideration well deserves the attention of the few scholars competent for a task which would prove so beneficial to the present and future generation of collegiate students. The present modes of teaching the dead languages are sadly defective. It is high time that a rational, uniform method should be adopted."

Shortly afterwards, Henri Ollendorff adopted Manesca's methodology, and produced the famous series of books using the 'Ollendorff' method, which follow Manesca extremely closely. I had revived Manesca's course, which I was using together with Ollendorff's French textbook, as it was well suited to podcasting.

Mypodcast.com went bankrupt in January 2012, and closed its servers. I have since then re-issued some lessons from Manesca on my YouTube channel (Evan1965)

As I sit here, I hold in my hands a copy of the "Nouvelle methode pour apprendre, a lire, a ecrire et a parler une langue en six mois, appliquee au Latin" - by H G Ollendorff, written in the 1840's. Adler's American edition, which I am using to produce the Adler Latin Course, was an extensive revision of Ollendorff's first attempt - Adler includes the grammar; Ollendorff's French text is extremely light on the grammar, and is almost entirely intuitive. Learning is based on practice alone, not theory. Adler's textbook book has 600 pages of very fine print, with copious exercises. Adler also expanded the Latin text, resulting a much higher quality textbook, with much more elegant Latin, and a wider variety of examples based on the historical classic sources.

Adler's text, being an Ollendorff, is inferior to the method originally devised by Manesca. Ollendorff picked up the outline of the method from a student of Manesca's, called Mr Albert Brisbane,who visited France from the USA, and engaged Mr Ollendorff to teach him, using the method he had outlined in manuscript from his previous lessons with Mr Manesca. Ollendorff never fully grasped the structure of Manesca's system, and to my mind Ollendorffian textbooks are defective. It is this that lead me to embark on writing my Serial and Oral Latin Course. Currently an edition is available on my website with the first 200 lessons, including a workbook, in pdf format.

Adler's 'Practical Grammar' is a direct translation into Latin of an Ollendorff text. Adler did not make up any of the material, or the sequence of material, he simply translated the text into Latin, and added a parallel Latin syntax.

The French-Latin Ollendorff was, as far as I can ascertain, the first textbook written in modern times aimed at teaching Latin as a spoken language, using 'modern' methods - I don't think Manesca's method was ever translated directly into Latin or Greek, although it did appear in a Spanish edition written by Carlos Rabadan.

Albert Brisbane's Biography, where he describes in some detail his private classes with Manesca, says that he studied Latin using the same method,but it is unclear who taught him. Perhaps Ollendorff did? If Manesca ever wrote up any Latin exercises, I would be very keen to obtain them - perhaps they only survive in manuscript among his papers. The Ollendorff version went through several editions, and was quite popular for private pupils, but it was never taken up by schools for teaching Latin.

Adler's American edition seems to have suffered the same fate, and copies of it are very hard to come by. Only ten or so printed copies of his textbook still exist in national library collections worldwide.

So, when people discuss teaching Latin as a spoken language, using modern teaching methods that involve speaking Latin in the classroom, it should be realised that this methodology has a long pedigree, it isn't the new fangled and dangerous thing that some Latin teachers seem to think it is.

The Tonal Accent in Latin

by Evan der Millner

W.S. Allen, in his “Vox Latina”, dismisses the idea that Latin had a pitch accent, despite the description of this accent in great detail by a number of Roman grammarians writing prior to the fourth century AD. Allen states that the accent is “a minor detail of the Greek”. This would be like saying that the musical accent of Italian was “ a minor detail of Italian”. In fact, the survival of the pitch accent, albeit in modified form, in Italian, and the survival of tonality in the five main Romance languages descended from Latin. provides evidence that educated Romans adopted it into their Latin.

Why Study Latin?

by Evan der Millner

"Today, every laptop with an internet connection contains more information than the Great Library of Alexandria. At its peak, that library contained 700,000 books, until the Christian Emperor Theodosius I ordered it burned down; today, Google Books has over seven million – and that's before you count everything else online. In 1941, Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story imagining a "total library" containing all written information. Seventy years later, it exists." Johann Hari, The Guardian, 8 December 2009.


W.S. Allen, in his “Vox Latina”, dismisses the idea that Latin had a pitch accent, despite the description of this accent in great detail by a number of Roman grammarians writing prior to the fourth century AD. Allen states that the accent is “a minor detail of the Greek”. This would be like saying that the musical accent of Italian was “ a minor detail of Italian”. In fact, the survival of the pitch accent, albeit in modified form, in Italian, and the survival of tonality in the five main Romance languages descended from Latin. provides evidence that educated Romans adopted it into their Latin. Cicero himself speaks of the musicality of Latin, likening Spoken Latin to a form of singing. Further evidence exists in the adoption of the tonal accent into Hebrew recitation. Indeed, the Jews adopted the Greek system, including the method for manually marking the tones. (Manuum variis motibus altitudinem, depressionem, flexus vocis significabant) Talmudic texts were published with accents for this tonal singing, until well into the mediaeval period. This accent has similarities to the Greek accent , and probably developed in imitation of the Greek recitation of the Laws to a chanted tune.

Edgar H. Sturtevant, "The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin" University of Chicago Press, 1920, gives a much more developed analysis of the accent than Allen does, and he reaches the opposite conclusion. In paragraph 214 of The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin, Sturtevant sets forth the summary of his argument:

"214. The evidence compels us to conclude that in the period of the classical and post-classical literature the Latin accent involved both stress and high pitch upon the same syllables. For stress we have abundant evidence also for both the pre-classical and the latest periods; but we learn directly of the Latin pitch only for the period from about 100 B.C. to about 300 A.D. It is probable, however, that it existed both earlier and later. In fact, it is not unlikely that the considerable element of pitch in the modern Italian accent is a direct inheritance from Latin."

Bennett, along with David (see below), both of whom I regard as authoritative on this matter, come down in favour of the "Greek" accent. Herman and Wright in “Vulgar Latin” also hold the view that the accent in Classical times was a tone accent (pg 36).

One major plank of the argument regarding Classical Latin and tone versus stress, (Vulgar Latin, J Herman) is defeated by Hungarian, which “has a very strong stress accent involving intensity, while at the same time a whole operating system of vowels based on distinctions in length”.

In other words, a clear strong stress accent and a vowel system based on phonological length distinctions are not ipso facto incompatible. Yet one hears this recited again and again by Classicists, educated linguists and laymen alike, so often has this notion been repeated, that is has taken on authority simply by dint of repetition. I am not sure with which linguists this canard arose – for canard it surely is. There is no empirical scientific evidence for this opinion, only evidence that weighs against. Indeed, as Bennett notes, no human language has either an exclusive tonal accent or an exclusive loud-soft or stress accent. Some languages lean more towards the stress accent than the tonal accent, and others vice versa but the only human speech that would be devoid of tonal variations would be a totally monotone language, which, as far as one may suppose, does not exist, except in the minds of some misguided Latinists.

Classical Latin had both a stress accent, with tonal differentiation, and vowel length distinctions. Earlier Roman Grammarians assert quite explicitly that Latin used a tonal accent, similar to the Greek, and only from the fourth century onward to Roman grammarians talk about relative loudness, as opposed to pitch. (pg 36 Vulgar Latin, J. Herman & R. Wright, 2000, Penn State Press.)

The question of the nature of the Classical Latin accent was initially argued for cogently in English by Abbott, in his paper “The Accent in Vulgar and Formal Latin” (Classical Philology, II ppp 444 ff). Abbott held the view that the accent of the common people continued to be one of stress, but educated Romans developed an accent in which pitch predominated. This view is reasonable enough, when we consider to what extent Roman literature is based on the Greek. Also, educated Romans spoke Greek, with its pitch accent. This view is also supported by R.G. Kent ( Transactions of the American Philological Association, LI, pp19 ff), and Turner (Classical Review, 1912, pp147 ff).

Kent writes “In the middle of the second century BC the Greek teachers of the Roman youth set a fashion of speaking Latin with a pitch accent, for as Greeks they kept this peculiarity of their mother tongue when they learned Latin. From that time on, Latin was spoken with a pitch accent by the highly educated class, while the general populace retained the stress accent” (quoted on pg 55 of “Accentual Change and Language Contact” J. Salmons, 1992, Routledge.

Another recent study in support of the Pitch accent, is “The Non-European and Semitic Languages”, Saul Levin, SUNY Press, pg 236 ff

“ The ancient grammarians say clearly that the accent of Latin is either acute or circumflex, and they describe it just like Greek. In many details the distributions of acute and circumflex [between the Latin and Greek] agrees remarkably.”.

Levin continues to say “ Some in modern times have wrongly doubted, or rejected altogether, the testimony of the Roman Grammarians about accent. But since Latin literature conforms to the syllabification and vowel quantity of Greek, the literary language of Rome can hardly have failed to employ a pitch accent compatible with such versification and prose rhythm.” He then says even more emphatically, “ It will not do to dismiss the Latin pitch accent as an artificial imitation of Greek. The most classical Latin, the kind most thoroughly described in our sources, is the most thoroughly Hellenized. If Latin was ever free from Greek influence in some prehistoric time, that Latin is unknown to us, and to reconstruct it, be peeling off what we may label the literary, Hellenizing features, is a fantasy……..Admitting that there was a raised pitch does not conflict with the stress which undoubtedly was present in early Latin.”

See also the seminal work of J. Vendryes, “recherches sur l’histoire et les effets de l’intensite initiale en latin” (Paris 1902), which is quoted by Bennett.

“New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin” Andrew Sihler 1995, OUP , pg 241 also argues in favour of the pitched accent.

“ Roman Grammarians, down to the 4th C AD, describe the Latin accent in terms only appropriate for a pitch accent. Scholars have been wary as taking this as cogent, however, as not only is the terminology of Roman Grammarians taken over entire from Greek, their statements are often cribbed from Greek sources. Some scholars protest, however, that ancient authorities could hardly have thus identified Greek and Latin accent had there not been at least an appreciable element of pitch in the latter….The familiarity of educated Romans with Greek accent in both practice and theory probably would not have caused them to adopt an element of accent wholly irrelevant for their natural speech, but could have made them more aware of an existing element of pitch, and even to a studied enhancement of it – Latin with a Greek accent, if you will, in oratory or recitations of poetry”

Pulgram 1975, pg 116, quoted in “From Latin to Spanish”, Paul M Lloyd, Diane Publishing, 1987, argues that speakers of Classical Latin adopted the Greek pitch accent, and certainly made an effort to adopt it on formal occasions, if not in general speech.

“A New Theory of the Greek Accent” A.P. David, Oxford University Press, 2006 pg 76-7 is the most recent, and authoritative of the new school of scholars who promote the view that the original statements of Quintillian, etc, are accurate descriptions of Latin as it was spoken. Here is Davis' argument:

“It is also possible that Greek forms with an acute on the antepenult are a product of the reflex described in Vendryes’ Law, if the Latin penult in these words was heard to be pronounced with a circumflex.

Might there have been such a contonation in Latin? A simple synchronic picture, which accords with the traditional account, emerges if we assume a contonation. We are informed by a recent commentator that “ Roman Grammarians, down to the 4th century, describe L[atin] accent in terms appropriate only for a pitch accent” (quoting A.Sihler, see above, pg 241).

Modern scholars, however, tend to see a sort of ‘Greek envy’ in this native description and to be dismissive. But if we frame the new rule for Latin in terms of a recessive contonation, where the voice was required where possible to rise two morae before the ultima – without, in the case of this language, any stipulation as to the quantity of the ultima – the traditional stress rules for polysyllabic words in Latin automatically follow, if the combination of pitch and quantity worked in the way that I have described for Greek. A long penult, with two morae, containing the rise combined with the Latin version of the svarita, would produce a circumflex on the penult (amIcus); [circumflex on the capitalised I] while a short penult (of one mora) would cause the rise to revert back to one mora to the antepenult, producing the Latin acute with a deemphasised svarita (facilis).

In making an authoritative correction, Quintillian actually points to this recessive rule. Discussing errors in accentuation, he cites CethEgus [circumflex on the capitalised E] as properly having a flex on the penult (Institutio Oratorio 1.5):the common error was to pronounce the penult grave in this word instead of circumflex, which apparently rendered the penult short. (A circumflex requires two morae). He implies that this change in the quantity of the penult necessitates an acute first syllable (Cethegus) [with acute on the first e] – an erroneous pronunciation, but one which conforms to the proposed rule. The Latin accent was a recessive contonation, a rise and fall, where the rise occurred, wherever possible, on the second mora before the ultima.”

This is sound reasoning for dismissing W.S. Allen’s view.

As a final point, I would like to note, that one reason why one seldom hears Latin declaimed with this accent, is that one seldom hears Classical Greek spoken with it, even though there is not even a sliver of doubt that Classical Greek was spoken with a pitch accent. Current practice, however, is not necessarily a guide to good practice, and I would advocate the use of the tonal accent, for purely pedagogical reasons – it makes Latin more intelligible, and also makes clearer distinctions between stressed and unstressed, unaccented and accented syllables, and long and short vowels.



In monosyllables, vowels that are long take the circumflex, and vowels that are short take the acute.







Polysyllables take the circumflex accent when the penult is long by nature (This simply means that it has a long vowel, see above), and the final vowel is short. A circumflex can only appear over a syllable with a long vowel.

jûrĭs lûcĕ mûsă spînă

The circumflex accent is thought to have has a slight up-down tone, the acute a straightforward upwards tone. Final unaccented syllables had a slight falling tone. (This is called the grave accent, but this is not written, it is simply understood to be there.)

These accents were applied by the Romans in imitation of the Greeks, and may have been used when reciting poetry and during orations.

read more....

The implications of Google books, Europeana.eu and Archive.org , giving everyone access to the of the vast universe of literature written in Latin over the centuries, previously hidden - even, in many instances, to specialists, should be sending a shudder through your world. There are millions of these works: the task of cataloguing them has only just begun; they are unlikely to be translated out of Latin in the immediate future (although one can imagine a more distant future where machine learning is up to the task).

For once, you have an honest answer to give, an answer you can shout from the rooftops - to the perennial question, "Of what use is Latin?"

The answer lies behind your search box on google books. Type in 'haec est" and a torrent of literature will pour forth to assault you. The cultural production of two thousand years, written in Latin, unread, unknown, there for the picking and reading. Type in 'in usum' and a flood of student textbooks written in Latin on subjects as disparate as military techniques and chemistry.

What do we have? Novels - both Roman remains, and renaissance fiction - science fiction written in Latin, even! Poetry - more than you could possibly imagine:- dialogues, plays, stories and fables, philosophy, science, mathematics.....the vast bulk of the intellectual production of Europe, from Roman times, until the early 1700's, was written in Latin. The most renowned poets in renaissance Europe wrote in Latin to continental acclaim.

Due to an ever shrinking pool of readers over the course of the 20th Century, this material is nowadays largely unknown, a vast terra incognita - much of it is still largely uncatalogued. The Latin works of Milton and Addison, Buchanan and Locke, go unread. There is also a vast, unread mountain of material in manuscript, some of it only now being published for the first time.

As one blogger online remarked recently, because of the wonderful thing that is Google, having thrown open the world's libraries - "we starve amidst a banquet". Never before in history, has anyone had access to the breadth and depth of Latin literature, that you personally have access to now, at the click of a mouse. The volume of material on Google increases by the day.

We see some signs of adjustment to this shift taking place in the teaching profession - "Latin for the New Millennium" - but old habits and old ideas persist. Teachers are reverting to renaissance teaching methods, that stressed an ability to read quickly, to speak and write Latin. Philological, pedantic methods of teaching, that will not equip our students to delve into this world, persist. For these books, there are no English translations. To read this material, you need fluency and command of the language - fluency to peruse quickly, and find the gold nuggets in the dross. Fluency to simply cover ground. Even if you pick a tiny area of knowledge, you could not hope to read all the texts written on the subject in Latin.

Some scholars claim they are only interested in reading 'Classical Latin', written by the very Romans themselves. These scholars cut themselves off from the 2000 years of literary criticism and commenting on Latin texts, written in Latin. The vast bulk of scholarship on Latin original texts, is only available in Latin. Most of this material is terra incognita, and professors of Latin have not yet adjusted to the paradigm shift that must necessarily take place. Most spend their time publishing in English, French and German, and reading the work of other scholars in English, French and German. Small surprise, then, that their skills in Latin remain stunted.

For a Classicist to ignore works written in Neo-Latin that discuss the poetics of Virgil, for instance, while happily reading modern critical material in Italian or German, is surpassing strange. Yet, that is our reality - as many of these pre-modern critical texts are unknown, and have sat on bookshelves, in vast repositories, unopened for centuries. Even their titles are often unrecorded in the literature, let alone discussion of their contents.

Now, more than ever, Latin teachers, and students of Latin, need to focus on fluency and an ability to read with fluidity - to give our students the tools to enter this sacrum sacrorum loaded with the wisdom of millennia. They need to show their students this vast depository, to demonstrate the usefulness of having a skill in reading this language.

If we do not transmit our wonder and amazement at this turn of events - then we will have failed to grasp an opportunity that no generation has ever had before.

The momentousness of this change is such, that it can be compared to the shift that took place in the world of letters after the invention of printing - leading to the wide dissemination of Classical texts, and to a burst of improved standards of Latin literacy. Once the preserve of a few monks in cloisters, anyone could now own Cicero, Virgil, and use these texts to improve their Latin. The result, the Neo-Latin Renaissance, that really only took off after the invention of printing.

Now, we face another paradigm shift - for us, as readers of Latin, we were more akin to the monks, with access to only a few valued tomes - the vast production of the renaissance was unavailable to us, even to the specialist - now, the floodgates have opened.

How will you respond?

Reading Latin Poetry

London, August 2007.

On Syllables:

Poetry in Latin is quantitative. This means that it depends for its effect on the length of syllables relative to one another, and only secondarily, if at all, on actual word stress. By contrast, English poetry depends for its effect almost exclusively on word stress.

Oral Latin Mastery

20th September 2017,

I recently discovered a new textbook from the nineteenth century that was written for learning Latin orally; this is a revolutionary textbook from Prendergast's 'Mastery Series'.


There are two types of syllables in Latin, those that end in a vowel, and those that do not. A “third group” may be one or the other, depending on the need of the poet, and these either-or syllables are called ‘common’.

Those that end in a vowel are called open syllables.

Those that end in a consonant are called closed syllables.

How are such syllables formed?

The Romans, when speaking, ‘opened’ a syllable if the vowel was followed by only one consonant. This consonant was allowed to detach itself from the vowel, and join the following syllable. The result was an open syllable:

i.e. păt-er → pă -ter [1]

This also could also occur if a vowel were followed by a mute in combination with l or r (l and r belong to a class of consonants called liquids).

The mutes

V, B, P, F (labials)

G, C, K, Qu (gutturals)

D, T (linguals)

A syllable that ends in a vowel, and that has a short vowel in it, is going to be shorter than an otherwise identical syllable that ends in a consonant, by the simple virtue that it has fewer letters.

pă is shorter than păt

It is then important to pronounce the syllable with the correct vowel length. If the vowel length is wrong, then the syllable is mangled from a long to a short, and vice versa.

This would be sufficient to destroy a poetical reading, or indeed the intended sound of a passage in prose that relies for its effect on the syllabic structure of the sentence or turn of phrase.

So much for open syllables.

As mentioned above, two syllables with short vowels that differ only in that one has a consonant at the end, and the other does not, share a fundamental, and blindingly evident difference: one is physically short, and the other is, by comparison, physically long. (i.e. it has more letters, so as an object, it is longer than if it had two letters.). As a consequence, the syllable also sounds longer.

pă versus păr [2]

It is vital that the entirety of the syllable is fully pronounced. If the r on par were not pronounced distinctly, the long syllable could easily come to sound like a short one. This is a reason why readers of Restored Classical pronunciation take care to trill their r’s.

When does a syllable become long when reading Latin?

An open syllable automatically becomes long when followed by two consonants. (Except a mute + liquid, in which case this is optional.) [3]

How does it get longer?

The first of the following consonants sticks to it. The open syllable then becomes long, simply because it now has more letters in it – it is physically longer, and it must be pronounced fully.

tem/pe/←stā/ti/bus this gives us: tem/pes/tā/ti/bus

note: pe is short, and open, pes is physically longer, and closed. Because it has more letters in it, it takes longer to say.

a/spér/sus a/←spérsus as/pér/sus

This syllable is now called ‘long by position’. One way to understand this is that you have positioned an extra consonant against it, and so it has become longer.

Here are some more examples:

Before (short)

After (long by position)

s t i /←r p ĭ s

s t i r/ p ĭ s

d i s/ c é /←s s ĭ t

d i s/ c é s /s ĭ t

m ŏ/ d é /←s t ŭ s

m ŏ/ d é s/ t ŭ s

ē /d u/←c t ŭ s

ē /d ú c/ t ŭ s

Double consonants – double trouble

It is not a mere fancy when we are told that the Romans pronounced their double consonants as two distinct sounds. They did, but they did so because each letter of the double consonant ended up in its own syllable, according to the rule we have just discussed.

a/ppa/rā/bat is how we would pronounce it if we did not know any better. However, this is what happens to the double consonant pp:

a/←ppa/rā/bat which becomes ap/pa/rā/bat

When reading Latin, getting the syllabic structure correct is therefore vitally important, otherwise it is impossible to read Latin verse with any degree of authenticity. You need to nurse these habits when reading prose as well, otherwise the transition to reading verse will be a hard and arduous one.

The Third syllable type – Common Syllables.

What is a common syllable?

Common syllables only occur when a short vowel is followed by a mute + a liquid (l or r).

In the ordinary course of things, a mute+liquid behaves like two Siamese twins joined together, and functions as though it were a unit “joined at the hip”.

The poet has the option of performing an operation, and separating the two. Once they are separated, they behave like any two consonants. One of them moves, in the same way we saw above, and closes (and thereby physically lengthens) the syllable immediately in front of the two consonants. The first consonant from the separated mute-liquid moves to the syllable in front of it.

pătrem pă/trem

If tr were a NORMAL consonant cluster, we would expect the t to move to the first syllable, like this:

pă/←trem resulting in păt/rem

This rule would be the same rule as that we saw above, for a short vowel followed by two consonants, and a poet can chose to apply it to a mute + liquid combination if he wishes to.

However, because the consonant cluster is a mute-liquid combination, if he does not perform the operation on the twinned mute-liquid cluster, then things stay as they are, and this results in


How do we know which of the two the poet has chosen?

We need to read the verse aloud that contains a word with a common syllable. It should be apparent which way the poet has divided the word, depending on whether he needs the common syllable to be physically long or short to complete the rhythmic patterning of long and short syllables. Only one reading should sound right. This is a matter of developing your ear. It never will develop if you are not always careful about quantity when reading both prose and poetry.


A source of much confusion is the use of the macron andbreve to mark out syllable quantity. This may be fine for a speaker with native level fluency, (and to be frank, who speaks Latin with that level of fluency?) who has an instinctive knowledge of the true lengths of the vowels the words would have in ordinary conversation. For a modern second language Latin speaker, this system of marking the syllable long by position with a macron above its vowel spells disaster, and adds unnecessary complications.

While it is true that Latin versification depends on syllable quantity, the underlying vowel quantities of the words remain unchanged.

Syllables with short vowels are either physically long, or physically short (i.e. the number of letters in the syllable).

Syllables with long vowels, are needless to say, always long, as their vowels are long, even if the syllable is physically a short one: pā is long, and so is pāb

Such a vowel that is naturally long, is called ‘long by nature’. Even in a physically short syllable, (one that that has fewer letters) it is still long.

However, with syllables that have short vowels,

pă is ‘physically’ short, and păd is ‘physically’ long. Placing a macron above the a, pād to show it is physically long, invites the reader to mispronounce the syllable and lengthen the vowel, when it is the syllable, not the vowel, that is long. Even worse, it leads people to think that ‘long by position’ means that the vowel is lengthened. This is a not uncommon error, but it is a very serious one.

The use of the macron above the vowel of a syllable that is long by position, gives rise to much confusion, as the same notation is also used for vowel length.

It is not the case that a syllable that is long by position, i.e. one containing a short vowel that is followed by two consonants, has its vowel lengthened. Marking it with a macron only gives rise to confusion, especially in a student reader who does not have an instinctive appreciation for vowel length, but who rather relies on the macrons. Macrons should be used to mark long vowels, and long vowels only, and not be used to serve another purpose.

To avoid this difficulty, some educators have proposed a super- macron, which would be extended over the entire syllable. The vowel length notations would remaining in place below it – however, standard computer word processing software does not allow for this, and nor does html coding.


In order to keep the actual vowel quantities marked, another method needs to be found to show syllable quality that does not interfere with the true vowel markings. This method needs to make use of standard word processing tools that are also available on standard web editing packages. It also needs to be easy to apply when marking up a printed text for reading aloud, or, for that matter, for writing out with pen and ink.

A simple and elegant solution is proposed – that the macron for a long syllable should be placed underneath the entire lengthened syllable cluster, as an underline. The original vowel quantities can still remain marked in their places above the line, as per usual.

a m a v i

Marking short or light syllables might also need an intervention that will not interfere with the usual markings; However, it it not really necessary to mark the short syllables, if the long ones are marked. Should, for educational reasons, or otherwise for reasons of clarity be necessary to distinguish them in a positive manner, it is proposed that short syllables be italicised, rendering them visually light, with all the letters in the cluster being italicised. legĕrĕ

The advantages:

This system has the advantage that a syllable that is long by position will not lose its actual vowel length markings, which would be retained in the superscript:

b ô b ŭ s

c ŏ n c ĭ d o

Another advantage, is the ease with which a printed text can be marked up for recital. This system is also easy to apply using handwriting.

It could be argued that italicising the light syllables might be excessive – and indeed, is largely unnecessary if the subscript macron is used, as the correct vowel quantities are then clearly visible in their correct locations above.


In monosyllables, vowels that are long take the circumflex, and vowels that are short take the acute.







Polysyllables take the circumflex accent when the penult is long by nature (This simply means that it has a long vowel, see above), and the final vowel is short. A circumflex can only appear over a syllable with a long vowel.

rĭs spî

The circumflex accent is thought to have has a slight up-down tone, the acute a straightforward upwards tone. Final unaccented syllables had a slight falling tone. (This is called the grave accent, but this is not written, it is simply understood to be there.)

These accents were applied by the Romans in imitation of the Greeks, and may have been used when reciting poetry and during orations.

Evan der Millner


August 22 2007

[1] The resulting ‘ter’syllable on the end is closed. You’ve heard it said that the Romans trilled their r’s. They certainly sounded them one way or another, otherwise,’ter’, if pronounced with an English ‘r’, would be an open syllable as well.

Advice: Trill those r’s.

[2] While counting letters is a simple and efficient way to get the point across, it may be misleading if you look into the matter more carefully, for it begs the question: ‘Is “sti” longer than “i”, since it has more letters?’ In fact, only the vowel and what follows it is relevant. Technically speaking, the beginning part of any syllable is irrelevant for Latin syllable quantity.

[3] If we take the word, say, carmen, the proper syllabification is car-men. Then it is not the case that the first syllable is “followed by two consonants”, as it is not an open syllable. The vowel of the first syllable, for the syllable “car” is followed by only one consonant.


I decided to try out the method to see if it would work, and was highly impressed with the results - using myself as a test subject. So much so was I impressed, that I have started on the laborious task of issuing this textbook as a Latin audio course.

The exercises are steadily being uploaded.

How does Prendergast work?

Firstly, there is no explicit grammar at all; the course is a structured composition course. In this regard,it shares much with the methodology developed by Jean Manesca.

The goal of the course is to be producing accurate Latin sentences 'on the fly'; I have been very impressed with the effect the course has had on my ability to rapidly translate into Latin; for this reason alone I am persisting in my production of this course - it will be a long task, but well worthwhile.

Why is Latin Difficult?

This new study published today goes some way to explaining why Latin is difficult, and why it is considered an elite subject for top tier students. It all has to do with working memory. Latin places much greater demands on working memory than English.

The good news seems to be that speaking and working in a language like Latin, if you are successful, will improve your working memory. Latin is quite an extreme example of this, there are long periods in many classical author's prose where meaning is only clarified at the end of a very long semantic structure, requiring the listener to hold a lot of information while processing.

Teaching: An Historical Perspective

by Evan der Millner

August 2010

This topic is a very wide ranging one – and a brief essay such as this, can only hope to cover the subject giving the barest of outlines. In this essay, I will mainly concern myself with what could be called the Rudiments of language education. I will also point out that some 'new' methods such as the approach favoured by the CLC and similar modern courses, are actually not new at all.


This is another reason why Latin audio is such a powerful learning tool. It forces you to process Latin in a way that places great demands on working memory.

In other words, it makes you smarter. There are sound reasons why Latin lay at the core of a student's education for so many centuries, and why even today studying the classics opens so many doors in high powered professions, from banking to barrister training.

If you are successful at Latin, it is more or less proof you have developed your mental capacity, and having a strong working memory is a large component of what we call intelligence.

So, persevere with your audio studies. Don't give up, it takes time, many years in fact, for this facility to be worked out and developed, if you don't already speak a 'left branching' language such as Japanese.

Word order predicts a native speakers' working memory

The language we speak affects the way we process, store and retrieve information

FEBRUARY 04, 2019


Memory plays a crucial role in our lives, and several studies have already investigated how we store and retrieve information under different conditions. Typically, stimuli presented at the beginning and at the end of a list are recalled better than stimuli from the middle. But are these findings universal and generalizable across languages and cultures?

An international research team, led by Federica Amici from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, has recently investigated this question.

The research team traveled the world to run memory tests in different human cultures speaking different languages.

The group, including psychologists, linguists and biologists from five different countries, traveled across the world to run memory tests in eight different human cultures speaking different languages. "We crossed deserts and seas to reach amazing people speaking the most wonderful languages ever, from Sidaama, to Khoekhoe and Khmer", says Amici, "and know that these languages may provide them with a unique vision of the world".

The relationship between language and thought is controversial. One hypothesis is that language fosters habits of processing information that are retained even in non-linguistic domains.

Languages, for instance, vary in their branching direction. In typical right-branching (RB) languages, like Italian, the head of the sentence usually comes first, followed by a sequence of modifiers that provide additional information about the head (e.g. "the man who was sitting at the bus stop"). In contrast, in left-branching (LB) languages, like Japanese, modifiers generally precede heads (e.g. "who was sitting at the bus stop, the man"). In RB languages, speakers could process information incrementally, given that heads are presented first and modifiers rarely affect previous parsing decisions. In contrast, LB structures can be highly ambiguous until the end, because initial modifiers often acquire a clear meaning only after the head has been parsed.

Therefore, LB speakers may need to retain initial modifiers in working memory until the head is encountered to comprehend the sentence.

Schematic representation of the six memory tasks use.

By providing participants with a series of classic memory tasks, the research team could compare their performance when recalling words, numbers and spatial stimuli.

"The main finding of the study is that left-branching speakers were better at remembering initial stimuli across verbal and non-verbal working memory tasks, probably because real-time sentence comprehension heavily relies on retaining initial information in LB languages, but not in RB languages", says Alejandro Sanchéz Amaro, currently in the Department of Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego.

The main novelty of this study is that the link between language and thought might not be just confined to conceptual representations and semantic biases, but rather extend to syntax and its role in our way of processing sequential information.

The language we speak affects the way we process, store and retrieve information. The fact that branching and word order may be linked to such a fundamental cognitive process like memory opens up new exciting avenues for psycholinguistic research towards expanding the pool of languages and populations investigated.

"What about the working memory of speakers of languages with mixed branching or free word order? Would we find people who are equally good at remembering initial and final items? And maybe at remembering the items in the middle?" says Federico Rossano, from the University of California, San Diego.

With more than 7,000 languages in the world, we have a uniquely rich pool to study the relation between language and cognition. Preserving and investigating the wealth of this diversity is not only ethical, but also scientifically crucial to ultimately understand which factors shape the way we think and better comprehend the relation between language and thought.


We are fortunate in knowing rather a lot about how the Romans went about teaching their children. Rome was a bilingual society – so education always involved an element of second language teaching. For contemporary foreign language teachers, the surviving evidence is fascinating.

Most of the direct evidence we have for language teaching dates from around the end of the third century, but we have an abundance of indirect evidence as well – fragments of papyri, ostraca and wax tablets, a syllabary inscribed on a tomb wall in Egypt that had been turned into a classroom, and, the most surprising survival of all, that body of texts now known as the hermeneumata. From around the same time period, we have the elementary Latin grammar of Donatus, which was composed for Roman boys who already spoke Latin.

My discussion of Latin education will keep returning to the hermeneumata, and Donatus, whose echoes keep reverberating through the curriculum down the centuries, except for a brief hiatus during the 'philological period' of the nineteenth century.

What were the hermeneumata? They were standardised texts,used across the Empire to teach Roman boys Latin or Greek, depending on which end of the Empire they found themselves in. They appeared to serve two purposes – they acted as primers in the child's native language, and were also used to teach a second language. The texts we have are bilingual in Latin and Greek. Most of the examples come from the Western Empire. However, we can see the uniformity of these texts across the Empire, as a Greek-Latin-Coptic example survives, that is almost identical to one of the European versions. Although the earliest surviving text we can date is from September 11 207 AD, the standardised format of the manuscripts would suggest that the methodology – probably originated by Greek pedagogues - was already well established by this time.

The hermeneumata contain a number of elements – vocabulary lists for everyday life arranged by theme, vocabulary lists arranged alphabetically, simple dialogues designed to activate the vocabulary, narratives, and simplified fables.

The dialogues aim to relate to a boy's everyday life, while also inculcating the virtues of good citizenship – piety and virtue.

We know that authors such as Aphthonius especially wrote simplified versions of fables for inclusion in primary textbooks. (N. Holzberg 2002, The Ancient Fable) These, and short, often humorous dialogues and narratives, were the elementary literature used in the Roman schoolroom. (Anglo-Saxon Conversations, Gwara and Porter. 1997)

Basic education started off with the alphabet, followed by the learning of syllables – extensive tables of syllables were composed. (Bonner,1977, Education in Ancient Rome). Each consonant was in turn combined with the five vowels – ba be bi bo bu, ca ce ci co cu, and so on, through the alphabet. This practice originated, once again, with the Greeks. An excellent reconstruction of a Roman syllable table can be found in the Institutionum Grammaticarum of Aldus Pius, (MDVII, Venice) whose comprehensive table of syllables stretches over five pages – consonants in front of vowel, vowels in front of consonants, two or three consonants in front of vowels, etc.

Pius writes” Imitati autem sumus antiquos et graecos et latinos grammaticos. Discant igitur pueri quot syllabarum sint dictiones”.

The primary reader ascribed to Julius Pollux, who was tutor of Commodus, is worth looking at as an example of a Roman lesson book. Written in the late second Century, this text begins as follows: (I have interpolated Comenius' sixteenth Century take on this, to show the direct influence of the Classical model)

“Bona Fortuna, Dii Propitii!

Praeceptor, Ave! (c.f Comenius: Salve, Lector Amice!)

Quoniam volo et valde cupio loqui graece et latine, rogo te, magister, doce me. (c.f C: Quis docebit me hoc?)

Ego faciam, si me adtendas. (C: Ego, cum Deo)

Adtendo diligentur.....

Pollux then lays out his method : “Duo ergo sunt personae quae disputant, ego et tu. Tu es qui interrogas, ego respondeo. Ante omnia, lege clare, diserte”

We see the same principle operating in Donatus, whose Ars Minor is constructed as a sort of grammatical dialogue. “Verbum quid est? Pars orationis cum tempore et persona etc” (Grammatici Latini, Keil). Donatus is providing a textbook, and also the suggested outline of a lesson plan for the praeceptor.

This method of teaching continues through the Carolingian period, into the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance, when several hermeneumata texts were 'rediscovered', with so many other Classical texts. (Colloquial and Literary Latin, Dickey and Chahoud, Cambridge 2010). The influence of these texts on Erasmus, Vives and, particularly, Comenius, was immense. Parsing grammars – more detailed than Donatus, and aimed at second language speakers, had started to appear even earlier, constructed entirely on the dialogic principle – composed in a self conscious effort to imitate classroom practice in Ancient Rome. (exemplified by Priscian's famous “Partitiones duodecim versuum Aeneidos principalium”).

The Roman method of teaching was lauded by Simon Grynaeus, in a letter included in the 1536 Basil edition of Polluxes Onomasticum, which itself formed the model for Comenius' Janua, and Orbis Pictus. The influence of the Omonasticum and the ideas in Gryneaus' letter, on Comenius, are self evident. “non gravabitur praeceptor, praesentes ipsasque si potest, si non potest, pictas, sculptas, aut quomodocunque seu verbis seu gestibus expressas bene certa cum nomenclatura res, principio puerilibus oculis animisque quam diligentissime subjicere”

In the 1800's there was a move away from this Classical Roman method of teaching, to a newly invented method I would characterize as grammar-translation, with an emphasis on only using texts that were written by the Romans themselves. A Latin sentence not penned by a Roman of the Golden Age, was not Latin worthy of consideration, and no student should set their eyes on, or be corrupted by such a thing. Aesop was rejected, as were parsing grammars, dialogues, and the short narrative stories that had been the stock in trade of second language education in Latin for over 2000 years. Teaching Latin came to mean teaching grammar, and reading Latin came to mean translation. The methods that had been used since Roman times, in a more or less unbroken tradition, were largely abandoned. Aesop, who was a staple of the Roman and Renaissance primary classroom, was abandoned, depriving students of a rich source of easily digestible Latin. Dialogue went the same way. Students were thrown straight into Caesar, or some such author, as the primary text, before being rapidly exposed to Virgil, and quite advanced Classical literature. This represented a total break with the Classical tradition. In the name of 'authenticity', a new and artificial method of Latin pedagogy arose, one that bore little relationship to its Roman predecessor.

Perhaps it was felt that, as Latin was no longer required as a spoken idiom, the teaching method should change:As Comenius noted: “discendae sunt non omnes totae ad perfectionem esse, sed ad necessitatem. Nec enim est opus Graeca et Hebraica tam expedite sonare, ut vernacula, quia homines desunt cum quibus loquamur.".Comenius astutely noted , however, “Omnis lingua usu potius discatur quam praeceptis. Id est, audiendo, legendo, relegendo et transcribendo”. It did not make a practical difference if a language needed to be spoken: the teaching method should not change.

Thus we find many modern courses, with their mix of grammar, dialogue and narrative, are far closer to the Classical curriculum than anything we have seen published in over 200 years. The only thing missing from most of these courses is the extensive parsing in Latin, and use of Aesop, which provided students in ancient times extensive active language practice in L2, in a safely delimited area, and through Aesop, a much wider range of vocabulary than that encountered by a modern student of the language.

The Latinum Latin Course

This is a complete Latin course, and has over 190 hours of Latin tuition in audio. Student difficulties have been addressed and at every stage, and whenever an issue was unclear, the section was re-recorded to address the problem, and re-issued. The end result is a comprehensive Latin audio course that can be used by all students, even those who think that a difficult language like Latin cannot be studied alone. The Latin Institute's unique structured programme makes Latin self study possible and achievable.

Vocabulary Recall

If you have looked at, or decided to use Comenius' Januae Linguarum Fundamentum (In the Shadowing Catalogue) , you will see that he links words and creates networks of meaning as a vocabulary learning and memorisation tool.

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The best way to learn Latin is by using an audio course. You will learn Latin grammar, but most of the actual learning will be inductive - you will learn from the thousands of examples and lessons we have created specially for you, and as you work your way through the huge structured audio library, you will find your Latin knowledge and ability level will develop rapidly.

The Latinum Institute moved to Patreon in 2017, and since then 1,500 students have used Latinum's resources. Latinum also has a Youtube Channel with 30,000 subscribers.

The course was first released via the podcast, as user feedback was needed to develop and adjust the way the course was presented ; and the course has been re-recorded once already.

Latinum has been dealing with the thorny question of 'How to Learn Latin' efficiently and thoroughly for over a decade now, and our experience has lead to the development of a wide range of audio course materials to guide you through your study of the language.

Unlike the Cambridge Latin Course, Rosetta Stone or the Lingua Latina course of Oerberg, you will not have to spend any money of textbooks; Unlike Duolingo, the Latin Institute's course is a complete, multi-year course.

The Latinum Institute only uses out of copyright books - these are updated and modernised in audio where necessary; the end result is an economical multi-year Latin course that will help you gain actual command of this language, and become a fluent reader of it.

Latinum uses Patreon to host its files and process payments, so there is an online Latin app to learn Latin, via Patreon.

Many students who have struggled with learning Latin for years have found that Latinum has finally helped them achieve their goal. We believe we have the most developed and complete online audio Latin course available online.

The course consists of formal lessons, and a large amount of specialist immersion material.

These resources can be broken down into a variety of categories:

1. Formal Latin courses in audio. The Adler Course has additional utilities developed by our students, such as complete ANKI flashcard backs and Clozemaster exercises.

2. Introductory audio readers for beginners read in Latin-English-Latin. These also have Latin-only versions.

3. Shadowing recordings, in Latin, where you listen to the Latin, and read along in a published interlinear text, or other text that has a parallel literal English translation.

4. Reverse shadowing recordings in English, where you listen to the English, while reading along yourself in the Latin. This is an excellent method for students at a variety of levels.

5. Latin paraphrases - these are audio recordings in a simplified Latin, where ambiguities are resolved and the Latin is re-written to make it reasier for a student to access the text; these are a prelude to reading the text in the original.

6. Latin audiobooks and storybooks at a variety of levels.

7. Tar Heel Storybooks,; some are available on Youtube with audio.

8. Specialist vocabulary study audio files, such as 'Swallowing the Dictionary'.

9. Latin texts in the original form presented as audiobooks.

10. Latin texts in the vernacular - English translations of Latin texts as audiobooks.

The Latinum Institute presents its materials for ease of access in catalogues for Beginners' Latin, Beginners' Plus Latin, Intermediate Latin, Intermediate Plus Latin, and Advanced Latin.

There are separate catalogues for Hebrew, Aramaic and Ancient Greek,

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His system is far from perfect of course - but his instincts about what makes word learning easier seem to have been broadly correct.

Comenius tried many permutations - indeed, you can see evidence of this in his output - seemingly repetitive publications, where the vocabulary is arranged for learning in different ways. For example, he published two completely different versions of the Januae LatinitatisVestibulum - one is organised along the lines of semantic webs, the other is not.

His Lexicon Januale is also a semantic-web text; and was also composed as a word building tool, not as a dictionary.

However, his Januae Latinitatis Fundamentum is the most extreme of these systems; Comenius, through regular experimentation and pedagogic investigation, appears to have hit on something that has now been uncovered experimentally - quite serendipitously - through brain research on epilepsy patients in a groundbreaking study by the NIH.

The outcome of this research, published this week, is " that the more memorable words were more semantically similar, or more often linked to the meanings of other words used in the English language. This meant, that when the researchers plugged semantic similarity data into the computer model it correctly guessed which words that were memorable from patients and healthy volunteer test. In contrast, this did not happen when they used data on word frequency or concreteness. "

In other words, our brains to not find more frequently occurring words easier to recall.

That is why studying using word frequency lists is so unsatisfying - you would think logically this would be the easy route to vocabulary learning - but experience tells that it simply is not. We now know why this system does not work to make life easier. Nor are obviously 'concrete' words easier to recall than more abstract ones.

Comenius' spider-webs of words woven together into a cross fertilising matrix of meaning, appear to be ideally suited to our brains.

Comenius' goal in the Januae Latinitatis Fundamentum is to create networks of semantically linked works - and in a way, his structures appear to actually imitate the way our internal brain search engine works.

I know of no other vocabulary study resource that does this.

Coding Skills and Latin

An interesting study was published by researchers at the University of Washington in March 2 in Scientific Reports, an open-access journal from the Nature Publishing Group .

The long and short of it is that there is a stronger correlation between advanced language skills and coding ability, than between maths skills and coding ability.

Science and Latin

50% of scientific English is Latin.

A comment by Carlos Alberto de Bragança Pereira

I have read an article recently published in "Medical Express", "Writing Good English: Is scientific English a Latin Language in Disguise?"

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Things that make a language learner develop - problem solving skills, the ability to learn a new vocabulary, and syntax, and work out how the two combine to form meaning, are important in coding as well.

Chantel Prat, the Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington in the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences says, “ stereotypes of what a good programmer looks like, are centered around the idea that programming relies heavily on math abilities, and that idea is not born out in our data .”

Coding is traditionally boxed in there with mathematics and engineering, and is not thought to be connected to the humanities. But coding has its foundation in human language, after all. Programming a computer involves arranging symbols meaningfully, following rules of that programming language's syntax. It is not called a 'programming language' figuratively. Here, it is quite literal.

Ultimately, researchers found that scores from the language aptitude test were the strongest predictors of participants’ learning rate in Python. Scores from tests in numeracy and fluid reasoning were also associated with Python learning rate, but each of these factors explained less variance than language aptitude did.

Presented another way, across learning outcomes, participants’ language aptitude, fluid reasoning and working memory, and resting-state brain activity were all greater predictors of Python learning than was numeracy, which explained an average of 2% of the differences between people. Importantly, Prat also found that the same characteristics of resting-state brain data that previously explained how quickly someone would learn to speak French, also explained how quickly they would learn to code in Python.

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I would like to point out that ANOVA, the statistical treatment used to compare the incidence of Latin/Greek words in English against Portuguese texts is not appropriate for the data analyzed. The reason is very simple: the sample space of a normal distribution is the whole real set of numbers extending from −∞ to +∞. In contrast, the sample space of a proportion π extends from zero to one. Another point is that the beta distribution is symmetric only when (π = ½ - beta). The beta distribution, considered here, is one of the adequate distributions to analyze proportions. Asymmetry grows as π moves away from ½.

The author kindly provided me with the raw data allowing me to reanalyze the results within his focus. I came up with the results shown in Figure 3A which may be advantageously compared with Figure 3 of the article. Adding another technical argument and having adopted the beta distribution, I found that the log-odds, ln( (π1−π) ), are normally distributed allowing us to apply standard statistical methods. My decision was to use confidence intervals to clearly illustrate the differences between English and Portuguese on the use of Latin/Greek words.

I call the attention to the fact that the intervals for Portuguese are more asymmetric than the ones for English, which are close to 50% .

To obtain the intervals for proportions the inverse transformations were taken from log-odds to proportions. These transformations through the log-odds made the distribution of the proportions be described as Logistic-Normal, as painstakingly discussed in: Aitchison J. (2003), The Statistical Analysis of Compositional Data, Blackburn Press.

Figure 3A 99% Confidence intervals for the proportions of Latin/Greek Words. EM, ELB, and EUB: mean, Lower and Upper bounds for English. PM, PLB, and PUB: mean, Lower and Upper bounds for Portuguese. No overlap between any of the English genres. Overlap for all Portuguese genres.


MedicalExpressPrint version ISSN 2318-8111On-line version ISSN 2358-0429MedicalExpress (São Paulo, online) vol.5 São Paulo 2018 Epub Mar 12, 2018http://dx.doi.org/10.5935/medicalexpress.2018.ml.001

Writing good English: is scientific English a Latin language in disguise? Available from: http://www.medicalexpress.net.br/details/315/writing-good-english--is-scientific-english-alatin-language-in-disguise


SORGLL was a pioneer organisation in the promotion of the oral performance and study of Greek and Latin texts.

"It is generally acknowledged that the literature of the Greeks and Romans is among the most beautiful and powerful expressions of the human mind. It is also generally known that this body of literature was created with the intention of being orally performed and aurally experienced by a group of listeners, large or small, and was not intended to be read silently with the eyes alone.

The Robinsonian Method

The Robertsonian Method - an eighteenth century conversational method for learning Latin.

I stumbled on a new Latin textbook I had never seen before, today, on Google Books. It is called The Robertsonian Method , published in 1845, based on an original work by a Mr Robertson, resident in Paris.

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The element of sound is therefore fundamental to a full aesthetic experience and understanding of Greek and Latin literature. And yet, the traditional method of teaching Greek and Latin ignores or neglects the sounds of these languages, as if they were of little or no importance, thus depriving students of the basic literary reward of hearing and reproducing beautiful poetry.

It is as if students were to study Mozart solely from musical scores and not be given the opportunity of hearing his music.

It is the aim or our Society to encourage students and teachers to listen to and to reproduce the sounds of Greek and Latin literature, thereby enriching the whole study process of these languages. Fortunately, linguistic and metrical research of the last century now permits us to acquire a close approximation of the pronunciation of classical Greek and Latin, a result which we call the "restored pronunciation"

. Our Society feels that it is our professional duty to use the results of this research in our teaching of Greek and Latin as a means for achieving maximum authenticity and aesthetic pleasure in the reading of Greek and Latin literary works.

As a means toward this end, our Society presents programs oriented to the oral performance of Classical literature at the annual APA meetings, we publish a newsletter, we have established this website to present pertinent information, audio clips, queries and discussion, while several members or our Society regularly give recitals of Greek and Latin literature in schools, colleges and universities throughout the country."

Stephen Daitz

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This is a development of the Jacotot Method, and was originally designed for learning French. It was adapted for Latin, while keeping the modern language teaching methodology, by Alexander H. Monteith ; Monteith also authored versions in French, Spanish, German and Italian, and was furthermore the author of an English version of Ahn's Latin and Greek textbooks.

The textbook begins by offering a short passage, which is then analysed in great detail, followed by a natural language question-answer sequence based on the text, in the form of a dialogue.

The method works as follows: The text is given, along with an interlinear translation. A pronunciation guide is provided, but this is of antiquarian interest only, as it provides a detailed pronunciation scheme for the nearly extinct native English pronunciation of Latin, as used in England for centuries until it was superseded by restored classical pronunciation in the mid 1900s.

Following this, the text is provided in two columns, and the student is asked to engage in double translation.

Page five begins the section which would have been highly controversial in 1845 - Latin conversation. A century prior, and this would have not seemed out of place, as until the mid 1700s Latin was still in regular use by lecturers in universities across Europe. The jingoism that accompanied nationalism, and the rise of the nation state had not yet pushed internationalist Latin into the dustbin of history.

Montheith writes " Latin cannot, in the present day, be deemed a colloquial language." He then continues and says, " but an exercise in conversation may nevertheless serve a variety of useful purposes."

What are these purposes? Monteith enumerates them as follows:

  • Impressing words already known upon the memory

  • Vocabulary in context is better learned than from a vocabulary list.

  • Words can be presented in various aspects and combinations, expanding knowledge of construction.

  • It illustrates the use of the language in practice.

Here is an example of the scripted conversation. No translation is provided, as by this stage the student will have encountered all the vocabulary used while studying the short text, upon which these comprehension questions are based.

Question: Quis thesaurum invenit?

Answer: Quidam viatores.

Q. Quot viatores?

A. Tres.

Q. Quid invenerunt?

A. Thesaurum quendam.

and so on, until the full content of the short text that has been learned has been covered in detail.

Sleep Learning

Learn while you sleep!

Read this new research, it will give you another route to study using Latinum's audio resources.

Learning new vocabulary during deep sleep

Researchers of the University of Bern, Switzerland, showed that we can acquire the vocabulary of a new language during distinct phases of slow-wave sleep and that the sleep-learned vocabulary could be retrieved unconsciously following waking. Memory formation appeared to be mediated by the same brain structures that also mediate wake vocabulary learning.

Physical Exercise

Physical Exercise and Learning Ability

One major benefit of a self contained audio course, such as the one I developed, that can effectively be used by a blind or partially sighted person, is that you can learn while away from a desk, while cycling, or going for a long walk.


Sleeping time is sometimes considered unproductive time. This raises the question whether the time spent asleep could be used more productively – e.g. for learning a new language? To date sleep research focused on the stabilization and strengthening (consolidation) of memories that had been formed during preceding wakefulness. However, learning during sleep has rarely been examined. There is considerable evidence for wake-learned information undergoing a recapitulation by replay in the sleeping brain. The replay during sleep strengthens the still fragile memory traces und embeds the newly acquired information in the preexisting store of knowledge.

If re-play during sleep improves the storage of wake-learned information, then first-play – i.e., the initial processing of new information – should also be feasible during sleep, potentially carving out a memory trace that lasts into wakefulness. This was the research question of Katharina Henke, Marc Züst und Simon Ruch of the Institute of Psychology and of the Interfaculty Research Cooperation “Decoding Sleep” at the University of Bern, Switzerland. These investigators now showed for the first time that new foreign words and their translation words could be associated during a midday nap with associations stored into wakefulness. Following waking, participants could reactivate the sleep-formed associations to access word meanings when represented with the formerly sleep-played foreign words. The hippocampus, a brain structure essential for wake associative learning, also supported the retrieval of sleep-formed associations. The results of this experiment are published open access in the scientific journal “Current Biology”.

The brain cells’ active states are central for sleep-learning

The research group of Katharina Henke examined whether a sleeping person is able to form new semantic associations between played foreign words and translation words during the brain cells’ active states, the so-called “Up-states”. When we reach deep sleep stages, our brain cells progressively coordinate their activity. During deep sleep, the brain cells are commonly active for a brief period of time before they jointly enter into a state of brief inactivity. The active state is called “Up-state” and the inactive state “Down-state”. The two states alternate about every half-second.

Semantic associations between sleep-played words of an artificial language and their German translations words were only encoded and stored, if the second word of a pair was repeatedly (2, 3 or 4 times) played during an Up-state. E.g., when a sleeping person heard the word pairs “tofer = key” and “guga = elephant”, then after waking they were able to categorize with a better-than-chance accuracy whether the sleep-played foreign words denominated something large (“Guga”) or small (“Tofer”). “It was interesting that language areas of the brain and the hippocampus – the brain’s essential memory hub – were activated during the wake retrieval of sleep-learned vocabulary because these brain structures normally mediate wake learning of new vocabulary”, says Marc Züst, co-first-author of this paper. “These brain structures appear to mediate memory formation independently of the prevailing state of consciousness – unconscious during deep sleep, conscious during wakefulness”.

Memory formation does not require consciousness

Besides its practical relevance, this new evidence for sleep-learning challenges current theories of sleep and theories of memory. The notion of sleep as an encapsulated mental state, in which we are detached from the physical environment is no longer tenable. “We could disprove that sophisticated learning be impossible during deep sleep”, says Simon Ruch, co-first-author. The current results underscore a new theoretical notion of the relationship between memory and consciousness that Katharina Henke published in 2010 (Nature Reviews Neuroscience). “In how far and with what consequences deep sleep can be utilized for the acquisition of new information will be a topic of research in upcoming years”, says Katharina Henke.

Decoding sleep

The research group of Katharina Henke is part of the Interfaculty Research Cooperation “Decoding Sleep: From Neurons to Health & Mind” (IRC). Decoding Sleep is a large, interdisciplinary research project that is financed by the University of Bern, Switzerland. Thirteen research groups in medicine, biology, psychology, and informatics are part of the IRC. The aim of these research groups is to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in sleep, consciousness, and cognition.

The reported study was carried out in collaboration with Roland Wiest who is affiliated with the Support Center for Advanced Neuroimaging (SCAN) at the Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Neuroradiology, Inselspital, University of Bern.

Both research groups also belong to the BENESCO consortium, which consists of 22 interdisciplinary research groups specialized in sleep medicine, epilepsy and research on altered states of consciousness.

read more....

These two activities are complementary, as many studies, such as the one quoted below that was published on 30 January, show a clear link between exercise and thought processing.

I know from many of my patrons that they use the audio resources while moving about, or doing household chores, etc.

Studying at a desk is useful, but getting up and out the house has many benefits. So put on your headphones, and head outside for fresh air, exercise, brain health and Latin study.

It also puts the traditional emphasis on sport at the top private schools into a framework; it has long been known that schoolchildren benefit from vigorous exercise, but state schools do not usually provide as much exercise time, or have invested in sports facilities.

Here is the press release:


MINNEAPOLIS – Regular aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling or climbing stairs may improve thinking skills not only in older people but in young people as well, according to a study published in the January 30, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study also found that the positive effect of exercise on thinking skills may increase as people age. The specific set of thinking skills that improved with exercise is called executive function.

Executive function is a person’s ability to regulate their own behavior, pay attention, organize and achieve goals. “As people age, there can be a decline in thinking skills, however our study shows that getting regular exercise may help slow or even prevent such decline,” said study author Yaakov Stern, PhD, of Columbia University in New York, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

“We found that all participants who exercised not only showed improvements in executive function but also increased the thickness in an area of the outer layer of their brain.”

The study involved 132 people between the ages of 20 and 67 who did not smoke or have dementia but who also did not exercise at the start of the study and were determined to have below average fitness levels.

Participants were randomly assigned to six months of either aerobic exercise or stretching and toning four times a week. The two groups were equally balanced for age, sex, education as well as memory and thinking skills at the start of the study.

All participants either exercised or stretched and toned at a fitness center and checked in weekly with coaches monitoring their progress. They all wore heart rate monitors as well.

Participants’ thinking and memory skills were evaluated at the start of the study as well as at three months and at the end of the six-month study. Participants in the exercise group chose from aerobic activities including walking on a treadmill, cycling on a stationary bike or using an elliptical machine.

They ramped up their activity during the first month, then during the remainder of the six-month study they trained at 75 percent of their maximum heart rate. People in the stretching and toning group did exercises to promote flexibility and core strength.

Researchers measured participants’ aerobic capacity using a cycling machine called an ergometer that estimates exercise intensity. Participants also ad MRI brain scans at the start and end of the study.

Researchers found that aerobic exercise increased thinking skills.

From the beginning of the study to the end, those who did aerobic exercise improved their overall scores on executive function tests by 0.50 points, which was a statistically significant difference from those who did stretching and toning, who improved by 0.25 points.

At age 40, the improvement in thinking skills was 0.228 standard deviation units higher in those who exercised compared to those who did stretching and toning and at age 60, it was 0.596 standard deviation units higher.

“Since a difference of 0.5 standard deviations is equivalent to 20 years of age-related difference in performance on these tests, the people who exercised were testing as if they were about 10 years younger at age 40 and about 20 years younger at age 60,” Stern said.

He added, “Since thinking skills at the start of the study were poorer for participants who were older, our findings suggest that aerobic exercise is more likely to improve age-related declines in thinking skills rather than improve performance in those without a decline.”

Researchers also found an increase in the thickness of the outer layer of the brain in the left frontal area in all those who exercised, suggesting that aerobic exercise contributes to brain fitness at all ages. “Our research confirms that exercise can be beneficial to adults of any age,” said Stern.

Overall, researchers did not find a link between exercise and improved memory skills. However, those with the genetic marker for dementia, the APOE ?4 allele, showed less improvement in thinking skills. A limitation of the study is the small number of participants. Larger studies over longer periods of time may allow researchers to see other effects in thinking and memory skills. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Language Methodologies

There are three main language teaching methodologies: the best known is the Grammar-Translation Method (where you translate from one language to another). A typical textbook using this method is Wheelock's. The Reading Method (based around studying texts) is found in the Cambridge Latin Course, and methods such as the Hamiltonian Method. Comprehensible Input is the least well known method ( This is a natural language method, where the Latin language is taught using only itself; this is mainly a conversational method, but can also be a reading method), as found in LLPSI.

The course materials here at Latinum use all three of these methods: The Latinum Institute Course is designed as a self contained Latin course,

However, if you are currently using a different course, Latinum can be a useful supplement. If you are complete beginner you will benefit from being exposed to all three approaches. Some language teachers hold very strong views about these different teaching methods - I am more relaxed - whatever works for you, you should use. A mix of the different methods might yield the best results overall. Certainly, different people learn in different ways, and here at Latinum since 2006 an armoury of tools of many different types to help you learn Latin has been assembled.

Latinum's Adler course is presented as a Comprehensible Input course, but also has a grammar-translation component.

There are extensive reading exercises presented in audio at varying levels of ability, mostly using the Hamiltonian System, and pure Comprehensible Input style lessons in the Cursus Linguae Latinae, and Serial and Oral Method, and the new series Lingua Latina 'Facilis Intellectu' that I am building, which use only Latin to teach Latin.

These resources all complement each other, and will help you progress steadily with your studies.

Evan der Millner (Molendinarius)

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Hoadley's Accidence

In 1683, Samuel Hoadly wrote the preface to a Latin Accidence in question and answer format. This was a Latin grammar written for very young students, and so the English used in it is very clear and concise, despite the age of the text.

Nouns are introduced thematically, in the style of Comenius - and his influence is quite clear throughout this text. Of particular interest is that words are given with their opposites - which is always a useful teaching technique. Not many Latin textbooks do this.

Syllable quantities are indicated with a macron where needed.

Here is an example of how semantic webs are constructed in this textbook: Mechandize [sic] is dear, car-us, or cheap vili-is, the Price is aequ-us reasonable or unreasonable iniqu-us Business is, etc possessions are, etc and good are etc and so on.

Interestingly, - and this makes this a very singular textbook for learning Latin - the declensions are only introduced in Chapter 16. More simple things are introduced first.

The section on the vocative is extensive, with a large number of examples of names presented- once again, more than I have seen before in any Latin textbook, which are usually full of rules, and not rich with an abundance of examples.

I believe this text would convert very well into an audio book for revision and study.

Prendergast's Mastery Series

Thomas Prendergast was born in 1806, and passed away in 1886. While in the Indian Civil Service, where he served as a judge, he taught himself Telugu and Hindustani, developing his Mastery Method in order to do this. Prendergast returned to England, having problems with his eyesight, leading to blindness, and formalised the system he had developed to teach himself while he was in India.

I think Prendergast's system is very good - but would be better used after a more gentle introduction into the language; some other course should have been studied first - either Adler, or Wheelock, or even LLPSI.

A beginner could certainly use Prendergast with success, but it would require discipline, and steely determination.

Prendergast makes sure you know your Latin - there is no fooling yourself that you have ability, when you find yourself unable to translate rapidly into Latin, unthinkingly.

‘Some say that we must think in a foreign language before we can speak it well … But it is not by thinking in a language, but by not thinking in it, that children speak it idiomatically and fluently’ (1868, pp. 233-4).

Unthinkingly is the key word here, and this is what Prendergast is aiming at - as he says, to paraphrase him, the goal is not to know a language so that you can think in it, but to know a language so well that you don't think in it, you just know it.

Studying a language is not acquiring it’ (1864, p. 200).

The system is a variant of the method first developed by Jean Manesca - the Serial and Oral method - and bears many similarities.


The main difference is that Prendergast has his students learning long, complex sentences from the very beginning, while limiting vocabulary to the most commonly used words. He did not think a student should be fooled into thinking that one language was simply a mirror image of another, with different vocabulary.

Like Manesca, he limits vocabulary; unlike Manesca, he focuses on structure and complex syntax. He was also one of the first language publishers to examine word frequency information, and apply this systematically to the construction of his course.

For Latin in particular, his focus on long, complex constructions is a very good thing - as this is where students fall down. Prendergast confronts the bogeyman in the cupboard from lesson one. Prendergast 'takes no prisoners'.

Prendergast's courses were immensely successful, and he published textbooks for French, German, Spanish, Latin, and Hebrew. His influence on subsequent language teachers and methodologies is deep and wide ranging.


Prendergast 's oral method, however, requires a teacher - it is not one that - at the time he wrote it - was useful for self-study without any instruction. Moreover, his textbooks are teacher's manuals, and they require an intensive effort on the part of the teacher. This is clearly a commercial defect - as no course designed this way, even if it is excellent, could succeed in the real world. This indeed proved to be the case in the long term, and without access to modern recording equipment the course proved impractical to teach.


What Prendergast clearly needed was audio recording equipment, and the ability to produce and disseminate such a pre-recorded audio course. This is where the Latinum Institute has stepped in, and produced the course that Prendergast would have wanted, had this technology existed in Victorian times.

Both Manesca and Prendergast wrote courses that were tailor made for recording. Indeed, there is a lot in common between the serial and oral methodology, and that found in a modern variations such as the Pimsleur methodology.

Prendergast said his method required frequent study - at least six very short sessions a day, lasting around 10 minutes each, at least for the first two weeks. After this, the sessions can become longer and less frequent.

As Prendergast observed, the memory works better in short bursts, spread out over the course of the day. Applications of study should be short, but highly concentrated.

‘To reproduce sentences verbatim, is to speak idiomatically; and therefore the genuine colloquial knowledge of a language is attained by repeated efforts of the memory, not by vigorous exertions of the reasoning faculties’. (1864, p.48)

Lewis Caroll (He of Alice in Wonderland) owned copies of Prendergast's textbooks, and judging by the large number of handwritten notes in the volumes in his library, made use of them to teach himself French.

The Prendergast Method is designed to be entirely oral - the student was not allowed to have sight of the textbook. Words are only learned in context in this method, they are never presented as isolated units.

Idiomatic phrases that resist grammatical analysis are introduced right from the beginning.

‘Illiterate people and children acquire the power of speaking the most difficult languages with fluency, by learning a very few practical sentences, and by ringing the changes on them’ (1864, p. 209).

The vocabulary is limited; Prendergast undertook a statistical analysis of language, and arrived at a list of the most common words in use - these form the core of his exercises.

Regarding formal grammar, Prendergast was clear that grammatical analysis should only be engaged in after completion of the course - or, if a student were particularly anxious about not knowing any grammar, after the first 100 lessons.


‘Although no one has ventured to maintain that the words “language” and “grammar” are synonymous, there prevails the notion that a knowledge of grammar is equivalent to a knowledge of the language to which it relates’ (1868, pp. 78-79).

It is quite possible to become fluent in Latin without ever knowing what a noun or a verb is, and knowing and being able to rattle off declension tables and verb tables is not the same as knowing Latin. The key test is, can you string a decent sentence together?

‘When a man has committed to memory a few well selected sentences, each containing different constructions, and has acquired the power of putting them together in all their variations, one rapid perusal of the grammar will suffice to convince him that he is already in possession of the whole syntax of the language’ (1864, pp. 209-210).