Friday, October 30, 2009


No Hunting Around

Thanks to Mike Salter, who writes in an email:
Your post "Take it as it comes" reminded me of a 19th-century educational polemic I once read by a certain Professor Hale on the importance of reading Latin in the "given" word order. It's available on the net in full I think - if you google "art of reading latin hale" you can probably find it. An interesting read, and I tend to agree with him...I try to inculcate this in my 21st century students as well, once they've reached a certain level!
The reference is to William Gardner Hale, The Art of Reading Latin: How to Teach It (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1887), from which the following excerpts come:

Pp. 16-17:
After my little jest about the Romans hunting up first the subject and then the predicate as Cicero talked to them, or first the predicate and then the subject, whichever one thinks the Roman method may have been, I assure them that "what we have to do is to learn to understand a Roman sentence precisely as a Roman understood it as he heard it or read it, say in an oration, for example. Now the Roman heard, or read, first the first word, then the second, then the third, and so on, through sentence after sentence, to the end of the oration, with no turning back, with no hunting around. And in doing this he so was guided all the time, by indications of one kind or another in some way strown through each sentence, that, when the last word of that sentence had been spoken or read, the whole of the meaning had reached his mind."
P. 31, n. 1:
At the meeting of the Philological Association at Ithaca last summer, Professor Gildersleeve, in the course of some remarks upon the reading of Greek and Latin, expressed himself with great severity in regard to the habitual way of doing the thing, and suggested that it would be desirable, in order to force students to accept the order of the original, to require them to read through a hole in a piece of paper, or with a notched card.
Cf. Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, "A Novice of 1850," Johns Hopkins Alumni Magazine 1 (1912) 3-9, rpt. in Ward W. Briggs Jr., ed. Soldier and Scholar: Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve and the Civil War (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998), pp. 66-74 (at 73):
I have in all my teachings laid stress on the appeal to the ear rather than to the eye; and when the eye is used, the student must be trained to follow the order of the original, which is the order of the ear. The analytical method—subject, predicate, modifier and the like—is fatal to any true mastery of the language.

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