How We’ve Been Wrong About Latin Word Order

Anyone who knows anything about Latin will agree that the language is SOV (Subject-Object-Verb). In more friendly terms, this means that Latin how Yoda speaks resembles it does. This common understanding is just one basic assumption that drives a lot of decisions and discussions. Yet, how certain are we that Latin is as SOV as we think…

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Sheltering Vocabulary: Caesar & Piso Fun Facts

Fun Facts:

  • Caesar’s Dē Bellō Gallicō, Liber V (i.e. just book 5, though there are 8 total) has 2900 unique words, and is 7400 total words in length.
  • All 4 current “Pisoverse” novellas combined have 233 unique words, and are 8445 total words in length.

Observations:

  • Regardless of any definition of “reading” that could possibly exist, successfully reading one of the above is an impossible task for nearly all high school students, and extremely unlikely for the remaining handful.
  • The unique word count of 108 in Pīsō Ille Poētulus—the highest of my novellas—is too high for some students to read easily. That’s with just 108 words, let alone 200, let alone 400, let alone 800, 1600, or the 2900 in Caesar.
  • Most students will fail to read anything close to this excerpt of just one ancient author (traditionally considered “easy Latin!”) that has 26x the vocabulary of a novella some students can’t yet read easily.
  • At most, high school students receive 4 years of input (5-6 if middle school Latin?). Given that some students in years 1 and 2 might not be able to read Pīsō Ille Poētulus easily, it’s clear that realistic expectations for reading are much, much lower than we think.
  • Students will be more successful reading copious amounts of Latin containing words they are familiar with.
  • Sheltering vocabulary has the greatest impact on providing contexts with more familiar words.
  • Students would benefit from reading more novellas under 100 unique words.

 

Why novellas? Read more, here.