“Classically Attested” & “Latinity”: The Latest Buzz

**Updated 5.19.18** I forgot about this post until a comment came through just now. Was I really not using http://latin.packhum.org in 2016?!?! Sure enough, Perseus is utterly unhelpful, still showing no hits even when “different forms” is checked or if they are there, it’s not in Latin, and it’s buried deep within the pages. Packhum, however, has 60 hits, instantly. 60?!?! There I was this fine night in 2016 thinking I had to defend myself for using “magis placet,” yet look at all those beautiful instances right there! Anyway, the particular phrase, then, is a proxy for any phrase we actually DON’T have. I’m not editing this post.

Teacher-written reading material for Novice & Intermediate language learners is not new, at least for modern languages. TPRS Publishing and TPRS Books frequently add more to their roster, so teachers have their choice of topic. 2015 saw the publication of the first two of these novellas in Latin, [self-]published by Pomegranate Beginnings (i.e. Pluto & Itinera Petri). Since then, there has been a wide range of reception amongst Latin teachers (or Classicists, or Linguists, or Scholars, etc.). The general consensus regarding the positive reception has been something like  “this is helping our students feel successful and have a positive experience in Latin class. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it.” Regarding the negative reception, most of it revolves around two buzzwords:

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Bad Latin: Inaccurate? Too Simple?

I’m intrigued whenever there’s mention of “bad Latin.” Honestly, I’ve never experienced it, even from my students! I was curious whether a similar phenomenon exists for a modern language, so I asked my wife if she’s ever referred to any Spanish she’s read as “bad.” Although she couldn’t recall a particular case, indeed there seemed to be two situations in which she might say this; if something is inaccurate, or too simple.

As for the latter, for something to be labeled “too simple” you must correctly identify the target audience’s level. People who refer to “bad Latin” are overestimating the audience level. This should come as no shock since realistic goals are not Classicists’ strong suit. Furthermore, we know that reading below one’s level can be enjoyable, and instills confidence. Our students need both of these.

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