Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Question For Evan

It's been years since I've even looked at Oerberg's Lingua Latina (per se illustrata), so I hope I didn't embarrass myself through declension-rust. The dative of "coitus" is "coito," right? As in, Jill filed for divorce after she caught Jack in coito with El Cid, her dead grandmother's Mexican hairless.


At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If memory serves, "coitus" is actually a fourth-declension noun, and as such the dative is "coitui." But this is a moot point, because "in" takes the ablative. So you are actually looking for "coitu."

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Finnegan said...

4th...then why do we say coitus interruptus?

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Evan said...

Yes, it's fourth declension (or, as the pros would say, a U-stem), so coitu. Most fourth declension nouns are masculine (domus is feminine and there are a tiny handful of neuters, like genu and cornu), so coitus interruptus is right. But, for example, loqui de coitu interrupto, "to talk about c.i.".

At 4:54 PM, Blogger Evan said...

Wait, are you looking for the dative or the ablative? The dative is coitui and the ablative coitu. In takes the ablative, though, so only in coitu is correct. (True Latin prepositions never take the dative, although in your defense, ἐν in Greek takes the dative.)

At 1:44 AM, Blogger Finnegan said...

Got it. Here's the relevant passage in Oerberg:

Magister: Da praepositiones casus accusativi!
Discipulus: Ad, apud, ...[skipping ahead]
M: Da praepositiones casus ablativi!
D: A, ab, ... [skipping]
M: Da utriusque casus praepositiones!
D: In, sub, super.

What messed me up, I think, is that in German and Old English, the last two inflected languages I've studied (excluding Old Persian which I've just started), "in" is a two-way preposition that would take the dative in this case.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Evan said...

Right. How interested are you in this subject? The problem, if it is a problem, is that the case system in Latin is a bit fucked up and perverse, and actually does not make a great deal of idealistically logical sense. There were originally eight cases in Proto-Indo-European and Latin shows at least traces of seven (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative, vocative, and locative). The eighth, the instrumental, merged with the ablative. So did the locative in all but a few archaic remnants. This was not a happy marriage. The core, underlying function of the ablative is motion-away-from (from the perfect participle of affero), so you can see how this is not a real great fit with a preposition that indicates stasis.

In most other I-E languages that underwent case syncretism, the instrumental and locative ended up landing in the dative case, whose ur-function is referential, which makes a hell of a lot more sense, as you rightly note. In Greek you have a really elegant situation where prepositions indicating static motion take a noun in the dative, those indicating motion-toward take the accusative, as generally in Latin and German and so forth, and those indicating motion-away-from take the genitive, with which the ablative merged at an earlier period (which makes very tidy sense, the core competence of the genitive is source or origin). (The trouble with this obviously comes when you have prepositions that don't actually mean anything to do with motion at all, when the connections with the cases get a little more abstract, especially since almost all Greek prepositions, though curiously not ἐν, are two-or three-way, but nevermind all that.)

Anyway, this is actually not the weirdest thing that can be said about Latin grammar, which for whatever reason has been held up for the last two thousand years as the apotheosis of logic and order and reasonableness, usually by reactionaries who don't know any better, but it's a definite high point. (For my own part, I think Latin is all the more beguiling for being utterly wacked but that is perhaps a minority view.)

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Evan said...

P.S. Old Persian?


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