Two key mechanisms of disambiguation come to mind:
Using hic (latter) and ille (former) is one way. Simple example: "A and B meet. The former eats, the latter drinks." — A et B conveniunt. Ille est, hic bibit.
The pronoun se/suus usually refers to the subject of the sentence. Simple example: "B wrote a book. A compares his own book with B's." — ...
This is the same sort of ambiguity we have with accusativum cum infinitivo construction, where both actors are put into accusative:
Reor canem hominem momordisse.
In this case, the free word order of Latin gains further constraints (the same thing happened with Vulgar, as the old case system degraded over the First Millennium).
Particularly, in ...
There is a small difference between the people and the tree:
Indicating long vowels with a bar and short ones with a cup as usual, the masculine word is pŏpŭlŭs and the feminine one pōpŭlŭs.
Long vowels are indicated in many dictionaries, whereas short vowels are indicated by a lack of macron (the bar).
The two readings would be distinct in Latin, because the ablative used by itself (without a preposition) generally cannot indicate accompaniment -- you need cum for that -- but does indicate means or instrument. So something like Pulsa agnum cum flore can only mean "Hit the lamb which has the flower", while Pulsa agnum flore can only mean "Hit the lamb using ...
As a first point, you are certainly not the first person to recognize this. I found a delightful little poem composed in the 19th century by a certain Piré that uses this same word-play:
Omnia Vincit Amor
Omnia vincit amor; non est hoc simplice sensu
Verum; cura duplex nascitur inde tibi:
Vincere scit telis, roseis vincire catenis;
Spevak 2010 writes that the most frequent pattern is Subject Predicative.Noun sum (in Cicero, it's 57%), as opposed to Predicative.Noun Subject sum (3%).
However, since other orderings are possible (see the table below), and
there is no special way to mark the difference between the subject and predicative noun in Latin (both are in Nominativus), context ...
Yep, it's called the reflexive adjective, suus, -a, -um. It declines like an adjective and goes with the noun it's modifying.
Marcus reads a book. Marcus librum legit.
Marcus reads his [i.e. someone else's] book. Marcus eius librum legit.
Marcus reads his own book. Marcus suum librum legit.
For the full set of rules on reflexives, see Allen &...
The direct object of an active sentence is typically in accusative, an indirect one in dative.
An object in an active sentence is never nominative.
The verb esse (to be) is active but does not take an object.
When you say that something is something, aliquid aliquid est, both nouns are in nominative.
Marcus dux est. (Marcus is the leader.)
The word solus is a little ambiguous.
While it has been discussed before (here and here), the topic is certainly not exhausted.
I can think of several translations of sola fide:
By means of the only faith
Only by means of (a) faith
By means of (a/the) lonely faith
For comparison, observe the effect of articles in the following, all of which could ...
It is worth pointing out that native speakers of Latin were well aware of the ambiguity referred to by Joonas in his question (directional/locative prefix IN- vs. negative prefix IN-). For example, consider the ambiguity of invocatus ('called upon' and 'not called upon') that is comically exploited by Plautus in the following text (Pl. Capt. 1, 69ff.):
I actually just spent a week with a bunch of living Latinists one of whom was named Faber, so I can say that with context there's no question.
However, "Faber" was not at all a Roman name, and I sort of feel like if you were transported back in time and said this, it would be like introducing yourself today to somebody as Ablacksmith. "Hi, I'm Ablacksmith." ...
TKR has it exactly right:
Cumque magister Sella, sic enim magister vocabatur, a discipulo quereret, quid cappa illa et littere sibi vellent, respondit....
And when Master Sella (that was the master's name) asked of the student, what the cape and letters meant, he [the student] responded....
Two idioms are used here:
quaerere a(b) aliquo:...
You are right that there will be the occasional ambiguity. But there are several ways in which the ambiguity is normally resolved.
The ablative without a preposition is not normally used with a person.
A deo data = given by a god
In deo inventum = found in a god
Cum deo perire = to perish with a god
Deo data = given to a god (in all ...
Grammatically it should be the first—homo and intraturus enclose mundi, and therefore the genitive belongs to them. This is a very common way of showing relationships between dependent words.
However, if it is true that Linnaeus meant the latter, then I'd offer that this isn't the best Latin. The A1B2A2B1 structure doesn't feel like proper Latin.
This sort ...
The second translation is indeed superior.
This is mostly based on context: theatrum mundi makes more sense than homo mundi.
Judging by word order alone suggests that mundi modifies homo, so word order is not enough to convey the difference between your two interpretations.
Grammar allows both interpretations, and grammar alone is not enough to decide which ...
Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.1162
caesia Palladium, nervosa et lignea dorcas,
parvula, pumilio, chariton mia, tota merum sal,
magna atque inmanis cataplexis plenaque honoris.
If sāl were masculine here, it would be modified by merus.
Other citations are mentioned in L&S, but I have not been able to find copies of the texts.
In fact, in classic authors sal is often neuter, like in sal comune and sal populare (Cato); sal coctum (Col.); sal nitrum (Plin.) but also masculine, e.g. in sal fossilis, sal marinus, sal culinaris. Most important, it is masculine when used in the sense of wit, e.g. urbani sales (Cic.).
I'll give you a partial answer, but I'm not a fluent reader yet, so others will be better able to say.
If the structure is complex enough that I have to "work it out," then it's sort of moot. But, as I've grown more experienced, the complexity of sentences I've been able to "just read" has slowly increased. And when I'm "just reading," it seems I'm able to ...
.1. If 'with' is translated by a participle instead of instrumental ablative,
Incŭte agnum florem tenens (You with the flower hit the lamb)
'tenens' in the vocative to agree with the subject, "Incŭte agnum, o mi amice florem tenens."
Incŭte agnem florem tenentem (Hit the lamb-with-the-flower)
'tenentem' agreeing with agnum,' accusative.
.2. with ...
What you mention is technically known as "homonymy", and it was theoretically observed and practically used by the ancients. There are different types and many examples can be given: Cicero plays with the homonymy of the proper name Verres (the corrupt governor of Sicily whom Cicero attacked in the Verrines) and the noun uerres 'male-pig'. As for the ...
I'm inclined to agree that participles are a likely source, as you suggest.
An example that springs to mind is innatus. As the perfect participle of innascor it means 'having been born in', etc. A little surprisingly, as that of innato it would mean something like 'having been floated upon' (perhaps, for instance, hydrargyrum innatum est ferro, though I can'...
Let me make some remarks on what you say above: "Imagine you want to say something like "from us to you [plural]" (where "from" indicates ablative and "to" dative). Since the order is usually uninformative in Latin, nobis vobis is not precise enough. Would something like a nobis vobis be enough?".
As pointed out by Joonas, context is important here. For ...
I'd probably translate them, in the order you have them, as
Dædalus solus volare didicit.
Dædalus volare incomitate didicit.
Dædalus volare nullo magistro didicit.
(Actually for the third I'd probably use Dædalus se volare docuit, but that's not really an answer to your question.)
This sentence depends a bit on context. Nothing grammatically precludes Orgetorix from being the subject of occuparet, but if he were then the sua in ciuitate sua would have to refer to Orgeterix, too. Orgetorix would be saying to Casticus, "Since you father was king of your clan, you should come be king of my clan."
habuerit is in the perfect tense because ...
The example that comes most immediately to my mind is invisus.
As the perfect passive participle of the verb invideo, it means 'looked at askance' (i.e., looked upon, but in a bad way), and it's regularly used, by extension, as an adjective meaning 'hateful' or 'unpopular.' Use of this adjective/participle is very common.
As the negative of perfect passive ...
I agree with the other answers: though ambiguity sometimes is inevitable, the ablative wouldn't be used alone in this context. Here is an example from Plautus that almost exactly parallels your case (with some previous lines added for context):
Gel. [...] Quid igitur me volt?
Croc. Tritici modios decem rogare, opinor [te volt].
Gel. Mene, ut ab sese ...
I like Wtrmute's suggestions, but I want to add one thing.
You can also consider dropping the object.
You can clarify it in another clause.
Quando cisorium et pergamenum certant, cisorium vincit.
When scissors and paper compete, the scissors win.
Of course you can refer to cisorium as illud (pergamenum being hoc), but in this case I think ...
I would add that persuadeo often takes a dative and ut (or ne) + subjunctive. "I persuade the dative to do (or not do) the subjunctive." Since Castico is in the dative right behind persuadet and occuparet follows later nicely filling out the period, the pattern matches perfectly and so it's hard not interpret this as a straight-up indirect command, with ...
My suggestion is this: Scribens discis.
While this is most naturally translated as "you write and you learn" or "you learn when you write", you could also parse it as "you learn as a writer".
The last interpretation is a bit of a far fetch, but I think this is closest to the desired ambiguity Latin can take you.
For comparison, I would translate "you learn ...
There are at least three ways of creating the sort of ambuguity you describe.
You can use a broader word for 'learn.' A Latin phrase such as perago scribere,
creates the same ambiguity as 'I am involved in writing,' Per ago can mean 'I am working hard at,' or 'I'm very skillful at,' or even 'I've had enough of.' A nominative participle '...