14 votes
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Does Latin have a mechanism to disambiguate possessive pronouns of the same gender referring to distinct persons?

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 ...
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12 votes
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Nominative-accusative ambiguity

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 ...
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11 votes

Wordplay with "Vox Populi" (populus, m vs. populus, f)

There is a small difference between the people and the tree: vowel length. Indicating long vowels with a bar and short ones with a cup as usual, the masculine word is pŏpŭlŭs and ...
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11 votes
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Omnia vincit amor: vincere or vincire?

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 ...
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10 votes
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Hit the lamb with the flower

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 ...
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10 votes
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What word order resolves the ambiguity of two nominative nouns in a sentence?

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 (...
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Who asked whom about the cape of parchment? And who answered?

TKR has it exactly right: Cumque magister Sella, sic enim magister vocabatur, a discipulo quereret, quid cappa illa et littere sibi vellent, respondit.... Translation: And when Master Sella (...
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9 votes

Does Latin have a mechanism to disambiguate possessive pronouns of the same gender referring to distinct persons?

Yep, it's called the reflexive adjective, suus, -a, -um. It declines like an adjective and goes with the noun it's modifying. Examples: Marcus reads a book. Marcus librum legit. Marcus reads his [i....
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9 votes

What word order resolves the ambiguity of two nominative nouns in a sentence?

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 ...
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How "sōlā fidē" means what it is supposed to mean

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 ...
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Can 'in-' mean both 'in' and 'no'?

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, ...
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8 votes
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Ambiguitas casus genitivi?

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, ...
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Ambiguitas casus genitivi?

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 ...
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Does "Sum faber" necessarily mean "I am a craftsman," or can it mean "My name is Faber"?

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 ...
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8 votes

Is sal ever neuter?

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. ...
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Is sal ever neuter?

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 ...
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8 votes
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"Aurea prima sata est aetas" - is there ambiguity here?

None of the first 5 words in your passage is in the ablative case. As you note, scanning the line will reveal this fact. Aurea is an adjective ('golden'/'[made] of gold'), not a noun ('gold'), and ...
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Dative–ablative ambiguity

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....
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7 votes

Can one recreate the ambiguity of the (incorrect) sentence "You can learn writing." in Latin?

There are at least three ways of creating the sort of ambiguity you describe. .1. Polysemy: You can use a broader word for 'learn.' A Latin phrase such as perago scribere, creates the same ambiguity ...
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7 votes

Hit the lamb with the flower

.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, "...
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7 votes

Can 'in-' mean both 'in' and 'no'?

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 ...
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6 votes

Victorum: victus or victor

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 ...
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6 votes

Nominative-accusative ambiguity

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. For example: Quando cisorium et pergamenum certant, ...
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6 votes

Is the unmarked 1st-declension ablative in writing ever jarring or confusing?

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 ...
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6 votes

Disambiguation of "nobis vobis" and "nobis nobis"

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 ...
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What does Valerius Maximus mean in the line “eoque ictu origo et principium fortioris tragoediae extinctum est.”?

You should note that your text and the Loeb don't match up. Shackleton Bailey's (i.e. the Loeb's) text reads perfectioris, and Kempf (in the Teubner and reproduced on Perseus) opts for fortioris, &...
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5 votes

Can one recreate the ambiguity of the (incorrect) sentence "You can learn writing." in Latin?

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 ...
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5 votes

Nominative-accusative ambiguity

In Institutio oratoria book 7, chapter 9, Quintilian comments on the ambiguity that arises in many accusative plus infinitive constructions. His example is the famous "Aio te, Aeacida, Romanos uincere ...
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5 votes
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Ambiguities in De Bello Gallico 1.3.3

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....
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5 votes

Ambiguity of "sōlus"

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 ...
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