28 votes
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A story of a king who wanted to simplify Latin grammar

It sounds like you're talking about this incident involving the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund at the Council of Constance in 1414: …A similar anecdote is told of the German Emperor Sigismund. When ...
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  • 14.8k
19 votes
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What was a language for the Romans?

The Greeks were keenly aware of dialectal differences, and long before the Romans came on the scene, the Greeks had already categorized their dialects into three or four common groups: Ionic (with ...
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  • 41.1k
16 votes
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Numbering of persons

This numbering goes back to Greek grammarians. Here is the Τέχνη Γραμματική (Art of Grammar) ascribed to Dionysius Thrax: πρώσοπα τρία, πρῶτον, δεύτερον, τρίτον· πρῶτον μὲν ἀφ᾽ οὗ ὁ λόγος, δεύτερον ...
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15 votes
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What did the Romans consider the "basic" form of a verb?

First person singular (laudo) appears to be most common Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 BC) wrote De Lingua Latina, which survives in partial, corrupted form, but which provides valuable testimony on ...
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14 votes
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Did grammarians consider the adverbial -e a case ending?

In a recent paper (included in The Latin of the Grammarians), I have made the point that Latin grammarians, unlike their Greek predecessors, did not expressly stress the uninflectional nature of ...
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11 votes
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Does 'verbum' mean both word and verb?

The OLD provides several examples of verba meaning "verb" (as opposed to vocabulum or nomen, "noun." Aside from two instances in Varro: Hor.Ars 235; nec a ~is modo, sed ab nominibus quoque deriuata ...
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10 votes

Did the Romans confuse a long vowel with two short ones?

Well, there is some fairly simple evidence that a sequence of two identical short vowels could in some cases be treated as equivalent to a single long vowel, namely that the former can contract into ...
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9 votes
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Why do we call a case a casus? And why rectus, obliquus?

Here's a short answer so far - no one knows. Brandenburg 2013 writes that "In non-technical contexts, ptôsis refers among other things to the ‘falling of dice’ (Pl. Resp. 10,604c6; Aristot. Eth. ...
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9 votes
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Origin of "animabus illis"

The ...abus dative/ablative plural is a rare feature of the first declension that can in exceptional cases be traced back at least to classical Latin. For example, you will find Cicero saying (Pro C. ...
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8 votes

Did grammarians consider the adverbial -e a case ending?

As far as I can see, the Roman grammarians did not consider the adverbial -e to be a case ending. On the other hand, from the standpoint of historical linguistics most Latin adverbs are indeed ...
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8 votes
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When did the grammarians first recognize a question?

In the history of linguistics, Protagoras (5th century BCE) is assumed to be the first scholar ever who classified sentences into sentence types. Naturally, we don't have any textual evidence except ...
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8 votes
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What did the Romans misunderstand about Latin?

These are some areas where Roman grammarians' views of Latin differed from ours (it doesn't necessarily mean that they were wrong and we're right). Under my first heading, I describe an area of ...
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7 votes
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How do we know where the Roman prose stress was?

W. Sidney Allen in Vox Latina says that various grammarians such as Quintilian stated the rules quite unambiguously (although he also writes that "there is some controversy about the nature of the ...
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  • 4,558
7 votes

Speech errors in Ancient Rome

I'm not sure hypercorrection is what you're looking for, but if not, have a look at Petronius' Satyricon. The work poked fun at a few of the nouveau riche (Trimalchio is chiefly lampooned), including ...
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6 votes

Why do we call a case a casus? And why rectus, obliquus?

It appears that you are correct that a casus is seen as a kind of metaphor for a noun "falling into place." Maurus Servius Honoratus (4-5th century AD) has an important quote that makes two ...
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6 votes
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Why is the supine called "supine"?

Supine means flat on your back, lying down, It is the final 'oblique' form; it is the extremely inflected (leaning) part of the Verb and is usually in the last column of the principal parts, In later ...
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  • 8,457
6 votes

Why is the first person singular the citation form?

Let me try to approach this from a slightly different angle: What would work as a citation form? A good citation form would be such that you could deduce all other forms (from the present stem) from ...
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5 votes
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Subjunctive mood in comparison

(First of all, here's how I'm interpreting the text: comment if this is significantly different from yours.) nihil in natura clarius quam quod unumquodque ens sub aliquo attributo debeat concipi ...
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5 votes

Speech errors in Ancient Rome

I've never come across any kind of systematic study of speech errors, but what might be called the locus classicus for this kind of thing is the well-known Catullus LXXXIV, in which the poet mocks ...
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5 votes
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Is there a Latin equivalent to ἐπίκοινος?

Priscian would probably have called it genus promiscuum or genus epicoenum: Diomedes adds: “Latini promiscuum vel subcommune vocant”
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5 votes

Why is the first person singular the citation form?

For practical reasons, I imagine the index form is often (but not always) given in the first-person since it comes first in the principal parts and is usually the first in a paradigm memorized. There ...
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  • 41.1k
5 votes
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What is wanting in Gildersleeve's declension charts?

It seems to mean simply "no ending". That is, at least in some situations you don't have to add anything to the stem to form the given case. This only happens in the singular; the plural ...
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4 votes

Can aliquis function as an adjective?

I disagree with LaFeeVerte, and would like to posit that aliquis can function as an adjective. A quote from one of my favorite sources, Bennett's Latin Grammar: Aliquis may be used adjectively, ...
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4 votes

Agreement and possessive genitive

You decline the main noun and keep the genetive of the other noun. A relationship by marriage is: affinitas. A relationship by marriage with a very good man is: affinitas viri optimi. I congratulate ...
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4 votes

Why is the first person singular the citation form?

This isn't a full answer, but brianpck provides some interesting evidence for how the Romans thought of verbs, in his answer to a related question. From Varro's De Lingua Latina VI.5.37: Primigenia ...
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3 votes

Can aliquis function as an adjective?

Generally, the answer is no. The adjective 'aliqui, aliquae, aliquod' should be used instead. That being said, however, Virgil (Aeneid, book II, line 48) seems to use 'aliquis' as an adjective, ...
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3 votes

Timeline of classic grammarians

You can compose your own from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Grammarians_of_Latin but it is as you say a bit indigestible even in chronological sequence: Antonius Rufus (grammarian)...
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3 votes
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History of grammatical term "Clause"

Certainly the concept of subordination existed in antiquity; the Greek grammarians used ὑποβάλλω or ὑποτάττω to mean "to subordinate syntactically", and derived from this the term ὑποτακτικόν "...
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  • 28.5k
3 votes

Should one use the singular or plural when the number is unknown?

This is a matter of choice of the author, no escape. However, I would suggest to refer to a plural audience, like a true Latin orator, like Cicero, who looked at the crowd of the Senatus with respect ...
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