Saturday, 19 May 2012

Latin Lesson: Regina Caeli and nouns...

For your test this week, have a look at the Regina Caeli (below), and identify all the verbs.  Work out why they have the endings they have (infinitive, imperative, 1st, 2nd or 3rd person etc). 
The ending you haven’t met previously is -xit. You should be able to work out the person and tense of that from the context. 

Oh, and notice the subjunctives!

 Leave questions in the comms box.   

Then learn the Regina Caeli and its collect by heart (in Latin) if you don’t already know them.

Regina Caeli

Regina caeli, laetare, Alleluia,
O Queen of heaven, rejoice, Alleluia,

Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia,
For He whom thou didst merit to bear, Alleluia,

Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia,  
Has risen as He said, Alleluia,

Ora pro nobis Deum, Alleluia. 
Pray for us to God, Alleluia.

Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, Alleluia, 
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, Alleluia,

Quia surrexit Dominus vere, Alleluia.  
For He is risen, the Lord, truly, Alleluia.

Oremus:  Deus qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi,  
Let us pray: O God, who by the resurrection of thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ

mundum laetificare dignatus es: praesta, quaesumus, 
to the world to rejoice has granted: grant, we ask,

ut per eius Genetricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuae capiamus gaudia vitae.  
that by his Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may be led to the joys of eternal life.

Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.   
By the same Christ our Lord,


Divinum auxilium maneat semper nobiscum.
May the divine assistance remain always with us.

Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen. 
May the souls of the faithful, by the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

A few vocabulary notes:  

Regina - queen (hence regal, etc)
Gaudia - joy (hence gaudy, especially in its meaning of a joyful evening (Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night for example)
Perpetuae - perpetual, eternal

The rest you should recognise, or should be easy to deduce from context.

So let’s look at nouns.
We have seen several different endings,  and that relates to the fact that nouns in Latin decline: that is, their endings change to indicate the part they are playing in a sentence.

We have some remnants of this in English, most obviously in our personal pronouns:  consider I, me, my, mine; and he, him, his, or she, her, hers, for example.

In Latin there are 6 cases (as they are called), in each of the singular and the plural.

Now wrap a wet towel around your head.  You may need to read through this a couple of times, but once you have grasped this (and the bit about verbs from last week’s lesson) you have got the basics that will help you have a good crack at de-coding Liturgical Latin.

There is a convention that the six cases in Latin are always listed in this order:

1 The Nominative: This is used for the subject of the verb: the thing or person who undertakes the action. 
eg: The man kicks the dog. The man is the subject of the verb, and in Latin that would be expressed by putting the noun ‘man’ in the nominative case. (In English we indicate that mainly by word order: but notice that pronouns like I and he decline. Thus we know to say I kick the dog and He kicks the dog not * Me kick the dog or *Mine kick the dog etc nor *Him kick the dog or *His kick the dog.)
NB where I use an example that is deliberately incorrect, I will preface it with an asterisk *

2 The Vocative: This is used when someone or something is being addressed.
eg Oh Moon, how beautiful you are. The moon is being addressed: in Latin, that is expressed by putting the noun ‘moon’ in the vocative case. (In English we generally express that by prefacing the noun with ‘O’ or simply by context and word order.)

3 The Accusative: This is used for the direct object of the verb: the thing or person to whom something is done. 
eg: The man kicks the dog. The dog is the object of the verb, and in Latin that would be expressed by putting the noun ‘dog’ in the accusative case. (In English we indicate that mainly by word order: but again, note that pronouns like I and he decline. Thus we know to say The dog bites me and The dog bites him, not * The dog bites I or *The dog bites he.)

4 The Genitive: This is used to indicate possession.
eg The woman’s husband was hen-pecked (which could equally be expressed: The husband of the woman was hen-pecked).
Here the woman is the possessor of the hen-pecked husband.  In Latin, that would be expressed by putting the noun ‘woman’ in the genitive case. (You may have realised that the -’s in English is often a genitive declension: the woman’s husband, the boy’s dog, the girl’s stiletto.  We also have a plural genitive, often expressed as -s’ the womens’ husbands; the boys’ dog; the girls’ stiletto)

5 The Dative: This is used to indicate the indirect object of transitive verbs of giving, showing or speaking.  (eg someone to whom something is given, shown or said)
eg: The boy gave the stiletto to the girl.
Here the girl is the receiver, and in Latin this would be expressed by putting the noun ‘girl’ in the dative case.  (In English we often indicate this by use of the word ‘to’ before the noun).

6 The Ablative: This is the most complex case to explain.  I learned it as ‘by, with or from.’ 
Eg I was given this by the man; I went there with the man; I parted from the man.
In each of these examples, Latin would put the noun for man in the ablative case to express the concepts of by, with, or from respectively.

This is a somewhat simplified introduction to cases, but I think will do for now.  We may comment further as we come across other examples of how cases are used.

So let us now consider some examples we have already come across:

1 Nominative: Dominus tecum - The Lord (is) with you; Quia surrexit Dominus vere - for the Lord is risen indeed.

2 Vocative:  Regina caeli - O Queen of heaven; Deus, qui per... O God, who by...

3 Accusative: Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie - Give us this day our daily bread (nb ‘us’ is the indirect object and is thus in the dative case - nobis)

4 Genitive: Regina caeli - O Queen of heaven

5 Dative: Ora pro nobis Deum - pray for us to God

(UPDATE: See Adrian Furse's comment in the comms box!)

6 Ablative: libera nos a malo - deliver us from evil; sicut in caelo et in terra - on earth as it is in heaven

Now this is where it gets complicated... (as if it wasn’t already).

There are five groups (or ‘declensions’) of noun in Latin, with their own patterns of endings.

When citing a noun (eg for the purposes of learning to decline it) it is usual to give both the nominative singular and the genitive singular.  That is sufficient to show anyone (who knows their Latin) how the noun will decline.

Thus one would talk about the noun regina, reginae (f).  The (f) indicates that it is a feminine noun.

So let us take that as an example, and look at how it declines.  For the record, this is a regular first declension noun (and first declension nouns are nearly all feminine, with a few exceptions: nouns of occupation, such as agricola, (farmer) and poeta (poet))

First declension

              Singular      Plural
Nom:    regina         reginae
Voc:     regina         reginae              
Acc:     reginam      reginas
Gen:     reginae       reginarum
Dat:     reginae        reginis
Abl:     regina         reginis

Second declension

A regular second declension noun we have come across is dominus, domini (m) lord, or master
              Singular     Plural
Nom:    dominus     domini
Voc:     domine       domini
Acc:     dominum    dominos
Gen:     domini       dominorum
Dat:      domino      dominis
Abl:      domino     dominis

Third declension

A regular third declension noun we have come across is debitor, debitoris (m) a debtor
                Singular       Plural
Nom :      debitor        debitores
Voc :      debitor         debitores
Acc :      debitorem    debitores
Gen :      debitoris      debitorum
Dat :      debitori        debitoribus
Abl :      debitore       debitoribus

That feels like plenty for today.  We will look at more nouns later, if anyone is interested.


Idle Rambler said...

Great post. I mean it :-) Thanks for the explanation of the 'Ablative' case. That's the only one that's new to me(although I had heard the term before) and your simple description is very helpful.

Now to get cracking and try and absorb all this information. Not quite so easy!

Adrian Furse said...

A slight correction:

Ora pro nobis Deum Ora - imperative, Deum acc. object lit. pray God
pro + abl. for/on behalf of (in this case) for us