Is Old Latin a better option for revival than Classical Latin?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

When discussing revival of Latin, the subject usually centers around whether Classical Latin or Medieval (Church) Latin would be best. One option rarely (if ever) discussed though is the option of choosing Old Latin, that used before 75 B.C and yet with quite a large corpus thanks to writers like Plautus. The interesting thing about Old Latin is that the older forms of words usually end up being more aesthetically pleasing and/or clear than those from Classical Latin. For example rēx (king) which becomes rēgis in CL is simply rēgs and then rēges in OL, no switching from x to g. One also finds o in place of u much of the time (sum --> som, campus --> campos), thus resembling modern Romance languages a bit more.

Declension is the most interesting part however, as the genitive, dative and ablative seem to be particularly clear. Students of Classical Latin are always having to play around with vowel length in order to distinguish one from the other, whereas Old Latin more often makes a clear distinction with consonants at the end. Classical Latin pullae could either mean of the girl, to the girl, or girls. But in Old Latin we have puellās for of the girl, puellāi for to the girl, and puellāī for girls. The distinction isn't quite so striking in other declensions yet they still end up being a bit clearer; campō in Classical Latin could be either dative or ablative, whereas in Old Latin campō is dative whereas campōd is ablative.

Old Latin does have a large number of alternate forms, but if we are treating it as a revived language then it should be no problem to simply choose the easiest and clearest form (modern users may prefer campe as the plural of campos for example as it is easy to pronounce and doesn't conflict with any other declensions) and then go with that.

Here are some words for comparison. Old Latin is on the left, Classical Latin on the right.


Classical puella, -ae, Old puellā, –āī
girl, maiden f.





Singular
Plural

Singular
Plural
Nominative
puellā puellāī
puella
puellae
Genitive
puell-ās/-āī/-ais puell-om/-āsōm
puellae
puellārum
Dative
puellāi
puell-eis/-abos
puellae
puellīs
Accusative
puellam
puellās

puellam
puellās
Ablative
puellād
puell-eis/-abos
puellā
puellīs

Classical campus, -ī, Old campos, –ī
field, plain m.




Singular
Plural

Singular
Plural
Nominative
campos camp-oe/-e/-ei/-ī
/-ēs/-eis/-īs

campus
campī
Genitive
camp-ī/-ei camp-ōm/-ūm
campī
campōrum
Dative
campō
camp-ois/-oes/-eis/-īs
campō
campīs
Accusative
campom
campōs

campum
campōs
Ablative
campōd
camp-ois/-oes/-eis/-īs
campō
campīs


Classical saxum, -ī, Old saxom, –ā
rock, stone n.



Singular
Plural

Singular
Plural
Nominative
saxom
sax-ā/-ă
saxum
saxa
Genitive
saxī sax-ōm/-ūm
saxī
saxōrum
Dative
saxō
sax-ois/-oes/-eis/-īs
saxō
saxīs
Accusative
saxom
sax-ā/-ă
saxum
saxa
Ablative
saxōd
sax-ois/-oes/-eis/-īs
saxō
saxīs


Classical rēx, rēgis, Old rēgs, -ēs


Singular
Plural

Singular
Plural
Nominative
rēgs
rēg-eīs/-īs/-ēs/-ĕs
rēx
rēgēs
Genitive
rēg-es/-is/-os/-us rēg-om/-um/-erum
rēgis
rēgum
Dative
rēg-ei/-ī/-ē/-ě rēg-ebus/-ebūs
/-ibos/-ibus

rēgī
rēgibus
Accusative
rēgem
rēg-eīs/-īs/-ēs
rēgem
rēgēs
Ablative

rēg-īd/-ĭd/-ī/-ē/-ĕ
rēg-ebus/-ebūs
/-ibos/-ibus

rēge
rēgibus


Classical senātus, Old senātus


Singular
Plural

Singular
Plural
Nominative
senātus senātūs
senātus
senātūs
Genitive
senāt-uos/-uis/-ī/-ous/-ūs senāt-uom/-um
senātūs
senātuum
Dative
senātuīsenāt-ubus/-ibus
senātuī
senātibus
Accusative
senātumsenātūs
senātum
senātūs
Ablative
senāt-ūd/-udsenāt-ubus/-ibus
senātū
senātibus





Singular
Plural

Singular
Plural
Nominative
ign-is/-es ign-eīs/-ēs/-īs/-ĕs
ignis
ignēs
Genitive
ignis ign-iom/-ium
ignis
ignium
Dative
ign-i/-eī/-ēign-ibus/-ibos
ignī
ignibus
Accusative
ignimign-eīs/-ēs/-īs
ignem
ignīs, ignēs
Ablative

ign-īd/-ĭd
/-ī/-ē/-ĕ
ign-ebus/-ebūs
/-ibos/-ibus

ignī, igne
ignibus

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