Re: Time to retire?
- From: djheydt@xxxxxxxxxxx (Dorothy J Heydt)
- Date: Sat, 9 May 2009 15:23:32 GMT
In article <memo.20090509133453.3672B@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>,
Paul Dormer <prd@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I've told this anecdote about the presentation before in this group and
somebody did reply explaining what a declension is, but all I know is
that "status" is fourth declension without knowing any of the other three,
or, indeed, if there are more than four.
There are, in fact, five. Permit me to summarize them for
you, and you can save to disk or forget as you choose.
The first declension consists of words whose nominative ends
in _-a_, such as _insula_ "island," _puella_ "girl," _stella_
"star." Most but by no means all are in the feminine gender.
The second declension consists of words in the masculine
gender ending in _-us_ and words in the neuter gender ending in
_-um_. This is what confuses people; they see a word ending in
_-us_ and assume that it must be second declension and its
nominative singular must end in _-i_. And usually that's true;
but not always.
The third declension consists of a whole passel of nouns in
all three genders with any number of different endings, many
of which end in _-is_. Frequently you can't tell from the
nominative form what the rest of the cases are going to look
like, because the nominative has undergone sound changes, so
dictionary entries give the nominative and genitive singular
to let you know what the stem looks like. E.g., _rex_ "king",
genitive _regis_. Because the stem _reg-_ combined with a
frequent third=declension nominative ending _-s_ to form
_*regs_ which assimilated to _recs_ which was spelled _rex_.
There are oodles of third-declension nouns and you just have
to memorize their nominative forms, their stems, and their
The fourth declension is a small collection of nouns whose
nominative singular ends in _-u_ or _-us_ and whose nominative
plural ends in _-us_, to the discomforture of people who (_ut
supra_) thought if it ended in _us_ it must be second
The fifth declension is another small group, mostly feminine,
whose nominative (singular and plural) end in _-es_ and whose
genitive singular ends in _-ei._
Students tend to approach them with dread, mostly from a
feeling of "Oh Gawd, not ANOTHER declension," but they're few
and simple. I can't remember now where I read about some Latin
teacher who told his class, "_Dies_ and _cornu_ [that is, the
model fifth- and fourth- declension nouns] being simplicity
itself, you can learn them both by tomorrow."
Now you can forget all this if you want to.
Dorothy J. Heydt
djheydt at hotmail dot com
Should you wish to email me, you'd better use the hotmail edress.
Kithrup is getting too damn much spam, even with the sysop's filters.
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