Although we now approach ancient texts primarily through the written word, they were originally meant for performance. Poetry in particular was probably chanted or sung, as we know from the use of words relating to music in the opening lines of poems and poetic collections. Nowhere is this performance context more clear than in the use of meter in ancient poetry. Although the untrained viewer can’t see this meter in an ancient text (unlike, for example, the musical notation on modern sheet music), once you know how to scan well, you can quickly begin to recite texts as they were meant to be heard.
The nice thing about scansion is that it’s in many ways easier than other tasks beginning language students have to perform. In this first post, I’ll introduce the two major Latin meters: dactylic hexameter and pentameter. Continue reading
In our last Tesserae post, I promised an explanation of Tesserae’s advanced features. These are mostly aimed at limiting the number of hits an individual search will come up with, which is useful because all potential matches need to be checked. It’s much easier to check 100 matches than to check 600 or even 1600! But I also want to highlight two advanced features that really advance the way that we can computationally analyze Latin: by using similarity metrics for sound effects and by connecting words that are semantically similar. In this post, I will discuss the second of these; my last (but not the last!) Tesserae post will discuss sound effects. Continue reading
For some reason, sight reading is often perceived as the most onerous part of upper-level language courses. In fact, many students aren’t exposed to it until graduate school (or never!). Today’s post is a joint endeavor between Mary, who has always had to read at sight and so I never learned to fear it, and Jackie, who started in grad school — and has scored sight competitions. Coming up: some advice to help you get through your first encounters with an unknown text. Continue reading
Lessons learned in Latin class: don’t jump from Caesar to Ovid and expect a smooth transition. Continue reading