Scholia Reviews ns 2 (1993) 4.

John L. Hilton, An Introduction to Latin. Durban: University of Natal Department of Classics, 1991. 5 vols. Grammar: pp. 117, ISBN 0-86980-773-0; Exercises: pp. 103, ISBN 0-86980-775-7; Vocabulary: pp. 106, ISBN 0- 86980-776-5; Reading and Background: 0-86980-777-3; Reference: pp. 103, ISBN 0-86980-774-9. Set: ISBN 0- 86980-772-2. R50.

J.M. Claassen
University of Stellenbosch

This concise `Introduction to Latin' is clearly aimed at a very specific target group: University students who have the statutory obligation to complete one year of university Latin towards ultimate admission to the Bar. It comes in five small volumes, A5 size, of about a hundred pages each. These volumes are not numbered, so that there is no hint of priority or progression in their use, and it is clear that all are to be employed simultaneously. The five parts comprise: 'Vocabulary', 'Reading and Background', 'Grammar', 'Exercises' and 'Reference'. It would appear that the author's theoretical approach will, in his application of the course, prescribe a particular order in the use of the separate sections. It is also reasonably apparent that this is a teaching text, and not primarily a 'learning' or 'self-help' text. Its very arrangement assumes that a teacher will be on hand to organize, select and guide the learner through the mass of material.

The course is an in-house production of the Classics Department of the University of Natal, Durban, and is the second edition that I have seen. This second edition is a great improvement on the first, one-volume edition, where the format had made it difficult for the teacher (and, presumably, the student) to pick through the various components, here so neatly set out in five separate volumes. A sixth volume, comprising a teachers' handbook, and a short exposition of the author's teaching theory, would be a welcome addition. As the work now stands, it has, from the student's point of view, an admirable lack of theory. Teachers would, however, welcome some methodological guidance. A seventh volume, with a students' commentary on the legal texts, would also not come amiss.

Logical Teaching Order

I shall proceed below to discuss the content and apparent thrust of each volume in turn, and end with an evaluation of the work as a whole. First a word on what appears to me to be the logical teaching order. Clearly 'Reading and Background' must be used together with the 'Grammar' section. Depending on an individual teacher's preference for deductive or inductive teaching, 'Reading' may precede or follow the treatment of a particular topic in the 'Grammar' section, with this reservation, that the first passage for 'reading' is related to Chapter 4 only of the 'Grammar' section, implying that some grammatical information will have been dealt with before 'reading' of any kind of Latin is attempted. This implies recourse to the 'Vocabulary' section, for the purpose of looking up meanings, only after the third 'Grammar' chapter has been dealt with. Yet the 'Exercises' are based on each of the 'Grammar' chapters, from the beginning, and so, usefully, a small vocabulary list is provided at the beginning of each chapter's 'Exercises'. These same words reappear in the 'Vocabulary' section in the appropriate alphabetical order. The last volume, 'Reference', is clearly intended for revision at the end of the course, and for looking up any particular form or usage a student may find half-familiar but not wholly so. It is, in short, a simplified compendium of basic Latin morphology and syntax. It differs from the 'Grammar' section in its ordered organization and extensive examples. No teacher, not even the most rigid adherent to the 'grammar-translation method', would advocate presenting the learner with this volume first, or expect that it should be memorized in its entirety, and so I shall deal with it only in relation to the 'Grammar' section.

`Grammar' and `Reference'

A table of contents, listing order of presentation in twenty-four chapters, seems to indicate that the 'Grammar' volume can be usefully applied, a chapter per week, in the usual twenty-eight academic weeks of a University year, with a little leeway at the end or beginning. The order of presentation is usual to the grammar-translation method of time-hallowed traditional beginners' books like Ritchie. What is unusual, is the organization into 'Classes A and B', based on the relationship of nominal and adjectival forms, of, respectively, the traditional 1st and 2nd declensions together, and the 3rd declension, with, quite rightly, the relatively infrequent forms of the 4th and 5th declensions given, respectively, as mere addenda to 'Classes A and B'.

Such organization will tend towards reducing students' requisite rote learning. The basic relationship between the morphology of nouns and adjectives is stressed, with consequent simplification.

Unfortunately the exigencies of A5 presentation apparently obviate 'horizontal' presentation of noun and adjective forms with their English equivalents in the 'Reference' section (Ref. pp. 1-6) but the forms, without English equivalents, are re-organized into compound paradigms featuring Classes A and B nouns separately (Ref. pp. 7-13), and Classes A and B adjectives (Ref. pp. 14-19). It is a pity that a 'horizontal' presentation of the complete nominal paradigm is not also presented, in order to show students certain basic characteristics of all nominal forms.

The 'Reference' volume clearly assumes familiarity with the 'Grammar' section in the sense that it already refers, on page 7, to adjectives, which subsequently appear on its page 14. Its emphasis on the difference of 'non-increasing' versus 'increasing' nouns in its Class B (third declension) does not seem wholly justified in the context of a course aimed at teaching students to read and/or translate Latin into English. Recourse to the 'Exercises' shows, however, that the author expects his students still to be able to produce sentences in Latin. Writing in Latin is a useful teaching tool, but not, in most modern theorists' view, an ultimate aim for learners of Latin, particularly not in the context of compulsory Latin for law.

In the 'Reference' section there are other minor points with which I should contend. Comparison of adjectives (p. 21) is set out in the order: Positive, Superlative, Comparative, possibly with the purpose that their morphology may appear to coincide with 'Classes A and B' but this order goes against the psychological conception of progression of degree. Function as concept should not be subservient to form.

The paradigms of verbs with their English equivalents are rather painfully set out, again perhaps a result of the A5 format - with no visual indication of the relationship of present stem verbs and perfect stem verbs. Here a student may get bogged down by individual trees with very little view of the wood, that is, the minimum he need to know in order to recognize any verbal form active or passive. An attempt at such a layout appears only with the exposition of deponents (pp. 65, 66). Such a layout could in a future edition usefully be added also for normal verbs.

These objections are, however, almost wholly related to format. The content and presentation of the 'Grammar' section is admirable. It treats Latin learning 'cognitively', that is, with emphasis on recognition of structure. The novelty of its approach lies in the stress it appears to lay on students' need to understand structures in English, before being shown the Latin equivalent (e.g. p. 59 on participles). An assumption that formal English grammar is not necessarily familiar to the student underlies this approach. This is particularly welcome in the South African context, where not all learners are even overly familiar with colloquial spoken English, as many speak it only as second or third language.

The author appears to have taken the best of the modern, structural approaches and fused these to traditional grammatical terminology. Grammatical exposition in the 'Grammar' section is largely descriptive, which would lead one to assume that the author intends the book to be used deductively, that is, 'grammar' follows 'reading'. Occasionally there are what appear to be lapses into prescription, as in the rather inelegant 'adjectives with -er ... go like puer ...' (p. 10) and the clear prescriptions on the formation of the subjunctive (p. 92).

One of the most positive aspects of the relationship between the 'Grammar' and 'Reference' sections is frequent cross-referencing. The manner in which the 'Reference' section organizes its summary of syntactic uses (pp. 68-78) is extremely useful. After a student has gradually learnt the morphology and use of cases, this summary gives a new per- spective, based on sentence structure, and on the fact that the verb is the most important 'growth point' in a Latin sentence. The exposition of case usage is organized around 'Verbs requiring a particular case as complement', 'Adjectives ditto', 'Nouns ditto' (which leads to various uses of the genitive) and a section entitled 'special uses', or adverbial modifications (pp. 75-77). Prepositions are organized in relation to the case they govern. A section on Word structure, suffixes and prefixes (pp. 79-90), is followed by a list of grammatical terms (pp. 91-100).

It is not possible ever canonically to fix the ideal order of presentation of grammatical features, and presentation in the 'Grammar' section of relatively infrequent gerundives (Chapter 13) before frequent relative clauses (Chapter 14) may strike the traditionally inclined teacher as bizarre. When it is realised, however, that the author has attempted to tie all new grammar to the reading lessons (that is, from Chapter 4 onward) and that the content of the readers follow a logical order, then this objection will fall away, except that teachers may feel that it is rather late to relegate direct questions to Chapter 20 only.

Mostly the simplified grammatical exposition is to be welcomed, as in Chapter 16 on adverbial clauses, where 'mood' is omitted, and in the explanation of case usage in the 'Reference' section referred to above. Sometimes description in the 'grammar' section is, however, unnecessarily complicated. In at least one case the approach appears wholly inductive, working from English to Latin: in Chapter 17 the English exposition of sequence of tenses in indirect statements is more complex than it would have been if the Latin usage had been presented for deduction.

A particularly good feature of the 'grammar' section is, however, the global manner in which presentation of subordinate clauses is organized, particularly Chapter 22, 'uses of cum', and the relegation of relatively infrequent conditional clauses to the last chapter, without a great mystique being attached to 'possibility' versus 'probability'.

Reading and Background

As is clear from the above, texts for reading accompany all but the first three chapters. The choice of texts is very good, starting from a simplified version of Plautus' Pseudolus and progressing rapidly to readings from Gaius, Justinian's Digesta, Cicero's Verrines, and finally, Livy. All except the readings from Plautus have a legal thrust, or illustrate matters such as the struggle for democratic reform, the place of woman in Roman society, and the use and abuse of power, all matters of intrinsic interest to South African students of today. The last passage from Livy, on intermarriage between the orders, will be of particular interest when students compare it with the recent repeal of South Africa's notorious marriage laws.

Readings are chosen to illustrate aspects of grammar treated in the various chapters, so choice of passages would have been dictated by the exigencies of grammatical exposition. Conversely, grammar, to be taught deductively, must follow the language of the passages. This the author has in most cases succeeded in achieving, but in the reading for chapter 8, which includes 'degrees of comparison' only the words minor and maior relate to the grammar in hand. In most cases, however, grammar and readings are complementary.

The second half of this volume comprises 'Background', presumably to be studied by the student in conjunction with illustrated lectures during the course of the year. It covers a short history of the Roman world, the Roman government, army and imperialism, and the Roman family and family names, by the author of the course, and contributions by colleagues: L. M. Harzenberg on the administration of justice in Roman times, A. P. Bevis on Roman religion, M. A. Gosling on Roman money, and E. A. Makay on Roman houses and property. The wide range of topics is admirable, but I felt the lack of any illustrations, particularly maps of the Roman empire, Italy and Rome, and a floor plan of a Roman house.

The vocabulary section comprises three parts: first, an Index (pp. 1-36) in two columns per page of all word forms occurring in the course, with the frequency of each, its base form, where applicable, and a reference to each occurrence (passage and sentence) in the reading lessons.

Next an extensive Vocabulary list (pp. 37-83) gives the principal parts and basic meanings of all the words in the reading passages and exercises, comprising something over 2000 individual entries. Comparison of the words representing a and b with a similar word list based on Diederich's famous list, shows a high proportion of relatively infrequent forms, of which most can, however be accounted for by the fact that they are either compounds or cognates of more frequent words (e.g. abrogo, absumo, amica, amicula, breviter) which the simpler word-list would not have repeated, or because they relate particularly to the application of Roman law (actio, advocatio, aequitas, aestimo, basilica, beneficium).

The third list, or 'Learning vocabulary' (pp. 84-101) comprises some 500 of the most frequent words, ostensibly from list 2. In at least one case a word is included which does not occur in list 2 (alibi). Also, apparo (= to prepare) seems less useful than appareo which in its impersonal form frequently occurs in legal writings. In spite of these minor quibbles, I find the abbreviated word list very well representative of Diederich's list, and the volume as a whole is admirably suited to its purpose as reference, basic dictionary and vocabulary learner.


As has become apparent above, the exercises are also tied to individual 'Grammar' chapters, repeat suitable vocabulary, and expand on what has been introduced in the 'Reading' section. Exercises are varied, and are aimed at both testing and teaching students' understanding of grammatical concepts. Much use is made of English, or English-Latin combined, as in Ch. 22, Ex. 1: 'State the function and meaning of the cum conjunction in the following sentences. What mood would the Latin verb be in?' with examples: 'No-one listens unwillingly cum he is forced either to take food or to live; cum Lichas heard these words, he was very angry,' etc. etc.'

Traditionally inclined teachers may be worried that so little is made of the need for students to be able to name (i.e. label) the case, tense or mood of Latin words, but if it is accepted that something must be left out in a concise, one-year course, such labelling may be considered a luxury well discardable. There are, however, useful exercises in stating the function and meaning of subordinate clauses. A further 'luxury' that I consider discardable would be to leave out sentences to be translated into Latin, in favour of exercises in relating case usage of nouns to the verbs which require such a case (i.e. structural analysis).

Each volume of the course has a differently coloured cover, and on each there is an illustration, chosen apparently rather arbitrarily, illustrating aspects of the Roman world: a woman's face, a voter exercising his right of franchise, a Bacchanalian dance, a scene from Roman comedy, and the portraits of P. Paquius Proculus and his wife. The pages are well set-out and I found very few errors. In some cases a smaller font size (e.g. 'Exercises' p. 86) would give a less cluttered look to the page. Reading passages could perhaps have been produced in double spacing, to facilitate students' work on a text, but it is clear that the whole course has been produced with an eye to economy and affordability for the average student. As it is clearly a 'desk-top' production, I am sure that subsequent editions will make up for any lacks felt in this one.

In spite of certain reservations expressed in the course of my discussion, I find the 'Introduction to Latin' (which, I fear, in many cases will also comprise the final farewell) an admirable work, well suited to the aims of any university which hopes to give its law students a meaningful glimpse into the Roman legal world, while complying with the minimum statutory requirement of one year of Latin for aspirants to the Bar. I can thoroughly recommend the course as an entity. Its 'Reading' and 'Vocabulary' sections could also be usefully employed as setwork for the new optional 'Legal Latin' module accepted into the new core syllabus for Latin in the high school.