Word/Phrase order in translation

  • Word/Phrase order in translation

    Posted by Devvy on August 1, 2023 at 9:36 am

    I know Latin doesn’t require an exact word order because its word endings tell us the case. But when translating an individual sentence without any other context, can there be some sensible flexibility when grading the translation? It comes up often, but right now I’m particularly looking at Lesson 33, sentence 4: “Pater unius pueri in casa est cum familia mea.” The answer key gives: “The father of one boy is in the house with my family.” But my daughter translated it as, “The father with one son in the house is with my family.” It’s a <i style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>little unusual but grammatically correct.

    Really, I’m looking for guidance on how to handle these translations. Up to this point, I’ve taken the flexible route as long as it’s grammatically correct and not too stilted or odd a translation. But I want to understand it better myself!

    Suzanne replied 1 month, 3 weeks ago 4 Members · 4 Replies
  • 4 Replies
  • Suzanne

    August 1, 2023 at 9:52 am

    I would like to hear an expert answer also, but as a mom, I would say your student only made a small mistake. If I were correcting the translation, I would say that “Pater unius pueri” would not be “father with one boy” because the key word for the genitive is “of” rather than “with.” But to me, it’s a minor mistake, so I wouldn’t take much off for it.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by  Suzanne. Reason: Changed son to boy
  • Jennifer

    August 1, 2023 at 9:56 am

    I think it’s important to differentiate clearly between the cases for beginning/younger students. “Unius pueri” is in the genitive case and so should be translated “of one boy.” It could be that the the Father is in the house, but not the boy. (the father of one boy is in the house….). If you translate it “the father with one boy), it makes it seem both are in the house. Although maybe I am splitting hairs..

  • Lynna

    August 1, 2023 at 10:00 am

    Latin teacher here. You are right that translation is a bit of an art and not strictly a science. When scholars translate, say, the Bible, they aren’t necessarily putting all the words in the same order as they are trying to accurately convey the meaning of the sentence, so choosing an order that conveys the meaning in English is perfectly fine.

    In this sentence, however, as the previous commenter pointed out “with one son” is not an appropriate translation of “unius pueri”. The issue is about understanding Latin cases. “unius pueri” is in the genitive case. The genetive is a kind of noun-adjective because it modifies a specific noun. The father. Which father? The father “of the one son”. In English, we often translate the genetive with an apostrophe and put it before the noun (“the one son’s father”) which demonstrates that adjective-like quality even better.

    The phrase “with one son” is a prepositional phrase and would be the proper translation for the ablative case. This isn’t so much about the best way to convey the idea in English as it is about helping your daughter to identify and distinguish between the uses of different Latin cases.

  • Suzanne

    August 1, 2023 at 10:03 am

    I will add that if my son keeps making the same mistake week after week, I tend to take off more than with the initial correction. For example, if I took off 1/2 a point the first time, we discussed the issue and came to an agreement about the correct translation, and then the same mistake happened again, I might take off an additional point.

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