Latin’s Fertile Verbs

I have a working hypothesis, neither confirmed nor suitably counterargued by any very good research on my part, that Latin is a distinctively action-oriented, as opposed to a name-oriented language.  That is, verbs dominate, rather than nouns.  Not being a student of any non-romance language other than my own, I can’t compare personally, but I take as likely factual what Ezra Pound says about Chinese being an excellent language for poetry in that it can “throw images” better than many others, and this because its words are much closer to actual pictures.  The Chinese-speaking mind visualizes more directly, perhaps.  I would think that such a language would be predominated by nouns, and that verbs would be more derivative.  E.g. “climb” is formed from “the thing you do to mountains.”  Such a language prefers to name things.

Latin, of course, names things as well.  That is part of language.  But it prefers verbs.  Latin’s verbs are immensely versatile, applicable in many different ways, and most importantly, productive of numerous derivative forms.  It isn’t totally clear what ancient Latin/Proto-Italic-speakers “pictured” when they used the word ago.  Our lexicons equate it to “do,” “drive,” “act,” “discuss,” “stir up,” or even “steal.”  But the derivative forms are endless.  Perigo, litigo, cogo, castigo, fumigo, navigo, prodigo… And our modern languages are in severe debt to ago derivatives.  Yet, what precisely is it?  There are a great number of these types of verbs.  Facio, of course, and do.   There are many more that show up constantly in derivative form.  I have an idea that Latin study should begin with the internalization of these “fertile verbs.”  A student should be as familiar with them as with the English do.  They should start using Latin ago when it really is the best word in all-English situations.  Then they should be drilled on Latin prepositions until they can’t get them out of their minds.  Afterward they could be taught to synthesize derivative verbs.  “It’s like ago, only circum,” etc.  They would be thinking Latin-speakers thoughts after them, modifying words into ever-longer forms to cram them into everyday situations (or in the case of much Medieval Latin, theological situations).  After that, they could be held more responsible for learning names of things.  Latin speakers themselves seem to have been often bored by the names of things, content as they were to leave so many nouns in the monotonous 1st and 2nd Declensions…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s