Page:Latin for Beginners.djvu/12

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3
TO THE STUDENT

more nearly than any other tongue the universal language of the learned. The life of to-day is much nearer to the life of ancient Rome than the lapse of centuries would lead one to suppose. You and I are Romans still in many ways, and if Cæsar and Cicero should appear among us, we should not find them, except for dress and language, much unlike men of to-day.

Latin and English. Do you know that more than half of the words in the English dictionary are Latin, and that you are speaking more or less Latin every day? How has this come about? In the year 1066 William the Conqueror invaded England with an army of Normans. The Normans spoke French — which, you remember, is descended from Latin — and spread their language to a considerable extent over England, and so Norman-French played an important part in the formation of English and forms a large proportion of our vocabulary. Furthermore, great numbers of almost pure Latin words have been brought into English through the writings of scholars, and every new scientific discovery is marked by the addition of new terms of Latin derivation. Hence, while the simpler and commoner words of our mother tongue are Anglo-Saxon, and Anglo-Saxon forms the staple of our colloquial language, yet in the realms of literature, and especially in poetry, words of Latin derivation are very abundant. Also in the learned professions, as in law, medicine, and engineering, a knowledge of Latin is necessary for the successful interpretation of technical and scientific terms.

Why study Latin? The foregoing paragraphs make it clear why Latin forms so important a part of modern education. We have seen that our civilization rests upon that of Greece and Rome, and that we must look to the past if we would understand the present. It is obvious, too, that the knowledge of Latin not only leads to a more exact and effective use of our own language, but that it is of vital importance and of great practical value to any one preparing for a literary or professional career. To this it may be added that the study of Latin throws a flood of light upon the structure of language in general and lays an excellent foundation for all grammatical study.