Ablaut in Latin

Ablaut, by my reading, is the phenomenon of vowel gradation (phonetic variation) within related words of the same language, derived from parallel variations in the parent language.

Some English ablaut variations:

  • ‘strong verbs’ : sing, sang and sung / ring, rang and rung
  • nouns : man, men / goose, geese

This same variation exists within Latin:

  • tegō, I cover; toga, robe
  • pendō, I weigh; pondus, weight
  • fidēs, faith; fīdus, faithful, foedus, treaty
  • regō, I rule; rēx, king
  • dūcō, I lead; dux, leader

Ablaut will often demonstrate grammatical demarcations between nouns and related verbs, but also between various tense-stems of the same verb:

  • cadō, I fall; cecidī, I fell

The Essential AG: 17

I knew nothing whatsoever about ablaut before designing this post, so if any visiting linguists would like to expand in the comments below, I encourage them to do so.

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Relative Clauses as Alternatives to Nouns

In Latin, a relative clause can function as an alternative to (a) a participle, (b) an appositive or (c) a noun of agency.

This should be incredibly familiar: English relative clauses may perform all the same roles.

As participles:

  • lēgēs nunc stantēs : lēgēs quī nunc stant (the existing laws)
  • uxor librum dans : uxor quae librum dat (the wife giving the book)

As appositives:

  • iūsta glōria, frūctus virtūtis, ērepta est : iūsta glōria quae est frūctus virtūtus, ērepta est.
  • (true glory, the fruit of virtue, has been snatched away)
  • Iuppiter caelestī potestātis solium : Iuppiter, quī est caelestī potestātis solium
  • (Jupiter, the seat of heavenly power)

As nouns of agency:

  • Caesar victor Galliae : Caesar quī Galliam vincit (Caesar, conqueror of Gaul)
  • Seneca omnilector : Seneca quī omnēs legit (Secena, reader of everything)

Essential AG: 308c.

Nouns of Agency

Nouns of Agency

Nouns of agency are nouns derived from verbal stems which describe and agent or actor associated with the action.

Endings in -tor and -trix

Some nouns of agency are derive from the use of the endings -tor (or -sor) for male agents and –trix for female agents

  • the endings are attached to the stem of the verb’s perfect passive participle
  • canere (to sing) –> cantus –> cantor, cantoris / cantrix, cantricis (singer)
  • vincere (to conquer) –> victus –> victor, victoris / victrix, victicis (victor)
  • petere (to seek) –> petitus –> petitor, petitoris / petitrix, petitricis (candidate

Occasionally, -tor and –trix may also be added to noun roots

  • via, -ae (road) –> viator, viatrix (traveller)

Endings in -es

Further, agent nouns may be derived by adding -es to the stem of the verb’s present active infinitive:

  • praestare (to stand before) –> praestes, praestitis (guard)
  • tegere (to cover) –> teges, tegetis (coverer, mat)

Again, also from nouns

  • pes, pedis (food) –> pedes, peditis (foot-soldier)

Endings in -o

Finaly, the ending -o describes persons employed in a particular trade

  • Again, these are derived from the stem of the verb’s present active infinitive:
  • gerere (to carry) –> gero, geronis (carrier)

The Essential AG: 236

Single-Termination Third Declension Adjectives

Here’s a review of triple- and twin-termination adjectives, covered in earlier posts:

  • Triple-termination: ācer, ācris, ācre (sharp)
  • Twin-termination: levis (m/f), leve (light)

Formation of Single-Termination Third Declension Adjectives

These are complicated because they take several possible consonant stems. That said, their declension is more-or-less equivalent to third declension i-stem nouns (nūbes, nūbis or maremaris)

atrōx, actrōcis, fierce

A few things to note:

  • The ablative singular may be either atrōcī or (less often) atrōce
  • The neuter plurals all feature the istem (-ia, -ium, -ibus, etc.)
  • The masculine and feminine plural accusative may (rarely) be atrocīs

Here are a few more nouns to consider:

egēns, egentis: needy

praeceps, praecipitis: headlong

pārparis: equal, alike

ūber, ūberis: fruitful, copious

The Essential AG: 118

Famous Phrase: cēterīs pāribus [all other things being equal]

(an ablative absolute, denoting non-variable components of scientific experiments or other forms of structural reasoning)

Third Declension Twin-Termination Adjectives

Adjectives of the third declension have either one, two or three gendered endings.

  • Triple-termination: ācer, ācris, ācre (sharp) [see here]
  • Twin-termination: levis (m/f), leve (light)
  • Single-termination: …these are complicated. I’ll address them in a coming post

Twin-Termination Formation

Adjectives of the third declension with two terminations are declined as follows:

Here are some additional twin-termination thirds to practice declining:

  • faenebris, faenebre: lent at interest
  • fūnebris, fūnebre: funereal
  • illūstris, illūstre: shining, famous
  • lūgubris, lūgubre: mournful
  • mediocris, mediocre: (usually) moderate; (rarely) ordinary
  • muliebris, muliebre: effeminate

The Essential AG: 116

Third Declension Triple-Termination Adjectives

Adjectives of the third declension have either one, two or three gendered endings.

  • Triple-termination: ācer, ācris, ācre (sharp)
  • Twin-termination: levis (m/f), leve (light)
  • Single-termination: …these are complicated. I’ll address them in a coming post

Triple-Termination Formation

Triple-Termination Third Declension Adjectives are declined as follows:

Here are additional triple-declensions thirds to practice declining:

  • alacer, alacris, alacre: lively, cheerful
  • campester, campestris, campestre: flat
  • celeber, celebris, celebre: famed, crowded
  • equester, equestris, equestre: equestrian
  • palūster, palūstris, palūstre: boggy
  • pedester, pedestris, pedestre: pedestrian, ordinary
  • puter, putris, putre: rotting
  • salūber, salūbris, salūbre: healthy
  • silvester, silvestris, silvestre: woodland
  • terrester, terrestris, terrestre: terrestrial
  • volucer, volucris, volucre: aerial
  • octōber, octōbris, ocrōbre: of October
  • (likewise with all menstrual [monthly] adjectives)

Do note: the triple-termination design was developed relatively late, so you may encounter some or all of these adjectives as twin-termination adjectives, with either the masculine or the feminine representing either the masculine or the feminine in early Latin prose and poetry [e.g. homō alacris or fēmina alacer would be acceptable] (AG, 115 n1)

Also, celer, celeris, celere (swift) is an odd bird.

The Essential AG: 115-115a

I’ve Had Enough

Perfect Infinitive with Verbs of Feeling

The perfect infinitive used with verbs of feeling denotes a completed action.

  • Nōn paenitēbat intercapēdinem scrībendī fēcisse: It was no pain to take respite from writing.
  • Mē Graecum dixisse pudet: I am ashamed that I spoke Greek.
  • Illīs pira ēdisse iuvat: They’re pleased to have eaten pears

This pattern also holds with phrases like satis est, satis habēre, melius est, and contentus esse.

  • Satis est sōlem vidisse: it is enough to have seen the sun.
  • Quiēsse erit melius: it would have been better to shut up.

In sum, I should not that this is a grammatical preference, not a grammatical rule. You’ll encounter it frequently, especially in the poets, but verbs of feeling and these constructions do not demand the perfect infinitive.

The Essential AG: 486f