in Pedagogy

Conjugation

I noticed the following comic linked on the Latinteach list this morning, and found a way to work it into today’s lesson on the uses of the subjunctive (and now I see that Karen Moore has posted it to her Latin Alive blog as well):

I find it helpful to talk about the subjunctive as the mode of subordination, whether implicit or explicit. I put the comic up as a power point, talked about why the pun worked, then told the story of Oedipus, ending with the familiar punchline: ‘What was Oedipus’ fatal flaw? He conjugated when he should have declined.’

The kids then used their dictionaries to look up the root words and to work out other words in English and in Latin on the same roots. We talked about yoking oxen, being joined with your mate, and finally came to conjunctions, which join words and clauses together. ‘So if a conjunction joins words and clauses together, what do you suppose a subjunctive verb does?’ We compared the word subordination, and went into the notion that the subjunctive marks a thought that is joined with but subordinated to another, whether stated or implied.

Jussive, hortatory, optative, potential: all depend upon an implication of will, desire, or possibility (e.g., ‘I hope that…’, ‘it’s possible that…’, etc.). Rather than talk about ‘independent’ uses of the subjunctive, I talk about implicit vs. explicit subordination. The implied idea isn’t always easy to put into words, but it is easy to see that the subjunctive verb depends on something that isn’t expressly stated, being either easily inferred or picked up from context.

We had talked previously about the ability to express the same thought in different ways (modes) as a way to introduce the subjunctive, and my examples were tacē! (‘shut up!’), tacēbis! (‘you will shut up!), and taceās! (‘you should shut up,’ unless you want a knuckle sandwich, for example).

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