Disputatio Vicipaediae:A est B

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A est B[fontem recensere]

Who invented such an idiotic rule, which flies in the face of Latin syntax?

Fortasse qui plus quam tu scit.--Rafaelgarcia 16:12, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Uncivil language aside, I must confess that I am not convinced by the evidence on IacobusAmor's talk page either. It would be easy to quote a good number of examples to show that A B est is quite natural as word order in Latin, which does not mean that A est B is in any way less natural.
For German classicists, the standard reference in matters of Latin composition is Hermann Menge's Repetitorium der lateinischen Syntax und Stilistik. He has the following to say (§ 536.1): Die Kopula esse steht entweder am Ende, indem sie sich enklitisch an das Prädikat schließt, z. B. Anser avis est; Romani fortes erant; oder sie steht verbindend zwischen Subjekt und Prädikat, z. B. Patres fuerunt auctores; facta sunt exaequanda. Hat aber esse als Verbum substantivum die Bedeutung "da sein, vorhanden sein" oder eine stärkere Betonung (im Deutschen öfters 'wirklich'), so tritt es meist an die Spitze des Satzes, z. B. Est caeleste numen. Est, est profecto illa vis. Est, ut dicis. Fuit quaedam ab infinito tempore aeternitas. Erant hae difficultates belli gerendi "die erwähnten Schwierigkeiten waren wirklich vorhanden". Est enim difficilis cura rerum alienarum.
In principle, I would therefore plead for revoking this rule and leaving users the same choice native speakers had, viz. between A est B, A B est, and Est A B.
However, since this is an encyclopaedia, we should look at how word order works in Latin encyclopaedias. Now my impression is that the natural usage there is actually ellipsis of est. So maybe, while the final choice should be left to individual users, it could be recommended to write Roma, caput Italiae rather than Roma est caput Italiae or Roma caput Italiae est when introducing the lemma.--Ceylon 20:56, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
This rule is useful. My understanding of the rule (based on Iacobus' disp.) is that it does not per se forbid other word orders: it just reminds people of the prefered word order. Which is important because people who are not good at latin, will make the mistake of rigidly putting tobe at the end, while actually the preferred place is in the middle.
Unfortunately, I am unable to read German, so am unable to comment on the above quote. Nevertheless, Ceylon it seems undeniable that while all the various word orders work, the meaning of the sentence generally changes depending on the order. The usual order with tobe in the middle is unemphatic while the others emphasize one of the words or relationships. Which one is emphasized depends on what follows and comes before, so you shouldn't always have the same order but the tobe in the middle should be the default, in the absence of the overriding need for emphasis.--Rafaelgarcia 21:21, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
No, Rafael, I would have to disagree there: A B est is in no way less common or more special and emphatic than A est B (actually, it could conceivably be argued that A est B is the slightly more special and emphatic turn of phrase). Let me try to translate the gist of what Menge says: The copula esse is either placed at the end, following the predicate enclitically, e.g. Anser avis est; Romani fortes erant ; or it is placed as a link between subject and predicate, e.g. Patres fuerunt auctores; facta sunt exaequanda. If, however, esse takes the meaning of to exist as a verbum substantivum or is emphasised (as we say 'really'), it is placed at the beginning of the clause.--Ceylon 21:32, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Doesn't the data provided by Iacobus show otherwise that esse in the middle is more common than at the end (with the exception of participle+esse constructions and internal clauses)? --Rafaelgarcia 21:45, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Although I do agree that for most of the short sentence examples you give it doesn't matter in the least whether it is at the end or middle, the last example sunt exaequanda is emphatic because it is reverse order of what is expected for a participle+esse construction--Rafaelgarcia 21:47, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Why I don't think Iacobus has shown what he has tried to show: He includes subordinate clauses, other forms of esse etc., while we should only be concerned with (1) est 3 ps. sg. and (2) main clauses here. And he uses a highly rhetorical speech which is bound to make use of emphatic word orders. I'm going to check some other prose - will come back to this.--Ceylon 21:51, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
I am motivated to try to do some searching too. An interesting quote that someone sent me the other day:
Naturā inest in mentibus nostris insatiabilis quaedam cupiditas veri videndi.-Cicero
That's the "existential esse," which tends to come at or near the beginning of sentences; see below. IacobusAmor 04:38, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
(I include the macron because I can't read this sentence without it).--Rafaelgarcia 22:02, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
You are quite right about the macron. Don't hesitate to use it sometimes if it may help to avoid ambuiguity. --Fabullus 22:18, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
I have started on the first four books of De bello Gallico (what else?). Here are all the occurrences of est in main clauses, where est is not part of a verb in the perfect tense:
Extremum oppidum Allobrogrum est FINAL
Flumen est Arar MIDDLE (but emphatic ‘to exist’)
Here, on the contrary, I sense that the emphasis is on Arar, the new information: 'The river is the Arar'. See Devine & Stephens's specificational sentence (#3) below. I'd take the existential variant to be Est flumen, Arar 'There's a river, the Arar'. IacobusAmor 04:48, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Huius est civitatis longe amplissima auctoritas INITIAL
Mollis ac minime resistens ad calamitates ferendas mens eorum est FINAL
Sueborum gens est longe maxima et bellicosissima Germanorum MIDDLE
Privati ac separati agri apud eos nihil est FINAL
This one may reflect a tendency to put est after a sense of negation. See below. IacobusAmor 04:51, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Mercatoribus est aditus MIDDLE
Est autem hoc Gallicae consuetudinis INITIAL
This small sample might show two things: 1) Instances of est as described above are much rarer than one would suspect, 2) Word order is pretty free. However, none of the instances is actually of the type we use in Vicipaedia, i.e. Noun A (Rome) is Noun B (the capital of Italy). This (rare) usage is the one we should be looking for. My prediction (read: gut feeling) would be that you would find no fewer instances of A B est than of A est B.--Ceylon 22:13, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Yes, but this rule, I think, was implemented so that the typical visitor could read sentences in Vicipaedia more easily. Eventhough we are (meant to be) writing like classical authors like Caesar, we are an encyclopaedia not a commentarium. Therefore I like the idea of looking at what other Latin enyclopaedias were doing with esse. Harrissimo 22:24, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC).
And I offer first the page Germania in Hofmann [1]. Est and sunt are never at the end of a sentence unless they are following a past participle. Harrissimo 22:30, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC).
And many attested Latin examples occur in which est and sunt precede a past participle. IacobusAmor 04:39, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Great, this proves my point: GERMANIA - regio Europae latissima, quae a Gallis, Rhaetis, ac Pannoniis, Rheno, et Danubio fluminibus, a Sarmatis, Dacisque metu mutuo, ac montibus separatur: cetera am bit Oceanus, latos sinus et insularum immensa spatia complectens. It does not use est at all in the definition of the lemma, it is omitted - this is the style that I think should be recommended.--Ceylon 22:35, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Yes if we're working on the evidence we have so far (which is just Hofmann).
Isidore uses est in his introductory sentences eventhough he doesn't have a consistent format. So that slightly goes against Hofmann's pattern. Pliny doesn't do lemmas. That is all I can offer - do you have any Latin encyclopaedias? Harrissimo 22:49, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC).
Appearing at the top of a page, isn't it just a big long title without the verb? I fear most of our stubs wouldn't have verbs at all. Isidorus Hispanlensis in his "encyclopedia" writes: "DE GRAMMATICA. Grammatica est scientia recte loquendi, et origo et fundamentum liberalium litterarum." , "DE PEDIBVS. Pedes sunt, qui certis syllabarum temporibus insistunt, nec a legitimo spatio umquam recedunt. Pedes dicti eo, quod per ipsos metra ambulent.", sometimes he does not have a verb but it is a series of lemmas on the same page and I think he was avoiding repetition.--Rafaelgarcia 22:50, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
You are right, Hofmann on his own is hardly sufficient evidence (but the quotation is not just a long title, but a definition, as can be seen from the fact that it continues with another parallel clause: cetera ambit Oceanus ...). Unfortunately, all ancient lexica I know (not many, I admit) are Greek. The only Latin one that comes to mind is Festus. He chooses another method of introducing his lemmata: He almost never uses est, but dicimus, dicitur, appellatur, appellant, significat. (However, in his paragraph on Martius he says Martius mensis initium anni fuit). Maybe you will find more? --Ceylon 23:06, 13 Martii 2008 (UTC)
"A is B" exemplifies a sentence type called equative sentence, in which it's impossible to determine, without resort to some ad hoc criterion, which one, A or B, is the subject of the sentence. Judging from definitions given by Roman grammarians, "A est B" seems to be preferred, when defining grammatical terms. E.g., Charisius defines pronoun and verb, respectively, as follows: "Pronomen est pars orationis quae posita pro nomine minus quidem, paene idem tamen significat" (Inst.gram.2 p.157 r.24-25 Keil); "Verbum est pars orationis administrationem rei significans cum tempore et persona numerisque carens casu" (Inst.gram.2 p.164 r.13-14); etc. Encyclopedias are another place to look for equative structures, because encyclopedic entries usually begin with a definition. Another device for expressing equativity in Latin, as Ceylon says, is the ellipsis of est: "GERMANIA - regio Europae latissima (&c)" or "STOICI, Philosophorum secta, cuius auctor est Zeno Cittieus" (Hofmann); etc. What I'm pleading for is tolerance for both devices/patterns. --Neander 00:16, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Yes, both, perhaps. But not all 3. ¶ To me, est is equivalent to an equal-sign: "A est B" means "A = B." Why not therefore follow algebraic order (rather than "reverse Polish" notation)? --Ioscius (disp) 02:47, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)

All of this is discussed in Latin Word Order: Structured Meaning and Information, by A. M. Devine and Laurence D. Stephens (Oxford University Press, 2006). Their sample of Latin writers implies (if I may condense many footnotes & sidelines) that putting esse at the end is perhaps slightly archaic, typical of (e.g.) Cato the Elder, while putting esse in the middle begins to be typical starting with Caesar & Cicero. This generalization leaves out many, many, many exceptions.† In subordinate clauses (if I remember rightly), esse may have survived longer at the end (and this will seem natural to our German friends). Putting esse first produces what Devine & Stephens call "existential esse," with Est most usually glossed in English as 'There is'. Otherwise, they distinguish four classes of copular sentences (I condense their examples):

1. Predicational sentences like "The winner of the election was very conservative": Loca sunt temperatiora quam in Gallia (B.G. 5.12);
2. Identity sentences (equatives) like "Mrs Thatcher is Margaret Roberts": cui vivere est cogitare (Cicero, Tusc. 5.111);
3. Specificational sentences like "The winner of the election was Mrs Thatcher": alterius factionis principes erant Haedui (B.G. 6.12);
4. Descriptively identifying sentences like "Mrs Thatcher is the lady with the handbag": Istum quem quaeris ego sum (Plaut. Curc. 419).
†For example: "Under negation, the copula is final and the predicate normally precedes the negative particle"; e.g., opus deforme non est (B.G. 7.23). Naturally, this use of terminal esse is unlikely to occur in the first sentence of an article, which almost always tells us what the lemma is, not what it is not. ¶ In short, the position of esse, like that of many elements of a sentence, is a matter of emphasis, and the emphasized element comes at the end; e.g. "ut essent ab ictu telorum remiges tuti" (B.C. 2.4), in which the focus of the thought is tuti, and that idea would be quite different from "ut ab ictu telorum remiges tuti essent." IacobusAmor 04:35, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
That's very helpful - maybe we can reach consensus on recommending either A est B or A, B (or A: B or A - B) and discouraging A B est in the definition of the lemma? I would feel uneasy about actually banning A B est (or A dicitur B and others), because such usages do exist and I'm in favour of tolerance and variety wherever possible. By the way, I don't think a preference for A B est has anything to do with either Latin text-books used in Germany (prose composition has not been part of the Latin syllabus in German schools for many decades now) or German word-order (which is A ist B)..--Ceylon 06:29, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Regarding German, I was speaking only of subordinate clauses, in which (if I remember rightly) the canonical order puts a form of 'to be' at the end, e.g.: "Ich glaube, dass er ein Mann ist." Similarly, the Classical samples I've collected suggest that esse comes at the end of Latin subordinate clauses more easily than at the end of independent clauses (but of course the sample is small, and this suggestion could be wrong). IacobusAmor 13:05, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
The only language I know which has a standard pattern of A B to-be is Sanskrit.--Ceylon 06:29, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Errare humanum est. --Alex1011 08:20, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Pronounced errare humánust. The est has no (or minimal) stress; that may be why it can easily drop out. Don't forget the title of the current Pope Benedict's first encyclical: Deus Caritas Est. IacobusAmor 13:05, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
Navigare necesse est :o) &c. &c. Although this certainly invalidates the argument that A B est is not good Latin, the crucial question remains: What is the right syntax for the definition of a lemma in an encyclopedia? And there I think it is becoming clear that A est B or A, B are the front runners. --Ceylon 09:16, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
I was about to say exactly the same thing. My favourite source [1] uses the A, B method; Vicipaedia uses the A est B method, and I think (since we have the space, and no shortage of the movable types e s and t to worry about) our method is more readable. I suspect the underlying purpose of Vicipaedia:A est B has been, all the time, to catch users whose Latin is only just strong enough to write a one-sentence stub. (And, yes, some of these actually do make complaints to the effect that "my grammar book tells me to put the verb at the end".) In the case of the definition sentence (especially when composed by a beginning Latinist) the central est can be useful simply to mark off lemma from definition. Elsewhere in the article, especially a longer article, style and logic may dictate a different position, and why not? Andrew Dalby (disputatio) 09:49, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
  1. Iohannes Iacobus Hofmannus, Lexicon universale (1698) ~
  2. Re: "the central est can be useful simply to mark off lemma from definition."—Exactly! See Aetna mons below. IacobusAmor 13:29, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)

    Note that it is not the same if "B" is an adjective, an adverb or a noun. Just see the sintax of the Romance languages wich are the direct descendents of Latin. You can say in Spanish both es innegable or innegable es, because it is an adjective. But you usually cannot say Jorge ingeniero es because it is a noun, only Jorge es ingeniero. It also depends on what you want to give emphasis. --Mexicanusscribe! 10:41, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)

    You are right, both matters (noun / adjective / participle as predicate, and emphasis) play an important role in word order. However - as it would seem, in contrast to Spanish - you can actually say NounA NounB est (Anser avis est) in Latin without particular emphasis.--Ceylon 11:00, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    Agreeing with you, I think I can explain further. Although spanish norms grew out of latin, they aren't always the latin norms. This is one such case. In latin, not only the word order but also the verb order is much freer. The emphatic places are at the beginning and end of the sentence. You can see this by reading Caesar or even the bible. How you translate a sentence depends on the word order and the context preceeding and following the sentence. Thus if you are talking about birds and you say "Anser avis est" that is completely unemphatic, deemphasizing avis, because you are just indicating that the goose belongs to the category of animal you have just been discussing. If you in this context said, "Anser est avis" (The goose is a bird) that places avis in the emphatic final position. On the other hand if "Anser est avis aquatica quae vivit in America Septentrionali." appeared as the lemma of a page it est would be totally unemphatic, merely serving to connect the lemma Anser with its definition; if you placed est at the end however, it would be emphatic because the end of the sentence is emphatic and then we must ask why is it important that the goose exist!.--Rafaelgarcia 16:50, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    You think it is unimportant that the goose exists? I'm sure that's not the goose's feeling :)))--Ceylon 17:01, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    A more curious historical issue relates to Vicipaedia itself. When I arrived here, articles were indeed filled with sentences with verbs forced to the end, like "Anser avis aquatica quae in America Septentrionali, praecipue in fundis quos homines colunt, vivit est." Undoubtedly some early vicipaedians had learned their Latin from textbooks that told them always to put verbs last. The source had to be pedagogical. Such investigation as I did at that time suggested that these vicipaedians were most definitely not from the Western Hemisphere, were probably from Europe, and were possibly from Central Europe (extending up to Finland). IacobusAmor 17:38, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    For reference: (1) the first sentence in the textbook (most) commonly used in U.S. schools in the 1950s & 1960s is "America est patria nostra"; (2) the fourth sentence in Traupman's Conversational Latin (2nd ed.) is "Mihi nomen est Gloria." Over here in America, "A est B" is the canonical form. IacobusAmor 17:53, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    I don't think anybody is disagreeing with that—but as a matter of style, there are plenty of contexts in which a terminal esse is Just Plain Wrong. I quote two that actually appeared in Vicipaedia:
    Arretium (Italice Arezzo); urbs circiter incolarum 95.229 in regione Tusciae in media Italia est.
    Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri ctus [sic] catholicorum sacerdotum sine religiosis votis laborat finem apostolicum proprium in mundo adimplendum et societas clericalis vitæ apostolicæ iuris pontificii est.
    In those examples, est, especially because it likes to be pronounced [st] (with no stress), is too tiny a word on which to hang all that verbiage.
    Another problem with "A B est" is that it can be ambiguous: Aetna mons in Sicilia est could be either 'Mount Aetna is in Sicily' or 'Aetna is a mountain in Sicily', whereas Aetna est mons in Sicilia is less likely to be anything other than the latter. Also, "Est A B" (with B being an appositive, rather than a predicate noun) is possible: 'There's a mountain in Sicily, Aetna'. IacobusAmor 13:21, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)

    Proposed Change[fontem recensere]

    I think we are pretty much in agreement. Would anyone object if I modified the text of the rule, so that it recommends A est B or (if there is no risk of ambiguity) A, B and discourages (rather than outlaws) A B est?--Ceylon 16:35, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    I would prefer it if we specifically recommend A est B in the first sentence of an article (for the reason I and Iacobus give above: it is a handy way of separating the lemma from the explanation).
    I don't think we should recommend or even suggest A, B because (a) we don't currently do it, and no one has suggested changing; [Sorry, Ceylon, I realise now that you did propose this, far above! Andrew] (b) I don't think there's a classical precedent, though I have myself mentioned an early-modern one; (c) I think the Wikipedia/Vicipaedia style, of beginning each article with a full sentence, is the most readable option. Andrew Dalby (disputatio) 16:47, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    I don't feel passionately about this but, I feel not having a verb evokes a sense of a dictionary rather than an encyclopedia. On the other hand, Hoffman's lexicon, appears to marry the features of both and I noticed that the Polish wikipedia follows the Hoffman model. I don't think it is done by any other wikipedia.--Rafaelgarcia 18:38, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    The Russian wikipedia also makes do without is (but so does the entire language). I actually wrote some articles on here starting off A, B, apparently without anybody taking offense back then. My approach would be tolerance for anything that does no harm - or expressed in a rule: Suademus ut incipiat commentatio quaeque (Lemma) est (definiens), quia multa exempla antiqua definitiones praebent hoc ordine compositas, qui et perspicuitatis causa ad encyclopaediam scribendam maxime idoneus videtur. Dissuademus autem ordinem (Lemma) (definiens) est quippe qui saepe molestas inferat obscuritates.--Ceylon 22:31, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    How about the following arrangement, which could help the beginning reader:
    Suademus ut incipiat commentatio quaeque in forma A est B, ubi A designat lemma et B definitionem eius; et dissuademus ordinem A B est.
    Ratio: Praebent multa exempla antiqua definitiones hoc ordine A est B compositas, qui et perspicuitatis causa ad encyclopaediam scribendam maxime idoneus videtur, et quippe ordo A B est saepe molestas inferat obscuritates.
    --Rafaelgarcia 23:09, 14 Martii 2008 (UTC)

    I don't think the best idea would be to regulate some use of the language. I would use this page topic more as an education for people who go around 'correcting' one form to another because they were only taught one way. —Mucius Tever 01:06, 15 Martii 2008 (UTC)

    Suggestion of something is hardly regulation; moreover some uniformity in presentation is necessary hence the vicificatio formula.--Rafaelgarcia 01:20, 15 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    Uniformity of presentation, certainly. Uniformity of grammar, not necessarily. As long as the words mean what they're supposed to (yes, word order, even when flexible, has an effect) then a stylistic variation should not be treated as a corrigendum. Personally I think that while the copula normally goes between, there are other cases where it doesn't sound as right—at the very least, just because 'est' isn't, as some think, a necessary sentence-finisher, doesn't mean it has to go between both terms; I know previously I've written sentences like "A, sive X seu F, B est qui ...", where "est B qui ..." just doesn't seem right; maybe the commas make it feel like a violation of Wackernagel's Law...
    Additionally, I understand there are some scholars of Latin word order who would say that Aetna mons in Sicilia est, or any other combination of the words, would not normally be ambiguous—at least, not if written by a native speaker who knows and is using the rules relating to focus and new information and whatnot, and is not using poetic license. Of course, I think most of us lack that kind of understanding of the nuances involved. —Mucius Tever 07:46, 15 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    I don't see why the second version "....est B qui" wouldn't seem right, given that the particular word modified by "qui" is "B" and it would make sense to arrange the sentence so that they are right next to each other to avoid ambiguity. And again a "suggestion" is not "regulation" in any sense of the word.--Rafaelgarcia 13:29, 15 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    In the particular case I cited, 'est B qui' sounds wrong because copular 'est' is usually an unstressed element (as mentioned above) and ought to be enclitic on something, and it is impossible for any element to be enclitic on a pause (in this case the comma), so 'est' would either go after B, or be stressed/non-enclitic. Again, I think a 'suggestion' would not be the correct action to take—this is a wiki; it's not like anyone is to exert control over something they have written such that it can't be corrected by someone else if it is actually wrong—what is wanted here is education. —Mucius Tever 22:00, 15 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    I agree with Mucius on this detail, although it is a matter of 'feeling' (hopefully harking back to Latin reading rather than similarities to my mother tongue) which it might be hard to 'prove': ... B est qui ... sounds more Latin to the inner ear than ... est B qui ....--Ceylon 13:39, 15 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    I suspect that many readers, beginners at least, would read that variant of A B est as a typo for "A, sive X seu F, seu B, est qui. . . ." IacobusAmor 22:23, 15 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    Coming back to the proposed change: Any objections to toning down the present command to a recommendation?--Ceylon 22:41, 15 Martii 2008 (UTC)
    I think that is the consensus. No one has objected to the above phrasing.--Rafaelgarcia 23:40, 15 Martii 2008 (UTC)

    Exempla mira[fontem recensere]

    For the record: here's a curiously postponed form of the copulative esse, hodie repertum in Bolivia: "cuius maximum culmen mons Saxama (Hispanice; Nevado Sajama, Quechice; Sahama et Aymarice; Saxama), 6542 metra altus, est." IacobusAmor 13:20, 6 Aprilis 2008 (UTC)

    Alium (fortasse OK), in Servius Sulpicius Rufus: "Accusator cum eo Marcus Cato, vir magnae auctoritatis et unus ex optimatium ducibus, fuit." IacobusAmor 11:44, 7 Aprilis 2008 (UTC)
    Another example: Vicipaedia:Taberna#A new example of an amazingly postponed est. --UV 12:12, 3 Maii 2009 (UTC)