September 09, 2006

Hic mortui vivunt, hic muti loquuntur.

In English: Here the dead live; here the mute speak.

This is a "riddling" type of saying. Can you guess where "here" would be...?

Here is IN THE LIBRARY. This is a saying that is often found inscribed on library buildings.

Thanks to the magic of the written word, in the library the dead live on, and although mute, they are able to speak to us through their books. A variant form of this saying is Hic mortui vivunt, hic muti magistri loquuntur, "Here the dead live; here the mute masters speak." Or: Hic mortui vivunt, pandunt oracula muti, "Here the dead live; here the mute reveal oracles."

All teachers and students of Latin are deeply moved, I think, by the way that the words of a dead language can still speak to us, thanks to their survival in written form. There is an intense thrill when you have the distinct feeling that a text is speaking, really speaking to you, conveying ideas and feelings, an awareness of the world that one person - long dead - is sharing with you over the chasm of time.

At the same time, I worry a lot about the dangers of silent reading. If we really want the mute to speak to us through their writing, shouldn't we read their writing out loud, and give voice to their words? To read without reading out loud is only a partial reading. I hope very much that by providing the audio with these proverbs, I can inspire you to read Latin out loud! When you use your own voice to sound out the words you are able to give them an intonation, to hear the poetry, to appreciate the word order and the sound play - things you will often miss out on completely when you read the words silently.

For more on this topic, please read the masterful essay by William Harris: The Sin of Silent Reading. I agree absolutely with Harris's advice to all Latin students and teachers: "Always read Latin aloud, don't be afraid of making mistakes, just roar it out and take pleasure in the sound of the spoken Latin words."

So here is today's proverb read out loud - I hope it will inspire you to read some Latin out loud yourself - loudly! The words need your voice, if the mute really are going to speak again.

3034. Hic mortui vivunt, hic muti loquuntur.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The Flash audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio.


Alex Moore said...

You are always an inspiration.

Laura Gibbs said...

Thanks so much for your comment! I've been really short on time for blogging the past few months, but it's nice the way the old posts are sitting around very patiently even when I have not had a lot of time for new posts.