February 27, 2011

Libri muti magistri sunt


Recording also available at iPadio using this link.

Today's saying is Libri muti magistri sunt. In English: "Books are silent teachers."

I thought this would make up a good follow-up to yesterday's saying about how writing allows those who are absent to be present via the written word. When someone's words of wisdom are recorded in writing, that allows the person to become your teacher, even if you are not in a classroom together in the same place, at the same time. You can learn from listening to a teacher's spoken words, but you can also learn from the written words recorded in a book, which is how that book can become your silent teacher. For me, this has been profoundly true: even in school, I learned more from books than from listening to teachers in the classroom, and now as an adult, I do almost all my learning directly from books, especially the treasure-trove of GoogleBooks. That is why I consider reading to be a fundamental skill, essential for all students to learn: when you can read, the whole library becomes your teacher.

In terms of Latin grammar here, the trick is definitely in separating the subject from the predicate. As you read long, you find the word libri first, "books," and then the next word, an adjective, muti, "silent," could go with books, grammatically speaking, but that really does not make sense: libri muti would imply that there are some books which are not muti, talking books as it were. Since that really does not make sense, you need to place a mental pause there, taking libri, provisionally, as the subject, and muti, provisionally, as part of the predicate. Then, sure enough, the next word lets everything fall into place. Libri, subject, are muti magistri, predicate.

For those of you who are fans of macrons, here is the Latin written with macrons:

Librī mūtī magistrī sunt.



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6 comments:

Anand said...

Your proverb selections are really good in content as well as from grammar view point for even a beginner.

It is quite true that the library is your teacher if you spontaneously lose yourself in reading books. This is a skill which is increasingly on the decline. Anti-intellectualism rules the day.

I personally find that if one reads and reflects on standard literature, it is very good mind exercise and a treasure for life.

Laura Gibbs said...

Agreed, Anand! I think it is so sad that just at this moment when we have more and better access to books than ever before in the history of the world, people seem less interested in reading them. I think in a previous lifetime I must have been a medieval monk or nun, working in a scriptorium, making books by hand... so now when I see all these digital books available, part of me just gasps with all the amazement a medieval person would feel at seeing this digital miracle!

Anand said...

In fact, that is quite a good possibility. Even I tend to think this way, as if I was an ancient scribe wrtiing away in palm leaf manuscripts with my stylus.
I have a great attraction for books as well as old manuscripts.

The latest news is that the Korean government is planning to replace books fully by tablets for even primary school children. I think that much early exposure to technology is not needed
though. They will forget how to turn pages of a book and instead only remember how to scroll.

Laura Gibbs said...

At first, I thought I would not like electronic books so much, but I have ended up liking them very much: mostly because I am so near-sighted! Being able to make the font LARGE is such a great thing for me! :-)

Anonymous said...

Laura Gibbs, hi-Scott Utley here in Los Angeles. I am not sure how many years I have been following you, but I believe it is 7-8-9 maybe. I stick to your audio proverbs because they suit me and I must say, I can understand almost 80% or so of any Latin I come across. My life has been so very much enhanced by your generous gifts to us, so I say thank you, thank you once again, Ms. Gibbs.

Laura Gibbs said...

Scott, it is always nice to hear from you!!! I'm kind of switching over from Latin to English... but in the past 10 years or whatever I've piled up so much Latin stuff that I can just keep blogging forever I guess - and I am so glad it is fun for others too!!! :-)