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Another Latin question re: usage of vir/homo


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Excerpted from Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary, which is quite informative, but you can get lost in the overwhelming detail.


vĭr, vĭri

A man as related to a woman, a husband

A man (opp. a boy)

a man, a man of courage, principle, or honor, one who deserves the name of a man


hŏmo, ĭnis

a human being, man. (so a more general definition of "man.")


fēmĭna, ae (seems to be a more general definition)

a female.

Lit.A. Of human beings, a female, woman


mŭlĭer, ĕris (more along the lines of a wife, though can be used more generally)

a woman, a female, whether married or not.

In partic., a wife, opp. to a maid

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I think that a beginning student should be able to manage 'homo' vs. 'vir', as the latter refers specifically to men vs. women. The femina/mulier thing is much harder - Calvin still asks me which one to use to fit with the answer book. He has a feeling that 'femina' denotes a higher class woman than 'mulier', but that's hard to pick out usually.



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Would you expect a first-year Latin student to get the subtle differences of use correct every time? Or is it not that important? I'm talking English-to-Latin translations, BTW.
How important it is depends on your goals for Latin and education in general. One of my goals is to teach my kids to be precise in their choice of words - to help them be aware of how different word choices can yield different shades of meaning. I see translation as an optimal way to teach this, so, yes, I consider it important.


I'm not sure that I'd expect a first-year Latin student to be able to get those sorts of subtle distinctions on their own, though. When your ds differs from the answer key, the two of you can discuss it: why your ds chose the word he did, why do you think the answer key has the word it does, and which one do you think more accurately captures the sense of the original sentence. And it's ok to decide that you don't think the answer key is the best choice, so long as you can back it up with good reasoning. There's a reason that even experts can end up translating the same passage differently - it's an art, not a science, and sometimes there is no one-to-one correlation between languages. If there was, then there'd be no reason to not just read everything in translation, right?

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