Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Wonderful Soup: Actors, CI, Ablatives, and Latin Word Order

I recently had a cool experience that was repeated across several classes. It involves ablatives and Latin word order, CI-style. It's difficult to explain in words, but I'll try to be brief for those who are interested.

The main sentence we were focusing on was:

Maurine (or whoever) sagittam arcu iecit.
Maurine shot an arrow with her bow.

We were creating a story together as a class in which one student goes on a hunt to kill some food for another student to eat. In the scene with this sentence, there were three student actors in front of the class, one for the hunter, another for the prey (an elephant, for example), and another for the bow. The kids loved the idea of having an actor for the bow, and actually it really helps to demonstrate the ablative.

So for this sentence the hunter draws the bow and then the bow fires the arrow at the prey. Of course all of this is really funny to look at because the actors have to figure out how to do it. Once they do decide, though, I can start circling:

Q: Did Maurine shoot the arrow with the bow? (iecitne Maurine sagittam arcu?)
A: yes (certe!)
Q: Did Maurine shoot the arrow with the bow or with a lion?  (iecitne Maurine sagittam arcu an leone?)
A: A bow! (arcu!)
Q: Did Maurine shoot the bow with a lion? (iecitne Maurine sagittam leone?)
A: No! (minime!)

And so on, for as long as we can stand it to get as many reps as possible. Of course after each question I repeat the original statement "Maurine sagittam arcu iecit" and after a while the students can really hear this sentence and understand what it means.

Another cool thing here, besides the ablative, is that it allowed me to demonstrate to my students how Latin word order builds suspense. Let me try to explain...

After we had repeated the sentence a bunch and everyone had come to understand the sentence, we rewound the story and repeated a few sentences and watched the actors perform. When we got to the sentence "sagittam arcu iecit," I played a trick on the actors. I said the sentence dramatically, leaving out the verb "iecit": "Maurine saaaaaaigttam aaarrrrcuuuuuuuu..."

What happened next--and it happened in three different classes--was awesome. The actor who was playing the bow threw the arrow. When she did, I said "minime! inquitne magister 'iecit?'" and all the students in the class responded "minime!" The point was that I hadn't said "shot" so the bow shouldn't have thrown the arrow. And all the students knew it. So we repeated it again and the bow waited until I finally said "iecit!" before she threw the arrow.

The pause before "iecit" was really fun. I could even ask other questions--like "elephantus! vultne Maurine te necare?" A:"certe! eheu!"--and leave the actors hanging, just about to "shoot the arrow." Then finally the "iecit" comes and we get our climax.

The next day we were reading a written version of the story together as a class here is how I wrote out this scene to preserve the suspense:

Maurine sagittam arcu…
    tum elephantus triste inquit, “quaeso noli me necare!”
    Maurine nihil curavit. Maurine sagittam arcu iecit.

While we were reading this section I simply paused and we discussed for about 30 seconds in English how the verb was left off and how that built suspense and how that explains why Romans liked the verb at the end of a sentence, because it builds suspense and makes you listen to the whole thing.

It was only with actors and CI that I was able to make this particular point about word order so strongly.