A request to the Contributors: Noun Gender Indications
Hello you lovely folk! First: thank you so much for the course, all your hard work and your swift responses to suggestions for additions to translations.
Could I make a request: in the hover tips, could the gender of the nouns be indicated along with the translation? This would help immensely - probably in proportion to the amount of work required. Maybe including the gender in any new words added, then going back to existing ones when things are more stable?
Please know that I am making a suggestion to improve, not making a complaint. I'm delighted to be able to refresh my Latin from school days so many years ago :o)
Unfortunately that can't be done for Latin, because it's not an in-house language. Don't ask what that means, it's complicated and involves "fun" back-end stuff, but basically courses teaching Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, and English have access to things other courses don't for technical reasons, and this is one of them.
Also, just mentioning this in passing. New words are only added in a new tree version, which doesn't happen until a course is more stable. :) But if it could be done, it would actually need to wait for a new tree version anyway, even for existing words, because of how it's done on the courses which have it.
Remember that Latin is delightfully consistent and predictable when it comes to noun genders. The endings most often give it away. Spend some time studying the general rules and the most common exceptions, and you'll be fine.
Take for instance the first declension: nouns that end in -a in the nominative singular and -ae in the genitive singular. These are almost always feminine.
The exceptions here are nouns that clearly refer to males, such as nauta (sailor) and agricola (farmer). These are masculine, because, in Roman times, these occupations would most likely be held by men. Same with male personal names ending in -a. Sulla, Caligula, Catilina, etc.
As someone who has actually read all 39,589 Lexical Entries in the Oxford Latin Dictionary, I can say that this is very VERY false. There are some patterns for determining genders, but I would beat a student for saying "it's first declension so it must be feminine", Plus this does nothing to help 3rd declension nouns, where their patterns can only be noticed after quite a lot of study. Not to mention things like place names, nouns that are one gender in the singular, another in the plural, nouns that take multiple genders like canis -is, m.f. dog. The predictable rhyme or reason to it disappears when viewing the breadth of the language.
When I said you'll be fine, I based that on my own experience. I studied the rules/patterns and the most common exceptions regarding noun gender (including those for the 3d. declension), and the matter has never bothered me since. Sure, a completely irregular one pops up every now and then, but this is so infrequent that it never becomes a burden to take it in. This has been a much bigger issue with other languages.
In my experience.
Now it must be said I have mostly limited my studies to Classical Latin. Virgil, Livy, Ovid, Sallust, Seneca, etc. I haven't read much medieval/ecclesiastical literature, and I wouldn't dream of trying to tackle such a vastly diverse work as The Oxford Latin Dictionary. I shudder to think of the amounts of Hapax Legomena within.
It took me seven months to get through the whole thing, working for often up to 6-8 hours a day. I found out more from that one project about the Latin language than any other source. You start to see the strings that bind it all together, notice patterns involving how or why things are what they are, and gather a pretty wondersome framework of how Romans must have thought purely based on their use of the language. Fun facts: The Oxford Latin Dictionary occasionally forgets to use the Oxford comma, there are plenty of typos in the book, they don't translate dirty words if they can help it, usually using old-timey was to get around the particularly vulgar stuff, and they most annoyingly use corn to refer to wheat. A caveat about the canis thing though, it's still inconsistent, because other 1st, 2nd, and 3rd declension nouns referring to animals aren't always distinguishing between m and f depending on the sex of the animal itself.
The idea of actually reading through a dictionary would never occur to me, but it seems interesting the way you put it here. It does. I don't believe I'll find time for such a project though. If you're going to do something like that, you sure have to do it thoroughly.
Seems it wouldn't get you far in any Catullus studies though, if it is that prudish. But other dictionaries are like that too. I remember I had to search a while to find out exactly what pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo means. Quite a little shock.
This said, I do support the idea of being able to show the gender for nouns in the lessons. It would be helpful. For all languages that have noun genders.
But keep in mind that for Latin, that would mean marking not only m., f. and. n., but also common gender, and the singular/plural transvestites. We should need five categories.
Those two last ones aren't a big issue either though. It is completely logical that 'canis' (dog) can be either masculine or feminine, depending on the sexual gender of the dog in question. And those that switch their gender with their number are infrequent enough to be easily memorised. At least in actual literature.