Characteristics of Post-Classical Latin

Increased Use Of
Early Printed Editions

A. Increased Use of:

  1. Future Participle:
    triumphaturus (“about to/intending to celebrate a triumph”)
    + form of sum: (essem examinaturus: “I was going to examine”)
  2. 4th declension nouns (these are often formed from the last principal part of verbs):  captus, -ūs (< capio); flatus (< flo, flare); spiritus
  3. Prefixes (compound verbs, etc.), especially “per-“:
    Note also: omission of prefixes: e.g. capio = accipio
    (see also “Word Formation”)
  4. Suffixes: (see also “Word Formation” for examples)
    frequentative (repeated action) verbs in -tō or –sō
    inchoative verbs (expressing entry into a state) in –scō
    abstract nouns in -tūdō, tūdinis, f.
    adjectives in -bilis, -bile
    -bundus, -a, -um
    adverbs in -im and –ter
    verbs formed from nouns Note: The longer the word and the later the text was written, the more likely that you can translate it by looks.  Remember:  Latin “ae” > English “e”;
    -tās, tātis, f. > -ty;
    -iō, iōnis, f. > -ion
    e.g. suspicio (suspicion), praeceptor (preceptor), proscriptio (proscription), intervallum (interval), haeresis (heresy), tumultus (tumult) , impietas (impiety), adflictio (affliction), factio (faction), eloquens (eloquent)
  5. Prepositions, especially “dē,” sometimes used in place of case endings (e.g. partitive genitive) (cf. French) multiplicationem de 12 in 12
    quidquid de motu
  6. Dative (of reference): “for” (generally more common in non-fiction)
    especially present active participle as substantive:
    aedificanti: “for one building”
    intuentibus: “for those paying attention, looking at attentively”
  7. Gerund and gerundive (generally more common in non-fiction)
    utendi ratione (“of using reasoning”)
    ad mutandum eius statum (“to change its state/for changing its state”)
  8. Ablative for duration of time (cf. classical poetry)

B. Differences

(especially in Medieval Latin; less so/not in Neo-Latin)

  1. quod/quia (+ indicative or subjunctive) introducing indirect statement;  translate as “that.”
    Scriptum est quia domus mea domus orationis est.
    (It has been/stands written that my house is a house of prayer.)
  2. Ablative of gerund for present participle: e.g. ambulandō (“by walking”),     “(while) walking” (cf. Spanish participles)
  3. Nouns + forms of “facio” for verbal ideas: moram facere = morari
  4. Periphrastic verb tenses with “debeo,”  “habeo,” “fui,” “volo” and “sum.”
    “institutus fueram” for classical pluperfect “institutus eram”
  5. Shift in word order from SOV (subject-object-verb) to SVO.
    Scriptural texts also show influence from Semitic which is VSO.
  6. nē + (present or perfect) subjunctive = prohibitions (colloquialism reinforced by Greek influence)
    ne timeas: don’t be afraid.  (cf. noli timere)
  7. Confusion in distinctions between pronouns; increased use of pronoun subjects
    e.g. ipse vs. suus; weaking of ille (cf. Romance language articles)
  8. Infinitive used to express purpose
    venturus est iudicare (“he is coming to judge”)
  9. Comparative and superlatives used for emphasis rather than literal degree.

C. Vocabulary


  1. Greek loan words  (e.g. method, f.; anatome)
  2. Particles:
    e.g. autem (regularly for Greek ;de in translation)
  3. Christian terms (many borrowed from Greek):
    ecclesia (church), episcopus (bishop)
  4. Colloquial words: “mando” for classical Latin “edo” “eat”  (cf. Romance languages)

D. Spelling

 (some reflecting changes in pronunciation):

  1. Confusion in “ae” and “e”:  (a)ecclesia, [a]estimo
    Confusion of “oe” and “ae/e”:  coelum = caelum; coena = cena; pena = poena
  2. Extra or missing “h”: (h)Irenaeus, (h)eremo, syn(h)odus
  3. “ch” for “h”:
    mi(c)hi, ni(c)hil
  4. Alternation of final -t and -d (also classical):
    haut/haud;  aput/apud;  set/sed
  5. Alternation of “f” and “ph”:
    sofista (for “sophista” < Greek); Frygia (=Phrygia)
  6. Confusion of “is” and “es”
  7. Confusion of “i” and “y” ( and “u”):
    illacrymat (=illacrimat)
  8. Confusion of “ti” and “ci”:
    nacio (for natio)

E. Orthography:

often carry-overs from manuscripts)

  1. Use of “tall s” (especially for non-final “s”) in early printed editions.  (The cross bar is usually shorter than on “f” or only on the left side.  Double “s” sometimes uses one tall and one short form).

  2. A line over a vowel indicates a following -m or -n (usually at the end of a word; sometimes in the middle before a consonant).
    compraehensuru = -surum
  3. Ligatures (letter combination forms), especially & (ampersand): a form of “et” ligature.  Also, various forms of “ae,” “ct,” and “st”).

  4. Use of grave accent to distinguish homonyms and/or mark adverbs or clarify one letter prepositions.  e.g.:
    tantum (adjective) vs. tantùm (adverb)
    quod (relative pronoun) vs. quòd (conjunction “that” or “because”)
    quam (relative pronoun) vs. quàm (comparative “than”)
    cum (preposition) vs. cùm (conjunction)
    è (preposition)

    Use of circumflex to mark long vowel, e.g. ablative

  5. Long “i” for second of two consecutive “i”s.
  6. Abbreviations: especially(of genitive ending).

  7. Punctuation (and hyphens): often lacking or not standardized.
    commas omitted in lists
    period used (before and) after a Roman numeral (to indicate that the letters are used here as a number); superscript letters after are used to indicate the case ending on the corresponding word for the number.

F. Early printed editions

 (Sample Page)