Basic Latin translation
February 6, 2013 2:20 AM   Subscribe

Can someone, please, confirm or correct the following translation from English to Latin: Light and Shadow = Luci atque umbris Why is it not 'lux atque umbris'? Thanks!
posted by Parsnip to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It depends on the phrase's place in the sentence. "luci atque umbris" is probably in the dative case and so means something like "to light and to shadows", as in "to give gifts to light and to shadows".

"lux" is in the nominative case (for subjects of sentences); if you want the whole phrase in the nominative, it would be something like "lux et umbra" or "lux umbraque" ("light and shadow").
posted by wayland at 2:35 AM on February 6, 2013

I took it to be "lux et umbra."
posted by phaedon at 3:20 AM on February 6, 2013

From Virgil:

Libra die somnique pares ubi fecerit horas
et medium luci atque umbris iam dividit orbem,
210 exercete, viri, tauros, serite hordea campis
usque sub extremum brumae intractabilis imbrem;
nec non et lini segetem et Cereale papaver
tempus humo tegere et iamdudum incumbere aratris,
dum sicca tellure licet, dum nubila pendent.


Now poising fair the hours of sleep and day
Give half the world to sunshine, half to shade,
Then urge your bulls, my masters; sow the plain
Even to the verge of tameless winter's showers
With barley: then, too, time it is to hide
Your flax in earth, and poppy, Ceres' joy,
Aye, more than time to bend above the plough,
While earth, yet dry, forbids not, and the clouds
Are buoyant.

or a more literal gloss:

"between light and shadow now is divided the world."
posted by empath at 3:35 AM on February 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

In other words, wherever you have encountered this phrase, someone is quoting Vergil's Georgics.

What Wayland is saying is that Latin words are spelled differently depending on whether they are subjects or objects of the sentences they are in, like the English I/me and who/whom.
posted by Theophylactic at 5:52 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is this a motto that you wish to express in Latin? If so, the form will depend on exactly what you wish to express. Latin is an inflected language (as Wayland and Theophylactic have pointed out). Certain prepositions require that words be put in a particular case. If you simply wished to refer to light and shadow as substances, or make them the grammatical subject of a sentence, "lux et umbrae" or "lux umbraeque" would be fine (atque seems affected in prose when used with such short words). If you wish to indicate how something is done, you'd use the ablative case: "luce umbrisque" (in light or in shadow).

You could put "umbra" in singular or plural (nominative: "umbra" or "umbrae," ablative "umbra" or "umbris," respectively). My sense from the examples in Lewis & Short's dictionary is that the singular generally refers to the shadow of a particular thing, while the concept of shadow in general is referred to by the plural. (Latin doesn't have articles, so it can't easily distinguish between "shadow" and "a shadow" without periphrasis.)
posted by brianogilvie at 7:14 AM on February 6, 2013

Thanks guys! I was aware of the quote from Virgil which resonates with me on many levels and I wanted to name my photography portfolio 'Light and Shadow' as an oblique reference to Virgil.
posted by Parsnip at 10:12 AM on March 8, 2013

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