This forum was closed on October 1st, 2010. However, the archives are open to the public and filled with vast amounts of good reading and information for you to enjoy. If you wish to meet some Wardrobians, please visit the Into the Wardrobe Facebook group.

Lewis and language

The man. The myth.

Lewis and language

Postby mgton » 17 Apr 2007, 02:50

As I understand it, and correct me if I'm wrong, Lewis knew Greek, Latin, French, and Italian. If that's true, I officially hate him. :snooty: j/k

Was he well versed in all of them? IOW, was he a fluent speaker in all of these languages, or was he only able to translate some of them? I'm guessing that he really loved Latin since he was so into Medieval literature? Did he ever say which language he enjoyed the most?
User avatar
mgton
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 55
Joined: Dec 2005

Postby Sven » 17 Apr 2007, 11:18

Moved to C. S. Lewis forum from the Questions forum (which is primarily for non-registered visitors).
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
User avatar
Sven
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 2873
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Greenbelt, MD, near Washington DC

Re: Lewis and language

Postby Esther » 17 Apr 2007, 15:55

mgton wrote:As I understand it, and correct me if I'm wrong, Lewis knew Greek, Latin, French, and Italian. If that's true, I officially hate him. :snooty: j/k


And don't forget German (although, I believe he considered that to be his weakest one).

mgton wrote:Was he well versed in all of them? IOW, was he a fluent speaker in all of these languages, or was he only able to translate some of them?


I doubt that he did much speaking of these languages, considering that two of them are ancient languages, he never really traveled, and his pursuit of them was primarily literary. But I'm sure he was very skilled in reading and writing them. I'm not sure I could point to any specific source for this, but if you read through his letters, particularly the ones from when he was learning these languages as a teenager, he seems to have been quite talented and proficient even then.
Member of the 2456317 club
User avatar
Esther
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Jan 2006
Location: Southern California

Postby Karen » 17 Apr 2007, 17:03

Not to mention that any bright English boy of Lewis' generation would have been taught Latin and Greek in school from an early age. Those were the days....
I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. -- Jorge Luis Borges
User avatar
Karen
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3727
Joined: Jul 2002
Location: Pennsylvania, USA

Postby Guest » 17 Apr 2007, 20:21

I wonder if he got to use his Greek much when he visited Greece. Even though I'm sure he was much more versed in Hellenistic Greek than modern Greek.
Guest
 

Postby Sven » 17 Apr 2007, 21:06

Add Icelandic/Old Norse to the list. He and Tolkien were members of the reading group named the Koalbitar, reading the eddas and sagas in that language.

You can get a collection of Lewis' letters in Latin, aptly titled The Latin Letters of C. S. Lewis. They were between him and, at first, Don Giovanni Calabria, then later Don Luigi Pedrollo. Father Calabria initiated the correspondence to ask some questions about The Screwtape Letters and, not knowing any English, wrote in Latin.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
User avatar
Sven
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 2873
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Greenbelt, MD, near Washington DC

Postby A#minor » 17 Apr 2007, 21:45

Sven wrote:You can get a collection of Lewis' letters in Latin, aptly titled The Latin Letters of C. S. Lewis. They were between him and, at first, Don Giovanni Calabria, then later Don Luigi Pedrollo. Father Calabria initiated the correspondence to ask some questions about The Screwtape Letters and, not knowing any English, wrote in Latin.

I was about to mention that. Amazing how all scholars spoke and wrote Latin back then, and now practically no one does. Pity.
"My brain and this world don't fit each other, and there's an end of it!" - G.K. Chesterton
Image
User avatar
A#minor
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 7319
Joined: May 2005
Location: Georgia, USA

Postby Stanley Anderson » 17 Apr 2007, 22:05

I suppose he was pretty well versed in Old Solar, ya think?

Since he misspelled Numenor in That Hideous Strength, his Elvish probably needed some practice (he was probably better speaking it than writing it -- and of course he was known to be a poor speller in his earlier years, so that could explain it)

--Stanley
…on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a fair green country under a swift sunrise.
User avatar
Stanley Anderson
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Aug 1996
Location: Southern California

Postby nomad » 17 Apr 2007, 22:48

This is really amazing. Most scholars these days will know one language if they study a non-Anglophone area of the world, but even then may not have a full grasp of it. And two or three languages would put you in a very small club.
member of the 2456317 club
"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
User avatar
nomad
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1102
Joined: Mar 2005
Location: I wish I knew

Postby mgton » 18 Apr 2007, 00:23

I didn't know about The Latin Letters of C.S. Lewis; that will give me some Lewis material that I can read while learning Latin. :dance: The thing that I really admire is that he could read the great epic poets in the original language: Homer, Virgil, Dante, and of course Milton. And when Christianity came calling and he wanted to really inspect the New Testament, he read it in Greek.

I can't imagine having all those language floating around in my head. It goes without saying that Tolkien is just as impressive when it comes to language. These were not ordinary fellas.
User avatar
mgton
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 55
Joined: Dec 2005

Postby Karen » 18 Apr 2007, 01:21

You don't have to be too extraordinary to read Latin and Ancient Greek: my daughter has been doing it since 7th grade (Latin) and 10th grade (Greek) and is continuing both now that she's in college (not that I don't think she's extraordinary, of course!) Back in the dark ages when I was in school, we were required to take two years of Latin and four years of either French or Spanish. Greek was optional, and I wish now that I had chosen the option.
I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library. -- Jorge Luis Borges
User avatar
Karen
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3727
Joined: Jul 2002
Location: Pennsylvania, USA

Postby nomad » 18 Apr 2007, 04:46

And, of course, once you know Latin, Italian and French aren't far off. However, since I speak French and some Italian, I will attest that they are not nearly as close as I would like. They are definitely two different languages, not just dialects. The grammer is more or less the same, though, so the logic of the language is similar. German and Icelandic/Norse would be a totally different ball of wax.
member of the 2456317 club
"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
User avatar
nomad
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1102
Joined: Mar 2005
Location: I wish I knew

Postby mgton » 18 Apr 2007, 11:33

The reason why I was wondering if Lewis could speak all of these languages is because in Sayer's biography I remember him mentioning that Lewis spoke the languages with his regular accent, which Sayer found kind of funny. He also mentioned that Lewis didn't appreciate his own talent for languages. Anyway, I didn't think it was safe to assume that Lewis was a fluent speaker from such a seemingly offhanded comment by Sayer, so I thought I'd see if anyone knew what was up.

I just thought of another language—well, it's sort of another language: Middle English. I don't know anything about Chaucer or Middle English, but from the perspective of someone who has merely a surface understanding of Middle English, it seems almost like another language. We need to keep a tally on the number of languages old Lewis knew. :smile:
User avatar
mgton
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 55
Joined: Dec 2005

Postby Guest » 18 Apr 2007, 12:44

mgton wrote:He also mentioned that Lewis didn't appreciate his own talent for languages.


I'd imagine it would be hard to appreciate your own talent for languages if Tolkien was coming up to your office and chatting about literature late into the night at least weekly.
Guest
 

Postby Leslie » 18 Apr 2007, 14:01

mgton wrote:The reason why I was wondering if Lewis could speak all of these languages is because in Sayer's biography I remember him mentioning that Lewis spoke the languages with his regular accent, which Sayer found kind of funny. He also mentioned that Lewis didn't appreciate his own talent for languages. Anyway, I didn't think it was safe to assume that Lewis was a fluent speaker from such a seemingly offhanded comment by Sayer, so I thought I'd see if anyone knew what was up.

There's a big difference between being a fluent speaker and a fluent reader. Lewis knew how to read all these languages very well, but he wouldn't have picked up the accents, because he would rarely have spoken them.
"What are you laughing at?"
"At myself. My little puny self," said Phillipa.
--Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede
User avatar
Leslie
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1809
Joined: Dec 2002
Location: Toronto, Canada

Next

Return to C. S. Lewis

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered members and 2 guests