English is influenced by Latin, but it is different in crucial ways. For one, Latin has no fixed word order. A sentence has the same meaning no matter the order of the words.
“It really lets the Latin speaker pick and choose word order to suit their meaning,” Ms. Theodora Naqvi said.
Ms. Naqvi is a new teacher of Latin I, Latin III, and Latin III*, and she is a candidate for a Ph.D. in Classical Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. She believes that Latin has important implications, even in the modern day.
“[Learning Latin] breaks us out of thinking that language, or even the way people think, has to function in one way, and that’s the way we do it,” she said.
Ms. Naqvi, who also has an M.A. in Classics and Ancient History from Florida State University, found her love for Latin later than one might expect. Her high school did not offer Latin, so she took Spanish and French. In college in Colorado, she studied anthropology, primarily working in archeology.
“It was really exhilarating to be out in the field and looking at these [archaeological] sites, but I really found that I was missing texts. I wanted to read things, but I still wanted to work in the ancient world,” Ms. Naqvi said.
She started to learn Latin in an intensive summer program and then continued to build skills by studying on her own and in seminars throughout her master’s degree and Ph.D. programs. Throughout this time, she started teaching undergraduates and high school students.
“Learning Latin is one of the best ways to learn a lot more about English, to learn about language in general, and we also get to do a fair amount of history and culture,” Ms. Naqvi said.
Her Ph.D. research focuses on Roman tragedies, most of which were written by Seneca, a Roman philosopher, statesman, and writer, and they differ considerably from their Greek counterparts.
“We have a lot of [Seneca’s] letters, we have a lot of his philosophical works, but we also have this weird little corpus of tragedies, and they’re written based on Greek models,” Ms. Naqvi said.
Greek tragedies are generally more beloved, but Roman tragedies have unique historical and anthropological significance.
“What I’m writing specifically on is how the tragedies interact with the idea of history and time. They’re clearly written in the sort of past space, but my dissertation focuses on how that past is related to the Roman context in which they’re written,” Ms. Naqvi said.
Ms. Naqvi hopes to encourage a love for reading ancient texts in her Latin students and also dispel misconceptions about the homogeneity of the Latin language by looking at texts from outside the classical period.
“I hope that students will leave the class with some idea that Latin isn’t just a language where everything ever written in Latin has already been written,” Ms. Naqvi said.