First-person singular present indicative for verbs in dicts?

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by rbrunner, Jun 21, 2013.

  1. rbrunner Senior Member

    German - Switzerland
    I noticed that the main entry for Latin verbs in Wiktionary is the first-person singular present indicative, not the present infinitive. I saw this also in other, Latin-only dictionaries that I checked in this regard.

    I don't know of any other language where dictionaries follow this convention for verb entries; already Italian dictionaries seem to give infinitives.

    What's the reason for this? (I mean beside a convention that maybe has been followed for 2000 years plus, which of course also means something.)

    And how strong would you rate this convention? If I started a brand-new dictionary today, multi-language like Wiktionary, would you still recommend me to list the first-person singular present indicative forms of verbs as the main entries, possibly "against" the verbs of all other languages?
  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Greek does the same. It is just a long-established convention.
  3. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Well, modern Greek lacks the infinitive, so that would be impossible to list it.
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    I am talking about classical Greek dictionaries, which existed long before the loss of the infinitive.
  5. CapnPrep Senior Member

    There are other languages that use a conjugated form of the verb as the citation form (e.g. Arabic, Modern Greek as mentioned already), but it's usually because they don't have an infinitive.

    You need all of the principal parts to know how to conjugate a Latin verb. For example, if you only have capĕre, you don't know if the first person is capo or capio. And if you only have capio, you don't know if the infinitive is capĕre or capīre. So you need to list both capio and capĕre (plus cēpi and captus), or find some equivalent way of providing the same information. A more modern approach might be to just list capĕre and then say "conjugated like this: blah blah blah" (not very economical) or "refer to conjugation table #34" (not very practical). The principal parts method saves space and gives you all the information immediately.

    But if you wanted to promote the present infinitive to 1st principal part and make it the citation form, I would be in favor of that. It is usually more informative than the 1sgprind form. The big advantage of something like Wiktionary is that it really doesn't matter: the entries are no longer physically ordered on paper, they can be cross-linked as much as you want, and saving space is not a major issue.
  6. rbrunner Senior Member

    German - Switzerland
    Thanks for all the answers - informative.

    Well, yes, exactly: The more I look into this, the more I get the impression that the world of dictionaries has still a lot of transition ahead of it until it fully arrives in the Internet age. How many online dictionaries still use hard-to-read abbreviations for language names only because they started on paper!

    But before I get too off-topic: Good to learn then that a dictionary with infinitive entries for Latin verbs would be against tradition, but still sensible.

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