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Time:10:59 am
Is there a difference between these two sentences?

Senator verberatur a Caesare
Senatorem verberat Caesar

Even though the second uses the active voice, the word order makes me read it as "The senator is being beaten by Caesar," even though it's technically "Caesar beats the senator." Since English doesn't let us play around with word order in this way, it's impossible for us to write something like the second (Object Verb Subject).

Is it simply a matter of preference, or do these two sentences have a different feel to a more experienced speaker? It seems like the idea of passive and active voice gets muddled a bit in a language as highly inflected as Latin.

Thanks!
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iiiskaaa
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Time:2010-06-29 03:10 pm (UTC)
It seems like the idea of passive and active voice gets muddled a bit in a language as highly inflected as Latin.

How do you come to this conclusion? The inflection makes it clear who the subject and object of the verb are, just as the word order does in English.
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cnoocy
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Time:2010-06-29 03:27 pm (UTC)
The two sentences definitely have a different feel. Among other things, the active voice version is more emphatically pointing out the senator, since it's more out of its standard order. (Both sentences are also fairly pointed about Caesar, for the same reason.)
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shcromlet
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Time:2010-06-29 03:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you, that makes sense. What if I narrow in on just the passive/active difference? Aren't the following two equally emphatic about Caesar and the senator?

A Caesare verberatur senator
Senatorem verberat Caesar
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cnoocy
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Time:2010-06-29 05:39 pm (UTC)
Perhaps, but there's more to active and passive than just emphasis. (And remember that the "standard" order is to put the verb last.) You'd need to do a real literature search to confirm this, but I'd expect the first sentence to appear in a paragraph about the senator, and the second in a paragraph about Caesar.
You're really getting into complex issues about connotation and style here. There's always a difference between two different sentences, but if it were always straightforward to say what that difference was, we wouldn't need to do literary analyis!
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sollersuk
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Time:2010-06-29 03:33 pm (UTC)
It seems like the idea of passive and active voice gets muddled a bit in a language as highly inflected as Latin.

No, they don't get muddled, any more than the idea of which is the subject and which is the object in sentences like "Senatorem verberat Caesar" versus "Caesar senatorem verberat" (or, less common but still possible, "Caesar verberat senatorem". It's just that speakers of languages like English with no cases and which therefore have to use word order find it disconcerting when they encounter languages where word order is grammatically irrelevant. What seems to be confusing you here is that in the examples the word order of the passive and the active sentences are the same.
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shcromlet
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Time:2010-06-29 03:53 pm (UTC)
What seems to be confusing you here is that in the examples the word order of the passive and the active sentences are the same.

Yes, definitely. If these two sentences were in English, I would imagine the passive one from the perspective of the senator, and the active one from the perspective of Caesar; but with the gramatically irrelevant word order of Latin, both sentences, since they mention the senator first, evoke his perspective in my mind. That this can occur in the active voice is what I meant by 'muddled', an admittedly poor choice of words.
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sollersuk
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Time:2010-06-29 05:18 pm (UTC)
I think what you mean is that it's muddling you, because it's the perspective that's evoked in your mind. For a Roman, mentioning the senator first would only relate to the importance of the senator in the sentence; neither in this nor in the subject-object order I mentioned would they think that putting the senator first evokes his perspective - any more than it would have done in the case of subject-object order for someone speaking Old English.
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claire_chan
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Time:2010-06-29 03:40 pm (UTC)
I don't think there really is a marked difference between the two examples: I feel it's a matter of preference.
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fallen_scholar
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Time:2010-06-29 04:34 pm (UTC)
It's an English problem, rather than a Latin problem.

English is pretty well limited to the passive for that sort of emphasis, so the only way to wrap our heads around it is to think "well, it's like putting it in the passive."

So, English speakers are stuck with only a hammer, because other sorts of methods are either wholly oral or a bit belabored ("Caesar beats the Senator. The Senator!"). In terms of a relevant translation an English speaker is limited, but that's different than their actually being muddled in Latin.

I'd say the difference in feel (and I feel a bit into deep water here) is that the use of the passive in Latin shares some of the use of the passive in English - it de-emphasizes the actor and pulls some energy out of the action, which subsequently puts weight onto the rest of the sentence, as opposed to a non-standard word order, which feels slightly more natural and works to emphasize what is emphasized.
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shcromlet
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Time:2010-06-29 04:42 pm (UTC)
So, English speakers are stuck with only a hammer, because other sorts of methods are either wholly oral or a bit belabored ("Caesar beats the Senator. The Senator!").

Hah! I...almost spit water on my screen. :-)
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