Dr. Edward Peters 

To work for the proper implementation of canon law is to play an extraordinarily

constructive role in continuing the redemptive mission of Christ. Pope John Paul II







1983 Code



1917 Code


 Liber Extra



 Eastern Code


1152 x 864


2 apr 2017

An Amateur Linguist



Bible Links:


 • Arabic

 • Chinese (Pinyin)

 • Russian

Having acquired various languages over the years for professional and personal use, and having explored the structure of language itself for some time, I venture a modest claim to the laurel of "amateur linguist".


My native language is English, specifically the St. Louis variant of Lower North Midland American English, but I have some Upper South MAE indicators in speech and usage.


I enjoy research facility and moderate speaking ability in Ecclesiastical Latin, Mexican Spanish, and standard French, and I regularly use American Sign Language. I have research ability in Italian and German and have studied Koine Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Oscan / Umbrian, and Etruscan.


Besides maintaining my modern languages and doing some readings in linguistics (especially comparative philology) I am exploring ideas for improving foreign language acquisition in the home using internet technology.



Rosetta Stone (196 bc)

a bi-lingual tri-script

discovered 1799 and

deciphered 1822

Quick Links


Radio Vaticana





Fr. MD homilies 



Heute österreich




RTEV (Madrid)

Telemundo (USA)





TV7 Bordeaux

Radio Acadie


Nuntii Latini

Linguistics in general



 "English is not normal"


  • David Crystal, How Language Works (Avery, 2007) 500 pp.

  • John McWhorter, The Story of Human Language (Teaching Co., 2004) 36 x 30 min.

  • John McWhorter, Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care (Penguin, 2003) 276 pp.

  • John McWhorter, The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language (Harper, 2003) 352 pp.

  • Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do with The Other (Picador, 1975) 352 pp.

  • Jean Aitchison, Linguistics [1972], (Teach Yourself, 1999) 245 pp.

  • Stuart Chase, The Tyranny of Words (Harcourt Brace, 1938) 396 pp.

  • Leonard Bloomfield, Language (Henry Holt, 1933) 564 pp.


Alphabets & Scripts

  • Marc Zender, Writing and Civilization (Great Courses, 2013) 24 x 30 min.

  • Joseph Navah, Early History of the Alphabet (Magnes, 1982) 211 pp. plus plates.

  • Edward Thompson, Handbook of Greek and Latin Palaeography [1892], (Ares, 1966) 343 pp.

  • Adriano Cappelli, Dizionario di Abbreviature latine ed italiane [1929], (Ulrico Hoepli, 2004) 531 pp.

Linguistics of specific languages

Père Gaston-Laurent Coeurdoux (1691-1779) was a French Jesuit missionary and philologist who, in a 1767 'Mémoire' sent to the French Academy of Sciences, anticipated by two decades Sir William Jones' assertion of a common origin for most Western languages.



American Sign Language

  • Clayton Valli, et al., Linguistics of American Sign Language [1992], (Clerc Books, 2005) 551 pp.

  • Jerome Schein & David Stewart, Language in Motion: Exploring the Nature of Sign (Gallaudet, 2002) 221 pp.


  • Anne Curzan, The Secret Life of Words (Great Courses, 2012) 36 x 30 min.

  • Seth Lerer, The History of the English Language, 2d ed., (Teaching Co., 2008) 36 x 30 min.


  • Chaim Rabin, A Short History of the Hebrew Language (Alpha Press, 1973) 86 pp.

  • Edward Horowitz, How the Hebrew Language Grew (Ktav, 1960) 343 pp.


  • James Clackson & Geoffrey Harrocks, The Blackwell History of the Latin Language (Wiley-Blacwell, 2007) 324 pp.

  • Tore Janson, A Natural History of Latin (Oxford, 2004) 305 pp.

  • F. Mantello & A. Rigg, eds., Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographic Guide (Catholic University of America, 1996) 774 pp.

  • Albert Blaise, A Handbook of Christian Latin: Style, Morphology, and Syntax (Georgetown University, 1994) 157 pp., Roti trans. of Blaise, Manuel du latin chrétien (1955).

  • Frederic Allen, Remnants of Early Latin (Ginn, 1897) 106 pp.

Latin & Greek

  • Donald Fairbairn, Understanding Language: a Guide for Beginning Students of Greek and Latin (Catholic University of America, 2011) 190 pp.

  • Ralph Moore, Comparative Greek and Latin Syntax [1934], (Bristol Classical Press, 1999) 224 pp.

Grammars of specific languages




Quintus Ennius tria corda habere sese dicebat, quod loqui Graece et Osce et Latine sciret. A. Gellius.




  • Giuliano Bonfante & Larissa Bonfante, The Etruscan Language: an Introduction [1983], 2d ed., (Manchester Univ., 2002) 253 pp.


  • Natalie Baccus, Grammaire française, rev ed., (Librio, no date) 157 pp., in progress.

Greek, Koine

  • Clayton Croy, A Primer of Biblical Greek (Eerdmans, 1999) 264 pp.

  • William Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek: Grammar (Zondervan, 1993) 459 pp.

  • F. Blass & A. Debrunner, A Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Univ. Chicago, 1961) 325 pp., Funk trans. of Blass & Debrunner, Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch (1896).

Hebrew, Biblical

  • P. Kelly, et al., Biblical Hebrew: an Introductory Grammar (Eerdmans, 1992) 453 pp, and id., A Handbook to Biblical Hebrew (Eerdmans, 1004) 223 pp.

  • Thomas Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (Schribner's Sons, 1971) 345 pp.

Latin, Ecclesiastical

  • John Collins, Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin [1985], (Catholic University of America 1988) 451 pp.

  • Henry Nunn, An Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin (Cambridge, 1922) 113 pp.

Latin, Classical

  • Frederick Wheelock, Latin: An Introductory Course (Barnes & Noble, 1956) 457 pp.

  • Robert Henle, Latin Grammar [1945], (Loyola, 1957) 272 pp.

  • James Kleist, Aids to Latin Prose Composition (Schwartz, Kirwin, and Fauss, 1912) 104 pp.

  • Charles Bennett, A Latin Grammar (Allyn & Bacon, 1895) 272 pp.

  • Joseph Allen & James Greenough New Latin Grammar [1888/1903] (Dover, 2006) 477 pp.

  • Aelius Donatus, De partibus orationis ars minor (mid-4th c.), here.

Latin, Vulgar

  • Charles Grandgent, An Introduction to Vulgar Latin (Heath, 1907) 219 pp.

Oscan / Umbrian

  • Carl Buck, A Grammar of Oscan and Umbrian with a Collection of Inscriptions [1904], (Hardpress, 1994) 352 pp., plus plates.



Other Materials





Theology & Language

  • David Crystal, Linguistics, Language, and Religion (Hawthorn Books, 1965) 191 pp.

  • Cyril Korolevsky [Francois Charon], (Byzantine priest, 1878-1959), Living Languages in Catholic Worship, (Newman, 1957) 195 pp., Attwater trans. of Korolevsky, Liturgie en Langue Vivante (1955).

  • Christine Mohrmann (1903-1988), Liturgical Latin: its Origins and Character (Catholic University of America, 1957) 95 pp.

  • Paul Auvray, et al., Sacred Languages (Hawthorn Books, 1960) 173 pp., Tester trans. of Avrey et al., Les Langues Sacrées (1957).







  • Breaking the Maya Code (Night Fire, 2008) 116 min.

  • Cracking the Maya Code (Nova, 2008) 1 x 55 min.

  • Secrets of the Rosetta Stone (History Ch., 2008) 1 x 50 min.

















Intensive Latin Experiences

  • Cenacula apud Familiam Sancti Hieronimi (one week summer sessions): New Orleans 2016; Mobile AL 2014; Puebla Mexico 2013; Boynton Beach FL 1993; Boynton Beach FL 1992.

  • Intensive Summer Latin Experience, with R. Foster, Milwaukee WI, June-July 2014.

  • Biduum Latinum Michiganiense, with R. Foster, D. Gallagher, et al., Ann Arbor I, 28-29 March 2014.

  • Veterum Sapientiae (SALVI), with R. Foster, D. Gallagher, et al., Belmont Abbey NC, one week in Aug 2013.

  • Grex Loquentium Latine, Dept. of Classics, Univ. Michigan (Ann Arbor), intermittently since 2011.

Other Language Study

  • French study, Edu-Inter, Quebec Canada, one month in Summer 2015.

  • German study, Actilingua Academy, Vienna Austria, three months in Summer 2012.


  • from Italian, R. Sztychmiler, "The obligation of parents to educate children for Eucharistic life", from Ius Eccleisae (1990), Feb 2004, here.

  • from Latin: The 1917 Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law in English Translation with Extensive Scholarly Apparatus (Ignatius Press, 2001) 777 pp.

  • from Latin, Appendices from Sandrino Bocchin, La Verginità ‘professata’, ‘celebrata’, ‘confessata’: Contributo per la sua comprensione teologico-liturgica dall’Ordo consecrationis Virginum (Edizione Liturgiche, 2009) 777-1066.

  • from French, J. Moncion, "Is the Church free to act as would any other financial power?", Studia Canonica (1980), Spring1987.


  • Intensive Summer Theological Language Programs. 2015-French.

  • Latin expert, Religious Sign Translation Committee, National Catholic Office for the Deaf, 2006-2012.

  • Latin Classes/extended tutoring for home-schoolers, 2005-2007 (Ann Arbor), 1999-2001 (San Diego), 1995-1997 (San Diego).

Professional reading knowledge of foreign languages


Visual languages such as ASL do not have a written form so they are not considered here.

There are a variety of scales used to assess skill in languages. None of them is satisfactory and, most likely, none of them ever will be for language is too complex a phenomenon and is applied in too many different ways (often by the same individual) to admit of one single classification of skills.


Considering, in any event, just one context in which foreign languages are studied and used, namely, a professional approaching printed texts in his or her area of expertise (think me reading ecclesiastical documents), I suggest that, between utter ignorance of a given language (think me and Korean) and effortless understanding of a native tongue (think me and American English), there are five discernible degrees of skill that can be discerned, to wit:


I - Rudimentary

II - Elementary

III - Functional

IV - Proficient

V - Fluent


Recognizes some cognates, a few parts of speech, and occasional phrases. No grammar work has been done.


Discerns many parts of speech (e.g., noun numbers, verb persons) and recognizes some technical terms. Typically is working through a standard college grammar. Can translate simple, direct sentences.




Understands about half of what is written at sight and rather more with lexical help. Has likely completed a standard college grammar but remains susceptible to basic mistakes. Appreciates intermediate rhetorical devices (e.g., irony and contrafactual forms).



Understands most of what is written at sight, but hesitates over unusual syntax and some idioms. Increasingly consults professional grammars. Serious translation mistakes are uncommon. Understands textual sarcasm and humor.


Looks up only a few words per passage and hesitates only before unusual idioms. Translation mistakes are rare and minor. Consults professional grammars only. Recognizes and corrects textual anomalies


No use in research.


Minimal use in research. Can identify some topics being discussed, but understands little of what is being asserted regarding them.



Useful for focused research. Can grasp the main sense of a text but would not rely on one’s own translations of important points.



Useful for general research. Can rely on one’s own translations except in regard to complex and/or disputed points.


Useful for all research. Can rely on one’s own translations even in regard to complex and/or disputed points.



A few observations:


1. This scale applies only to reading materials in one's area of expertise. For example, I confidently approach commentaries on canon law written in Latin, but a poem by Lucretius is difficult for me. A French commentary on doctrine is one thing, a French diary of a theologian something else.


2. Even within these five categories a range of reading skills exists. The transitions from Level II (Elementary) to Level III (Functional) and from Level III (Functional) to Level IV (Proficient), seem especially hard to assess.


3. As Level V (Fluent) approaches bi-legality with one's native language, the skill scale ascends asymmetrically. For example, I am confident of my ability to handle canonical texts in Latin, but I have no doubt that many Latinists (and even some canonists) are markedly more adept in Latin reading than am I. Yet all of us may be considered fluent.