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The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

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The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby Cathexis » Sun May 20, 2018 10:41 am

Hello All!

This is really a curiosity question for the group: Why do some Greek words begin with a, "CT" ?
I get the C is silent, but was it always so? I'd welcome your opinion or any pointers to articles, etc.
about this topic. I think, "Ctesiphon" is the more commonly cited example of this.

If you're curious why I'd ask, I'm currently reading Pound's, "The Cantos." If you're familiar with that you won't be surprised I'm also reading several other books to help with that! One is, "The Pound Era" by Hugh Kenner - a classic. Anyway, in the Kenner book there's a reference to how Pound and others would sometimes "test" scholars by asking them, "What was the name of the sister of Odysseus?" Answer: Ctimine. You really have to search for that one! Odyssey, XV, 446, Lattimore, trans. - if you're curious.

Thank you & enjoy your weekend,

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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby anphph » Sun May 20, 2018 10:54 am

Nice one about Pound! I think this is a question for English linguistics. It was pronounced in Latin and Greek, plus it's still pronounced in many other languages of the world.
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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby Hylander » Sun May 20, 2018 2:53 pm

In Greek the consonant cluster ct (or kt) is spelled "KT" or "κτ" (kappa tau). In Latin, this cluster was transliterated as "CT". English took the spelling of Greek words, including proper names, from Latin, so that the name Κτιμινη and Κτησιφων are spelled Ctimine and Ctesiphon, respectively, in Latin and English.

Every language has constraints on the way its sounds can be organized in words ("phonotactics").

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonotactics

In English, there is a phonotactic rule that prohibits the consonant cluster ct- or kt- (it could be spelled either way in English) from occurring at the beginning of a word. As a result, the combination of consonants spelled ct- in English at the beginning of a word of Greek origin is often reduced to simply t- in English pronunciation. (But some of us, myself included, pronounce the cluster with a k sound.) Of course, the cluster -kt- in other positions i.e., when it doesn't occur at the beginning of a word, is perfectly pronounceable in English: "act", "acting".

Similar constraints of English phonotactics result in:

--a reduction the Greek letter ψ-, which represents the consonant cluster ps-, when it occurs at the beginning of a word, to the single consonant s- in English words derived from Greek, e.g., "psychology";

--a reduction of the Greek letter ξ-, which represents the consonant cluster ks-, when it occurs at the beginning of a word, to the single consonant z- in English words derived from Greek, e.g., "xenophobia", "Xenophon";

--a reduction of the Greek consonant cluster πν- (pn-), when it occurs a the beginning of a word, to the single consonant n- in English words derived from Greek, e.g., "pneumatic"; and

--a reduction of the Greek cluster consonant cluster μν- (mn-), when it occurs at the beginning of a word, to the single consonant n- in English words derived from Greek, e.g., "mnemonic".

The Greek consonant cluster κν- (kn- or cn-) is another consonant cluster that can't occur at the beginning of an English word, but the only Greek-derived English words I've been able to find beginning with the letters cn- are "cnidaria" and "cnidocyte" (and maybe some derivatives of these), and I've never heard them pronounced.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnidaria

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnidocyte
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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby anphph » Sun May 20, 2018 5:17 pm

Hylander wrote:The Greek consonant cluster κν- (kn- or cn-) is another consonant cluster that can't occur at the beginning of an English word, but the only Greek-derived English words I've been able to find beginning with the letters cn- are "cnidaria" and "cnidocyte" (and maybe some derivatives of these), and I've never heard them pronounced.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnidaria

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnidocyte


How do you pronounce (Latin) Gnaeus?
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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby Hylander » Sun May 20, 2018 6:18 pm

You've reminded me that I forgot to mention the Greek cluster γν (gn) -- English words derived from Greek words beginning with this cluster are pronounced with initial n-, e.g. "gnostic".

And English phonotactics didn't always prohibit initial kn- or gn-, as the spelling of such words as "know," "knee" and "gnaw", which are not derived from Greek, demonstrate. Historically, kn- and gn- in these words have been reduced to initial n- in modern English pronunciation.

But personally I think I would probably pronounce Gnaeus as in Latin, gn-eye-us, not as a compound of the English words "knee-us" (though I can't say for sure that I have ever uttered "Gnaeus" aloud).
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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby Cathexis » Sun May 20, 2018 7:20 pm

Wow!

Thanks to all very much for the replies & links. But,...How *do* you pronounce "CT"/"KT" or "GN" ?
That is, assuming you're speaking Greek or Latin?

As for Hylander's "gn-aye-us," I can only imagine that if it's "Nigh-us" in reduction
than it would be, "Guh-nae-us" without? But that is a stab in the dark! Hence, it
would be, "Kuh-ti-mi-ni" for Ctimine sans reduction. Hmmm?

TIA,

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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby Hylander » Sun May 20, 2018 7:29 pm

How *do* you pronounce "CT"/"KT" or "GN" ?
That is, assuming you're speaking Greek or Latin?


The clusters really aren't hard to pronounce--it's just that modern English has reduced them to a single consonant.
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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby ἑκηβόλος » Mon May 21, 2018 10:00 am

I think there are two possibilities for pronunciation allowed for by the spelling.

The first is two separate consonants separated by a small neutral vowel, or otherwise that the consonants were actually pronounced at the same time - coarticulation.

Trying that the second possibility, I found that by putting my tongue up and forward for the /t/ and then pronouncing the (unaspirated) /k/ at the same time as I lowered my tongue, a single sound distinct from either /t/ or /k/ was produced.
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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby anphph » Mon May 21, 2018 12:32 pm

Hylander wrote:You've reminded me that I forgot to mention the Greek cluster γν (gn) -- English words derived from Greek words beginning with this cluster are pronounced with initial n-, e.g. "gnostic".

And English phonotactics didn't always prohibit initial kn- or gn-, as the spelling of such words as "know," "knee" and "gnaw", which are not derived from Greek, demonstrate. Historically, kn- and gn- in these words have been reduced to initial n- in modern English pronunciation.

But personally I think I would probably pronounce Gnaeus as in Latin, gn-eye-us, not as a compound of the English words "knee-us" (though I can't say for sure that I have ever uttered "Gnaeus" aloud).


I was specifically curious about that one because the way Portuguese has imported Latin and Greek words has meant that words that came from Greek as erudite borrowings accept the -gn- cluster with no problems (gnóstico, gnómico), but words that passed through Latin and evolved from there have their pronounciations adapted to the phonetic changes that Latin itself underwent.

Prescriptive rules dictate Gnaeus, as a Latin name, be adapted phonetically, but that has given it the dubious honour of being the one Portuguese word (except for a slang word meaning 'gunk', "nheca") that starts with the -Nh- (Ñ) sound, Nheu.
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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby Hylander » Mon May 21, 2018 1:55 pm

In the Anglophone world, there are two pronunciations of Latin and Greek: a traditional pronunciation that essentially pronounces Latin as if it were English, and a "reformed" pronunciation that is closer to how Latin was pronounced by native speakers.

Latin students and scholars today almost universally follow the reformed pronunciation (outside the Anglophone Catholic church, which, in the US, at least, generally uses the Italian Church Latin pronunciation; I don't know what English and Irish Catholics do). For Latin proper names, however, especially common proper names of well-known historical individuals and gods, even scholars usually use the traditional pronunciation: Seize 'er, Siserow, Verjil, etc.

As for Gnaeus, I guess the traditional pronunciation would be nee-us, i.e., no initial g- or k-, but I'm not sure how I would pronounce it if called upon to utter it. But the traditional Anglophone pronunciation of -gn-, whether it occurs initially or elsewhere, is never ñ (as it is in the traditional French and Italian pronunciation of Latin). It's always the cluster g+n. My understanding, however, is that the ancient pronunciation of this cluster other than initially is thought to be something like -ng+n-. (I don't have ready access to the phonetic symbol for -ng-.) I'm not sure what the ancient pronunciation of words with initial gn- as in Gnaeus would be. Maybe just g+n?
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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby Cathexis » Mon May 21, 2018 10:23 pm

..,thought to be something like -ng+n-


I smiled when I read this. Why? Because I have more than a few Filipino-American friends
and "ng" is a common sound with important grammatical uses in Tagalog. No, I don't think
the Greeks made it all the way to the island of Luzon(haha). But since you're a lover of
language Hylander you might enjoy this little video that does pronounce "ng" and other
sounds in ways you may not have heard before. Not that this sheds any light on Greek or
Latin pronunciation of course. But then again, Tagalog is greatly influenced by Spanish &
that's a Romance lang. so who knows? Anyway, for amusement only, see here:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=tagalog+ng&view=detail&mid=7E80806406326C02D7657E80806406326C02D765&FORM=VIRE

It does raise the possibility of "Gnaeus" being pronounced, "Ngyaye-oos" :D

Really enjoying this thread and thanks!

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Re: The Origin of words like, "CTIMINE"

Postby Hylander » Tue May 22, 2018 2:24 am

The phonotactic rules of many languages, including Tagalog, allow the velar nasal consonant ŋ in word-initial position. If I'm not mistaken, other languages spoken in the Philippines, such as Cebuano and Ilocano, do, too, as well as Vietnamese (for example, the common Vietnamese surname, Nguyen). English, Latin and Greek don't. English allows this sound in word-final position and before g and k, however: "bang", "anchor".

That's all from me. Magandang gabi, everyone!
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