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Survey of Latin orthography preferences

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Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Alatius » Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:20 pm

I'm currently involved in the possible future publication of a new edition of a Latin novel, and am now trying to decide what orthography to use. In particular, I am contemplating to mark long vowels with macrons throughout. I know that this is an area where there are many different opinions, and since I of course want to please a majority of the potential readers, I have decided to set up a small survey to investigate what orthography people mostly prefer (or alternatively, which one is least objectionable to the majority):

http://www.kwiksurveys.com?s=KIDEGG_b419ec84

Once I have gathered a sufficient number of answers, I will post a summary of the results here, so that everyone can benefit from them.

Thank you in advance!
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Hampie » Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:30 am

Isn’t it possible to somehow make all three of them? Macrons can pretty easy be removed with a search and replace function—same applies to accents. Ah well.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby thesaurus » Mon Apr 26, 2010 1:07 am

Very interesting. Good luck with your project--I look forward to reading it eventually.
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I filled out the survey, but generally I recommend that you follow the orthographical conventions of contemporary publications as much as possible. I don't see any point in avoiding "j" and "v," or not capitalizing the first word in a sentence. Some will assuredly prefer the "antiquated feel," but they are sacrificing readability (which should be your primary concern) for a haphazard and quaint bricolage.

Dubiis quae nobis posuisti responsi, sed ut de re dicam, tibi commendo orthographiae consuetudinibus quae hodie in libris adhibentur quam maxime utaris. Rationem aliquam non video ego vitandarum litterarum ,cum novarum sicut "j" et "v," tum capitanearum quae in principiis sententiarum ponuntur. Sunt, fateor, nonnulli qui, sine dubio, odori quodam antico favebunt. Hi autem viam asperam sequuntur--quamquam levis semper est praeferenda--ut tumultuariam farraginem paululum blandam habeant.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Essorant » Mon Apr 26, 2010 3:33 pm

What is the title of the book?
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Kynetus Valesius » Tue Apr 27, 2010 2:32 am

i also filled out the survey. please DO include macrons - i am more nautral about the use of i/j v/u and caps. but i feel strongly that everything printed today in latin should have a convention for marking vowel length. I would guess there would be very few readers who wouldn't benefit from the macrons.

I also am curious about what book you are thinking about but assume you would have already revealed that if you wanted us to know. but how about a hint or two. hmmm..... just now .... I am seeming to recall having once seen an edition on the internet by a swedish author about the adventures of someone who discovered a civilization beneath the surface of the earth.
am I on track ?

Personally, I'd like to see new editions of lots of stuff from the 15th - 19th centuries. In particular, since apparently you are in the publishing business, what about ARGENIS ? or maybe something by swedenborg?
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Alatius » Tue Apr 27, 2010 10:28 am

Hampie: It's largely a question of economical considerations, I'm afraid.

thesaurus: I shall not forego the result of the survey, but I can say so much that the first words of the sentences will most likely be capitalized.

Kynetus Valesius: I wanted to keep the survey somewhat generic, and so decided to not reveal the title. You are thinking of Nicolai Klimii Iter Subterraneum I believe. No, thats not it, but one can say that you are on the right track in a very curious way. ;)

I'm not directly involved with the publishing myself, but if it is decided to do an edition with diacritics, I would be responsible for the editing.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby furrykef » Thu May 06, 2010 1:23 am

I favor macrons because there's no reason not to include them (well, they may be a bit harder to type, but if you're typing them in as you go along, it's not that big a deal). Anybody who learned Latin without vowel length can just ignore them, and if you want to know the stress, you can still figure it out using a simple rule. It will also help ingrain which vowels are long, which may be good to know when you have to read a text, especially Classical poetry, that doesn't use macrons.

I prefer the I/J and U/V convention and the capitalization convention in Wheelock/Lingua Latina ("Iam voluit etiam iuvenis") since those conventions are probably the closest thing to a standard we have now. Text written with other standards isn't particularly difficult to read, but it does look a bit funny to me. (Maybe that's why so much text is still published without macrons, since others think macrons look funny...)
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Impiger » Sun May 16, 2010 5:53 pm

Dear Alatius,

I filled out your survey. All things being equal, I would favor macrons. As for the other orthographical questions - I think that the habit in some editions of using all lower case letters, except for proper names, even at the beginning of sentences, is a bit absurd, since the punctuation in modern editions of Latin texts is (usually) according to modern conventions anyway. One of the goals of an edition probably ought to be to make the text as readable as possible for modern readers. This is one reason why, all things being equal, I would favour macrons. Advanced readers don't need them, but others find them helpful. So you can't lose by adding them. But there are problems. Proofreading all of them is a miserable job (expertus dico -- I have done some proofreading work for publishers of Latin textbooks), and finding every single missed macron is perhaps nearly impossible. Also, there will be cases (in place names, etc.) where the length of some syllables may be uncertain. The editor will have to take a stand in such cases - and maybe add a prefatory note too.

My best wishes to you. Neo-Latin novels interest me a great deal!

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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby loqu » Tue May 18, 2010 12:06 pm

survey answered and sent --- I am OK with macrons and capitalization, but I really hate the J in Latin. I'm OK with V and without V, though.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Quis ut Deus » Tue May 18, 2010 5:27 pm

Survey sent.

I like "i" instead of "j." I lilke "v."

With or without macrons is fine.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Cattus » Tue May 18, 2010 8:55 pm

I have done the survey too.
In short: I like macrons, I like "v" and I hate "j".
I like too the capital letter at the beginning and some basic punctuation.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Lex » Tue May 18, 2010 9:48 pm

I prefer i over j (more accurately reflects the proper pronunciation, if your native language is English), v for consonants (i.e. "Veni, vidi, vici.") but u for vowels (i.e. "Iulius", not "Ivlivs"), and modern English capitalization and punctuation conventions. As someone very unskilled in Latin, I would prefer both macrons and stress accent markings, to help me build up a "feel" for the cadence of the language. I took the survey.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Avitus » Tue May 18, 2010 11:02 pm

Avitus Alatio optimo suo S·P·D

You asked about what people "preferred". I don't think you needed to put a question like that. In terms of the letters to be used (i/j/u/v), people were bound to prefer what they have been used to seeing, however recent that practice may be. In the contemporary English and Italian speaking world in particular this means the i/u/v system. To reach the same conclusions, you just needed to look yourself at a sample of current editions of Latin text representative of a certain geographical area and choose the most prevalent system. That's what a majority will "prefer". People will tend to "like" what they've become accustomed to seeing and "dislike", or even "hate" (!) as some put it, what they haven't been so exposed to. Simple. If you choose something other than the mainstream for your edition, you will always be challenging established tastes.

For a more illumiating and in my mind more useful enquiry you should have asked also for the reasons behind those preferences, i.e. on what philological grounds, if at all they perceived there might be any worth considering beyond mere personal taste, can people justify such preferences: is it the spelling system that has prevailed the longest throught the history of Latin printing? is it the spelling system that most countries have used? is it the spelling system that could most help learners (and we are all learners, inasmuch as none of us are native speakers) pronounce Latin correctly? etc.

People do seem to be able to exercise a certain amount of philological reasoning when they justify their preferences regarding mere diacritics like the vowel-quantity marks to help their learning, but they bewilderingly drop that capability to reason when they look at the letters themselves. Unfortunately, that's how you end up with so many Latinists, even Professors I have met in my life, who do not know how to pronounce the i in iam, quoniam, Maius, Gaius, or the ae in aeneus, aerius, aereus, and so many other words involving similar ambiguities, when it could be so easy to us all should we be able to come to our senses and return to more transparent and for a much longer time widespread spellings as jam vs quoniam, Majus vs Gaius, aeneus vs æreus vs aerius, etc.

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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Avitus » Tue May 18, 2010 11:14 pm

Avitus Légi optimo suo S·P·D

> "I prefer i over j: more accurately reflects the proper pronunciation, if your native language is English"

I love it!

What happens if your native language is German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Albanian, Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Latvian or Lithuanian, to name but a few where j more accurately, and in fact exactly, represents the proper pronunciation of the Latin sound?

I thought Latin was our common language, a universal language for all. Now it turns out that it has to be bespoken for the specific attention of English speakers ... et pereat mundus!

What a sad condition Latin lives in. :-(

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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby furrykef » Wed May 19, 2010 4:37 am

Lex wrote:As someone very unskilled in Latin, I would prefer both macrons and stress accent markings


I think that's excessive. The rules for figuring out where the stress goes are very easy. (One exception: nobody seems to know what the exact rule is when you add clitics such as "-que" or "-ne" -- but that fact doesn't disappear when you use accent marks, it just means somebody else makes that arbitrary decision for you). The rules boil down to this:
1. If the word has two syllables, the first one is stressed.
2. Does the second-to-last syllable have a long vowel? If so, it is stressed.
3. Does the second-to-last syllable have a dipththong? If so, it is stressed.
4. Does the second-to-last syllable end in a consonant? If so, it is stressed.
5. Otherwise, the stress falls on the third-to-last syllable.

Rule 4 is the only tricky one. Basically, the syllable ends in a consonant if it is followed by two consonant sounds (including doubled consonants and the letter 'x', which is really short for 'ks', but not including ch/ph/th or 'qu') -- unless the second consonant is 'L' or 'R'.

Rules 2 through 4 are also the same rules for determining whether a syllable is 'heavy' for the purposes of poetry. So you can basically replace rules 2-5 with "If the second-to-last syllable is heavy, it is stressed; otherwise, the preceding syllable is stressed."

I mastered these rules virtually immediately, so I think adding accent marks to a work that already uses macrons just adds a lot of visual noise, and a letter with both an accent mark and a macron is particularly ugly. (One reason I don't like Vietnamese orthography, as it goes utterly nuts with diacritics.)
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Lex » Wed May 19, 2010 6:45 am

Avitus wrote:> "I prefer i over j: more accurately reflects the proper pronunciation, if your native language is English"

I love it!

What happens if your native language is German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Albanian, Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Latvian or Lithuanian, to name but a few where j more accurately, and in fact exactly, represents the proper pronunciation of the Latin sound?


I don't know, and I don't care, since my native language is English. The original poster asked us what orthographical conventions we prefer, not what we think is the objectively best or most "fair". So, I told him what I prefer.

furrykef wrote:
Lex wrote:As someone very unskilled in Latin, I would prefer both macrons and stress accent markings


I think that's excessive. The rules for figuring out where the stress goes are very easy.


Well, what can I say? I'm a moron when it comes to learning foreign languages, so anything that makes things easier, I am for. Anything that would allow me to learn the accentuation rules by simple osmosis, instead of trying to memorize and then internalize rules, is a winner by me. And I got used to the diacritical marks when I tried to learn Greek, so those don't bother me. (I also would prefer macrons on all long vowels in Greek, except the ones with circumflexes, even though it's possible to figure those out by accentuation rules in many places.)

Beginning books, at least, should be made to be as helpful as possible to the reader/learner. Anything else is the crotchety old "It was hard when I learned it 50 years ago, so it should be hard now, pedagogical advances be damned!" attitude that so many teachers seem to have. Education should be about teaching students, or helping them to teach themselves, not about hazing or a sort of medieval guild initiation. But that's just my opinion, and I had bad experiences in college that make me very opinionated about this sort of thing.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby loqu » Wed May 19, 2010 8:13 am

I agree that it's about preferences and not about objectivity. I'm not a scholar, just a learner for fun, and I don't care if j has been used for X years now, I find it aesthetically ugly. I don't like the ae ligature either. Both look too ecclesiastical to me, don't ask why.

About the stress marks, I guess it is too difficult to display macrons AND stress marks at the same time, if the stressed vowel is also a long one. I find the stress rules are pretty easy anyway, but I acknowledge that it may not be so easy for everyone.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Avitus » Wed May 19, 2010 9:45 am

Avitus Légi & loqu optimis suís S·P·D

In what I hope will be my last intervention on this issue:

> I don't know, and I don't care, since my native language is English. The original poster asked us what orthographical conventions we prefer, not what we think is the objectively best or most "fair". So, I told him what I prefer.

You are right. You were completely legitimised to say what you preferred. That was indeed the original question. I'm a bit more saddened that, now awareness has been raised that other considerations are possible and advantageous, you intimate that, because your native language is English, you don't care about everybody else. I would be taken aback had I not been hardened to the fact that such are indeed the prevailing attitudes.

> anything that makes things easier, I am for

and

> Beginning books, at least, should be made to be as helpful as possible to the reader/learner

Well, precisely that is all my concern when I advocated a clear distinction i (vowel) / j (semivowel) and æ (diphthong) / ae (hiatus): precisely because they help the reader visualise important distinctions they otherwise normally fail to learn. Maybe you are an exception, but I've heard many times the "i" in "iam" pronounced as in the name "Ian", and likewise for all the examples I provided above and many others, and, as I said, even from Latin professors; but maybe everyone is beyond that here.

> Both look too ecclesiastical to me, don't ask why.

I don't need to ask you why. It is because the better spelling appears in older books, and those, in Spain in particular, are ecclesiastical ones. As an atheist, I regret as much as you the still prevailing associations between Latin and the Church, but we shouldn't let those considerations affect our better philological judgement. We should choose spelling system that are "as helpful as possible to the reader/learner", and that would surely be the one that is most transparent regarding the pronunciation of the language (distinction between vowels and consonants, diphthongs and hiatuses, long and short vowels, etc.) and not the ones that obscure all this. In fact, you may find it illuminating and equally sad to know that the i/u/v system of spelling was also introduced and pushed on to the world by the Church.

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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Alatius » Wed May 19, 2010 11:57 am

The survey has now run for three weeks, and collected 251 responses. It was posted on the following websites and mailing lists (and may have been forwarded to other places that I am not aware of):

http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-forum/
http://latindiscussion.com/forum/
http://nxport.com/mailman/listinfo/latinteach
http://www.alcuinus.net/GLL/
http://schola.ning.com/
http://nxport.com/mailman/listinfo/latinofftop
http://nxport.com/mailman/listinfo/oerberg

Apart from the obvious selection bias of only adressing internet users, one should note that the respondents are predominantly anglophone.

First question: What orthography do you prefer?

Image

The results are hardly surprising: as Avitus rightly points out, the orthography that is most widely used is also by far the most popular. The attitudes towards the other two options, "u, i" and "u, v, i, j", are more evenly distributed. The option to include "j" seems to evoke slightly more extreme responses, compared to "u, i only".

I agree that it would have been interesting to investigate the reasoning behind these attitudes, but from a marketing point of view, the preferences themselves are more relevant. However, I would wager that most negative feelings against "j" are simply due to its rarity in modern editions, rather than based on any rational philological grounds. By the way, the merits of "j" has recently been discussed here on textkit: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=10444
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Alatius » Wed May 19, 2010 2:00 pm

Second question: Beginning sentences with capital letters or not?

Personally, I'm not a fan of the fairly rare practice of beginning sentences with lower case letters, but I included this question anyway: because of its use in the Harrius Potter books, I was simply curious how popular it actually is.

Image

While there is a sizeable group that are positive (i.e. answered either "like" or "love") towards this practice, as many as 44% were negative. This should be compared with the 3% who were negative towards beginning sentences with capital letters.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby furrykef » Wed May 19, 2010 3:05 pm

Lex wrote:Beginning books, at least, should be made to be as helpful as possible to the reader/learner. Anything else is the crotchety old "It was hard when I learned it 50 years ago, so it should be hard now, pedagogical advances be damned!" attitude that so many teachers seem to have. Education should be about teaching students, or helping them to teach themselves, not about hazing or a sort of medieval guild initiation. But that's just my opinion, and I had bad experiences in college that make me very opinionated about this sort of thing.


On the other side of the coin, this was asked about a novel, and I think anybody who's starting to read a novel (aside from Lingua Latina vol. 1, or any similar readers if any exist) will probably long have gotten the rule down pat. I use Wheelock, I'm currently on Chapter 37 out of 40, and I probably had the rule down pat well before chapter 5. (Indeed, I had it down pat even before I started taking Latin seriously.) I think anyone who is ready to read a novel will know where stress goes, but they won't necessarily know where long vowels go... so it makes sense to keep macrons and not use accents.

(On the other hand, though, this means a student who has never used macrons and marked only stress may have to learn the rule for the first time. I have to wonder how many such students exist these days... probably not many who study Classical Latin, but if you're coming from Ecclesiastical...)

Accents can also be misleading. Do you write "láetior" or "laétior"? Either way, the accent disguises the fact that "ae" is a diphthong and therefore "lae" is a single syllable -- you'll need to be able to recognize "ae" as a diphthong no matter what orthography is used (unless the text uses the ligatures æ and œ, but those are the easiest ones to spot anyway -- it's more difficult to remember "ei" and "eu", for example, are diphthongs, and there is no ligature for them).
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby cdm2003 » Wed May 19, 2010 4:19 pm

No pretty graph for the diacritic responses? :(
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Lex » Thu May 20, 2010 12:47 am

furrykef wrote:On the other side of the coin, this was asked about a novel, and I think anybody who's starting to read a novel (aside from Lingua Latina vol. 1, or any similar readers if any exist) will probably long have gotten the rule down pat.


Well, yeah, that's a good point. Like I said, though, I'm dense when it comes to learning foreign languages (I have never yet successfully learned one), and I appreciate anything that helps drill the cadence of a language into my head.

Avitus wrote:Well, precisely that is all my concern when I advocated a clear distinction i (vowel) / j (semivowel) and æ (diphthong) / ae (hiatus): precisely because they help the reader visualise important distinctions they otherwise normally fail to learn. Maybe you are an exception, but I've heard many times the "i" in "iam" pronounced as in the name "Ian", and likewise for all the examples I provided above and many others, and, as I said, even from Latin professors; but maybe everyone is beyond that here.


Avitus wrote:We should choose spelling system that are "as helpful as possible to the reader/learner", and that would surely be the one that is most transparent regarding the pronunciation of the language


I know you're quoting me here, so I should be agreeing with you, but I meant with respect to accents and macrons. You're taking me out of context. What is most helpful with respect to pronumciation of letters will differ, for instance, based on the orthographic system of the native language of the learner. How many times have you heard "jam" pronounced like the name for grape preserves? Or the name "Julius" pronounced like the name of the basketball player of the same name? These are the natural pronunciations for a beginner whose native language is English. If you are concerned about proper pronunciation, the most logical letter to use for semi-vowel "i"s (for native speakers of English, at least) would be "y"! How about "w" instead of "v"? Or "k" for "c", so a hard sound is understood? As long as we are not using the actual conventions that were used 2000 years ago, what is wrong with reading about Yulius Kaysar saying "Weni, widi, wiki"? Well, nothing, except that to anyone with even the briefest exposure to the tradition (like myself), it's as ugly as sin.

As for æ ligatures, I don't find them ugly, as loqu does, but hiatus could just as easily be distinguished with a diaeresis, as it is in Greek.

It comes down to this. One's aesthetic judgments, experience in one's native language's orthographic convention, and exposure to orthographic conventions in textbooks and readers, will differ from person to person. Thus, no one convention will please everyone, no one convention is easiest for all readers, and no one convention is objectively the best.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Interaxus » Thu May 20, 2010 1:51 am

The question is: what’s the best format for a Latin novel intended to be read with pleasure by present-day readers?

Priority #1 must be to put the readers (and keep them) in the mood for reading.

For novel-reading whoosh, macrons add too much ‘visual noise’. They would litter the desired highway with speed bumps.

Remember, we are not talking about instructional material or poetry.

By comparison, ACCENTS might actually add glide. Here’s the case for accents ...

I have noticed that the modern (ecclesiastical?) accenting system works well for texts requiring quick and/or sustained reading. I can only guess at the rationale/rules/guidelines underpinning it. One prime features is that NOT ALL words need an accent. Here’s an example from a Latin magazine for kids produced in Italy (they’re talking about a Hollywood kids’ film ‘The Lightning Thief’):

Pellículae orígo est series fabulárum puerílium, quarum auctor est Americánus Rick Riordan. Percy Jackson est puer 12 annos natus, qui, quamquam satis commúnis vidétur, re vera est… filius cuiúsdam féminae mortális et Neptúni, dei maris. Percy mirabíliter scit se celáre; sic inveníre póterit Iovis fulmen, quod erat a fure raptum.

(Personally, I would have preferred ‘cujúsdam’ and ‘Jovis’, but never mind).

Now that’s easy on the eye, while being easily heard in the mind’s ear. What an intelligent, practical approach! The author assumes that anyone setting out to read a novel or magazine or comic strip in Latin must already have acquired a basic grounding in the language. Accents merely function as a kind of prompting. And since only words of more than 2 syllables get accents, the text remains ‘light’ and airy (very much like the texts we modern folks are used to reading).

Accents can quickly help decide where the stress falls in longer less familiar words (eg ‘mirabíliter’) and they can also provide clues to syllable length within words:

poémata – the first ‘a’ in -ata must be short
mortális – the ‘a’ here must be long

Sometimes accents can seem superfluous - eg when placed on an extremely familiar word like féminae’ – but a system is a system.

I’m not sure why ‘series’ didn’t deserve an accent in the text quoted. Perhaps an Italian couldn't possibly pronounce it incorrectly. In fact, I doubt whether we could either.

Diphthongs would only be a problem for complete novices. In any case, I assume the book would include links to sites like http://www.wheelockslatin.com/chapters/ ... hongs.html

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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby furrykef » Thu May 20, 2010 2:27 am

Lex wrote:As for æ ligatures, I don't find them ugly, as loqu does, but hiatus could just as easily be distinguished with a diaeresis, as it is in Greek.


I dunno. I don't think there are any vowel pairs that can be expressed either with hiatus or without... they're either always diphthongs or always separate. (The "ui" in cui/cuius/hui/huius is the lone exception I know of, as these are the only words where this diphthong occurs. Otherwise, it always takes hiatus.) A diaeresis can be misread as a macron, too. (In fact, I use a diaeresis to write a long "y", since y's with macrons are a bit awkward to handle with computers. Some programs don't like 'em at all, and they might look ugly with certain fonts.)


Interaxus wrote:For novel-reading whoosh, macrons add too much ‘visual noise’. They would litter the desired highway with speed bumps.


I think this is mostly because people aren't used to it. If macrons became the standard orthography for Latin, it wouldn't be a problem. But that won't happen unless people start taking steps in that direction.

This reminds me a bit of discussions about whether to reform Japanese by eliminating kanji. Japanese people often complain that, by doing so, text would be harder to read. But after eliminating kanji, the language would then be written with spaces (currently unnecessary since kanji use allows easy word separation), so words will still be distinguished easily enough; from there, they need only get used to it. And it has been shown that Japanese people who learn to read kana-only text can in fact read it as fast as a mix of kana and kanji.

Needless to say, adding macrons to a Latin text is a far less radical change than that. ;)

(Personally, I would have preferred ‘cujúsdam’ and ‘Jovis’, but never mind).


Well, if you think the "ui" in "cuius" is a diphthong -- Wheelock says it is one -- then using a "j" there would be inappropriate, I think.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Lex » Thu May 20, 2010 4:12 am

furrykef wrote:I dunno. I don't think there are any vowel pairs that can be expressed either with hiatus or without... they're either always diphthongs or always separate.


Well, if that's the case with ae, then a ligature is never necessary to differentiate, either, right?

furrykef wrote:
Interaxus wrote:For novel-reading whoosh, macrons add too much ‘visual noise’. They would litter the desired highway with speed bumps.


I think this is mostly because people aren't used to it. If macrons became the standard orthography for Latin, it wouldn't be a problem. But that won't happen unless people start taking steps in that direction.


I agree. Ancient Greeks probably would think that diacritical marks add too much visual noise, as well, but I think they are helpful, too.

furrykef wrote:This reminds me a bit of discussions about whether to reform Japanese by eliminating kanji. Japanese people often complain that, by doing so, text would be harder to read. But after eliminating kanji, the language would then be written with spaces (currently unnecessary since kanji use allows easy word separation), so words will still be distinguished easily enough; from there, they need only get used to it. And it has been shown that Japanese people who learn to read kana-only text can in fact read it as fast as a mix of kana and kanji.


The problem with kanji vs. kana is that kana only give phonetic pronunciation, whereas kanji differentiate between the meanings of different possible homophones. I'm not knowledgeable enough about Japanese to know if context alone is enough to make up for the loss.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby furrykef » Thu May 20, 2010 4:26 am

Lex wrote:Well, if that's the case with ae, then a ligature is never necessary to differentiate, either, right?


Right; my point was you'd still need to memorize that 'ae' (and 'au', 'ei', 'eu', and 'oe') are diphthongs no matter what orthographic convention you use. The idea was, if you start to rely on the orthography to tell you everything, then you might forget that these are diphthongs and the accent mark may make it look like the vowels are separate (accent marks indicate hiatus in addition to stress in Spanish, for example, though admittedly only on the vowels "i" and "u"; otherwise it's only stress).

It's a minor point, though; I was just pointing out the possibility that the accent marks can harm in addition to helping, albeit probably not very much.

Lex wrote:The problem with kanji vs. kana is that kana only give phonetic pronunciation, whereas kanji differentiate between the meanings of different possible homophones.


Homophones aren't any more of a problem in writing than they are in speech. Occasionally words that are spelled the same way in kana are distinguished with different pitch accent, but not all the time, and the placement of pitch accent varies wildly from region to region, so it's really not a very good way to disambiguate meaning.

It's also worth noting that the homophone problem exists because of kanji, not the other way around. If people didn't haphazardly mash characters together, they wouldn't get so many homophones.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Hampie » Thu May 20, 2010 3:04 pm

furrykef wrote:
Lex wrote:Well, if that's the case with ae, then a ligature is never necessary to differentiate, either, right?


Right; my point was you'd still need to memorize that 'ae' (and 'au', 'ei', 'eu', and 'oe') are diphthongs no matter what orthographic convention you use. The idea was, if you start to rely on the orthography to tell you everything, then you might forget that these are diphthongs and the accent mark may make it look like the vowels are separate (accent marks indicate hiatus in addition to stress in Spanish, for example, though admittedly only on the vowels "i" and "u"; otherwise it's only stress).

It's a minor point, though; I was just pointing out the possibility that the accent marks can harm in addition to helping, albeit probably not very much.

Lex wrote:The problem with kanji vs. kana is that kana only give phonetic pronunciation, whereas kanji differentiate between the meanings of different possible homophones.


Homophones aren't any more of a problem in writing than they are in speech. Occasionally words that are spelled the same way in kana are distinguished with different pitch accent, but not all the time, and the placement of pitch accent varies wildly from region to region, so it's really not a very good way to disambiguate meaning.

It's also worth noting that the homophone problem exists because of kanji, not the other way around. If people didn't haphazardly mash characters together, they wouldn't get so many homophones.

I read somewhere that the word pictures of kana is very much harder to read than those of the Latin alphabet and the korean Hangeul. They’re not distinct enough to allow any flow in the reading. I personally, with not good knowledge of Japanese at all, can hardly stand looking at a kana only text.

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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Alatius » Thu May 20, 2010 7:41 pm

cdm2003 wrote:No pretty graph for the diacritic responses? :(

Patience, my young padawan! :D

Image

As can be seen in the diagram, there was a very strong support for macrons. The more usual practice (for novels) of not using diacritics is generally well received, but not as overwhelmingly positive as the macrons. In the comments, many of those who were sceptical towards macrons mentioned that it would look "clumsy" and "distracting" in the body text of a novel. I can agree that this may be a typographical problem that needs to be taken in consideration. A few proposed the use of the apex as being more fitting than the macron (which more correctly should be reserved for syllable length). I can imagine that that would lighten up the look of the text, compared to macrons; the problem with apices though is that they are not really part of a living tradition, and it might be daring to be the forerunner in this respect. Today, the apex/acute accent is mostly associated with stress, I believe.

The option to mark stress with acute accents gets a more mixed response, with a leaning towards the negative, which is not surprising, considering that it is an uncommon practice (especially outside of the Catholic church).
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Lex » Thu May 20, 2010 10:24 pm

furrykef wrote:It's also worth noting that the homophone problem exists because of kanji, not the other way around.


This may be true, in that many of the homophones were probably introduced from Chinese, when the Japanese borrowed kanji. I'm not sure how many "on" readings (Chinese readings) of kanji are homophones, as compared to the "kun" (Japanese) readings. But now, the language is what it is, and homophones are a problem that has to be dealt with. Getting rid of kanji now would not make the homophone problem go away.

Hampie wrote:I read somewhere that the word pictures of kana is very much harder to read than those of the Latin alphabet and the korean Hangeul. They’re not distinct enough to allow any flow in the reading. I personally, with not good knowledge of Japanese at all, can hardly stand looking at a kana only text.


I think there's some confusion here. The kana are not word pictures; that's the kanji. The kana are a syllabary, which with Japanese's limited phonemes, is close enough to an alphabet for practical purposes. At one point, many years ago, I could handle both hiragana and katakana well enough to passably pronounce what I was reading (barring accentuation), although I didn't necessarily understand it. At any rate, the kana are not that hard to learn to read.

The kanji are much harder to read than Western orthography or Hangul, primarily because there are thousands of them. It takes knowledge of about 2000 kanji to get a high school diploma in Japan. The more literate, like college grads who don't focus exclusively on math and tech, would know closer to 5000. Also, some are so complex, that it is hard to visually differentiate them in small fonts. I think this is why Taiwan simmplified their kanji, although nationalism may have had something to do with it.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Hampie » Thu May 20, 2010 11:09 pm

Lex wrote:
furrykef wrote:It's also worth noting that the homophone problem exists because of kanji, not the other way around.


This may be true, in that many of the homophones were probably introduced from Chinese, when the Japanese borrowed kanji. I'm not sure how many "on" readings (Chinese readings) of kanji are homophones, as compared to the "kun" (Japanese) readings. But now, the language is what it is, and homophones are a problem that has to be dealt with. Getting rid of kanji now would not make the homophone problem go away.

Hampie wrote:I read somewhere that the word pictures of kana is very much harder to read than those of the Latin alphabet and the korean Hangeul. They’re not distinct enough to allow any flow in the reading. I personally, with not good knowledge of Japanese at all, can hardly stand looking at a kana only text.


I think there's some confusion here. The kana are not word pictures; that's the kanji. The kana are a syllabary, which with Japanese's limited phonemes, is close enough to an alphabet for practical purposes. At one point, many years ago, I could handle both hiragana and katakana well enough to passably pronounce what I was reading (barring accentuation), although I didn't necessarily understand it. At any rate, the kana are not that hard to learn to read.

The kanji are much harder to read than Western orthography or Hangul, primarily because there are thousands of them. It takes knowledge of about 2000 kanji to get a high school diploma in Japan. The more literate, like college grads who don't focus exclusively on math and tech, would know closer to 5000. Also, some are so complex, that it is hard to visually differentiate them in small fonts. I think this is why Taiwan simmplified their kanji, although nationalism may have had something to do with it.


Word-picture. All writing system has word-pictures. You don’t spell your way when you’re, as an adult, read, you merely recognise the picture of the compounded letters. This has nothing to do with kanji, but with how the written words look in kana, romaji and hangeul.

As for the Japanese writing system I know pretty much about it, and I can read kana :P, and 100 kanji (yeeha!). Kana evolved from simplification of man’yougana, hiragana from running-style cursive script and katakana from parts of the man’yougana signs. Also, China, has simplified their signs in the 50ies thanks to Mao :3. I will… try again to explain what I wanted to say tomorrow because I think I need to go to sleep now...
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Lex » Fri May 21, 2010 1:16 am

Hampie wrote:Word-picture. All writing system has word-pictures. You don’t spell your way when you’re, as an adult, read, you merely recognise the picture of the compounded letters. This has nothing to do with kanji, but with how the written words look in kana, romaji and hangeul.


Ahhhhh! I'm very sorry, I completely misunderstood what you meant, but I think I do now. I don't think of reading in terms of word-pictures, since I was taught using phonics, not the "whole language" approach, and I thought you were using "word-picture" as a way of saying "pictogram", so I didn't take your meaning at all.

Anyway, I bet a lot just depends on what you're used to. E.g., I think that an alphabet like Armenian looks too undifferentiated to be easily read, but apparently they don't have any trouble with it.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby furrykef » Fri May 21, 2010 2:15 am

I feel we're derailing the topic with this whole Japanese thing, but... :)

Lex wrote:
furrykef wrote:It's also worth noting that the homophone problem exists because of kanji, not the other way around.


This may be true, in that many of the homophones were probably introduced from Chinese, when the Japanese borrowed kanji. I'm not sure how many "on" readings (Chinese readings) of kanji are homophones, as compared to the "kun" (Japanese) readings.


Almost all homophones are due to 'on' readings, and there is admittedly quite a lot of them. According to WWWJDIC, 193 kanji have a reading of "shi", for example (in a couple of cases 'shi' may be the kun reading, but it's undoubtedly the 'on' reading for almost all of them). Granted, it may be an obscure reading for some of these.


But now, the language is what it is, and homophones are a problem that has to be dealt with.


Of course, there's still the fact that if homophones were really a problem, they would be a problem in speech, too. Since they're not a problem in speech, they shouldn't be a problem in writing, either.


Getting rid of kanji now would not make the homophone problem go away.


Sure it would: if there is truly a problem, people will avoid words that are problematic and will coin alternatives. A language will always adapt to its needs over time. Of course, alternatively, they may find there is no problem (see the above point).

Don't forget that Korea had this situation when they switched to Hangul, too, and they're getting along fine.


I think this is why Taiwan simmplified their kanji, although nationalism may have had something to do with it.


Actually, it's Mainland China that simplified their kanji. Taiwan wants nothing to do with it, partly because they didn't feel the need for it and partly as a way to differentiate themselves from Mainland China (after all, admitting their arch-rivals have some good ideas doesn't look very good politically).
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Lex » Fri May 21, 2010 11:20 am

furrykef wrote:I feel we're derailing the topic with this whole Japanese thing, but... :)


Yes, well, it is regarding orthography. :)

furrykef wrote:Almost all homophones are due to 'on' readings, and there is admittedly quite a lot of them. According to WWWJDIC, 193 kanji have a reading of "shi", for example (in a couple of cases 'shi' may be the kun reading, but it's undoubtedly the 'on' reading for almost all of them).

But now, the language is what it is, and homophones are a problem that has to be dealt with.


Of course, there's still the fact that if homophones were really a problem, they would be a problem in speech, too. Since they're not a problem in speech, they shouldn't be a problem in writing, either.


If some homophones have dozens or even hundreds of meanings, as you've just said, I can't see how it wouldn't be a problem even in speech. And I seem to recall from when I was in Japan many years ago, that sometimes people would draw kanji into their hands with their fingers to disambiguate words while speaking. Not all the time, but once in a while.

furrykef wrote:
Getting rid of kanji now would not make the homophone problem go away.


Sure it would: if there is truly a problem, people will avoid words that are problematic and will coin alternatives. A language will always adapt to its needs over time.


Well, if the Japanese language has to adapt to the loss of kanji, then that means that the homophones are a problem that kanji is addressing. So you're sort of cutting your own throat here with this particular argument.

furrykef wrote:Don't forget that Korea had this situation when they switched to Hangul, too, and they're getting along fine.


I don't know enough about Korean to know if the analogy is a good one, so for once, I'll be prudent and leave this one alone.

Anyhoo.... If they do simplify their orthography, it could be a shame. I predict that three generations after the change, people (except very old people) will not be able to read all the old, untranslated books, any more than most people nowadays can read Latin after the educational reforms of the 1890's in the West. Yes, a simplified orthography is in one sense rational, since it would save students lots of work, but it could also be a great blow to their cultural transmission. I hope the Japanese are not considering this change to make it easier for foreign labor to come to Japan to prop up their social welfare system. It would be a terrible shame to destroy their cultural legacy, just so they can become what Greece is now.

furrykef wrote:
I think this is why Taiwan simmplified their kanji, although nationalism may have had something to do with it.


Actually, it's Mainland China that simplified their kanji.


Yeah... Hampie corrected me on that, too. I remembered that one of them simplified their kanji, anyway. :oops:
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby quendidil » Fri May 21, 2010 11:21 am

I just made a new thread in the Open board to continue the discussion on kanji in Japanese without derailing this thread.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Interaxus » Sat May 22, 2010 2:09 am

furrykef:

Yes, ‘visual noise’ from macrons is ‘mostly because people aren't used to it’. People all over the world are conditioned to reading Latin-alphabet texts with only a sprinkling of ‘diacritics lite’ at most (French, German, Spanish, Swedish, for example). It would be rash to challenge such an ingrained preference.

By contrast, students of ancient Greek are unfazed by diacritical clutter since it comes with the territory (though modern Greek has been so drastically scrubbed and scoured that today it’s hardly more cluttered than, say, Swedish).

Since most potential readers will probably still be engaged in a Laocoönic struggle with Latin vocab, inflections and syntax, the #1 priority of a modern ‘Latin novel’ must be to ensure that the path to enjoyment is as smooth as possible. Stress accents MAY offer the best (though a far from perfect) compromise.

RE ‘cujus’ and diphthongs, a Ghost of Textkit Past (Benissimus) said as recently as Tue Apr 19, 2005 12:38 am:

… In such cases that the letter i happens to be preceded by a vowel and is followed by a -us ending, it forms a diphthong with the preceding vowel and then again carries a consonantal sound. eius, maius, cuius are pronounced "ei-ius", "mai-ius", and "cui-ius".

Source: viewtopic.php?p=10256
I don’t know what B’s source was.

Alatius:

You balk at being a ’forerunner’ (you who tap out hexameters on YouTube!). Refloating Latin today probably requires some ‘forerunning’.

You acknowledge the importance of ‘a living tradition’. You say the use of stress accents “is an uncommon practice (especially outside of the Catholic church)”. But do we know what proportion of the folks hankering after your new Latin novel have links to the Catholic church? (Do I begin to sound like Dan Brown?)

Did you see the Italian Latin-for-kids sample I quoted earlier in this thread? Here’s another sample from another source, two speech balloons from ‘Jesus Nazarenus – Vita domini imaginibus illustrata’ (I hasten to add I have no hidden agenda here, not being religious myself):

J: Impléte hýdrias aqua et ferte architriclíno.
Architriclínus: Omnis homo primum bonum vinum ponit et, cum inebriáti fúerint, id quod detérius est, tu servásti bonum vinum usque adhuc.


To decipher this the reader needs to know the rules. But there’s a minimum of clutter. And the accents help keep you on track.

OF COURSE, THE ELECTRONIC EDITION IS ANOTHER MATTER. THEN WE’LL BE ABLE TO SWITCH BETWEEN A PAGE OF PLAIN TEXT AND A FULLY MACRONED PAGE BY SIMPLE DOUBLE-CLICKING! ELLER HUR? ACCENTS EUNT DOMUS!

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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby furrykef » Sat May 22, 2010 2:14 am

Interaxus wrote:ACCENTS EUNT DOMUS!


Things called 'accents', they go, the house? :)
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Interaxus » Sat May 22, 2010 2:20 am

furrykef:

You got it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbI-fDzUJXI

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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby modus.irrealis » Sat May 22, 2010 2:04 pm

Interaxus wrote:Did you see the Italian Latin-for-kids sample I quoted earlier in this thread? Here’s another sample from another source, two speech balloons from ‘Jesus Nazarenus – Vita domini imaginibus illustrata’ (I hasten to add I have no hidden agenda here, not being religious myself):

J: Impléte hýdrias aqua et ferte architriclíno.
Architriclínus: Omnis homo primum bonum vinum ponit et, cum inebriáti fúerint, id quod detérius est, tu servásti bonum vinum usque adhuc.


To decipher this the reader needs to know the rules. But there’s a minimum of clutter. And the accents help keep you on track.

But this system does seem more appropriate for an Italianate pronunciation where stress is important but there is no independent vowel length -- it's less useful than macrons if you want to know the length of all vowels. You coul also use a Spanish-like system where you only mark the accent when it's not the second-to-last syllable, which would use even fewer accents.

But about macrons, when it comes to vowels with hidden quantity, how much do we know and not know? I can find resources that mention the different things scholars use to figure out whether such vowels are long or short, but I can't find any numbers about what percentage of these vowels still have unknown quantity.
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Re: Survey of Latin orthography preferences

Postby Smythe » Sat May 22, 2010 7:24 pm

Interaxus wrote:Since most potential readers will probably still be engaged in a Laocoönic struggle with Latin vocab, inflections and syntax, the #1 priority of a modern ‘Latin novel’ must be to ensure that the path to enjoyment is as smooth as possible.


I pride myself on having an extensive vocabulary, but it took some research to suss out the meaning of that word. "Laocoönic " refers to the famous statue (entangled in snakes) rather than to the man himself (giving truthful, yet unheeded warnings). Now, to get back on topic, if only I knew how to pronounce "Laocoönic " in English based on the diacritical marks. ;)
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