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Pronouncing B as P before S and T.

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Pronouncing B as P before S and T.

Postby Sesquipedalian » Sat Jul 23, 2011 10:22 am

Salvete!

I just have a quick question regarding the rule of pronouncing 'B' as a 'P' before S or T. In Vox Latina on page 21, Allen says:

In some cases, however, b is written instead of p for the voiceless plosive, namely before the voiceless sounds of t and s under certain special conditions. It is so used when the voiceless sound occurs at the end of a preposition or noun-stem which, in other environments, ends in a voiced b.

My question is, does Allen mean I should ALWAYS pronounce 'B' as a 'P' before an S or T, or does he mean, only do this when it occurs at the end of a preposition or noun-stem? His phrase 'under certain special conditions' confused me a bit.

Thanks in advance! :D
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Re: Pronouncing B as P before S and T.

Postby furrykef » Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:35 am

I think he's talking about words like "urbs". You'll find it's difficult to pronounce "urbs" with a "b" sound unless you also voice the "s", which the Romans probably didn't do, so they just said "urps" instead.
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Re: Pronouncing B as P before S and T.

Postby Sinister Petrus » Sat Jul 23, 2011 7:53 pm

furrykef wrote:I think he's talking about words like "urbs". You'll find it's difficult to pronounce "urbs" with a "b" sound unless you also voice the "s", which the Romans probably didn't do, so they just said "urps" instead.


I'd also guess:

obstare => opstare
obtinere => optinere

I don't know what special circumstances Allen is talking about. Gildersleeve points out that the b/p switcheroo can be seen in several places. For example:

*scribtum => scriptum

As for the business of at the end of a preposition, I'd imagine no one would say "ab sonitu curro", but rather "a sonitu curro." I could be wrong.
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Re: Pronouncing B as P before S and T.

Postby adrianus » Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:11 am

Sesquipedalian wrote:Allen says:

In some cases, however, b is written instead of p for the voiceless plosive, namely before the voiceless sounds of t and s under certain special conditions. It is so used when the voiceless sound occurs at the end of a preposition or noun-stem which, in other environments, ends in a voiced b.

My question is, does Allen mean I should ALWAYS pronounce 'B' as a 'P' before an S or T, or does he mean, only do this when it occurs at the end of a preposition or noun-stem? His phrase 'under certain special conditions' confused me a bit.

Allen does not say "ALWAYS", but under THESE special circumstances: "when the voiceless sound occurs at the end of a preposition or noun-stem which, in other environments, ends in a voiced b".
Non "semper" dicit Allenus sed his in locis propriis: ubi in ultimâ praepositionis vel radicis nominis incidit sonus sine voce aliàs ut "b" sonitus.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Pronouncing B as P before S and T.

Postby Sesquipedalian » Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:37 am

Thank you all for your replies.

Allen does not say "ALWAYS", but under THESE special circumstances: "when the voiceless sound occurs at the end of a preposition or noun-stem which, in other environments, ends in a voiced b".

So adrianus, this means that if a 'b' comes before an S or T and it is NOT at the end of a preposition or noun-stem, I am to pronounce 'b' as a 'b', that is, as a voiced bilabial? Apologies for my confusion on the matter.
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Re: Pronouncing B as P before S and T.

Postby Alatius » Sun Jul 24, 2011 9:32 am

Latin spelling is generally very close to the pronunciation. Allen here talks about special conditions where the spelling is irregular, i.e. does not exactly represent the speech:

In some cases, however, b is written instead of p for the voiceless plosive, namely before the voiceless sounds of t and s under certain special conditions. It is so used when the voiceless sound occurs at the end of a preposition or noun-stem which, in other environments, ends in a voiced b.

What he says is that the sound /p/ is sometimes written with the letter 'b', namely at the end of prepositions ("obstare") and noun stems ("urbs"). (In other cases, such as in verbs, the spelling is regular: we and the Romans wrote "scripsi" (from "scribo"), instead of *"scribsi".)

Sesquipedalian wrote:So adrianus, this means that if a 'b' comes before an S or T and it is NOT at the end of a preposition or noun-stem, I am to pronounce 'b' as a 'b', that is, as a voiced bilabial?

No, what Allen implies is that the letter 'b' does not even exist before 's' or 't', except for the cases noted above. (No doubt someone will now come up with counterexamples. :) ) But if you want a rule, simply saying that "'b' before 's' or 't' is pronounced as 'p'" is sufficient. The talk about the certain circumstances where this actually occurs is only distracting.
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Re: Pronouncing B as P before S and T.

Postby Sesquipedalian » Sun Jul 24, 2011 2:58 pm

Thank you for clearing that up. That makes sense. Why couldnt you of written Vox Latina Alatius! I often find myself getting bogged down in the details of Allen which leaves me both with a headache, and more confused then when I began. :D
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