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Stress and Length

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Stress and Length

Postby Rhapsody » Tue May 04, 2004 10:02 pm

I've been reading latin verse for a while, and I managed to read dactylic hexameter - I suppose - quite acceptable, (at least I always get the fifth foot right...), but I still don't see how the length connects with the stress in latin verse. For instance:

Aeneid I.i - I should say(correct me if I am wrong, please) :
"Aaarma viruumque canooo/"
The question is; how do I stress the word "cano"? In the first or the second syllable? Does the stress falls naturally in "ca-", or "-no"is both stressed and long?

The same thing occurs in Tristia III.ii and iii
"...tempus in urbe fuit"
"...nunc quoque gutta meis"
In the last word, should I stress the first syllable and make the second long, make the last syllable both stressed and long, or forget stress and think just in longs and shorts(if so, how can you do that? I think we are so used to stress that is somewhat hard to imagine unstressed poetry...)

If someone knows the answer I would be glad to know it. Thanks.
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Postby chad » Tue May 04, 2004 11:51 pm

hi rhapsody, in your examples of 2-syllable words the "stress" falls on the first syllable, as is the case for most 2-syllable latin words. (i've got a list of exceptions in a latin phonology .pdf on a temporary website http://iliad.envy.nu/ .)

the length of the 2nd syllable doesn't affect that.

if it sounds a bit weird to u, stressing the 1st short syllable and having the 2nd long syllable unstressed, remember that (a) the stress was also a pitch accent back then: so the word drops in pitch quite naturally from the 1st syllable into the 2nd long syllable, and (b) often in normal pronunciation romans would shorten the 2nd syllable (it's called brevis brevians, or iambic shortening), maybe so that they wouldn't sound like donkeys or something when pronouncing disyllables :)

i've just decided to take up latin again, and so i'm going to go through and scan and put in the accents in virgil book 2 lines 13 and ff, horace, and catullus, and then put them into readable "music lines" like i've done for greek on that website above. but for latin i can only imagine having 3 pitch levels given the way the accent works... i'll put something on that website soon once i've read a bit more. hope this helps :)
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Postby Rhapsody » Wed May 05, 2004 1:23 am

ok, thanks...now things are starting to get clearer...
let me see...you use both the rules of stress and length at the same time!
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Postby chad » Wed May 05, 2004 3:00 am

exactly, e.g. if you used ~ after a syllable to mean a long syllable (hold it twice as long in time), and capitals to mean stress (raised emphasis + pitch), aeneid 1.1 would go roughly, in reconstructed latin pronunciation,

ARRR ~ mah wee RRROONG ~ queh KAH noh ~ TRRROI ~ yigh ~ quoo-ee ~ PRRREE ~ mu sa BOH ~ rrreehs ~

you might also put the "b" on "ab" rather than pushing it onto "oris".

the accent and metre go together, just like in greek, no surprises since they were trying to imitate the greeks :)

although i think if you learn it at school/uni you ignore the word accents and stress the long syllables in poetry, one of those persistent bad conventions.
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Postby Antonius » Fri May 27, 2005 5:27 pm

chad wrote:although i think if you learn it at school/uni you ignore the word accents and stress the long syllables in poetry, one of those persistent bad conventions.


Unless I'm reading it wrong, that's the way you are told to do it in Gildersleeve and Lodge. They believed that the "ictus", the foot stress (or "drumbeat") took precedence in Roman practice over the normal word stress in poetry. This was possible, according to G&L, because the normal stress was understated to begin with, and consequently the shift in poetry wasn't as jarring to Roman ears as it might be to ours.

Is this no longer the prevailing opinion?
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