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perhaps im dense

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perhaps im dense

Postby N30F15H » Sat Feb 14, 2004 11:11 pm

i looked at the first chapter of this book and it all confused me because of the accents

wouldnt the accents be defined by the word? because sure as i am alive (questionable) they arent written all over this site and everything else
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Postby benissimus » Sat Feb 14, 2004 11:26 pm

Actually, unlike English, Ancient Greek, and many other languages, accents in Latin are very formulaic and will be applied by the same rules no matter what the word is. In English, the emphasized syllable is pretty arbitrary, but if you know about 5 rules, then you can place the accent in any Latin word, assuming you know the vowel lengths for that particular word. Vowel lengths, on the other hand, are quite unpredictable in most cases and so you should memorize those.
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Postby N30F15H » Mon Feb 16, 2004 6:53 pm

yeah i know what you mean but all the latin your writing doesn't have accents, why does the whole thing have accents, why not just the first few chapters, and all the new words
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Postby benissimus » Tue Feb 17, 2004 2:56 am

Oh, I think you are talking about macrons. It is important not to mix the terminology up because accents are involved in stress and macrons are involved in duration. I don't know why they add the macrons in (I have never seen them add accents in, except when used in place of macrons), but you have to admit that it does make it easier to read and remember. It's just a way to make it easier for beginners.
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Postby Kerastes » Tue Feb 24, 2004 7:23 pm

N30F15H wrote:yeah i know what you mean but all the latin your writing doesn't have accents

I think I know what you mean. In "real" Latin, written by and for people who already know Latin, macrons (long marks) are not written. This is just a convention of textbooks for people who are learning Latin. I think it's a good convention. You should learn what vowels are long and short when you learn a word.

You will also find that some people write "j" for consonantal "i" and others (the old Oxford texts) write "u" instead for "v" for consonantal "u". I happily use "j" and "v" to distinguish the semi-consonants from the vowels.

why does the whole thing have accents, why not just the first few chapters, and all the new words

Because the macrons help you distinguish words which would otherwise be spelled alike. When the long vowels are marked, you can distinguish nominative from ablative in the first declension, forms of the fourth declension, present and perfect tenses of some verbs, and several other words. Until you develop a fluency in Latin, you won't be able to make these distinctions easily.

It is traditional to mark vowels in at least the first four years of Latin study. This also helps with pronunciation. Short and long "e" and "o" differ in quality as well as quantity (length), so to develop an accurate pronunciation, you should learn to "see" the vowel marking even when looking at an unmarked text. In fact, short and long "e" and "o" are different letters of the alphabet in Greek.

Besides macrons, there are Latin texts which are marked with actual accents. Liturgical texts in the Roman Catholic Church mark the accent (using an acute accent mark) on all Latin words where the accent is not on the penultimate (second from last) syllable. This allows the texts to be pronounced correctly, at least as to stressed syllables.

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Postby Ulpianus » Tue Feb 24, 2004 9:23 pm

You could make almost an opposite argument though. You could say: marking vowels as long means that people don't really bother to learn them at all; but they learn to rely on them as a crutch which is snatched away once they get to real Latin. There's something to be said for marking them in dictionaries, and learning when one learns the word (but not as macrons: one should learn how the word is pronounced).

It all seems pretty pointless to me. The only time you are going to be able to tell whether a vowel is long or short is in poetry if you scan the line. This is very rare. It must be only once in a hundred lines (if that) that one has a case where the metre enables one to work out what case a noun or adjective is in. (And even then one could be wrong: a short vowel might be long by position.) More often it's a matter of context. Is it really worth taking up valuable learning time and brain-space with something that will come in handy once in a blue moon when reading poetry?

I think they're ugly and mostly pointless. I would notice them when learning new words, to get the pronunciation more-or-less right, and in the few situations where they make a difference, and otherwise ignore them completely. If you need to know them, you can look them up.

On consonant u: it's not only old Oxford texts that prefer it; there is something of a purist mania for it in Britain generally -- the OLD uses it, and Cambridge texts as well. The little Oxford grammar positively glories in having abolished lower-case v.
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Postby Episcopus » Wed Feb 25, 2004 12:15 pm

I think that macrons are great. I feel weaker when I read a text without macrons. And I like to write macrons also. They are pretty.
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Postby Ulpianus » Wed Feb 25, 2004 8:28 pm

Episcopus wrote:I think that macrons are great. I feel weaker when I read a text without macrons. And I like to write macrons also. They are pretty.


But since every serious text is going to be macronless, they are not any long-term help. And I maintain my aesthetic objection. Latin sets a lovely even line (which is why printers use Latin gibberish for sample settings). Macrons pepper it with ghastly interlinear acne.
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Postby Kerastes » Thu Feb 26, 2004 5:59 am

Ulpianus wrote:You could make almost an opposite argument though. You could say: marking vowels as long means that people don't really bother to learn them at all

I see your point, and Episcopus bears it out.

On consonant u: it's not only old Oxford texts that prefer it; there is something of a purist mania for it in Britain generally

Thank you for that information. Well, at least they're consistent, unlike the usual modern practice of keeping "v" but discarding "j". And while I don't like it, the use of "u" for consonantal u does make it easier for me to pronounce the text according to the Roman method. I normally use the Italian pronunciation, since I am a musician by training and originally learned Latin from Jesuits.

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Postby Episcopus » Thu Feb 26, 2004 11:42 pm

Shut yo mouf I do in fact know all the long and short vowels of each word that I learn. Coming hither insulting me and macrons. :evil:
And that whole Italian Latin thing is quite pathetic it's for those who will not dare pronounce it properly.
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Postby benissimus » Fri Feb 27, 2004 1:43 am

Episcopus wrote:Shut yo mouf I do in fact know all the long and short vowels of each word that I learn. Coming hither insulting me and macrons. :evil:
And that whole Italian Latin thing is quite pathetic it's for those who will not dare pronounce it properly.

Episcopus, he made a thoughtful and worthy argument against the use of macrons and I cannot understand why you would accuse him of attacking you. I would be obliged if you would either respond in an equally civil way or else refrain from responding at all.
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Postby mariek » Fri Feb 27, 2004 2:54 am

Ulpianus wrote: Macrons pepper it with ghastly interlinear acne.


I love the analogy! :lol: I'll have to remember that line.

I see your point about advanced text being macronless, however as a neophyte, I find the macrons very helpful. I need my training wheels, but I won't need them after I become more advanced (which at the current rate will be in about 60 years or so)
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Postby Episcopus » Fri Feb 27, 2004 1:59 pm

benissimus wrote:Episcopus, he made a thoughtful and worthy argument against the use of macrons and I cannot understand why you would accuse him of attacking you. I would be obliged if you would either respond in an equally civil way or else refrain from responding at all.


Fine if you wish to argue in this thread, he implied that I do not know the long and short vowels of words. This is not true and insults my many hours learning many new words with long and short vowels in mind. Don't chide me merely because you pronounce Latin like a petrified ostrich.
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Postby Ulpianus » Fri Feb 27, 2004 3:33 pm

I don't know whether it is I or Kerastes who is the object of your wrath, Episcope.

I certainly do not intend to insult you personally or diminish either your efforts or your achievements. I am sure no-one does. My point was that the use of macrons might be counter-productive, because the beginner who had become accustomed to them might come to rely on them and would be disconcerted to find their artificial support withdrawn. I think one should learn Latin as far as possible in its natural form, which is (for better or worse) naked.

What followed was not a matter of implication or aspersion, but quotation. You said you felt "weaker" dealing with a text with no macrons. I take it that your point was that you found and still find macrons helpful, and their absence to some extent a difficulty or at least disconcerting. This was the point that Kerastes picked up, surely fairly. That someone such as you who has learned quite a bit of Latin should still feel to some extent "weaker" when faced with a text in its natural form might be taken to suggest that macrons have, in the long run, no helpful effect. The fact that you are not a helpless beginner nor incompetent nor lazy tends to strengthen this point.

Let us in any event agree to disagree on the merits of macrons, and say no more about the merits of individuals. Those who know that Sidney Allan used to keep a petrified ostrich to demonstrate pure Ciceronian diction will appreciate your delicate compliment to Benissimus. I believe there was a strangled cat also, Demosthenes nomine, and that by manipulating its rope one could achieve a most satisfactory demonstration of Greek tone accents. Satis?
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Postby Episcopus » Fri Feb 27, 2004 4:32 pm

No it wasn't you, I just thought that it was unfair that some one should come assuming that I do not know the long/short vowels of latin words.

I agree that one becomes somewhat dependent upon macrons yet without them the learning process on one's own would be extremely difficult and possibly pointless unless one find the time to ascertain whether a certain vowel in a word be long or short. Reading Virgil also would be very strange without macrons, since ambiguities might be uncomfortably multitudinous and would obviously require patience and a mind thinking sensibly in order to render some sense thence. I am impatient and rather strange with no sensible mind to read Virgil without macrons.
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Re: macrons

Postby xn » Fri Feb 27, 2004 8:18 pm

N30F15H: Macrons generally aren’t used in HTML documents for a number of reasons. First, early versions of HTML used a document character set (namely ISO 8859-1) that contains no letters with macrons; this was remedied in late 1997 with version 4.0 of HTML, which used a document character set that contains letters with macrons (namely ISO 10646, AKA Unicode). Second, most operating systems didn’t come prepackaged with typefaces that had letters with macrons; this too has changed over time. Third, most operating systems didn’t come prepackaged with easy methods to enter letters with macrons; unfortunately, this is still the case today.

Kerastes: I agree that the addition of macrons is a good convention, particularly for beginners like myself, for the reasons that you noted.

Ulpanius: In the absence of a knowledgable speaker, would you prefer an accompanying IPA transcription to the presence of macrons for learning the pronunciations of unfamiliar Latin words? Presuming that English is your mother tongue, perhaps your aesthetic distaste for macrons comes from an English typographical background? (That is, would a native speaker of a language that uses macrons [e.g. Latvian] find an absence of macrons similarly jarring?) I wonder if the evenness of the macronless ‘Latin’ gibberish line would be due more to a greater ratio of x-height letters to ascending/descending letters than a typical ‘English’ gibberish line would have? As an aside, do you also prefer monotonic Greek to polytonic Greek? (I don’t have the medical background to come up with a polytonic Greek analogue to the Latin macron ‘acne’…)

Epsicopus: I find that the beauty (or lack thereof) of text with macrons is highly dependent upon the typeface.

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Re: macrons

Postby Ulpianus » Sat Feb 28, 2004 10:30 am

xn wrote:Ulpanius: In the absence of a knowledgable speaker, would you prefer an accompanying IPA transcription to the presence of macrons for learning the pronunciations of unfamiliar Latin words? Presuming that English is your mother tongue, perhaps your aesthetic distaste for macrons comes from an English typographical background? (That is, would a native speaker of a language that uses macrons [e.g. Latvian] find an absence of macrons similarly jarring?) I wonder if the evenness of the macronless ‘Latin’ gibberish line would be due more to a greater ratio of x-height letters to ascending/descending letters than a typical ‘English’ gibberish line would have? As an aside, do you also prefer monotonic Greek to polytonic Greek? (I don’t have the medical background to come up with a polytonic Greek analogue to the Latin macron ‘acne’…)
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I made it clear that I am not against macrons in dictionaries or vocabulary lists, or in paradigms, or even right at the start. I just think they get used too much and for too long. I'm not sure IPA would be any easier. The ideal of course is to have a knowledgeable speaker. In the absence of such a person, I suspect one really needs some recordings of such a person to hear how it should sound. But I also think one should not worry too much about pronunciation.

You are right about the x-height point. This, of course, is exactly what macrons interfere with. But I also accept that the aesthetic side is very much a side issue.

The question of accents in Greek is a separate one. I suspect a case could be made for dispensing with them, but it is a different case: almost the reverse. Accents, I suspect, do not so much help as obstruct the beginner, who has to learn accentuation rules as well as everything else. But since "real texts" will have accents, it probably makes sense to learn them. So what it comes down to is this: over-use of macrons in Latin helps the beginner, but causes difficulty later when their assistance is withdrawn. The use of accents in Greek slows down the beginnier, but it would cause difficulty later if they were not learned from the start, unless Greek were to abandon accents generally.
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Re: macrons

Postby xn » Tue Mar 02, 2004 4:09 am

Ulpianus,

I made it clear that I am not against macrons in dictionaries or vocabulary lists, or in paradigms, or even right at the start.


perhaps I misinterpreted your earlier statement…

There's something to be said for marking them in dictionaries, and learning when one learns the word (but not as macrons: one should learn how the word is pronounced).


…as though the bracketed portion would apply to both dictionary entries and to first learning a word, rather than just the latter?

Personally, I like IPA being in dictionaries; although a broad IPA transcription may not differentiate between e.g. an alveolar ‘t’ and a dental ‘t’, such a transcription is the next best thing when neither a knowledgable speaker nor a recording is available. However, I also agree that pronunciation is a secondary consideration for a language in which one is unlikely to hold a conversation.

In all, your summary is accurate, but we might have differing views on the level of difficulty caused by ‘cold turkey’ macron withdrawal.

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Postby KICargill » Mon Jun 28, 2004 5:59 pm

Macrons are not just useful with dead languages (though that's where they are usually employed), but in learning modern languages. Indeed, I think the foreign student of English would benifit from marking quantity when he writes out verb paradigms, e.g., in "drive, drove, driven", the theme vowels for the first two parts are long, whereas the participle is short.
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Postby Johannes_Vigorniae » Tue Apr 19, 2005 2:18 pm

KICargill wrote:Macrons are not just useful with dead languages (though that's where they are usually employed), but in learning modern languages. Indeed, I think the foreign student of English would benifit from marking quantity when he writes out verb paradigms, e.g., in "drive, drove, driven", the theme vowels for the first two parts are long, whereas the participle is short.

Indeed it's often very fruitful not only to use macrons but to come up with one's own orthography. I certainly do for non-Latin spoken languages, and also for those with complex vowel systems like Portugese or Afrikaans. It helps one - me, anyway - remember that the language at heart is not the written symbols but the sounds those symbols represent. And where we don't ever speak the language - Latin for the self-taught is a clear example - macrons are certainly a help. One of my gripes with Reading Greek is that it doesn't distinguish short and long alpha and upsilon, even in paradigmns, even though it affects the placement of accents. Very annoying indeed!
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Postby Johannes_Vigorniae » Tue Apr 19, 2005 2:30 pm

Oh, an afterthought - accents can and do slow down our recognition of words. I notice this clearly in Arabic and Hebrew, where the addition of vowel marks, while helpful for the beginner, are dropped almost completely for normal purposes (indeed in Persian, the marks distinguishing t from s, b and p are often dropped!). This means the literate speaker of the language can read considerably more fluidly than if he were squinting looking for vowel marks. They are often retained in poetry, where the precise pronuncation is more crucial. But they can become a crutch, so there is a move among by some current text-book writers to replace the vowel marks with transcription for learners. Of course, all this does is to give the learner a different crutch...
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Re: perhaps im dense

Postby Anthony Appleyard » Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:08 pm

I was told off for using J in the Latin Wikipedia.

But there is one place where J had to be used: in the Latin Wikipedia page about Islamic matters, someone wrote Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) as "Haia" and I corrected it to "Hajj", as Arabic J (ج) is not descended from an I-type sound.

A complication with I ('eye') at the start of a word before a vowel is that in sans-serif (e.g. on this page), uppercase 'eye' looks the same as lowercase 'ell'.
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