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Classical or Ecclesiastical

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Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby chodorov » Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:28 am

Hello everyone,

I studied Latin for nearly a year but then took a break for a while to learn Spanish. I'm ready to get back into Latin, but now I'm not sure which pronunciation I want to use. I started with classical and I enjoyed it, but I've recently found the arguments for ecclesiastical to be quite convincing. Here are the primary arguments/reasons why ecclesiastical appeals to me:

1) It connects Latin to the modern world as a living, spoken language, as the church seems to be the last place where people still actually speak the language (although not so much anymore since Vatican II).

2) It seems to be more fluid, easier to pronounce and read, and sounds nicer.

3) Many people, such as Dante, wo could read and speak fluent Latin did so in the Italian/Ecclesiastical pronunciation. So basically just the idea of "if it was good enough for Dante, it's good enough for me."

I know this is an issue that has probably already been debated at length in these forums, but I've never really seen someone put together all their best points and make the best possible argument for the classical pronunciation. So, whatever side of this debate you're on, I'd love to her your arguments and any suggestions.

PS. In the long run, I'm open to learning both pronunciations, but for now I just need to pick one of them, to focus on.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby janaya2 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:38 am

Personally, I would say learn to be familiar with both and choose whichever suits your needs better. If you're reading a lot Classical Latin poetry, then I would say that the classical/restored pronunciation is the better of the two since the length of vowels are better distinguished and easier to get a feel for the meter. If you're reading a lot of medieval, liturgical, or ecclesiastical texts, then the Ecclesiastical pronunciation is the one to use, especially with the liturgical hymns which are based more on stress and rhyme. If you want to read prose, it probably doesn't matter which of the two use. Both are equally valid and acceptable, personally I use the ecclesiastical pronunciation since I mostly hear Latin in church and so it sounds more natural and less foreign to me.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby chodorov » Tue Oct 23, 2012 6:40 am

Thanks for the reply. I think I'll probably use ecclesiastical more often. I hope to be able to read the entire range of Latin literature, from classical poetry and prose to medieval philosophy and theology. As you say, the only place where I can see a distinct advantage for classical pronunciation is in classical poetry. But that brings up the point I made about people like Dante. They were steeped in Vergil, Catullus, etc, and I don't think they missed much from not knowing classical. So I agree with you for the most part and I'll probably end up using ecclesiastical, but I'd like for someone to make a case and really try to sell me on classical, just to make sure I'm being fair to both sides.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Stephen Hill » Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:32 pm

Well, I don't know if I'll sell you on classical, but I'll give it a shot.

In Latin in Church; the History of its Pronunciation, I think Frederick Brittain argues that the so-called ecclesiastical pronunciation only rose to prominence in Italy in the latter half of the nineteenth century (it's available on google books if you want to look at it). So I'm not at all sure that the ecclesiastical pronunciation is what Dante, Aquinas, etc. would have used, but I would be very interested to see any research on this.

The trouble with the ecclesiastical pronunciation is that it pays no attention to vowel quantity. This is especially an issue if you're reading poetry, but I would argue that it's also something to consider if you're reading Roman prose. The original writer and readers heard the vowel quantities; why shouldn't we? How can we properly appreciate the rhythm and music of a text, even prose, if we ignore the vowel quantities that its composer intended it to have?

Also, many people who speak Latin do use the restored (classical) pronunciation and observe vowel quantity. Some of them are Catholic but not all. I believe Tunberg and Minkova at the University of Kentucky use the classical pronunciation, as does Evan Millner, as does Eduardo Engelsing, etc.

If you begin to read, speak, and listen to Latin with the ecclesiastical pronunciation, it will be very difficult to switch later. If you begin with the classical pronunciation, you would learn to hear the quantities organically, as it were.

So to sum up by taking your points in order:

1. Not necessarily. Many Latin speakers use classical pronunciation.
2. De gustibus non est disputandum, but the more I use classical in my own reading, the more I like it. Harder than ecclesiastical, yes, but much closer to the ancient Romans.
3. Like I said, I'm not sure this is true. I don't know what medieval/Renaissance continental Latin sounded like exactly, but it may or may not have been like the modern Italianate pronunciation.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby chodorov » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:39 pm

Good post, Stephen Hill! The only issue I have with that argument of "classical is the way the Romans actually spoke it" is that, while studying Spanish, I came to realize how different actual pronunciation can be from the way that textbooks teach it (and I'm not just talking about elision in poetry). In practice, some letters may be over-emphasized and others may be de-emphasized to an extent that they're almost silent. And then you have to factor in the issue of all the different accents that exist in any language (as we in the Anglosphere know very well). So when people say classical is the way the Romans spoke it, I tend to think, "well, not really, it's just our best guess at the way the Romans spoke it." Thanks a lot for the list of classical speakers. I already know about Evan Milner, but I'll have to look up all those other names. And that actually addresses a big issue for me because I haven't found any good audio in ecclesiastical. And you make a good point that we don't even know when ecclesiastical came into existence and we don't know how Dante, Aquinas, etc. pronounced Latin. So you've definitely given me some points to consider.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby bedwere » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:49 pm

If you want to learn living Latin with ecclesiastical pronunciation, the very best is
CURSUS LINGUÆ LATINÆ VIVÆ or COURSE ON THE LIVING LATIN LANGUAGE. Fr. Suitbert Siedl, who was a gifted polyglot, knew many other languages besides Latin, and founded the Familia Sancti Hieronymi, recorded more than 20 hours of Latin conversation alongside the book.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Stephen Hill » Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:14 pm

The only issue I have with that argument of "classical is the way the Romans actually spoke it" is that, while studying Spanish, I came to realize how different actual pronunciation can be from the way that textbooks teach it


I know you didn't intend to quote me by using those quotation marks, but there's a reason why I said "much closer to the ancient Romans" and not "exactly like." You're definitely right that no reconstruction of a language that was never recorded can be completely accurate. But by all accounts I've seen, the classical restored pronunciation (best explained in Sidney Allen's Vox Latina) is pretty darn good. Certainly it's much, much closer than ecclesiastical, if we take the Romans as a point of departure. The difference might be thought of this way: think of trying to pronounce Spanish using textbook rules of Italian pronunciation vs. textbook rules of German or English pronunciation. Will you be perfectly accurate with either one? Nope. Would you still sound funny to a native Spanish speaker? Yep. Will one be much, much closer to the original than the other, and be more in keeping with the music of the language? Definitely.

I also forgot to mention Luigi Miraglia -- he's done tremendous work with spoken Latin (and Greek), and as both an Italian and a Catholic (I believe), he might be expected to use ecclesiastical. Yet I believe he does use the restored pronunciation. (I'd check his youtube videos but I'm not in a position to do that right now.)

But all that said, I almost decided to use the ecclesiastical pronunciation myself a while back. Ultimately it was the vowel quantities that sold me -- I didn't want to learn Latin with no sense of something so intrinsic to the language, so I went with the restored pronunciation. At first it sounded really weird, but like I said, the more I use it the more I like it.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby chodorov » Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:30 pm

Thanks for the links bedwere, I'll definitely look into them.

And sorry, Stephen hill, I didn't mean to imply something that you didn't actually say. I knew what you meant in the first place. Since there seems to be a lot more audio available, I might go ahead and continue with classical because I already studied Latin for a year using classical.

For some background, I started by going through D'ooge, then I read Lingua Latina I and several chapters of Lingua Latina II. I felt like I hit a wall, so I took a break from LLII and read about 25 pages of Caesar. That raised my reading ability to a new level and I was able to read a few more chapters of LLII pretty comfortably. Then I hit another wall. LLII is just a really hard book to get through because the difficulty never stops increasing with each chapter. But I'll keep slogging through it; I definitely don't want to give up on it. Do you have any suggestions for how I should move forward? I want to use more audio this time around, and any other ideas would be much appreciated.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Stephen Hill » Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:43 pm

Chodorov, no worries. I didn't think you were quoting me incorrectly. I just wanted to clarify.

I believe there are restored pronunciation recordings of LL, at least Familia Romana, but I've never heard them.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Nesrad » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:29 pm

Although we have a good idea how the Romans spoke, the restored or classical pronunciation is rather theoretical. And there's the whole problem of vowel quantities. Few modern speakers are able to respect the long and short vowels. So they end up using a poor approximation of the Roman pronunciation.

I personally think it's better to master a later pronunciation directly descended from the earlier one, than to poorly imitate how the Romans "most likely" spoke. When we read Shakespeare, do we adopt the 16th century pronunciation of English?
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Aluarus » Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:10 am

Hi there.

Well, even if we can not get the actual way Latin was spoken (I mean, the accent, and so on) but we have been able to identify the different sounds corresponding to ancient Latin (which could, of course vary because of accents of different speakers) we should be aware that THERE IS NOT an "ecclesiastical" pronounciation. At least, not until the 20th century.

The idea of current italian pronounciation being used throughout the Church for centuries is just A wrong idea. You can find that in times before the rediscovery of the roman pronounciation each person used the pronounciation of their native tongues for Latin, or at least, in many, many cases. I remember Justus Lipsius saying he couldn't understand an English scholar who was talking to him in Latin, thinking that he was speaking in his native tongue; or Erasmus saying that the French were the worst Latin speakers of all (you couldn't just understand their vowels).

This, of course, includes the Church, and for centuries the pronounciation of Latin was, well, that of the tongue of the place. The English pronounced Latin like reading English, so did the French, so did the Spanish people. I have heard old Spanish monks and jesuits who used theSpanish pronounciation and which were told to do so by there teachers long ago.

So this "ecclesiastical" thing is something just made up by the italians who want to impose their pronounciation in the Church and everywhere. I can't find it know, because I'm on y mobile phone and it is 3 in the morning, but there is at least a letter from the Pope in 1912 explaining his wish so the Church uses the Italian pronounciation (I'll edit this soon when I have time).

So perhaps Dante could have used the italian (or Tuscan) pronounciation of his century, but English or Spanish scholars of that time (and well into the 20th century) wouldn't.

The funny thing is that italians are not only trying to change the historical pronounciations of our countries and substituting them with their own, but they have also altered the traditional Latin spelling.

As you know, in ancient times there were only i/u, which were written as I/V and didn't differentiate the vowel sound from consonant one. If you take a look to books of modern times (after the Renaissance) you will find the traditional i/u j/v spelling differentiating both vowel and consonant. Well, since italian dropped the use of J for ortographic reasons, they obviously started writing Latin as they wrote Italian, altering the traditional spelling for Latin into i u/v, droppin the use of J to mark the consonant sound of i, which was customary for centuries (again, take a look on books some centuries old).

So that's why many people write "iustitia" as if they were italians, and not "justitia", (or iustitia, but without any v, following ancient patterns).

Use whatever pronounciation pleases you. English, Spanish, the Reconstructed one, or eventhe Italian one, but be sure there is no "unified" ecclesiastical pronounciation.

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Nesrad » Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:31 pm

This is THE major issue of contention among Latin enthusiasts. Each one will defend his choice as applicable to all, which is folly.

The Italianate (or Ecclesiastical) pronunciation is considerably easier. The restored "classical" pronunciation can be very challenging if you intend to speak the way the Romans did, not only because of vowel quantities, but also because of elisions, final m, and a host of other subtle details (Here is a nice example of how the Romans likely spoke: http://youtu.be/TQGk3TBexoQ. Notice how different he sounds from your average Latin teacher). Indeed most people who claim to use the "classical" pronunciation speak nothing like the Romans spoke. They instead use a kind of simplified academic pronunciation, which is fine, so long as there is some kind of consensus as to how it should be pronounced, in order to guarantee mutual intelligibility. But I scoff at people who disparage the Italianate pronunciation for not being authentic when they themselves speak using a perfectly artificial pronunciation.

I like the comment from another user who suggested you learn both pronunciations. I personally prefer reading "modern" Latin using the Italianate pronunciation, but I sometimes switch to something a bit more like the classical pronunciation when reading classical literature, for example.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Aluarus » Tue Feb 05, 2013 4:21 pm

The problem with the “ecclesiastical” pronounciation of Latin is that it has been never used anywhere* outside of Italy until the 20th century, so pretending to read Neo-Latin texts written by non-Italian with the Italian pronounciation is just wrong. Again, that the Italians use the Italian pronunciation doesn't mean that in America Spanish or English or French priests used the Italianate way.

Of course, almost everyone of us will have a different tone or accent or even pronunciation of a foreign language (it even differs among native speakers, an guy from India doesn't sound like a Scottish or a Texan when speaking English).

So, yes, perhaps using the reconstructed pronunciation for modern Neo-Latin texts may be wrong, but, using the italianate one for everything is wrong too. Even if I used the reconstructed one (the proper way, actually) I know it was not the way Latin was pronuounced through the middle ages (because of the different pronounciations at the time, which were, of course, not classical).

So, yes once again. One may use the pronounciation that pleases him more, but we must acknowledge that there isn't only a dichotomy between “classical/restored” and “ecclesiastical”, or at least not being “eclesiastical” the Italian one.

I don't know why English speaking people should use the Italianate one when reading Newton's texts, when Newton himself would have used the traditional English pronunciation or some kind of reconstructed/ erasmian one (not the current).

Nota bene for comments on traditional pronunciations, see: http://avitus.alcuinus.net/schola_latina/soni_en.php
“Captivæ Graeciæ lingua in paucorum Eruditorum memoria hodie vivit; laborandum est, ne omnino intereat linguarum pulcherrima” Balbinus, Verisimilia Humaniorum Disciplinarum, XII, 3.

“In omni disciplina infirma est artis præceptio sine summa adsiduitate exercitations” R. ad Herennium, III, 40.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Nesrad » Thu Feb 07, 2013 5:32 pm

The dichotomy between restored/ecclesiastical is quite real, because they are the only two pronunciations that are in common use.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Aluarus » Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:37 pm

Erm, I didn't say it wasn't. I just said that the italiane pronounciation has never been used outside of Italy until the second half of the 20th century. But well, at least I do know that the pronounciation I currently use wasn't used everywhere for centuries.
“Captivæ Graeciæ lingua in paucorum Eruditorum memoria hodie vivit; laborandum est, ne omnino intereat linguarum pulcherrima” Balbinus, Verisimilia Humaniorum Disciplinarum, XII, 3.

“In omni disciplina infirma est artis præceptio sine summa adsiduitate exercitations” R. ad Herennium, III, 40.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby bedwere » Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:03 pm

As a devout Roman Catholic, born and schooled in Italy, it is just natural for me to use the Italian pronunciation for everything. That comes very handy whenever I serve the Traditional Latin Mass, as I did this morning. These days priests who have not studied in Rome generally have thick accents, but they always use the ecclesiastical pronunciation. There was a curious exception in early 20th century England: the great liturgist scholar Fr. Adrian Fortescue, who, far from being an ultramontanist, made the restored pronunciation the standard of his parish! :D

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Scribo » Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:10 am

People claim my Latin is Italianate, by which they mean I've got a Mediterranean vowel quality, I stick to hard consonants etc in accordance with current philology. I also find it useful for teaching. Incidentally my Italian educated friends also use Reconstructed-Classical so we can understand one another. Oddly, I don't speak Italian too well.

I don't think there's a strong dichotomy between the two. I mean if you're a Classicist, in a university, using Ecclesiastical, well then you've got no auctoritas when it comes to philological matters and I think it would be odd for a priest to use reconstructed.

Incidentally, when we matriculated at Oxford the (vice?)-chancellor intoned the Latin lines....in an English accent. So people still stick to the vernacular.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Nesrad » Sun Feb 10, 2013 12:48 pm

bedwere wrote:There was a curious exception in early 20th century England: the great liturgist scholar Fr. Adrian Fortescue, who, far from being an ultramontanist, made the restored pronunciation the standard of his parish! :D


At what time was this happening? In 1903, St. Pius X made the "Roman" (i.e. Italianate) pronunciation the standard for liturgical use, though I don't know if his motu proprio had force of law on this issue.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby bedwere » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:58 pm

Nesrad wrote:
bedwere wrote:There was a curious exception in early 20th century England: the great liturgist scholar Fr. Adrian Fortescue, who, far from being an ultramontanist, made the restored pronunciation the standard of his parish! :D


At what time was this happening? In 1903, St. Pius X made the "Roman" (i.e. Italianate) pronunciation the standard for liturgical use, though I don't know if his motu proprio had force of law on this issue.


Fr. Fortescue died in 1923. As I said, he was definitely not an ultramontanist but kept doing what he wanted to do in his small parish.

Some interesting images of his diary (in Latin).
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Bedell » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:34 pm

Fortescue was a notoriously eccentric polymath. He was the exception to many rules.

Two anecdotes spring to mind.

Firstly, he designed his own parish church (and mostly paid for it too out of his personal resources) and declared it to be the only thing worth looking at west of Constantinople.

Secondly, his bishop at some point became concerned that his clergy might be letting their studies slip and organised some examination sessions on general topics to evaluate the situation. Fortscue attended an exam in which there was only one question: Write what you know about the Arian Crisis. Most priests were out in less than two hours, but Fortescue wrote on and on ... and on. The examiner knew lunchtime was approaching and pinned his hopes on the candidate bailing out then, but to his dismay, Fortescue produced a packet of sandwiches and carried on writing. After five or six hours the elderly canon could stand no more and interrupted the writer's progress, "When will you finish?" he almost cried. "My good fellow," replied Fortescue, "I am only now completing the introduction!" :D
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Nesrad » Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:25 am

bedwere wrote:Some interesting images of his diary (in Latin).


"Interesting" is an understatement. Looks like an illuminated medieval manuscript, complete with hebrew, gregorian chant notation, and even a poem composed in Arabic. Amazing find.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby scotistic » Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:06 am

The original poster said: "I haven't found any good audio in ecclesiastical."

Here is a recording of the entire Vulgate Psalter: "http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/liber-psalmorum/book-of-psalms-audio-files-in-latin.htm" The reading is not perfect, but it's pretty good. If you have an iphone or related device "Biblium" has an app with streaming audio of the Novum Testamentum (the same recordings are probably available elsewhere too); the pronunciation is "ecclesiastical" with a definite American accent.

Librivox has a pretty large and growing collection of Latin audio, mostly with a "classical" pronunciation but in a pretty wide range of accents. Not too long ago the only substantial amount of Latin audio you could get free was Evan Millner's; now his isn't free but there's a lot of other free stuff. It's a good time for Latin listening!

As for the topic at hand, in my view a range of pronunciations is fine and even desirable. I certainly pronounce English differently when I'm reading Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Yeats; if I didn't, as people have pointed out, I couldn't read metrically at all.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby chodorov » Fri Feb 15, 2013 2:27 am

Wow, I haven't checked in here for a while so I didn't realize this thread suddenly got much more active. Thanks everyone!

Nesrad, wow, that guy in the video you linked is unbelievable. I don't know how anyone gets that good at speaking Latin. I caught on to some of it because I've read about the first 30 pages of Gallic War.

Scotistic, thanks a lot for that link. I've been looking for something like that for a long time. And just out of curiosity, how do you change your English pronunciation when you read Chaucer and Shakespeare? I mean, what accent is normal for you (I'm American) and what do you do differently when you read those authors?
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby scotistic » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:37 am

I'm American too, but some of Shakespeare's and Yeats' words have to be pronounced differently than I normally would or else many rhymes, and sometimes the meters, won't work. For Chaucer it's much more drastic, since the accents are placed in different places in many words, many words have fewer (occasionally more) syllables now, and so forth. So just to scan the lines you have to pronounce them differently than you would pronounce the same words in normal conversation. And of course there are a lot of obsolete and french and frenchy words - how do you pronounce those? I find when reading Chaucer I tend to fall naturally into an "antique" pronunciation, guided largely by the phonetics of the old spelling.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Scribo » Thu Feb 28, 2013 6:07 pm

Yes we do change pronunciation for older English verse in school here (the UK). It makes things so much more easier and intuitive.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby metrodorus » Sun Mar 03, 2013 10:08 pm

Re: my Latin not being free - there are over 1,000 free Latin videos of mine on YouTube, including complete books, read in Restored Classical. I am no longer producing mp3s, only videos. If the host for my mp3s had not gone bankrupt, they would still be free.

I am currently working on the following projects:

Pexenfelder's 'Apparatus Eruditionis'
Fay's 'Carolus et Maria'
Celsus 'De Medicina' (Interlinear Hamiltonian text)
and various other things as the fancy takes me.....I have a long list of books I want to record, and I produce new material for the YouTube channel I own almost every day.


My index for YouTube can be found at
http://latinum.org.uk

Re Ecclesiastical - Father Reginald Foster holds little hope for the survival of Latin as a spoken language in the Church - he said recently that he thinks there are fewer than 100 fluent Latin speakers left in the entire Catholic Church. There are far, far more Latin speakers who are non-catholic. Most of these speakers use a variant of restored classical pronunciation, American Scholastic, or other non ecclesiastical variant.

.
I run various Latin sites, including Schola and the Latinum YouTube channel - the main portal to these is http://latinum.org.uk
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby Nesrad » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:30 pm

Re Ecclesiastical - Father Reginald Foster holds little hope for the survival of Latin as a spoken language in the Church - he said recently that he thinks there are fewer than 100 fluent Latin speakers left in the entire Catholic Church. There are far, far more Latin speakers who are non-catholic. Most of these speakers use a variant of restored classical pronunciation, American Scholastic, or other non ecclesiastical variant.


That's an interesting term, "american scholastic." I'd be surprised if there were more than 100 non-Catholic fluent speakers. And some of the two groups (Catholic and non Catholic) overlap. I assume Mr. Miraglia, who uses the Ecclesiastical pronunciation, is a Catholic at least by birth, but he's no clergyman.
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Postby scotistic » Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:52 pm

Metrodorus, thanks for pointing out your youtube videos, which I have not used. Back when your recordings were in podcast form I listened to, I think, all of them; when the podcast went offline I was crestfallen. Not having backed up the files, I happily paid to get a great deal of it back by buying a number of your dvds, so I hope you didn't take my comment as a complaint. I've benefited from your work far in excess of what I paid for it, and I'm very grateful for your efforts.

I do my latin listening while walking the dog or doing chores or driving alone, so mp3s are all I've used. Perhaps I should look into whether I can use your videos too. I'm not likely to actually sit down and watch something - I'd just read a book.
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