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Poll: Long and short syllables

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When you pronounce latin, do you try to spend twice as long on the long syllables?

Yes
6
55%
No
2
18%
The question is misleading/defective
3
27%
 
Total votes : 11

Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby pster » Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:14 am

When you pronounce latin, do you try to spend twice as long on the long syllables?
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Alatius » Tue Feb 04, 2014 2:41 pm

I haven't answered the poll yet, because I think it is unclear what you are asking. Do you wonder if we try to make a lengthwise distinction at all, or wether we try to time it so that the long syllables are exactly twice the length of the short?
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby pster » Tue Feb 04, 2014 2:51 pm

Alatius wrote:I haven't answered the poll yet, because I think it is unclear what you are asking. Do you wonder if we try to make a lengthwise distinction at all, or wether we try to time it so that the long syllables are exactly twice the length of the short?


Good question. Short answer: the former. D'Ooge says to make them roughly twice as long. I was a bit surprised to see that. In other languages, I just let length take care of itself. And when I took a year of Latin in university, I don't remember concerning myself with length as such at all.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Feb 04, 2014 5:28 pm

I think there's pretty good evidence that in languages, which have phonemic vowel quantity distinction, the difference in length is not really absolute but relative. If you actually measured the sounds with a chronometre, the short vowels might actually be longer in some context than the long vowels in another. At least I've that's what I've read for my native language Finnish, where vowel length distinction is very important, probably even more so than in Latin. I think the absolute length depend on many things, of course the general speaking speed, but also whether the syllable is stressed etc.

I think the "pronounce it twice as long" is the typical sort of nonsense that's used to make things simpler than they are. When I hear a Finnish vowel, I have no idea how many times longer it is than another, I just know whether it's short or long. It could be 20% longer or 5 times longer, I have no idea. I don't think any native speaker could tell that except maybe a professional phonologist without technical equipment.

Some reconstructed Greek pronunciation I remember was particularly funny because the long vowels where so absurdly looooooooooooooong. If I did a similar thing (which I will never do), native speakers of English would laugh at something else, of course.

Just a thought... Probably the thing to do is just to pronounce long vowels a bit longer, just so that you feel there's a difference without overdoing it.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Qimmik » Tue Feb 04, 2014 6:35 pm

Are we talking about vowels or syllables? Making a distinction between long and short syllables (or heavy and light syllables, to use an alternative terminology) is essential to appreciating Latin and Greek verse.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Feb 04, 2014 7:06 pm

Now I'm not sure anymore what the question was. I was talking about vowel length, not syllable length. Syllable length in poetry might be different, at least once it is sung. In songs this 1 long = 2 shorts might actually be true, but I suspect that not so when poetry was delivered without singing. But I don't really know, and especially I don't know about Latin.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Qimmik » Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:41 pm

To Paul's point, here is a link to a thread that discussed vowel quantity:

http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=60024&p=155851&hilit=hungarian#p155851
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby pster » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:08 pm

D'Ooge writes very early on, in Sect. 13, and thus not in the context of poetry but rather just Latin generally:

"Note. Give about twice as much time to the long syllables as to the short ones. It takes about as long to pronounce a short vowel plus a consonant as it does to pronounce a long vowel or a diphthong, and so these quantities are considered equally long. For example, it takes about as long to say cŭr´-rō as it does cū´-rō, and so each of these first syllables is long. Compare mŏl´-lis and mō´-lis, ā-mĭs´-sī and ā-mi´-sī."

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18251/18 ... egin1.html

I had never heard anything like that. I don't think Wheelock or Mooreland and Fleisher say anything like that. I'm not contesting it. I'm just curious whether people actually do this. It seems like it would be very hard to do in prose and ordinary discourse, while perhaps much easier in poetry.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Scribo » Wed Feb 05, 2014 12:28 am

McCullough's article in the Blackwell Companion to the Latin Language is the best short stop for this sort of thing, wonderfully written and well sources. I don't know how much I can reproduce without breaking copyright and regardless I do not own the book. No one owns the book. Why are you charging £120 for books allegedly for students Blackwell? We can't afford these. Get it together, more paperback editions please I mean oh my god.

Right, to roughly recapitulate some stuff found therein. I believe a and a: were qualitatively similar and differed only in length which would be almost twice. As for the other vowels there's quite a lot of evidence, especially the Romance languages!, that there was differentiation in terms of quality and quantity but again I believe the quantity was roughly twice as long.

Qimmik referred back to the thread on Greek, his examples of Czech and Hungarian are still valid, likewise my own examples with...I want to say I cited Punjabi since it has clear length and pitch but whatever I did is sort of relent too. Finnish is always brought up in these discussions but I honestly remember too little to be of help. As I said before, it would have been clear to natives but not necessarily exaggerated to others.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Feb 05, 2014 8:48 am

Scribo wrote:Finnish is always brought up in these discussions

Well, I always do, since it's my native language and anyway the only living one I know with phonemically distinct short and long vowels that are qualitatively similar... :) Hungarian could be just as good an example, but since I don't know Hungarian I'm not bringing it up ;) (but there are many similarities with Finnish, I believe: distinctive vowel length both in stressed and unstressed syllables, stress on first syllable etc, and the languages are distantly related).

Latin too has distinctive vowel length both in stressed and unstressed syllables with apparently no difference in quality, so the vowel system must have been actually quite similar to Finnish, more so than Greek.

What I'm arguing is that I believe that actual tape recording of actual speech has more or less destroyed the idea that the relative difference in length between short and long vowels is constant, at least for Finnish. This Wikipedia article says that there are actually four different vowel lengths in Finnish, dependign whether the sounds are in stressed syllables or not - and I suspect that even this is an oversimplification, since other prosodic factors can come into play. This makes me suspect that the same is true for Latin. But of course, what technical equipment shows and what native speakers perceive are two different things, so it just might be that the ancient Romans felt it that way; only I remain sceptical. (Song might be different, because sung notes have to be of a clearly defined length. But the prosody of song and the prosody of real speech are very different anyway.)
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby pster » Wed Feb 05, 2014 11:37 am

You guys are way over my head. But I'm going to ask a question anway.

It seems that in some languages the learner never has to think explicitly about length. Some things just take longer to say and so length takes care of itself. Maybe the vowel sound takes more time because of the mouth formation. Maybe adding stress takes more time. Maybe changing pitch takes more time. But if you wanted to speed those vowels/syllables up, it wouldn't be wrong/confusing. You might just sound like you were preparing for a job in the auction house. English, at least the English I speak is like this. At least I think it is.

In other languages, the learner has to explcitly think about length. For example, in Italian, you have to learn to stretch out double consonants. If you tried to ignore that stretching, you would be making a mistake. The natives wouldn't like it. And, perhaps in other languages, such as the oft discussed Finnish, it might lead to confusion. The natives might really dislike it because it might be ambiguous.

Now, the question: Is it reasonable to make such a distinction, between languages where length takes care of itself, and those where it is an explicit concern?

Extra points will be awarded for those who begin their answer with a simple Yes/No! :mrgreen:
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Feb 05, 2014 2:08 pm

Yes/No. Well, kind of. :)

I don't think length takes completely care of itself in average English. Rather, quantity and quality both distinguish between vowels, but quality is more important. Native speakers don't notice it because they can't isolate vowel quantity and quality. I suppose quantity can be ignored in fast speech (I don't really know), but it's not automatic - it's something that helps to distinguish between minimal pairs. But take a Finn and teach him English - for him, the difference between feet and fit will be vowel length, not quality, and this will him more difficult to understand for a native speaker, since he will not make a clear distinction in quality which is the most important thing.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby pster » Wed Feb 05, 2014 3:14 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:But take a Finn and teach him English - for him, the difference between feet and fit will be vowel length


But, something seems rotten in Denmark, and maybe Finland too! If I say 'fit' really slowly, it doesn't start sounding like 'feet'. In other words, the distinction we make between long and short vowels is not just one of length. Surely the linguists must have a spiel about all of this.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Feb 05, 2014 3:45 pm

pster wrote:In other words, the distinction we make between long and short vowels is not just one of length.

No, quite the contrary, but that's the way a Finn would tend to analyse it. Check this if you like... Beside that fact that he analyses open/closed vowels pairs as simple long/short, notice also the lack of aspiration in stops and the difficulty to pronounce th, sh, d, r sounds...

Come to think about it, maybe you are right that vowel length is "automatic" in English - maybe there is a tendency that in such phoneme pairs the closed vowels are pronounced shorter than the open ones. Maybe it's easier to pronounce like that or something. Still, this makes understanding easier. We should have a look at a number of languages and see if there's a trend here.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Feb 05, 2014 3:48 pm

And all of you who wanted to learn how NOT to aspirate p, t, k for the purpose of reconstructed pronunciation - take that guy as your model!
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Feb 05, 2014 3:49 pm

Double post
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Seirios » Fri Mar 14, 2014 4:49 pm

lol Nobody has talked about Japanese I guess. Legit, this is a Western forum after all...
Japanese has a neat 5-vowel length distinction as well as a consonantal one, so length is not a big problem to me, though you know Latin is not the same as Japanese so there have been quite some. (I'm not a native Japanese speaker despite having been learning and being exposed to it since like 12.)
And if English speakers want to try unaspirated p t k, why it seems nobody has tried using the p t k in words like "spy" "stay" "sky"? They are just unaspirated as far as I know.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby A.A.I » Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:44 pm

For those worrying about vowel lengths sounding natural: read aloud. Read with short and long vowels and see how that works in practice. A good rhythm will develop. Try not to sound too Italian, Spanish or something. :p
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Godmy » Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:45 am

I wonder why do we need a poll on such a non-controversial issue. Of course that you should pronounce long vowels longly... that's why they are long.

Try to speak some modern living language as Czech - my native language/central Europe (which has phonemic long and short vowel distinctions for all the 5 monophthongs it has and the distinction is completely stress-independent) ignoring the vowel lengths when speaking it (=spending twice as much time over a vowel relatively to others) and you will be probably not understood or misunderstood, and if you are lucky, you will be understood but they will think either that you are crazy, drunk or a foreigner.

Just get over it [everybody].
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby A.A.I » Sun Mar 16, 2014 3:04 am

Godmy, I've been told my whole life to 'get over' being curious, asking questions and discussing such things. Well, I'm glad I didn't listen to those people who deemed my questions to be too stupid or obvious.

The poll itself asked: "When you pronounce latin, do you try to spend twice as long on the long syllables?" No controversy implied. Most of the Latin I hear lacks distinctions between vowel length - amongst other things. Seems like a reasonable line of questioning, in my eyes.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby Godmy » Sun Mar 16, 2014 1:00 pm

A.A.I wrote:Godmy, I've been told my whole life to 'get over' being curious, asking questions and discussing such things. Well, I'm glad I didn't listen to those people who deemed my questions to be too stupid or obvious.

I am not saying: Don't ask questions.
I am saying: why do we need a poll for something like this? Do we need to take a vote to validate (by the vote of the majority) one or the other in the popular use? I don't think so. We would if vowel lengths were absolutely a foreign aspect for western learners, untraditional aspect, new aspect, not practiced aspect in Latin: then its use could be seen as controversial and a poll would be a very good thing. But neither of it is true.

A.A.I wrote:The poll itself asked: "When you pronounce latin, do you try to spend twice as long on the long syllables?"

Just using the word "to try" implies that "to do it regularly without thinking" is almost something unheard of, totally new and 'untraditional' in the world of Latin philology, foreign, weird, new... something you don't even know how to do (and that's why I said "get over it").

A.A.I wrote:Most of the Latin I hear lacks distinctions between vowel length - amongst other things.

I'm then sorry you haven't met the right latinists pronunciation-wise. If you want, we can go and speak sometimes (have a voice chat). I don't say I'm the "rightest" one, but I have no problems in this aspect and... to be honest, I don't see why anybody else should.

Seems like a reasonable line of questioning, in my eyes.

But why? This is not so uncommon in the modern languages in Europe or in its proximity... I understand when you ask (as I did) something similar over the melodic accent of Greek which is either: not easy to be imitated (as you don't have much living languages in your proximity to listen to or not enough resources) or it is still perceived as something **new** in the philological world, world which is/was used to pronounce the Greek always with a dynamic accent which is for a European fairly easy to imitate, and which world haven't considered a full-scale change yet...

But long vowels in Latin? I think that people have been trying to pronounce them across the pronunciations rigorously since the times of Erasmus, and they didn't particularly complain... Are we somewhat special generation that we cannot or that it is suddenly so "foreign" to us that we cannot even imagine how to do it and we have to ask whether people around the world "try" (not "do" but "try")?
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby adrianus » Sun Mar 16, 2014 7:17 pm

I myself didn't think pster's question was silly. I, too, have heard recordings by latin teachers that pay no attention to long vowel lengths, though on the right syllable they will invariably give the correct word stress. If the teacher doesn't care about it, why would the pupil? Personally, I try to voice vowel lengths faithfully and find it a big cognitive burden to recite prose without marked vowel lengths. I make many mistakes, but there's just one more piece of evidence to prove that I'm not an expert latinist. Others might be brilliant and many will be better than I.

Justam habeo quaestionem illam de pster. Et ego impressiones sonituum latinistarum audivi quae tempora vocalium negligunt etiamsi rectae syllabae emphasin semper dant. Si res curae magistro non est, non erit discipulo. Meâ parte, tempora vocalium rectè sonare conor at non humile onus est loca sine macronibus extensa recitare. Frequenter labor, quod non defigit cum ego minùs quam peritus. Sunt illustres qui nunquam errunt; in numero eorum non sum.
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: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby A.A.I » Sun Mar 16, 2014 10:40 pm

Godmy, I didn't take the poll to be validation. Vowel length isn't something weird, you're right.

I've not yet met/interacted with any Latinists. I'm talking about the audio resources and videos I've seen. A lot of smart people with bad pronunciation. Voice chat is a nice thing - perhaps for another day as I'm still working through the early lessons of LL and some other books. (Not bothering to listen to Orberg's recordings - my own pronunciation is already better...)

It seems to me that long vowels are recognised but few bother to do it well or at all. Personally, I've moved past that and am now concerned with things like: consonant lengths, voicing assimilations, etc.
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Re: Poll: Long and short syllables

Postby A.A.I » Tue Mar 18, 2014 12:39 am

How does one discover what vowel length might have been? No reference work seems to be reliable as the experts disagree at times.

stella or stēlla? magna or māgna? (just a couple of examples)
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