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How important are the macrons?

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How important are the macrons?

Postby Agrippa » Sat Mar 11, 2006 12:57 pm

I'm teaching myself Latin and have the intention of studying it in a university come a year or so, and so far I've been memorizing all the little macrons, though to tell the truth, it's sort of a pain. I know that actual Latin didn't have them, but will they be demanded of me if I go to study Latin somewhere? Should I memorize words with the macrons or is it a waste of tempus meum?
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Postby edonnelly » Sat Mar 11, 2006 1:36 pm

Well, we've had lots of discussions about whether one "should" learn the macrons, but if you are planning on studying latin in a university, then I would say you definitely want to learn them (regardless of how useful they may or may not be), because the odds are fairly high that their use will be required there, anyway.
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library
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Postby nostos » Sat Mar 11, 2006 2:33 pm

The difference between Ä“sse and esse (as we not to long ago got into a discussion over) ought to be enough to make you want to learn macrons, Agrippa. Lotsa words like this. Also, very important for word formation if you're interested in those things, but most people aren't. And very important for metre; not stress, but length. This is amazing, but then again I'm allowing my personal take on things to get in the way.

If you like, I can give you a list of near-definites for when vowels are long and short. This aids enormously. But the best way to learn lengths is with continuous prose which repeats the word often, and pronouncing the words. Hence Lingua Latina, which I have very unfortunately had to stop until school is over in 5 weeks: otherwise my grades continue to drop because I'm doing real learning. O the irony.

Anyway let me know if you want the list of vowel lengths.
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Postby Agrippa » Sat Mar 11, 2006 2:38 pm

Thanks, I wanted to know exactly that, if it is required at the university level. I have a friend who is taking Latin at his university and they don't require it, but he goes to a pretty terrible school and makes pretty terrible grades, so I didn't trust him.

And yes, I do want that list, if you don't mind. And what do you mean continuous prose? Do you mean reading something with the macrons? Because most books written in Latin I've seen don't have the macrons, so I can't see how this would help.
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Postby nostos » Sat Mar 11, 2006 4:20 pm

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Postby Lucus Eques » Sat Mar 11, 2006 4:22 pm

Well, the lengths of vowels and syllables are absolutely essential to learning Latin, in my opinion. Even if you don't judge Latin to be a spoken language, you should consider how, if you choose to ignore the lengths, it would the æquivalent of pronouncing English with the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable. Since we learn Latin to enjoy the words of the ancient authors, words which can never be removed from their oral component, indeed, their origin, it would be a mistake to forego an essential element of the language and its grammar.

And moreover, the poetry is based entirely on syllable weight and vowel length. Making a point to pronounce the vowels with their proper length and writing out the macrons as reminders from the very beginning makes understanding the poetry that much easier and enjoyable.
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Postby Carola » Tue Mar 14, 2006 2:10 am

edonnelly wrote:Well, we've had lots of discussions about whether one "should" learn the macrons, but if you are planning on studying latin in a university, then I would say you definitely want to learn them (regardless of how useful they may or may not be), because the odds are fairly high that their use will be required there, anyway.


Well, I've just finished 3 years of university Latin and apart from the first few grammar lessons and some analysis of poetry when they were used to indicate metre we did not read anything with a macron in sight! We were expected to know what were long & short sounds, but not learn words with macrons included like Greek accents. I would doubt that many texts would include macrons. Do you mean just learning the correct pronunciation or actually having to write it out?
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Postby nostos » Tue Mar 14, 2006 2:19 am

Carola wrote:Do you mean just learning the correct pronunciation or actually having to write it out?


Is not having to write it out a guarantee for correct pronunciation? And that way they assuredly know whether all vowels are long or short.
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Postby edonnelly » Tue Mar 14, 2006 2:26 am

Carola wrote:
edonnelly wrote:Well, we've had lots of discussions about whether one "should" learn the macrons, but if you are planning on studying latin in a university, then I would say you definitely want to learn them (regardless of how useful they may or may not be), because the odds are fairly high that their use will be required there, anyway.


Well, I've just finished 3 years of university Latin and apart from the first few grammar lessons and some analysis of poetry when they were used to indicate metre we did not read anything with a macron in sight! We were expected to know what were long & short sounds, but not learn words with macrons included like Greek accents. I would doubt that many texts would include macrons. Do you mean just learning the correct pronunciation or actually having to write it out?


Well, you are lucky, but in the US, many of the universities use books like Wheelock's that strongly emphasize macrons, both in English-to-Latin and Latin-to-English exercises (from Wheelock's: "Students should regard macrons as part of the spelling of a word").
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library
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Postby Carola » Tue Mar 14, 2006 6:01 am

nostos wrote:
Carola wrote:Do you mean just learning the correct pronunciation or actually having to write it out?


Is not having to write it out a guarantee for correct pronunciation? And that way they assuredly know whether all vowels are long or short.


The problem is that most standard Latin texts don't include them, so if you rely on them then the first time a student is faced with a piece of real Latin literature they will be totally confused. The same goes for capitalisation of the first word in a sentence - our lecturer stopped us doing this and it certainly helped when we started reading real texts.

Well, you are lucky, but in the US, many of the universities use books like Wheelock's that strongly emphasize macrons, both in English-to-Latin and Latin-to-English exercises (from Wheelock's: "Students should regard macrons as part of the spelling of a word").


One of many reasons I didn't use Wheelock - it isn't part of the spelling in any text of Cicero, Vergil etc etc.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Tue Mar 14, 2006 6:31 am

I must say I disagree, Carola. Habituating to macra is essential to internalizing the language. Then, when the macra are subsequently dropped, the student may enjoy a far deeper appreciation of the language through this stronger acquaintance.

That is to say, macra, just like letters, are phonetic instruments that relate to us verbal information, sounds to be spoken and heard. Writing macra is merely a very important means to that end. As for the Roman manner of spelling, nor did the ancient Greeks explicate their accent system, and we would rarely think of practically doing away with our miniscule letters, spaces, and punctuation outside of stylistic areas in order to accomodate archaic conventions.
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Postby nostos » Tue Mar 14, 2006 12:32 pm

Carola wrote:The problem is that most standard Latin texts don't include them, so if you rely on them then the first time a student is faced with a piece of real Latin literature they will be totally confused. The same goes for capitalisation of the first word in a sentence - our lecturer stopped us doing this and it certainly helped when we started reading real texts.


SALVECAROLAITISTRVETHATMOSTSTANDARDTEXTSDONOTINCLVDEMAC
RONSBVTMODERNEDITORSVSEMANYCONVENTIONSTHATVERENOTVSED
BYTHEROMANSTHEMSELVESSOVHYNOTINCLVDEMACRONS
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Postby bellum paxque » Tue Mar 14, 2006 5:22 pm

(It's my understanding that the Hebrew Bible omitted the vowels, leaving them to be inferred from context. Now THAT's a convention I'm glad we do without.)

Certainly, it's a bit inconsistent to omit macrons based on their absence in the original while still permitting the printing conventions mentioned above (capitalization of proper nouns, periods, etc) to remain. however, the argument goes that most edited texts do not include macrons; thus, students accustomed to their presence will be handicapped in reading a text without them. So claims the argument.

Surely this isn't the case. I've been shifting back and forth between macronous texts and macronless texts - my Cicero has 'em, my Virgil doesn't - with little problems. The only area of weakness, I think, comes in the ambiguity of the "a" ending. If long, it's 1st decl. abl, if short, a multitude of other evils. So if I were reading Virgil with macrons, I wouldn't have to pay as much attention to the meter when lines include the ambiguous a.

Aside from this, when the macron does nothing but help students with pronunciation - as is the case with most words, with some notable exceptions in which vowel length limits meaning, as with incido and malum - students will not be less prepared for Teubners, Oxford Classical Texts, or Loebs - or even paleography - rather, more prepared. Having seen the word, with its macron - in context, with its meaning - they will not have to guess the length. They'll know it.
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Postby Carola » Tue Mar 14, 2006 10:31 pm

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one (and Nostos, as I have done quite a bit of reading of old inscriptions your message is quite clear to me! :wink: ).

Perhaps I'll have to change my "signature" to "no macrons used in the preparation of this Latin". :lol:
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Postby nostos » Tue Mar 14, 2006 10:42 pm

Carola wrote:I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one (and Nostos, as I have done quite a bit of reading of old inscriptions your message is quite clear to me! :wink: ).


As it was meant to be, Carola, else it wouldn't have made its point. I agree with you, however, on the disagreement! :mrgreen:
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Postby Lucus Eques » Wed Mar 15, 2006 1:47 am

Discordia consentiamus!
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Postby bellum paxque » Wed Mar 15, 2006 2:05 pm

Or maybe, Luce, it should be

Concordia dissentiamus!

;)

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Postby Lucus Eques » Thu Mar 16, 2006 6:39 am

Mm, you say tomato, I say lycopersicum.
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