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Latin Speaking Velocity

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Latin Speaking Velocity

Postby Lucus Eques » Sun Jul 29, 2007 1:59 am

Omnibus sodalibus lectoribusque salutem!

Amadeus and I have in the past discussed the velocity of spoken Latin. Amadeus being a native speaker of Spanish, and myself fluent in Italian, we both are accustomed to a certain rapidity of syllables in Romance tongues. Latin shares a good deal in common with Italian and Spanish, but the glaring difference is that Latin possesses long syllables independent of stress, unlike its daughter languages. Last year I recorded a simple, conversational Latin at a high rate of speed while still accounting for long and short syllables for my Latin rendition of Abbot and Costello's "Who's On First?":

http://www.lehigh.edu/~lar2/laureola/quisinprimast.mp3

I am now reading some Cicero outloud to myself, one of his speeches, and I wondered at the sheer length of the work! People had to stand for a long time to hear all this, I thought — or did they?

And it occurred to me that we all, as linguists, might determine the approximate speed of Cicero's Latin, based on some estimate as to how long one of his speeches might have been. Are these speeches copied verbatim or nearly so from the original, such that the number of words is about the same as per a true oration? Then we find out for how long Cicero, or any orator, might typically speak in the Forum or the Senate. From there we can attempt to read viva voce any given oration within that time limit, thereby determining the rate of speaking for Cicero in an oratory context. This will give us not a little insight into the sermo Latinus, I believe.

I'm open to ideas about how to go about this.
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Speed of Romanian?

Postby joels341 » Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:30 am

You pose a very interesting question.

You talk about the western daughter languages like Spanish and Italian.
French is also pretty quick, but I find these varies from speaker to speaker.

But, what about Eastern languages like Romanian? I don't know myself, but I would be interested to know the speed of Romanian spoken by natives, and any possibility that their speed can teach us anything?

Good luck with you search for the answer to your question.
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Also...

Postby joels341 » Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:35 am

It just occurred to me....

When one gives an oration, we usually speak more slowly and more carefully then we do in day to day life. I would imagine that a philosopher or senator would be careful and precise with his words when giving a speech. Also, since there were no microphones, I am guessing there was probably a heightened need for speaking loudly and clearly when speaking to a large audience.

Cicero giving a speech probably had a different velocity from that of a man bargaining the price of bread on the street or women in their homes talking about their children for example.
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Postby quendidil » Mon Jul 30, 2007 3:20 pm

Just my two cents, but maybe you could look at other modern languages where vowel length and accentuation are still distinct? Like Sanskrit, Arabic or Japanese?
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Re: Latin Speaking Velocity

Postby Hu » Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:27 am

Lucus Eques wrote:Are these speeches copied verbatim or nearly so from the original, such that the number of words is about the same as per a true oration? Then we find out for how long Cicero, or any orator, might typically speak in the Forum or the Senate. From there we can attempt to read viva voce any given oration within that time limit, thereby determining the rate of speaking for Cicero in an oratory context. This will give us not a little insight into the sermo Latinus, I believe.

I'm open to ideas about how to go about this.

Possibly; I know some orators revise speeches before they print them. There is the caveat that the Romans might have had more of an attention span than us, but there are still limits to the human mind. The thing to do would be to search for any record of time spent speaking- say in De Oratione.

quendidil wrote:Like Sanskrit, Arabic or Japanese?

Does Arabic still distinguish vowel lengths? I think vowels in Arabic differ in quality as well as quantity. Japanese is a good example to explore though; I don't know if any of the Indian languages distinguish vowel lengths.
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Postby quendidil » Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:17 pm

I believe Sanskrit does distinguish vowel length; at least, that's reflected in the script. Also, Finnish might be good, the stress is always on the first syllable of a word, completely distinct from the vowel length or consonant gemination anywhere else in the same word. Among other more modern Indo-European languages, you might want to try Lithuanian? http://www.slic.org.au/Language/LLL_index.swf provides many examples of spoken Lithuanian, which still has a pitch accent separate from vowel length.
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Re: Latin Speaking Velocity

Postby cantator » Wed Aug 01, 2007 1:54 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:... Last year I recorded a simple, conversational Latin at a high rate of speed while still accounting for long and short syllables for my Latin rendition of Abbot and Costello's "Who's On First?":

http://www.lehigh.edu/~lar2/laureola/quisinprimast.mp3

I am now reading some Cicero outloud to myself, one of his speeches, and I wondered at the sheer length of the work! People had to stand for a long time to hear all this, I thought — or did they?


Good question. As your own reading suggests, numerous factors determine the tempo of delivery. Your A&C example depends upon rapid delivery, i.e. it certainly can be read or performed more slowly, but the intended effect is blunted. The Attis of Catullus begs to be read with speed, a plodding delivery would again mute the intended effect.

It's also good to bear in mind the ambience of the performance, whether in the forum or the Roman equivalent of the salon. Remember, there was no machine noise, no electrical ambience, and no virtual entertainments. When "words is all ya got", you'll pay attention to words, perhaps even intense attention. My guess is that when Cicero spoke, people listened, and we know that he was a master of timing and delivery, some aspects of which can be determined by careful study of the texts.

Again, I'll surmise that when a rhapsode recited the Homeric poems people really listened. After all, it required an acquired skill even then, an uncommon skill, and given the scope of that poetry, I'd expect great variety in tempo, dynamics, and intonation. Cicero's speeches are perhaps not to be compared to Homer, but they are filled with art and artifice, all aspects of which should be attended to for a truly complete performance.

Like intonation, I suggest that there is no single codified mean. However, in practical application an average rate certainly needs to be established as a scale for tempo-related effects.

Just my two drachmas, take 'em or leave 'em. :)
Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Wed Aug 01, 2007 4:31 pm

[Drachmas surridens sumit.]
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Re: Latin Speaking Velocity

Postby Sanskrit » Sun May 13, 2012 5:00 pm

Hu wrote:I don't know if any of the Indian languages distinguish vowel lengths.

Sanskrit distinguishes between three vowel lengths hrasva, dirgha and pluta. It is explained as the length of time of the sound of a bird that says oe oee oeee or in terms of matras, one matra is the time it takes to blink your eyes. The o sound in ॐ is meant to last only three matras, but when you go to yoga studios they will butcher it with very long AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUMs.

Modern Indian languages also distinguish vowel lengths.
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