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Spoken Latin

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Spoken Latin

Postby metrodorus » Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:58 am

Those of you with an interest in Spoken Classical Latin, may possibly find my recent monograph on the accent of spoken Latin of some interest.

http://eclassics.ning.com/profiles/blog ... st%3A25181

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Postby Lucus Eques » Tue Jul 01, 2008 3:10 pm

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Postby Alatius » Tue Jul 01, 2008 7:22 pm

Leaving the question aside as to to what extent the alleged pitch element of the Latin stress was borrowed from the Greek, I want to touch on the exact nature of the stress, in terms of pitch contour, something which I have pondered for a while now.
"The circumflex accent is thought to have has a slight up-down tone, the acute a straightforward upwards tone. Final unaccented syllables had a slight falling tone. (This is called the grave accent, but this is not written, it is simply understood to be there.)"

I wonder if there's not another interpretation of the evidence, which would amount to a somewhat different description:

A lot of the ancient testimonies on the Latin pitch accent are collected in The Roman Pronunciation of Latin by Frances E. Lord. I'm not going to quote them all here, but the terms which are used to describe the acute accent are "acutus; acuit; acutus tenor; elevat", terms pertaining to the grave accent are "gravis; deprimat; deponat", and the circumflex is described in terms of "(circum)flexus; flectit", and in general as being a combination of the acute and the grave. Lord summaries it in English as "In Latin the acute accent means that on the syllable thus accented you raise the pitch; the grave indicates merely the lower tone; the circumflex, that the voice if first raised, then depressed, on the same syllable."

Now, neither the English, nor the Latin, is very precise here, I believe. What I am aiming at is that phrases such as "the pitch is raised on a syllable" or "syllaba acuitur" can be interpreted either in the way Evan takes it, that the syllable is started at a low pitch, which then gradually rises towards the end of the syllable, or, in the way I'm inclined to understand it, namely that the syllable is pronounced in a uniform, stable high tone, i.e. that the pitch is raised (="high") on that syllable in comparison with the other syllables.

As for the grave, note that this accent is said to apply to all syllables, not only to the one following an acute, and it can in any case not be that all unaccented syllables are to be pronounced with a falling tone, but rather with a low tone.

The circumflex accent is a combination of the two, and thus, a syllable pronounced with the circumflex accent is, I argue, supposed to start on a high ("raised") tone, which gradually falls to a low tone before the syllable is finished. I believe it is misguided to consciously attempt to start an acute or a circumflexed syllable with a low tone.
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Postby Alatius » Tue Jul 01, 2008 11:39 pm

I recorded a demonstration of how I envision the stresses to be pronounced. First, "músā", with acute accent on the first syllable, second "mûsă", with circumflex. Finally an example of a pronunciation of the circumflex with an initial low tone.

I also prepared a diagram of the pitch contours. Note that all words are started with a rising tone during the initial "m": this is to be expected, I guess; what's important is that once I reach the vowel, the tone is high, and then either stable or falling. In the final example I deliberatly tried to stay on a low tone in the beginning of the vowel, so as to perform a rising, followed by a falling in pitch. This is not, I believe, a proper circumflex (= an acute + a grave), but instead a grave + an acute + a grave, all on one vowel.

Thoughts? Does it sound reasonable to you?
Last edited by Alatius on Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Amadeus » Wed Jul 02, 2008 12:17 am

I use the same system as you, Alati, and also believe that a circumflex starting with a low tone, followed by a high tone and then, once again, by a low tone is mistaken, because it sounds to me like the long vowel is made three times as long as a short vowel. But, I'm no expert, that's for sure.

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Postby adrianus » Wed Jul 02, 2008 12:47 am

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Postby Lucus Eques » Wed Jul 02, 2008 4:03 pm

Well done, Alati, that's exactly it. As for acute, short vowels merely start high-pitched, long vowels can start low and ascend.
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