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Classical latin alphabet.

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Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Sesquipedalian » Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:11 am

Hello all,

I was reading a small introduction webpage from the University of Georgia regarding 'classical latin' and came acrosss this quote:

"Except for a few purists, all Latinists today write v for consonantal u. This would have puzzled a Roman, who considered U and V to be the same letter."

I dont get it, as my understanding is that during the classical age of latin they only had the letter 'V' for a consonantal u, as the letter 'U' was not around at that time? The only other symbol people would use for consonantal u would be the letter 'U' itself, which I would of thought purists would not use!

Hoping someone can point me in the right direction. :)
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Sun Mar 14, 2010 1:27 pm

Sesquipedalian wrote:I dont get it, as my understanding is that during the classical age of latin they only had the letter 'V' for a consonantal u, as the letter 'U' was not around at that time?

No. It's just more efficient to chisel or write "V". // Minimé. Modò efficacius est "V" litteram caelare scribereve.

Me too, Sesquipedalian, I think it can be quite confusing at times. In Classical times "v" and "u" were the same letter, whether vowel or consonant. I prefer to write "v" myself (and "j" for "i" consonant) because it's straightforward for machine tranlation. In addition to the intent by purists to write only as the Romans wrote, it had become in part affectation by those nearest our own times to write only "u", in part a declaration of intent to only pronounce the classical "w" sound for "u/v" consonant and not the later "v" sound.

Id confusius nonnunquàm et mihi videtur, Sesquipedalian. Eadem littera utrum vocalis an consonans aevo classico est "u" et "v". Meâ parte, "v" scribere praefero (et "j" pro "i" consonans), quòd in vertendo instrumentale utilius est. Separatim conatus puristarum ut omnia secundum Romanos faciant, in usu scriptorum saeculorum proximorum unâ parte sic facere rem ferè putidam factum erat, alterâ parte signum aliquibus "w" non "vi" sonum sonare.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby ptolemyauletes » Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:12 pm

The confusing term here is 'purists'. I believe that this refers to the practice in earlier times of Latin scholars using 'u' and 'j' in place of 'v' and 'i'. The Romans did not have a 'u' or 'j'. The letters they did use were 'v' and 'i', which seem to have been pronounced as a 'w' or 'u' sound, and as a 'ee' 'y' sound respectively.

It is clear that there is a difference between these letters used as consonant and as a vowel, but the difference is actually quite slight. The 'i' in 'machina' is actually not much different from the 'i' in 'iubeo'. If one actually examines the working of the mouth in these two sounds, one will find that a so-called consonantal 'i', sounding like a 'y', is really just an 'ee' sound sliding into the next vowel sound. 'iubeo' is pronounced 'eeoobeo' (do it slowly). The same is true of 'v' as a vowel or consonant. The difference between the sound in 'puer' and 'vocat' is very slight. pooer and ooOcat is proper pronunciation. Add a little breath and you get a hint of a 'w'.

As for the 'purists' I am not entirely sure where the 'u' and 'j' entered Latin, but it was likely in the middle ages. Certainly one finds many texts in the 1800s and even later which still use this practice. I believe that this is what your text was referring to by the term 'purists'. Using the letters 'v' and 'i' is a reversion to Real Latin. Even better would be to get rid of 'u' entirely, but I suspect this would cause a great deal of confusion for a long time. And who decides it? Any beginner textbook that makes this change is shouting into the wind.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:46 pm

ptolemyauletes wrote:The Romans did not have a 'u' or 'j'.

That's strange. I can see "u" with the clearly curved left stroke in examples of handwriting (or both sides curved in examples). And "j" is just a lengthened "i". In medieval times it didn't denote "j" consonant, e.g., "iij" = "3", "filij" = "filii". I agree the Romans didn't use a lengthened "i" to signify anything.

Mirum est. Littera "u" cuius sinistra linea planè flexa est (et alicubi utra linea) in exempla chirographorum videri potest. Demagìs modò "i" protracta est "j" littera, quae aevo medio consonans non significabat, exempli gratiâ "iij" tres denotat et "filij" filii. Tibi concurro quoad "j": aevo classico "i" protracta vel "j" rem novam significans non invenitur.
Last edited by adrianus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:35 pm

adrianus wrote:That's strange. I can see "u" with the clearly curved left stroke in examples of handwriting (or both sides curved in examples).

I was looking in // Inquirebam in hunc librum: Jean Mallon, L'Écriture Latine (Paris, 1939)
Vide etiam // See also Bernard Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages (CUP, 1990) p.64 "Capitalis, older and later Roman cursive".
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby vastor » Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:53 pm

I agree. It would be nice to see some consistency. We are expected to implicitly differentiate phonetically, consonantal i (j) from vocalic i, yet consonantal u (v) and vocalic u distinctions are explicitly denoted in texts. Personally I would prefer the puritanistic approach of single characters for both vowel and consonant, the beneficial side effect of which would be that actual inscriptions could then be more easily interpreted.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Mon Mar 15, 2010 12:42 pm

Examples of ancient handwriting with "u" forms found at the Vindolanda fort you can see online here:
Vide exempla palaeographiae in castro Vindolandae inventa et "u" litteram ostendentia per hanc paginam in interrete:

http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/tablets/TVII-4-2.shtml

Addendum

Note also this in the same ref. (which I only just noticed):
Hoc etiam ibidem nota (quod modò animadverti):
http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/tablets/TVII-4-2.shtml wrote:i The short form (col.1) frequently has a noticeable serif at top right, so that the letter can readily be confused with p or even t. The long form is commonest at word ends (often here in the ligature bi) and at the beginning of words, but is by no means confined to these usages.

I thought this was interesting because the long i used at word ends in Vindolanda examples serves the function, it seems to me, of "j" in medieval script.
Hoc mihi curae est quià possible est "i" litteram protractam et terminantem Vindolandae sicut "j" aevo medio servire, ut mihi videtur.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby nov.ialiste » Mon Mar 15, 2010 4:37 pm

Has anyone ever used a system where v is used for semivowel/consonant and u for full vowel?

This would lead to e.g. qvi, qvum, svadeo etc.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:14 pm

Yes, some writers or editors of the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries do that, nov.ialiste.
Ita, nov.ialiste. Nonnulli scriptores vel redactores sexto vel septimo decimo saeculis sic faciunt.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Imber Ranae » Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:47 pm

ptolemyauletes wrote:As for the 'purists' I am not entirely sure where the 'u' and 'j' entered Latin, but it was likely in the middle ages. Certainly one finds many texts in the 1800s and even later which still use this practice. I believe that this is what your text was referring to by the term 'purists'. Using the letters 'v' and 'i' is a reversion to Real Latin. Even better would be to get rid of 'u' entirely, but I suspect this would cause a great deal of confusion for a long time. And who decides it? Any beginner textbook that makes this change is shouting into the wind.

Our lowercase 'u' comes from Carolingian minuscule, itself a development of the Uncial script (hence the rounded shape) which is believed to have its origin in Old Latin Cursive. It was used with both its consonantal and vocalic values. The distinct lowercase 'v' came much later and was at first merely a variant of 'u' when initial, such that we see 'vpon' and 'haue' for 'upon' and 'have' in early printed English. Eventually (starting around the mid-sixteenth century) 'u' and 'v' came to acquire their modern phonemic distinction in the printing conventions of all the western European languages, but capital 'V' was still undistinguished until 'U' came about much latter.

Lots of modern Latin texts (though not beginners' texts) use only 'u' for lowercase and only 'V' for uppercase, and this is the most historically justifiable method. Replacing lowercase 'u' with lowercase 'v' everywhere would be rather foolish.
Ex mala malo
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quam ex bona malo
malo malo malo.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby ptolemyauletes » Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:17 pm

Yes, two points have been made here that I really didn't make clear in my post. I wasn't thinking of Roman handwriting at all, but inscriptions, and more formal writing. Roman handwriting is something else entirely! There is a great deal of variation in forms in Roman handwriting to be sure, and I recall it being one of my toughest challenges back in my University days.

As for the letters 'u' and 'v', what Imber Ranae writes about Carolingian miniscule rings a bell. I did a Palaeography course many years ago, but I admit I have forgotten a lot of it, and what is left by no means qualifies me as an expert!

My preferred version of these letters is to never see a 'j', as that just seems wrong on so many levels (though my old composition text, Bennett's Composition, uses the 'j' as a consonant), and to use 'u' as a vowel and 'v' as a consonant. My second choice would be 'v' in both places, followed a long, long, way off by 'u' in both places. Very frustratingly, a new composition text I recently obtained by Richard Ashdowne and James Morwood uses only 'u'. Why anyone would choose to do this in a country in which the Latin exam board at A levels specifies consonantal 'v' and 'u' as a vowel is totally beyond me, and spoils an otherwise completely reasonable and practical book. The energy needed to explain to my students why they can't find 'uir' or 'seruus' in their dictionary is beyond my patience. Even my brighter students are really thrown off by this, and it causes all sorts of problems come exam time.

I suspect pure pedantry is at work here, and I am disappointed in the two gentlemen who wrote the text.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Tue Mar 16, 2010 9:38 pm

ptolemyauletes wrote:My preferred version of these letters is to never see a 'j', as that just seems wrong on so many levels...

What levels, ptolemyauletes? // Quibus in aequoribus, ptolemyauletes?
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby vastor » Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:12 am

I have to admit, I'm so used to reading without j that when I do encounter it, it stops me dead in my tracks. In an ideal world, I think both i and v should have been used to represent their respective consonantal and vocalic sounds, rather than the strange situation we have today where it's most often the case with i, but not v. Appearances of j today seem unnatural and peculiar, to me at least.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Wed Mar 17, 2010 3:53 pm

ptolemyauletes wrote:I wasn't thinking of Roman handwriting at all, but inscriptions, and more formal writing [my emphasis // emphasin addidi]. Roman handwriting is something else entirely!

That begs the question! Bischoff prefers the term "canonical capitals" rather than "rustic capitals" because it's less value-laden. Jean Mallon's Paléographie Romaine (1952) is much about this, you could say. When you look at bookhand, apart from cursive, the "u" is there, I believe.

Id affirmat de quo litigatur! Nomen canonicarum majuscularum (seu scripturae capitalis canonicae) ante rusticarum (seu rusticae capitalis) mavult Bischoff quià minùs detrimentosum. Liber Johannis Mallon, Paléographie Romaine enim (anno millesimo nongentesimo quinquagesimo duo proditus), rem multò spectat, quod dici potest. Librariis in scripturis, separatim scripturae cursivae, "u" forma invenitur, nisi fallor.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby ptolemyauletes » Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:16 pm

Adrianus wrote:
ptolemyauletes wrote:My preferred version of these letters is to never see a 'j', as that just seems wrong on so many levels...

What levels, ptolemyauletes? // Quibus in aequoribus, ptolemyauletes?


Well, I just don't like it, how's that? :)
No, actually It does just seem wrong to me on a gut level, and I tend to see its use as somewhat pedantic. Certainly, its appearance in the Bennett's Composition that I use always throws off my students, so that is one point. Also, most dictionaries one finds do not use the letter j, although there are some exceptions, some notable. The lack of consistency is frustrating, but perhaps expected and maybe good at the same time. Things shuldn't always be easy.

Teaching A levels in Britain where the exam board specifically uses 'i' and 'u' and 'v' means that any dictionaries or texts that stray from this pattern are problems. But perhaps that is too much spoonfeeding? It is certanly not too difficult to grasp the concept of the different letters, but I like to give my students every edge they can get, and make it as simple as possible. They can worry about nonsense like this when they are at University.

Lastly, the Romans didn't use 'j', so why the hell would we?
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby vastor » Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:04 am

ptolemyauletes wrote:Lastly, the Romans didn't use 'j', so why the hell would we?


The ironic thing is, it isn't even pronounced like an english j, so Its function is dubious.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:17 am

Like Sidney Smith's housewives fighting from their windows overhead, ptolemyauletes, we'll never agree because we are arguing from different premises.

Sicut illae matres familias, ptolemyauletes, ex fenestris supra Sidneyum Smith Reverendum trans angiportum altercantes, nunquàm conveniemus qui adversis ex praemissis disputemus. [quod facetius est latiné post saeculum septimum decimum]
Last edited by adrianus on Fri Mar 19, 2010 6:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:31 am

vastor wrote:The ironic thing is, it isn't even pronounced like an english j, so Its function is dubious.

That's too much, vastor. Why would someone write "j" in latin because it was pronounced in English in a certain way? Maybe the reasons for writing "j" aren't as obvious to everyone as I assumed.

Nimis est, vastor. Quid est quod aliquis "j" litteram latinè scribit eâ ratione modo speciale sonitur ea littera anglicé? Fortassè minùs clara omnibus quàm priùs imaginatus sum argumenta pro "j" litterâ.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Lex » Thu Mar 18, 2010 4:21 am

ptolemyauletes wrote:
Adrianus wrote:
ptolemyauletes wrote:My preferred version of these letters is to never see a 'j', as that just seems wrong on so many levels...

What levels, ptolemyauletes? // Quibus in aequoribus, ptolemyauletes?


Well, I just don't like it, how's that? :)
...


Hehe... Do you cringe when you see "Julius Caesar" instead of "Iulius Caesar"? Or do you prefer "IVLIVS CAESAR"? :P

BTW, I always assumed that a J was just written to indicate a "consonantal" letter "I" (whether it is really consonantal or not, I don't know), as opposed to using "I" for a vowel.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Alatius » Thu Mar 18, 2010 9:52 am

vastor wrote:The ironic thing is, it isn't even pronounced like an english j, so Its function is dubious.

Of course, the English j is just that: English. To, for example, a German student, the use of the letter j in Latin would in no way seem strange or dubious, since the German pronunciation of the letter is exactly as in Latin, a consonantical i. Their problems come when they start to learn English, and have to learn that the letter j for some strange reason is not pronounced "correctly", but as a fricative with a preceding d (i.e. /dʒ/).

ptolemyauletes wrote:Lastly, the Romans didn't use 'j', so why the hell would we?

Possibly for the greater clearity? Of course, if we abstain from j, we ought to make no distinction between u and v either. If we aspire to a restored classical pronunciation the two letters v and j are exactly parallel: both are post-classical inventions, both are used to represent semivowels (/w/ and /j/) as opposed to the corresponding pure vowels, and both have a pronunciation in English (/v/ and /dʒ/) that differs from the Latin pronunciation.

In my opinion, the use of u, v, i, but not j, is an unfortuante compromise (again, if we aspire to classical pronunciation). Granted, the aversion to j can easily be understood today: simply due to its rarity in modern text, it is not surprising if it seems strange and exotic. But why did this orthography gain ground in the first place? May it be due to the national Italian (and German) pronunciations? Consonantical /u/ is then pronounced /v/, which is not the corresponding semivowel, and so a different letter may be warranted. But consonantical /i/ is still /j/, so the spelling with i is not absurd (note that the letter j is not used in Italian). In those places where consonantical /u/ actually is realised as the semivowel /w/, i.e. in the combination qu and (sometimes) su, the sound is spelled with u, and so the usage is consistent with that of i.

But from an English point of view, the u, v, i orthography is illogical.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby ptolemyauletes » Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:12 am

Can't really disagree with anything you say, Alatius, but let me try again to clarify my objection to 'J'. I totally agree that the use of 'v' and 'i' alone would most closely follow the classical Latin usage (at least in inscriptions) and would be most 'genuine'.

My biggest problem again is as a teacher in Britain. The compromise that has been made here is to use 'u', 'v' and 'i'. This is common convention on all the examinations, and it provides a common basis for all the students to work from. Consistency is useful in teaching, even though it may not be ideal. In fact, consistency is boring and would result in a hideous vanilla world where everything was the same. Certainly one needs go no further than Latin handwriting or medieval manuscripts to see the wonderful diversity that inconsistent usage provides us.

I can easily admit that any 'scholarly' objections to the letter 'j' I may have can be classified as pretty weak, and can have many arguments arrayed against them. My foremost argument is as a teacher, and that I just don't like it! :)
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby vastor » Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:10 pm

adrianus wrote:That's too much, vastor. Why would someone write "j" in latin because it was pronounced in English in a certain way?

The letter is completely arbitrary. It may as well have been a z for all the good it does. At least vocalic v (u) has a case for its usage, because phonetically, it's similar to most languages in europe. The same cannot be said of j in the slightest.

adrianus wrote:Maybe the reasons for writing "j" aren't as obvious to everyone as I assumed.

There are no valid or obvious reasons for writing j, as demonstrated by its relative obscurity today. The argument that it acts as a differentiator is a specious one, for the letter only serves to perplex the reader when he does encounter it so infrequently.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:17 pm

De Inutilitate J Litterae
Thesis: inutilis est J littera

Argumentum primum.

I am a teacher and I don't like it. // Magister sum et J litteram non diligo.

Responsum.
Some do. // Sunt qui diligunt.

Corollarium primum.
My gut tells me it is wrong. // Intestinum mihi dicit eam litteram falsam esse.

Responsum.
This is an argument employing interrogatory natural astrology. What the entrails say is propitious for one need not be so for another. For example, the signs for me say that j is right. // Hoc est argumentum astrologiae naturalae et interrogativae. Auguria intestinorum uni non alii propria sunt. Exempli gratiâ, de j litterâ bona mihi sunt portenta.

Corollarium secundum.

My students' curriculum does not use it. // Illâ litterâ curriculum discipulorum meorum non utitur.

Responsum.

This is an argument based on necessity. It is very strong because there is no option but to follow the course requirements. // Argumentum necessitatis est quod validissimum est, quià aliter facere quàm desideria curriculi sequi non potest.

Corollarium tertium.

It confuses the students to use books that employ it, and this lack on consistency is bad for learning. // Confundit libros scholasticos quae illam litteram includunt perlegere, quae conflictio processum docendi malè afficit.

Responsum.

Not to use such books removes the difficulty. Being able to use such books, however, could itself be a broader educational gain. // Talibus libris non uti est enodatio. Sensu latiore, eis uti autem commodum processui docendi esse potest.

Scholion.

Most dictionaries do not use it. // Maximum dictionariorum numerum eâ non utuntur.

Responsum.

Some very reputable ones do. // Quaedam bonae famae utuntur

Argumentum secundum.

The Romans didn't use it so why should we. // Romani eâ non utuntur. Cur enim utamur?

Responsum.

It would help learners in certain sources to distinguish letters that the Romans considered distinct. In dictionaries, for example, just as it is helpful to mark vowel lengths, it is helpful to distinguish i consonant and u consonant. In other places, it is purely a matter of personal choice or historical and pedagogical trends whether to use v and j or not, just as it is in English for international spelling variations generally, that cannot be condemned because they represent differences of taste.
// Tirones juvet quod in quibusdam fontibus litterae distinguantur quas Romani ipsi distinctas habebant. Dictionariis, exempli gratiâ, in quibus duratio vocalium denotatur nonnè juvat i et j consonantes indicari? Aliàs, an v vel j scribatur est dilectus proprium ad omnes vel ad mores historicos peaedagogicosve. Ita est etiam pro orthographiae anglicae inter nationes variationibus,—quod cum de gustibus non disputandum sit facilè accipimus.

Corollarium primum.

By writing as the Romans did in their inscriptions, we are writing more genuine latin. // Sicut Romani in inscriptionibus scribendo latinè veriùs scribimus.

Responsum.

When the Romans were not writing inscriptions were they not writing genuine latin? // Nonnè verum latinum scribebant Romani alia quàm inscriptiones scribentes?

Corollarium secundum.

Those who use it are pedants. // Ineptus litterarum venditator qui eâ utitur.

Responsum.

This is called "poisoning the well", a sort of argumentum ad hominem. // Hoc corollarium est argumenti ad hominem genus, quod aliter "puteum veneno imbuere" vocatur.

Corollary tertium.

Nonsense like this is something to worry about at University and not before. // Hae fabulae lectionibus in Universitate aptiores sunt, non aliás.

Responsum.

Similar to the previous one ("poisoning the well"). Furthermore, if it were nonsense why would you worry about it at any time or any place. // Simile antecedentis ("puteum veneno imbuere") est hoc corollarium. Quinimmò si nugas sit, cur unquàm vel alibi res te temptet?

Argumentum tertium

It is not pronounced in Latin as an English j. // Non sonat latinè i consonans sicut j anglicé.

Responsum.

Latin is not English. // Latinum non est Anglicum.

:D
Last edited by adrianus on Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:40 pm

vastor wrote:The letter is completely arbitrary...
There are no valid or obvious reasons for writing j, as demonstrated by its relative obscurity today. The argument that it acts as a differentiator is a specious one, for the letter only serves to perplex the reader when he does encounter it so infrequently.

All letters could be said to be arbitrary.
Formae omnium litterarum arbitrariae sunt, ut dici potest.

Distinguishing the consonant is essential for the pronunciation of the word it's in! It affects syllable division.
Consonantem distinguere magni momenti est ut vocabulum eam continens rectè enuntietur! Id divisionem vocabuli in syllabas afficit.

I am not perplexed when I see it.
Eâ litterâ visâ, confusus non sum.

I think it is lovely!
Speciosam eam litteram!
Last edited by adrianus on Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby vastor » Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:54 pm

Alatius wrote:Of course, the English j is just that: English. To, for example, a German student, the use of the letter j in Latin would in no way seem strange or dubious, since the German pronunciation of the letter is exactly as in Latin, a consonantical i.

And therein lies the problem, the phonetics of j are completely different across europe, and so the rationale for using it evaporates. The case for its usage as a differentiator is inherently flawed as the reader still has to associate a unique sound with it (usually), and is therefore no easier than distinguishing vocalic and consonantal i; if anything it makes it more confusing, as the reader will be naturally inclined to pronounce it in their native tongue when they do encounter it, due to its rarity. So although it might happen to agree phonetically with the german j (I couldn't comment on that), more often than not, it does seem strange or dubious, unlike u which is quite natural for most of europe.

Alatius wrote:
ptolemyauletes wrote:Lastly, the Romans didn't use 'j', so why the hell would we?

Possibly for the greater clearity?

It provides no greater clarity, in fact, quite the opposite, it often obfuscates the issue, firstly due to its obscurity, and secondly due to the phonetic inconsistency across europe of j.

Alatius wrote:Of course, if we abstain from j, we ought to make no distinction between u and v either.

I strongly disagree with the argument that both j and u have equal merit. u is quite phonetically consistent across europe, so its case for inclusion has a greater weight. j really has no redeeming features at all. With that said, I do agree that ideally, v and i should represent both their phonetic variants.

Alatius wrote:If we aspire to a restored classical pronunciation the two letters v and j are exactly parallel: both are post-classical inventions, both are used to represent semivowels (/w/ and /j/) as opposed to the corresponding pure vowels, and both have a pronunciation in English (/v/ and /dʒ/) that differs from the Latin pronunciation.

But you just said that the pronunciation in english was irrelevant, and now you yourself are using it as an argument for the restoration of the classic letters.

Alatius wrote:But from an English point of view, the u, v, i orthography is illogical.

I completely agree. And of course we look at it from the perspective of our native tongues, which isn't arrogant or myopic, but completely natural.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:07 pm

vastor wrote:The case for its usage as a differentiator is inherently flawed as the reader still has to associate a unique sound with it (usually), and is therefore no easier than distinguishing vocalic and consonantal i; if anything it makes it more confusing, as the reader will be naturally inclined to pronounce it in their native tongue when they do encounter it, due to its rarity.

You completely miss the point of differentiation, vastor: consonantal i (just as u) affects syllable division and thereby pronunciation.
Quod i (sicut u) consonans divisionem vocabuli in syllabas et proindè os afficiat adusquè ignoras, vastor.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Imber Ranae » Thu Mar 18, 2010 9:32 pm

vastor wrote:And therein lies the problem, the phonetics of j are completely different across europe, and so the rationale for using it evaporates. The case for its usage as a differentiator is inherently flawed as the reader still has to associate a unique sound with it (usually), and is therefore no easier than distinguishing vocalic and consonantal i; if anything it makes it more confusing, as the reader will be naturally inclined to pronounce it in their native tongue when they do encounter it, due to its rarity. So although it might happen to agree phonetically with the german j (I couldn't comment on that), more often than not, it does seem strange or dubious, unlike u which is quite natural for most of europe.


You're not arguing coherently. Why do you now comparing j to u? That's a non sequitur. You cannot conflate u and v when arguing against the use of j for consonantal i. I could just as easily argue that the letter v should not be used for consonantal u because there are no modern European languages which use the letter v for the same sound that v is often used to represent in classical Latin (i.e. consonantal u), unlike i which is quite natural for most of Europe. But of course that argument would make no sense.

vastor wrote:It provides no greater clarity, in fact, quite the opposite, it often obfuscates the issue, firstly due to its obscurity, and secondly due to the phonetic inconsistency across europe of j.


Sure it does. I'd argue it doesn't provide as great of clarity as distinguishing vocalic and consonantal u, but there is still clarity to be gained by distinguishing vocalic and consonantal i. Nor is there any greater phonogical consistency across Europe for the letter v than for j. In fact, there's probably less so. Besides, in just about every European language I can think of, v represents a fricative of some sort, but never a labialized velar approximant like Latin's consonantal u, whereas j actually does represent a palatal approximant like Latin's consonantal i in many European languages, as e.g. in most of the Germanic languages (though not English), not to mention the International Phonetic Alphabet.

vastor wrote:I strongly disagree with the argument that both j and u have equal merit. u is quite phonetically consistent across europe, so its case for inclusion has a greater weight. j really has no redeeming features at all. With that said, I do agree that ideally, v and i should represent both their phonetic variants.


You're conflating u and v again. Based on your (rather-flimsy) argument of familiarity, we should replace c with k whenever it precedes a front vowel in Latin, because not many (any?) modern European languages have hard c before front vowels.

vastor wrote:But you just said that the pronunciation in english was irrelevant, and now you yourself are using it as an argument for the restoration of the classic letters.


You misunderstand. He's not making an argument for the restoration of classical spelling based on the pronunciation of English. He's using the pronunciation of English as a counterargument to your dismissal of j without even considering that the retention of v is just as much, if not more, at odds with your own reasoning.

vastor wrote:I completely agree. And of course we look at it from the perspective of our native tongues, which isn't arrogant or myopic, but completely natural.


As a native English speaker, I would argue that it is indeed myopic to insist that Latin orthography be based as closely as possible on the orthography of one's native language. Whenever you learn a foreign language you must learn the alphabet and spelling conventions that are natural to that language. Why should this be any different for Latin?
Last edited by Imber Ranae on Thu Mar 18, 2010 9:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Alatius » Thu Mar 18, 2010 9:36 pm

Edit: This was written before I saw Imber Ranae's reply; hence the duplication of many of the points he is making.

vastor wrote:It [the letter j] provides no greater clarity ...

That is an objectively false statement: It serves to clarify when we deal with a consonant, and when we deal with a vowel, which in turn affect syllabification. For example "jam" is one syllable, and "etiam" usually three. If j was used consistently, the student would know that it should not be pronounced with two syllables, for in that case it would be spelled "etjam". I'm sure there are many other examples.

vastor wrote:
Alatius wrote:Of course, if we abstain from j, we ought to make no distinction between u and v either.

I strongly disagree with the argument that both j and u have equal merit. u is quite phonetically consistent across europe, so its case for inclusion has a greater weight. j really has no redeeming features at all. With that said, I do agree that ideally, v and i should represent both their phonetic variants.


(I'm afraid you are mixing up u and v, I think. As Imber Ranae explained earlier in the thread, "V" (as in inscriptions) with the cursive form "u" should be regarded as the traditional letter. "U" and "v" are the later inventions. No one is arguing for abolishing u, so it is pointless to defend it. I am comparing j with v, both consonants.) But, it is probably true that the pronunciation of the letter "v" is more consistent in different European languages, than that of "j". However, it is consistently different from /w/, the classical pronunciation. So, for the individual learner (who, as you mention, look at it from the perspective of their native tongue), I maintain that they are, for the most part, analogous. How is it any different for an English pupil to learn to pronounce "v" in a foreign way (i.e. /w/), than it is to learn to pronounce "j" in a foreign way (i. e. as "y" in "yes" — which conveniently is denoted /j/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet)?

vastor wrote:
Alatius wrote:If we aspire to a restored classical pronunciation the two letters v and j are exactly parallel: both are post-classical inventions, both are used to represent semivowels (/w/ and /j/) as opposed to the corresponding pure vowels, and both have a pronunciation in English (/v/ and /dʒ/) that differs from the Latin pronunciation.

But you just said that the pronunciation in english was irrelevant, and now you yourself are using it as an argument for the restoration of the classic letters.

Foremost, I'm arguing for consistency. Some evidently think the English pronunciation matters, so that argument is meant for them. You are free to disregard it. (And for what it is worth, I actually like j.)
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Fri Mar 19, 2010 2:30 am

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter.

Squirrel Nutkin's punishment for annoying Old Brown Owl with his riddles:
"OLD BROWN carried Nutkin into his house, and held him up by the tail, intending to skin him; but Nutkin pulled so very hard that his tail broke in two, and he dashed up the staircase and escaped out of the attic window."

Nutkin may have lost his tail but Old Brown gained one. I say, if only j's tail could be saved!

Fabula de Nuculâ Sciuro Beatricis Potter.

Poenas quas Nucula Sciurus passus est quoniàm aenigmatibus Ululam Vetam vexaverat:
"Ulula Veta in domum suam Nuculam Sciurum portat, et codâ eum attollit pellem degluptura; ita tam fortè autem tractat Nucula ut coda in duas partes frangatur; scalas magnâ celeritate ascendit et per fenestram cenaculariam effugit."

Nucula codam perdidisset at Ulula Veta acquississet. Ut coda j litterae servetur, dico!
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: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby ptolemyauletes » Fri Mar 19, 2010 9:29 am

'j' ?
Why not use a 'y'?
At least in English 'y' would get the point across a lot better than 'j'.
'j' turns 'iam' into a strawberry confection for most students. At least a south American potato-like vegetable sounds more like the actual Latin word (presumably :? ).
I am not advocating 'y', as it is already in use in Latin words elsewhere, but it is certainly more sensible than 'j', even if it lacks any scholarly or historical tradition.

And 'j' IS arbitrary in a way that other letters are not. Someone wrote in this thread (Adrianus?) that all letters are arbitrary. Well of course that is true to a certain point. We could also argue that all SOUNDS are arbitrary if we reduce it far enough, nad we should just start changing sounds as we feel we want. Octopus no oponger sounds like octopus but is now pronounced as catfish (which itself is now pronounced as grugglebis). The old pronunciation was too arbitrary! But 'j' is arbitrary in Latin in a way that most of the other letters are not. It is certainly NOT a Latin letter, and Latin is the language we are teaching.

For most English students in any case 'j' is actually much more confusing than 'i'. Never mind the idea of distinguishing consonants from vowels. Most students will work out that ianua is different from vidit, once you teach them to pronounce 'i' as 'ee'. eeanua is yanua is ianua. janua will come out like January, at least at the beginning.

Now, of course one could also argue that 'u' is more useful to English students than 'v' by this logic, and also for students of other languages.
uuocat is going to be pronounced as ooOcat, which is essentially wOcat. vocat is going to be pronounced like vocation, or focation to Germans.

Both these arguments have some merit but can also be easily criticised.

I also realise that by advocating for 'i' and 'u' I am making a historical argument in one instance only and a utilitarian in both.

Again, my preference is 'i' 'u' and'v', primarily because it is so well established, and provides consistency for my students. I realise there are many valid arguments against this position. I don't care enough to get offended! :D

Lastly, if Adrianus argues against me again I will get him and his little dog too! :D
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Alatius » Fri Mar 19, 2010 10:38 am

I certainly see where you are coming from ptolemyauletes. There is one thing I must object to though: the idea that j is arbitrary. First, it originated as an alternative form of i, and the graphical similarity to i is immediately recognizable to this day. Then, when it started its life as a separate letter, it stood, from the very beginning, for the Latin consonantical i. From Latin, it was adopted for this use in the orthography of almost all Germanic languages and those Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet. This original, basic, inherent pronunciation was recognized when it it was adopted for this sound in the International Phonetic Alphabet. Of course, in Romance languages, and English due to the influence from French, it often stands for a (af)fricative instead, but this is simply due to the change in pronunciation as languages evolve through the centuries.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Fri Mar 19, 2010 3:47 pm

adrianus wrote:All letters could be said to be arbitrary.
Formae omnium litterarum arbitrariae sunt, ut dici potest.

When I said that, I was meaning that there is no inherent connection between letters and their sounds—a weak hypothesis once made in earlier days. Maybe with the vaguest exception of o, on the page they don't look like how they sound or are framed by the mouth! There are though non-arbitrary (if not always wholly clear) internal connections between certain letter forms (I said it, Alatius said it, Lex said it): between i and j arising from their use originally as the same letter with j used to make it stand out by its tail, and between w and v, A and a, Q and q, M and m, M and N, etc. but even here connections can be sufficiently different to give rise to debates about the nature of those connections.

Haec verba contra hanc hypothesem collineabam: nullum contextum (separatim fortassè et tenuisissimè cum o litterâ) inter formas in paginâ et sonos litterarum vel formas labiarum esse. Sunt autem interni contexti non arbitrarii (etiam non semper clari) inter formas quorumdam litterarum (sic ego Alatiusque et Lex diximus)" inter i et j olim eidem litterae servantes ubi coda j litterae oculum attrahit, inter w et u, Q et q, M et m, M et n, et caetera. His autem non satis clari sunt contexti, quod controversiae de eâ naturâ evitentur.

ptolemyauletes wrote:Why not use a 'y'?
At least in English 'y' would get the point across a lot better than 'j'...I am not advocating 'y', as it is already in use in Latin words elsewhere, but it is certainly more sensible than 'j', even if it lacks any scholarly or historical tradition.

Writing y for consonantal i is not more sensible than writing j. In a clear sense j IS i in latin. The Romans used y in Greek words where earlier they had used u in them (Ennius's Burrus for Pyrrhus, Cicero, Or. 48, 160), and its sound is distinct from i vowel or i consonant or u vowel or u consonant. Again, why would you cater for English habits as a measure of sensibility in writing Latin?

Y pro i consonanti ante j scribere non sapientius est. Claro sensu j et i eadem littera latinè sunt. Romani olim u tunc y in vocabulis Graecis scribebant (vide Cicero, Or. 48, 160: Ennius Burrum pro Pyrrho scribebat) quòd y littera aliter quàm i vel u consonans vel vocalis sonat. Ita repeto, cur latinè scribendo saniores sunt mores anglici?

Addendum
Maybe you should ask why not write latin phonetically?
Fortassè roges cur non phoneticè latinum scribendum sit?
Last edited by adrianus on Fri Mar 19, 2010 6:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Fri Mar 19, 2010 5:55 pm

ptolemyauletes wrote:Lastly, if Adrianus argues against me again I will get him and his little dog too!

As long as you are chasing my dog the squirrel and I are safe. And you'll be tied up a long time since I haven't one! :D
Dum canem meum venaris, tuti ego et sciurus. Et longè satages quòd tale animal non teneo.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Scribo » Fri Mar 19, 2010 6:50 pm

Yes, in his grammar Morwood does come off as very self satisfied and annoying. "I am grateful to have banished V...//...it was never there"

GOD DAMN HIM! NOR WERE SPACINGS, PUNCTUATION OR A MYRIAD OF OTHER THINGS THAT MAKE OUR LIFE EASIER, WHY NOT "BANISH" THOSE TOO? Didn't Claudius attempt to remedy such orthographical ambiguity anyway?
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Fri Mar 19, 2010 10:27 pm

Little i isn't a Latin letter because it has a dot. Down with dots. Only kidding, i. (Aside: Or am I? b flat, f sharp, d.)

Minuscula i littera non est latina, quia punctum habet. Puncta frangamus! Tantùm jocor, i. (Seorsùm: Veróne jocor? tonus b gravis, f acutus, d)
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: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby vastor » Fri Mar 19, 2010 11:59 pm

adrianus wrote:In a clear sense j IS i in latin.

j may have been orthographically and even phonetically derived from consonantal i, but it was still an artificial construction in medieval latin; most likely coming from german use.

adrianus wrote:The Romans used y in Greek words where earlier they had used u in them

I was under the impression that the latin letter v was an indirect derivative of the greek Y (upsilon) without the stem, and obtained through the etruscan alphabet. I also thought that u in latin was a medieval invention.

adrianus wrote:Again, why would you cater for English habits as a measure of sensibility in writing Latin?

You could argue that j was added to cater to middle high german. That's why j makes such little sense to french or english latin students whose fricative j bears no resemblance to the german one. So ptolemyauletes' suggestion of y can be said to be just as relevant to english as j is to germanic or slavic languages. In the end, j arose because of the sensibilities of medieval latin writers and their preferences for their own native tongue. So in a sense you have just made an argument against the use of it.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Imber Ranae » Sat Mar 20, 2010 12:16 am

Scribo wrote:Yes, in his grammar Morwood does come off as very self satisfied and annoying. "I am grateful to have banished V...//...it was never there"

GOD DAMN HIM! NOR WERE SPACINGS, PUNCTUATION OR A MYRIAD OF OTHER THINGS THAT MAKE OUR LIFE EASIER, WHY NOT "BANISH" THOSE TOO? Didn't Claudius attempt to remedy such orthographical ambiguity anyway?


I generally agree, but I actually feel it's infinitely preferable not to distinguish vowels and semi-vowels in one kind of Latin text: poetry. The lack of v's and j's allows one to scan words like silua (for silva) and Troia as either di- or trisyllabic, and that is a critical advantage when poets are so fond of using synaeresis and dialysis.

Take Horace's Ode I.23, a 4th Asclepiad:

Vitas hinnuleo me similis, Chloe,
quaerenti pavidam montibus aviis
matrem non sine vano
aurarum et siluae metu.


The last line doesn't scan if you read it aurarum et silva metu.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:03 am

vastor wrote:j may have been orthographically and even phonetically derived from consonantal i, but it was still an artificial construction in medieval latin; most likely coming from german use.

Except that it wasn't and it didn't.
Nisi quod sic non derivata non confecta sit, non illinc venit.

vastor wrote:I was under the impression that the latin letter v was an indirect derivative of the greek Y (upsilon) without the stem, and obtained through the etruscan alphabet.
But Latin isn't Greek.
Latinum autem graecum non est.

vastor wrote:I also thought that u in latin was a medieval invention.
Come out from under that impressions.
Tibi hunc errorem eripias.

vastor wrote:You could argue that j was added to cater to middle high german. That's why j makes such little sense to french or english latin students whose fricative j bears no resemblance to the german one. So ptolemyauletes' suggestion of y can be said to be just as relevant to english as j is to germanic or slavic languages. In the end, j arose because of the sensibilities of medieval latin writers and their preferences for their own native tongue. So in a sense you have just made an argument against the use of it.
Except that you shouldn't argue that way because it's certainly not the case.
Nisi quod sic non arguendum sit, quia malè dicis.
Last edited by adrianus on Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby Imber Ranae » Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:04 am

vastor wrote:j may have been orthographically and even phonetically derived from consonantal i, but it was still an artificial construction in medieval latin; most likely coming from german use.


The letter j was simply a variant of i in medieval Latin. It didn't come from German.

vastor wrote:I was under the impression that the latin letter v was an indirect derivative of the greek Y (upsilon) without the stem, and obtained through the etruscan alphabet. I also thought that u in latin was a medieval invention.


The majuscule V was derived ultimately from Upsilon, yes*. The minuscule v was a much later variant of the minuscule u, which was itself merely a variant of V. As for u being a "medieval invention", by that same token all of our minuscules are medieval inventions. But what of it? To be intellectually consistent in opposing all medievalisms you'd have to stop using lower-case letters altogether when writing Latin. No spaces between words either.

*or rather, more accurately, both V and Upsilon are derived from Semitic waw.

vastor wrote:You could argue that j was added to cater to middle high german. That's why j makes such little sense to french or english latin students whose fricative j bears no resemblance to the german one.


Any proof of this? Regardless, the same argument can be made for v, as it was simply a variant of u throughout the medieval period. It wasn't until the advent of printing that the two forms came to represent different sounds and became separate letters. See here.

vastor wrote:So ptolemyauletes' suggestion of y can be said to be just as relevant to english as j is to germanic or slavic languages. In the end, j arose because of the sensibilities of medieval latin writers and their preferences for their own native tongue. So in a sense you have just made an argument against the use of it.


But y is already used in Latin as a vowel. Replacing consonantal i with y would just cause more ambiguity. Replacing it with j doesn't.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Postby adrianus » Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:20 am

I recommend these books, vastor // Hos libros tibi commendo, vastor
Jean Mallon, L'Écriture Latine (Paris, 1939)
Jean Mallon, Paléographie Romaine (Madrid, 1952)
Bernard Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages (CUP, 1990)

Most importantly though, make sure to check out the illustrated examples of lettering from the historical documents.
Ante omnia autem, litteras textuales è codicibus historicis quae ibi exhibentur benè scrutinare.
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