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long a short o

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long a short o

Postby lonsdale » Mon Apr 19, 2010 7:17 pm

For the life of me I can't figure out the difference of long a (father) and short o (pot).

Can someone steer me in the right direction?
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Re: long a short o

Postby modus.irrealis » Thu Apr 22, 2010 3:06 pm

I'm guessing those two words have the same vowel for you, like they do for me -- until I learned that other English speakers had different vowels there I was always confused by that too. But for Latin, the basic thing is that vowel length actually means length -- so roughly speaking long a is short a but twice as long, and long o is short o but twice as long. (That's actually what those English words are trying to get across, since for some speakers pot has a short vowel but father has a longer vowel -- I don't think any English speaker's o in pot is like the Latin short o)

Even if you don't get the vowel lengths right (I have trouble with consistently producing long vowels, especially when unstressed), at least you'd then be merging short o with long o instead of with long a, and I'd say that would cause fewer problems.
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Re: long a short o

Postby Alatius » Thu Apr 22, 2010 4:55 pm

English vowels vary dramatically in different dialects, which makes advice such as "o in 'pot'" perilous. Consider the different pronunciations of "hot, rock" on this site:
http://www.antimoon.com/how/pronunc-soundsipa.htm

Someone who approximates the Latin short o as the o in 'pot' is clearly thinking of the British pronunciation.
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Re: long a short o

Postby Smythe » Thu Apr 22, 2010 6:02 pm

Yeah, and the problem is compounded by all the tapes/CDs that I've listened to that use pronunciations at wild variations from what is stated in the textbook that accompanied the CDs! Oxford Latin course, Orberg's Lingua Latina, Wheelock ... they are all guilty. For instance, according to their pronunciation guides, 'quod' should rhyme with 'clod'. They all say it so that it rhymes with 'mode'. Don't get me started on 'us' endings or the word 'sum'.

I guess, if I ever find a conclave of Latin speakers, I'll adapt my pronunciation to that of the group. Since that seems unlikely to happen, I guess I'll just pronounce it as I see fit.
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Re: long a short o

Postby lonsdale » Fri Apr 23, 2010 1:21 am

Thanks,. that really helps.

Also, I read somewhere that the short "o" should sound like the "o" in "nor", which also helps.
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Re: long a short o

Postby lonsdale » Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:05 pm

Thanks, that really helps.

Also, I did a bit of searching and saw somewhere that short "o" was like the o in "nor", which helped snap things into focus.
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Re: long a short o

Postby furrykef » Thu May 06, 2010 1:35 am

Keep in mind that the quality of Latin vowels -- i.e., this "'a' as in 'father'" stuff -- is more of an educated guess than a hard and fast rule in the first place, so there isn't really only one way to pronounce the short vowels. Most people seem to agree that the long vowels are as in Spanish or Italian, though. The matter is also muddled by the fact that the pronunciation doubtlessly varied by region and time, just as speech does in any other language.

When I read Latin aloud I often find that my pronunciation of short 'e' and short 'i' is often too similar (my native dialect does have the pen/pin merger, after all), but, amusingly enough, the Romans had the same problem at times, as can be attested by variant spellings such as "vespillō" versus "vispillō" (Wheelock used the former in the poem in my signature, but the Wikisource for the same poem used the latter).
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Re: long a short o

Postby thesaurus » Thu May 06, 2010 2:33 am

furrykef wrote:When I read Latin aloud I often find that my pronunciation of short 'e' and short 'i' is often too similar (my native dialect does have the pen/pin merger, after all), but, amusingly enough, the Romans had the same problem at times, as can be attested by variant spellings such as "vespillō" versus "vispillō" (Wheelock used the former in the poem in my signature, but the Wikisource for the same poem used the latter).


Not to nitpick, but it may not have been the Romans who were responsible for that alternate spelling, as our Roman literature comes through transmission by many years and types of European scribes (who made all sorts of ideosyncatic mistakes depending on their education and native languages). That isn't to say that your point is invalid, it's just to say that the whole issue of pronunciation is a big mess!
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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Re: long a short o

Postby ptolemyauletes » Thu May 06, 2010 10:08 am

Worrying about Latin pronunciation is ultimately pointless. In the end we have NO real knowledge about how they pronounced their words. We have a general idea, and some specifics to be sure, but there are no recordings from Roman times, so everything is ultimately guesswork.
To make matters worse, the Romans themselves must have had a wide variation in regional pronunciations, probably no less pronounced than English in England.
My advice is give it a nice Italian sounding lilt, and don't worry too much about the details. If some pedant gives you a hard time this is one area where they have very little gorund to stand on.
The only thing we can guarantee when communicating via the internet is that we will be almost completely misunderstood, and likely cause great offence in doing so. Throw in an attempt at humour and you insure a lifelong enemy will be made.
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Re: long a short o

Postby furrykef » Sat May 08, 2010 6:01 pm

Strangely enough I (an American) don't have problems with long vs. short vowels in Japanese -- I surely don't speak Japanese with a native accent, but in the broad strokes of it, I'd wager my pronunciation is largely correct -- yet it does give me a bit of trouble in Latin. Maybe it's because Latin has stress and Japanese doesn't (it's pitch accented), and I'm not used to making vowel length and stress interact that way. It probably doesn't help that I have virtually no audio feedback for Latin pronunciation; almost the only time I hear Latin spoken aloud is when I read it to myself.
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Re: long a short o

Postby quendidil » Sun May 09, 2010 5:48 am

A simple solution is to learn IPA; frankly I don't see why so many people avoid it.
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Re: long a short o

Postby furrykef » Sun May 09, 2010 6:14 am

A solution to what? In what context would you be using IPA and how would it be an improvement?
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Re: long a short o

Postby quendidil » Sun May 09, 2010 2:44 pm

IPA would be a solution for ambiguous phonetic descriptions based on particular regional dialects of English (or even other languages like French). The IPA symbols are more or less universally agreed upon throughout the world and even if it's impossible to know for certain how the Romans spoke, it would allow us to approximate as close a pronunciation as modern scholarship has revealed.

I personally find English-based transcriptions of pronunciation anywhere outside of textbooks meant for children or books meanty for "dummies" and "idiots" annoying, especially if they fail to specify the specific the accent they mean or ignore possibile equivalents in other English accents.
'
It really isn't too much effort, you don't have to learn the complete alphabet (though that would be interesting), just go through the symbols and check whether it is used in your target language(s), or go through a good descriptive grammar with a phonology section and learn whatever is there.

If you intend to learn more than two languages and to have a reasonably good accent, IPA is an invaluable tool, especially without native speakers.
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Re: long a short o

Postby furrykef » Mon May 10, 2010 1:08 am

quendidil -- oh, you were talking about how to resolve the "'a' as in 'father'" thing. I was confused since it'd been a while since we talked about it in the thread. For all I knew you were talking about writing English or Latin in IPA instead of the Roman alphabet... ;) (I've actually seen people propose such things!)

IPA is good for resolving such ambiguity, and of course it's what it was designed for. Unfortunately, though, IPA (or phonetics in general) is generally not taught here in the U.S., and most people who study a foreign language will learn just one, so they would need to learn just the subset of IPA that overlaps with their native language and their foreign language... and the way the IPA symbols would be explained would probably be "'a' as in 'father'" and you're back to the same problem! (People aren't inclined to read explanations about vowel frontedness/roundedness/openness and try to figure it out themselves.)

If American dictionaries used IPA, then we'd have a stronger incentive to learn it and the ideas behind the system, but, unfortunately, they don't...
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Re: long a short o

Postby CHAMÆLEO » Fri May 14, 2010 3:30 pm

Learn IPA, and learn about English pronunciation. Then you will have no problem.
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