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Macrons - To be or not to be

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Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby Carolus Raeticus » Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:18 am

Salvete comilitones!

Right now, I am trying to brush up my vocabulary. To do so I am creating vocabulary lists giving the Latin word (nom., gen., gender) with macrons supplied plus an English translation.

I have already created a version with macrons of the vocabulary list "Collar and Daniell's Beginner's Latin Vocabulary" (the one on the Texkit web-site). I also have just finished created a respective version of Paul Diederich's "Basic Vocabulary" (a really useful list in my opinion).

One thing I am wondering about, however, is the validity of the macrons. I used the "Langenscheidt Taschenwörterbuch Latein" (2006) as source for the macrons. I did notice, however, when reading the compilation "Narrationes Faciles de Historia Romanorum" (compiled by John P. Piazza) that there does not seem to be agreement between writers of Latin text books on the proper use of macrons, e.g.:

  • Most authors use "magnus" (no macron). One text book, however, gives "mâgnus".
  • Langenscheidt gives "pûgna", "expûgnâre" etc. Most text books, in contrast, use "pugna", "expugnâre" etc.

And these are only a few examples for such disagreements. Therefore I am wondering whether it makes any sense at all to provide macrons. I am also wondering about the proper pronunciation of the Latin words, e.g. in the "LATINUM"-podcast by Evan Millner - hats off to THAT man, by the way.

Quid cogitatis?

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Re: Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby furrykef » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:55 pm

Well, Latin poetry depends very heavily on syllable length, which for many (but not all) words means knowing which vowels are long. You can't scan a line of poetry properly without knowing something about which vowels are long. If you know most of the words, you can probably make a guess about any vowels you're not sure about. It's best to just learn 'em and deal with any inconsistencies as they arise. (I've found very few inconsistencies between Wheelock and Lingua Latina.)

Oh, and if you think you won't be interested in poetry, you might eventually find that you're wrong! I originally had no interest in Latin poetry, but I quickly gained love of Martial because he's just so damn funny...

Anyway, vowel length is least important when the vowel is followed by two consonants. ("X" counts as two consonants; "ph", etc., count as one; "qu" counts as one as well; I think clusters like "br" might be counted as either depending on which fits the meter better...) That's because any vowel that is followed by two consonants will be counted as a heavy syllable for purposes of poetry; hence, "nullus" and "nūllus" would scan the same. Some dictionaries, like Cassell's, and the popular Lewis & Short that can be consulted online, do not mark vowel length for heavy syllables at all, for some reason -- maybe because they feel that vowel length is less certain for many of these words and they do not want to make guesses.

By the way, the reason for the apparent disagreement with "magnus" and "pugnāre" is because there was thought to be a rule that vowels before "gn" are long. This rule appears in one book (A&G's New Latin Grammar? I can't seem to find it), but it was a very old book. Perhaps the rule became discredited later on? Though, strangely, Lingua Latina does use "māgnus" exactly one time (in the form "Māgnīne...?").

One thing that many authors seem to agree on is that any vowel followed by "ns" or "nf" is long, no matter what (though, again, dictionaries like Cassell's do not mark them). Since any syllable ending with "ns" or "nf" is already a heavy syllable, it makes no difference for poetry, but there you have it nonetheless. I also notice that many syllables, but by no means all, that end with "s" take a long vowel, too. I seem to notice this especially often with certain clusters like "sc", but those, too, are unimportant for poetry.
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Re: Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby adrianus » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:25 pm

Carolus Raeticus wrote:And these are only a few examples for such disagreements.

Where you have uncertain vowel quantities (vowels before two or more consonants in the absense of other evidence) you can always have debate. Uncertain vowel quantities are few comparatively.
Non magnus comparatè est numerus vocalium quantitatis incertae. Ubi est incertitudo (cum vocalis ante duas consonantes aliis indiciis de syllabae magnitudine absentibus), ibi est controversia.

Carolus Raeticus wrote:Therefore I am wondering whether it makes any sense at all to provide macrons.

Printed dictionaries have always tended usually to mark the vowel lengths, of course. And this is very important to understand Roman poetry and nice pronunciation.
Certè omnibus temporibus lexica impressa generaliter quantitatem syllabarum longarum denotare solent. Quod mangi momenti est ut rectè vocabula sonentur et prosodia romana teneatur.

Roland G. Kent, "On the Pronunciation of Vowel Quantities in Latin", The Classical Weekly, Vol. 41, No. 6 (Dec. 15, 1947), p. 91, wrote:ON THE PRONUNCIATION OF VOWEL QUANTITIES IN LATIN Early in March, 1942, E. H. Sturtevant of Yale University wrote me some inquiries as to the history of marking and pronouncing as long the long vowels of Latin; he gave his own impressions of the origin of the practice, which were frankly only impressions, and asked me if I could get from my retired colleague John Carew Rolfe (born Oct. 15, 1859) some definite information. I wrote at once to Rolfe, who was then living in Alexandria, Va., and had an immediate reply, dated March 16, of which I quote the relevant portions:
'As to the correct reading of Latin with regard to vowel quantity, I owed what little I knew in the early days (1885-90) to Professor W. G. Hale, who was then Profesor of Latin at Cornell, and I was instructor in Latin under him for a year or two. Minton Warren [of Harvard University] was a stickler for accurate pronunciation, but he was much less militant than Hale. Inspired by Hale, I narrowly escaped being the first to publish a Latin text-book with the long vowels marked. Two men in Chicago, whose names I have forgotten, brought out an edition of Caesar (also inspired by Hale) with the long vowels marked, which was published a few weeks before my edition of Viri Romae (Allyn and Bacon, about 1896, or a year or two earlier). From D'Ooge (I suppose you mean the Latin D 'Ooge, not the Greek teacher, then at Ypsilanti, Michigan) I got nothing. On the contrary, he soon got out an edition of the Viri Romae which not only marked the long vowels but closely imitated my own edition in appearance. 'Haec prius fuere-so long that my recollection of some details is uncertain. I think little attention was given to careful vowel-pronunciation at Harvard in my time, 1877-81, and I feel sure that W. G. Hale was a pioneer in that respect. I certainly got more inspiration and instruction from him than from anyone else, and I was led by his example and instruction to give attention to the subject, and to pronounce as carefully as I did in those days. It soon became more or less of a fad and was given attention by many.'
This letter has an obvious value for the history of Latin studies, and well deserves publication. But to me, as Rolfe's student from 1902-04 and his colleague until his final retirement in 1936, it is also a matter of loving pietas to present it to a wider circle; for John Rolfe died just ten days after he penned this letter. ROLAND G. KENT UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA


I am also wondering about the proper pronunciation of the Latin words, e.g. in the "LATINUM"-podcast by Evan Millner - hats off to THAT man, by the way.

Hâc de re, ut sententiam meam habeas, vide http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=10272&start=20&st=0&sk=t&sd=a
(all the earlier posts are missing from this thread // Omnes epistulae priores à filo carent)
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Re: Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby Carolus Raeticus » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:31 pm

Salve Furrykef,
salve Adriane!

Thanks for your info. In the meantime I've also had a peek at Latin Pronunciation: A Brief Outline of the Roman, Continental, and English methods by D. Bennett King (1891) which did not make things exactly easier as far as a proper pronunciation is concerned. So it goes, I guess (sigh).

Due do the large spatial and temporal extent of the use of Latin, claiming the existence of "the one right way" to pronounce it, probably is somewhat "ahem" anyway. As I do not intend to make any audio recordings I should be able to ignore the finer points of pronunciation. So I shall strive to be consistent (also consistent in my errors), take the macrons from one source only and concentrate on what really counts: proper understanding of what the author(s) try to convey. In the end, that is what a language is all about. Anything else, pronunciation included, is only a sideshow, mere garments (poetry aside, of course).

And as always I hope I will remember the adage:

"Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."


I have made the painful experience that it is sometimes far too easy to get lost in trivial matters and nitpicking and miss what things are really about.

Again thanks for your help,

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Re: Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby procrastinator » Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:59 pm

furrykef wrote:Lingua Latina does use "māgnus" exactly one time (in the form "Māgnīne...?").

I'm currently reading Lingua Latina and came across this occurrence of māgnīne. However in the margin notes it says magnī-ne so I suspect the ā was just a typo.

However I've noticed this inconsistency with macrons in more fundamental words. Take hic, haec, hoc for example. Wheelock has them without macrons. Lingua Latina and my dictionary lists them as hīc, haec, hōc. Which version is correct? Surely such fundamental words have been thoroughly examined and the correct pronunciations determined. I'd be really happy if someone could explain why there are two versions of them. I can't believe Wheelock made such a big mistake, but at the same time I can't believe that Lingua Latina is wrong.
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Re: Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby Hampie » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:41 pm

procrastinator wrote:
furrykef wrote:Lingua Latina does use "māgnus" exactly one time (in the form "Māgnīne...?").

I'm currently reading Lingua Latina and came across this occurrence of māgnīne. However in the margin notes it says magnī-ne so I suspect the ā was just a typo.

However I've noticed this inconsistency with macrons in more fundamental words. Take hic, haec, hoc for example. Wheelock has them without macrons. Lingua Latina and my dictionary lists them as hīc, haec, hōc. Which version is correct? Surely such fundamental words have been thoroughly examined and the correct pronunciations determined. I'd be really happy if someone could explain why there are two versions of them. I can't believe Wheelock made such a big mistake, but at the same time I can't believe that Lingua Latina is wrong.

Lingua latina has both hic and hīc. One being 'here' and one being 'this/he'.
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Re: Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby procrastinator » Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:48 am

Hampie wrote:Lingua latina has both hic and hīc. One being 'here' and one being 'this/he'.

Oh yes, you're right, I confused hic with hīc! Thanks Hampie for clearing that up. But still my New College Latin-English Dictionary by John Traupman lists hīc, haec, hōc with the macrons. Do you think those are printing mistakes?
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Re: Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby Craig_Thomas » Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:12 am

procrastinator wrote:But still my New College Latin-English Dictionary by John Traupman lists hīc, haec, hōc with the macrons. Do you think those are printing mistakes?


The "c" which appears at the end of many of the forms of "hic, haec, hoc" (and other words like "illic" and "istic") is the vestige of the suffix "-ce", which is found in early Latin and which gave extra demonstrative force to a word; "hic" and "hoc" were once "hĭcĕ" and "hŏdcĕ/hŏccĕ". By the late Republic, this suffix had largely disappeared, but "hic" and "hoc" still scan long in Augustan and later poetry. It is sometimes said that this is because the shrunken suffix echoes as a sort of invisible double consonant (i.e. they scan as if spelt "hĭcc" and "hŏcc").

Traupman, I suppose, either believed that it was rather the case that the vowels had lengthened to give us "hīc" and "hōc", or thought it best to simply give his readers forms that would help them with scansion.
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Re: Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby procrastinator » Sun Sep 26, 2010 7:39 am

Thanks Craig for your explanation. I didn't know the history of the pronunciation.
I notice that Wheelock's Readings just pronounces hic, haec and hoc without the double final consonant (at least in the initial reading of them).
The Latinum online audio course by Evan der Millner does pronounce them with double final consonants, and I always wondered why. Thanks for clearing that up. :D

But I'm not finished with strange macrons! Here are a couple more mysteries:
  • My dictionary (Traupman's New College Dictionary) lists Italia as Ītalia (notice the macron over the initial I) whereas Wheelock and Lingua Latina don't use a macron.
  • Wheelock says the perfect active subjunctive verb endings should be im, īs, it, īmus, ītis, int whereas my dictionary and Moreland & Fleischer's "Latin an Intensive Course" list the endings as not having macrons over the i's.

Any ideas what's going on here?
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Re: Macrons - To be or not to be

Postby Hampie » Sun Sep 26, 2010 9:11 am

procrastinator wrote:Thanks Craig for your explanation. I didn't know the history of the pronunciation.
I notice that Wheelock's Readings just pronounces hic, haec and hoc without the double final consonant (at least in the initial reading of them).
The Latinum online audio course by Evan der Millner does pronounce them with double final consonants, and I always wondered why. Thanks for clearing that up. :D

But I'm not finished with strange macrons! Here are a couple more mysteries:
  • My dictionary (Traupman's New College Dictionary) lists Italia as Ītalia (notice the macron over the initial I) whereas Wheelock and Lingua Latina don't use a macron.
  • Wheelock says the perfect active subjunctive verb endings should be im, īs, it, īmus, ītis, int whereas my dictionary and Moreland & Fleischer's "Latin an Intensive Course" list the endings as not having macrons over the i's.

Any ideas what's going on here?

Vergil changed the length of i in Italia in the Aeneid, and therefore, since he is an important author, people have mimiced his usage.
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