Is word accent relevant?

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strnbrg
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Is word accent relevant?

Post by strnbrg » Fri Jul 10, 2015 10:24 pm

Pharr, at item 68, says "The written word-accent must be disregarded in reading the verse."

If so, why do we bother learning word accents? Would it make sense, when learning vocabulary, to memorize words as though the accents fall on the long vowels? That would be more helpful for correct reading, and also aid in remembering omicron vs omega and epsilon vs eta.

Or am I missing something?

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by mwh » Sat Jul 11, 2015 12:49 am

Well yes you’re missing something. The accentual system gives precious insight into the language. In verse, however, the meter takes priority, and the accents will not help you read hexameters as hexameters, in fact they will impede you. That’s why Pharr says what he does. It's good practical advice.

People learn accents for two reasons: (1) linguistic: to learn about the prosody of the language; and/or (2) practical: to attempt an approximation of ancient pronunciation. Your post addresses the practical. If you equate accent with stress (which is unhistorical, but common practice, and underlies Pharr’s injunction), you might indeed find it helpful to ignore the accents when learning vocabulary, since English stress rules are not the same as Greek ones and stressing long vowels can be helpful in learning words such as ἄνθρωπος, say, just as you suggest.

For many years people learnt Greek that way. Things have changed in more recent years, and nowadays the tendency is either to stress the accented syllables—which ruins the meter—or to try to use pitch rather than stress—which is all but impossible for English-speakers, and does not help at all with the meter.

My advice would be to learn the accents along with the words, since they’re part and parcel of the language. In reading Homer, however, or any verse, I’d second Pharr’s advice: disregard them, at least until you can comfortably read the lines metrically, and you’ll never learn to do that if you stress the accented syllables, nor if you try to adjust the pitch. Just bash the beat, until you have the basic hexameter rhythm unshakably implanted in your head. Then and only then should you begin to worry about what (if anything) to do with the accents.

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by strnbrg » Sat Jul 11, 2015 1:39 am

Stress and pitch have little in common so I don't see what you could possibly learn about prosody, as long as you substitute stress for pitch. It seems no more incorrect, and no less enlightening about prosody or anything else, to ignore the accents.

It would be the same if the accents represented three different sorts of Hottentot clicking sounds.

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by mwh » Sat Jul 11, 2015 2:53 am

Hmm. I wasn’t advocating substituting dynamic stress for pitch, but since for English-speakers it’s pretty well impossible to divorce the one from the other in speech I think you may as well stress the accented syllables if only as a way of acknowledging where they go. In prose, that is; not in verse, as I explained, and never at the expense of vowel quantity. Of course you can ignore the accents if you like (which in effect means putting stress elsewhere?), but you can’t deny them prosodic relevance. They're key.

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by cb » Sat Jul 11, 2015 6:47 am

hi, i have always considered both the greek and the latin accents as pitch (i remember looking at the evidence for the latin over a decade ago, posted about it here: http://www.textkit.com/greek-latin-foru ... ?f=3&t=998, and the greek i've posted about many times before here), and so accent pitch with metric length work fine together, just like on a musical score - it both shows you pitch vertically, and length through the note symbol used. people don't think the idea of playing music with changes from note to note of both pitch and length as beyond the powers of an ordinary musician, even beginners can do that, but people sometimes seem to think this about classical languages, that doing both at the same time is a level of difficulty far exceeding the capacities of a learner... but it is completely doable. listen to say stefan hagel singing the odyssey. besides, personal opinion only, the suggestion of doing one thing in prose - stress the accent, ignore the lengths - and another thing in poetry - stress the longs, ignore the accent - with such a fundamental thing in language as accent has always seemed bizarre to me. i'm not saying it's wrong, i just find the idea bizarre. cheers, chad

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by mwh » Sat Jul 11, 2015 7:27 pm

Hi chad,
I think we’re basically in agreement, and I sympathize with your “bizarre.” Accents matter. The only question is how best to represent them orally. You don’t quite understand my position. A couple of points in clarification.
1. Of course stress and pitch are not necessarily related in song. I qualified “in speech.” Was epic sung? Not for most of its history (i.e. not by more than say 0.0001 percent of its performers?), and originally, who knows really how it was delivered? Still more important, to my mind, is the consideration that even if by some miracle we could replicate archaic performance practice, there’s no bridging the experiential gap. So for me personally, the game isn’t worth the candle.
2. I’m certainly not saying “ignore the lengths” in prose. Length should never be ignored. As I said. The long:short distinction of vowels is absolutely fundamental (as in verse is the heavy:light one for syllables—a paraphonological phenomenon). And of course there’s no inherent conflict between pitch and length, nor for that matter between stress and length.

Like you, I think, I’d like to minimize the difference between prose and verse, which is less than it’s often represented as being. But the difference is meter, and in my experience, in practice, for beginners, “respecting” the accents, whether by stress or pitch or both, tends to interfere with or altogether block recognition of the meter (in hexameters, the longum:biceps binary, thesis:arsis in ancient terms). That holds even for Latin verse, where word accent plays a much more important role than it does in Greek.

Incidentally, I don’t buy the argument that the Latin accent was one of pitch rather than of stress. In my view, as in Allen’s and others', Varro et al. are simply taking over what they’ve read in their Greek predecessors (much as Vergil writes of “singing”). That’s a view that has met with scorn on these boards, unjustifiably I’d say. — Don’t Plautine metrics support stress even in the early Republic? Just a thought, maybe wrong, but I’ve always explained “brevis brevians” etc. to myself in those terms.

Best,
Michael

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by cb » Sat Jul 11, 2015 10:09 pm

hi michael, thanks for that. i actually wasn't diagreeing with your post at all - there are a few posters here like you and qimmik and others where i tend to agree with everything you guys say. it's always grounded and balanced. i was more commenting on the tradition referred to in the pharr quote from the original post. the only thing i would say is, i think the metre comes out perfectly well with a pitch accent and doesn't block recognition of it, just as following the ups and downs of music that has a repetitive pattern of longs and shorts doesn't block recognition of that. a stress accent would be another story, i can see how that would block recognition, but i don't personally follow that approach.

i think it works exactly the same way in prose and in verse. the only difference for me is that i don't sing prose. i sing vergil just like homer. just to myself of course, i haven't done classics in a class environment, self learning.

in terms of reconstruction nowadays of the classical pronunciation, i agree completely that we can never hope to replicate exactly how they did it including with intra- and inter-clause emphasis etc., and even that there are probably big flaws in the pattern that comes out of devine and stephens (for greek) and for latin (since hardly any guidance is given for the pitches), but that doesn't matter, it's not like another pronunciation is more "correct" by any measure. i think - that the impossibility of reconstructing faithfully the ancient pronunciation doesn't provide an argument for following any approach actually, reconstructed or traditional.

as for the view that latin grammarians were led to say that latin had a pitch accent because they were over-influenced by the greek theory, i think sihler s248 provides at least a balanced view against that worth considering, not to say who is right but i think nothing can be concluded from that either way. as for the verse ictus and tonic accent correspondence point, once again in sihler s248 and others there are good arguments on the other side for saying that, while this phenomenon clearly does exist, you can't infer from that that it was caused by attention to word stress. multiple causes can produce the same effect. e.g. the patterns for typical word location in hexameter based on shape of longs and shorts - put a cretic word here if you can, put a spondee-shaped word there - could pull off the same thing. i'm not saying that stress is the worse explanation for this phenomenon, i'm just saying that once again you can't argue from the fact of verse ictus and tonic accent correspondence to latin word accent being stressed based, as a standalone fact. instead, everyone takes the whole of the evidence in the phonology section of our books on board, and some go with stress and others with pitch. well, for pitch in latin at least, maybe just me! cheers, chad

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Jul 11, 2015 10:48 pm

Not to add anything to the discussion, except a link to Stephen Hagel's reconstructed performance of Homer, mentioned by cb above. It's very good, although of course very speculative. This has been linked to many times before, but the link is worth another post. Word accent (a pitch accent), correct vowel length and, as an extra, a melody – they're all included.

http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/sh/

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by mwh » Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:14 pm

Thanks chad. I won’t discuss further now, except to say that as I read him Sihler doesn’t argue against the Latin grammarians’ dependence on their Greek counterparts, and can hardly be said to endorse your Latin pitch thesis. He makes the same point that I did (following Allen and phoneticians) about the inseparability of pitch and stress (thereby potentially rescuing the Latin grammarians’ statements, rightly or wrongly—it’s the perceptual not the acoustic that counts), while elsewhere he talks simply of stress.
He doesn’t seem to venture an explanation of the Plautine phenomena I tentatively take as supporting a stress accent (e.g. iambic shortening s84). In fact the whole book is long on description and short on explanation. He merely records that syncope and suchlike is regular in Latin but not in Greek, for instance, something I’d again be inclined to relate to Latin’s having a stress accent already in the earliest period. But it’s all so very complicated!

And all this is only tangential to the business of reading verse as verse. The metrical patterning of the syllables is what matters there, closely followed by the inner metric. Everything else is secondary.

You sing Vergil? I’m pretty sure that’s more than Vergil did.

And thanks Paul for the Hagel link once again. If only we could know that his reconstruction rests on a secure foundation! And of course we can’t all be Stefan Hagel; probably one of him is enough.

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by Scribo » Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:45 pm

I agree with MWH on Sihler, sorry, it seems to be rather clear cut what he's saying. His metrical examples also go beyond Plautus since he mentions hexameter. You're not the only person I've ever seen advocating pitch accentuated Latin, but I've never seen the slightest sense of evidence how that could be the case I'm afraid.

Homer: I'd like to record some H. but could never inflict my voice on people for such a lengthy period. I'm somewhere left of Hegal on this tbh though my major disagreements with him are musical (musicological?).
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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by cb » Sun Jul 12, 2015 9:29 pm

hi, let me type out the bit of sihler that i referred to above:

"Roman grammarians, down to the 4th cent AD, describe L accent in terms appropriate only for a pitch accent. Scholars have been wary of taking this as cogent, however, as not only is the terminology of Roman grammarians taken over entire from Greek, their statements are often cribbed from G sources. Some scholars protest, however, that ancient authorities could hardly have thus identified G and L accent had there not been at least an appreciable element of pitch in the latter. But as we have seen (242), pitch features are in fact a prominent ingredient of tonic accent even in English, whose accent system is the type and model of ‘stress accent’… The familiarity of educated Romans with G accent both in practice and theory probably would not have caused thel to adopt an element of accent wholly irrelevant for their natural speech, but it could have made them more conscious of an existing element of pitch, and even to a studied enhancement of it – Latin with a Greek accent, if you will – in oratory or recitation of poetry."

so when i said below "as for the view that latin grammarians were led to say that latin had a pitch accent because they were over-influenced by the greek theory, i think sihler s248 provides at least a balanced view against that worth considering, not to say who is right but i think nothing can be concluded from that either way", i was talking about the "some scholars protest" part, as a view on the other side. sihler then goes on to explain how to save both positions by saying the grammarians could pick out a part of pitch in a stress accent system. this is a hypothesis which might be right but what i was saying is that this evidence simply cannot be used as a conclusive argument either way. it is not a crucial experiment because it does not result in the stress accent hypothesis being saved and the pitch rejected or vice versa.

that's also why i went on to explain the point that the correspondence of accent with ictus doesn't support either theory. the same pattern could be produced in another way, for instance if you looked at the preferred word forms and word ending positions in the hexameter these could very well produce the same correspondence. to then argue that the placement of these word forms and word ending preferred positions is motivated by corresponding accent to ictus would be to beg the question.

i wasn't saying anywhere that sihler argued for pitch.

all of this was to say, no-one can logic or argue conclusively for either view i think based on the evidence we all have. but we each do need to take a view - we are not skeptics suspending judgment in the presence of equally strong arguments on either side - so each of us takes a view based on reviewing all the evidence, and also probably non-evidential factors too like classroom-formed habit and (in my case) unjustified assumptions such as that it's bizarre to suppose treating the stress placement in one way in verse and another way in prose... and on the basis of this review of all the evidence some sway the stress way and others sway the pitch way, and i think the best approach is to say that it's tentative and conjectural no latter which position you take. cheers, chad

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by mwh » Sun Jul 12, 2015 11:13 pm

Chad,
I hope I didn’t misrepresent either you or Sihler. Perhaps it’s Scribo who’s got your goat. I did understand what you were saying. I think we can all agree that Sihler “can hardly be said to endorse” the pitch thesis, as I put it; perhaps you misunderstood me as implying that you’d said he did, in which case I apologize. One point of disagreement: If the arguments were equally strong on either side I would not say that we each “need to take a view” one way or the other; I’d have thought suspending judgment was in fact the right course. As it is, though, I think the evidence for stress is strong and (forgive me) the evidence for pitch negligible. I’m speaking in perceptual terms, of course, not acoustic—a distinction I fear Sihler may not adequately make. I have no disagreement with his factual statements (e.g. “Some scholars protest” etc.), but I suspect that his attempted compromise and his final speculation (in the bit you quote) are misguided. He’d have done better to dismiss the protest, in my view.
Best,
Michael

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by cb » Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:30 am

hi michael, i thought your post and scribo's post were both fair, it's more i realised in retrospect i myself was being unclear when referring to the debate in sihler. i certainly won't try to convince anyone who uses stress to re-consider. what i would say is that when people are trying to decide which habit to form (something that self learners have to do because we don't have the benefit of hearing teachers talk, we can't suspend judgment as there is no default position) then it's a useful exercise to read all the evidence yourself if you can and then apply it consistently but make clear that it's conjectural. that's what i did and came to the pitch view but respect that people doing the same exercise off the same evidence and with far more experience than me came to the prevailing view. cheers, chad

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by jeidsath » Mon Jul 13, 2015 3:45 am

I know that you are all sick of my audio by now, but you might enjoy this, and I think it's relevant. I speak the verses with attention to the accent, and then repeat the same with attention to the ictus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOepTpU7NrY Notice that the pitch accent is prominent in the first, but very subdued in the second. I suppose I start doing some sort of Sprechstimme to get the rhythm.

There's some correspondence between the ictus in Attic verse and the falling accent ('svarita' in Vedic accentuation) on the syllable after an acute, or in the second part of a circumflex. Allen thinks that this is a secondary effect, with stress being placed by his formula, which in turn usually places it in those two places. I'm not so sure.

I read a very good resource about Latin pitch/stress accent the other month. I will try to find it.

Here's a popular Norwegian (ie., a strongly tonal language) folk song (related to the Orpheus myth!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB71Sqh9iB8 The song is useful because it's covered on Youtube by a number of different bands with different mother tongs. For example, here is the same by sung by a German Death Metal group (that concentrates on medieval Latin music): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3wiZJzZvM The song, eerily enough, comes right through the transformation.

EDIT:

The resources on Latin stress that I was thinking of was actually Sturtevant, starting on pg. 212. https://archive.org/details/pronunciationgr00unkngoog I had found him through this wonderful article by C.W.E. Miller, "The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin Prose." Just an amazing read: http://www.jstor.org/stable/282864?seq= ... b_contents
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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by mwh » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:36 pm

Interesting to have it done both ways. The first (accent, like prose) is much better than the second (ictus), but the meter doesn’t always come through, as in my view it has to; the quantities need to be kept steadier. The second is grotesque. It does follow my “bash the beat” advice for beginners to stichic verse, but is a ghastly travesty. Incidentally, you do realise that it has both stress and pitch (both highly exaggerated, and most often in places where no Greek would put either)?

Still much good stuff in Sturtevant and Miller, for all their linguistic naivety. (New to me was that the English in those days pronounced “Chateaubriand” with stress on the “teau.”) It’s Sturtevant in fact who lies hidden behind Sihler’s “Some scholars protest” etc.

Time we all recognized, however, that “ictus” is a fiction.

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by Qimmik » Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:53 pm

Ictus fictus?

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by jeidsath » Mon Jul 13, 2015 6:05 pm

mwh is κρατὺς αρσειφόντης.
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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by mwh » Wed Jul 15, 2015 4:03 pm

marcofurio over on the Learning Greek forum provides this link to something by the wellknown German scholar Wilfried Stroh on how to pronounce Latin verse:
http://es.scribd.com/doc/21226971/De-ve ... rido-Stroh
While I wouldn’t agree with quite everything he says, I think it’s very good (but the notes in the musical settings are best ignored). There's a recording of Stroh himself reading Aeneid 4: http://www.wiredforbooks.org/aeneid/ (non audii).

This is now most definitely in the wrong forum!

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by jeidsath » Wed Jul 15, 2015 6:54 pm

I can't read the article, but his audio sounds very pleasant. That he is being so emotive does mean that I have trouble picking up exactly what he's doing with stress and quantity. Obviously a wonderful recording though. I'm starting a new language in December, and my wife is insisting on a living language, otherwise it would be Latin.
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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by Scribo » Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:10 pm

Partner and I exclusively use Latin when we're in Greece and people consistently mistake it for Italian. Get her started on that and slowly slowly edge her backwards into Latin? :twisted: Note don't do this in Italy. Did it by habit once, made a comment or two in a crowded area. Everyone understood. Everyone knew.
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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by Qimmik » Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:25 pm

I'm starting a new language in December, and my wife is insisting on a living language, otherwise it would be Latin.
You should push back. Knowledge of Latin is a very useful complement to ancient Greek and vice versa. For one thing, you can't read the prefaces to many critical editions of Greek texts without knowing Latin, and much other scholarly material that was written before about 1850 but that is still valuable was written in Latin.

More importantly, Latin texts often illuminate Greek texts. Although the flow of influence tends to travel more in the other direction, Latin authors often "imitate" Greek texts ("imitation" is really the wrong word, which is why the term "intertextuality" has come to supplant it) in ways that shed light on the meaning of the Greek or help to explain how the Greek was understood by Greeks and Romans alike in the Roman period and later.

You can get by in ancient Greek or in Latin without knowing the other language, but knowledge of both languages will enhance your engagement with each of them.

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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by jeidsath » Wed Jul 15, 2015 10:48 pm

I think that I may pick up German. I had some in high school, and now I actually know how to learn a language. I don't imagine that it will delay me from Latin for too long, nor is it a useless language when it comes to tackling the classics.
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Re: Is word accent relevant?

Post by anphph » Thu Jul 16, 2015 4:36 am

(deleted comment, going for a spin-off thread)

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