Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

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ArbitraryBust
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Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

Post by ArbitraryBust » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:06 pm

I'm (finally) starting to learn Latin after quite a long time studying Greek, and one of the aspects of learning a classical language from scratch again that I enjoy is being able to avoid slipping into bad pronunciation habits early on.

With this in mind, I'm curious about the pronunciations of perfects like habui. Is the "u" here a consonant, making sound like waste, or is it a vowel, making a put sound?

Vox Latina is somewhat vague about the consonantal pronunciation of u in cases like this. I know that i was only pronounced as a consonant ([j]) word-initially and inter-vocalically, and I wonder if this is the case with u too, but I am leaning at the moment towards the former option (that it was pronounced [w] in these cases), as it seems to me to represent a cool kind of continuity with other perfects which use this consonant (e.g. amavi)

I think if e.g. habui were scanned as two syllables this would be a good sign for this theory, but I have no idea how to figure this out without laboriously digging up a scanned example in a book somewhere featuring this kind of perfect.

Can anyone give me a hand with this pronunciation vexation?

Laurentius Mons
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Re: Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

Post by Laurentius Mons » Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:20 pm

The u in habui is a (short) vowel. The word has three syllables, as can be seen in the following line: "sed modo, quos habui, vacuos secedere in hortos" (Ov. Tr. 4.8.27). In fact, the u in the perfect forms of verbs like habēre, monēre, dolēre is always a vowel. See this line, again from Ovid: "me quoque, quod monui bene multa fideliter, odit;" (Ov. Her. 15.67).

Which textbook are you using? Textbooks usually distinguish between v and u, even if they don't distinguish between consonantal and vocalic i.

Edit: I had accidently written 'four' instead of 'three'. I corrected this mistake. Thanks, bedwere!
Last edited by Laurentius Mons on Tue Apr 16, 2019 5:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

ArbitraryBust
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Re: Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

Post by ArbitraryBust » Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:56 pm

Thanks, that's very helpful. A shame my hunch was wrong, but good to know.

I gather from your response that when texts distinguish typographically between u and v, this exhaustively maps the difference in pronunciation I was asking about - so every written instance of u (except perhaps in the environment qu) would be pronounced [ʊ], and every instance of v [w]. Is that correct?

Just one minor confusion with your response: habui would presumably have three syllables (u u -) rather than four, right? Or am I misunderstanding Latin meter in some way?

I like to use a few textbooks, but I rely on Dickey's Learn Latin from the Romans (being a big fan of her book on Greek composition) and the German Orbis Romanus books. For pronunciation questions though I turn to Allen's Vox Latina.

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Re: Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

Post by bedwere » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:37 pm

Laurentius Mons wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:20 pm
The word has four syllables,
I count three.

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Re: Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

Post by Callisper » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:53 pm

ArbitraryBust wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:56 pm
I gather from your response that when texts distinguish typographically between u and v, this exhaustively maps the difference in pronunciation I was asking about - so every written instance of u (except perhaps in the environment qu) would be pronounced [ʊ], and every instance of v [w].
The digraphs remain unmapped in so far as they are written 'qu' as opposed to e.g. 'qv' (which would map them unambiguously but is rare practice).

Regarding said digraphs, "u" is consonantal as follows: "qu" always; "gu" in "nguV" (V=any vowel) as e.g. "sanguis" but not otherwise as e.g. "exiguus"; "su" in "suavis", "suesco", "suadeo", and derivatives of these, as well as proper name "Suevi".

Edit: replaced "suetus" with "suesco"; sharpened up rule for "gu"; removed "maybe more" because hopefully I got them all
Last edited by Callisper on Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:23 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

Post by ArbitraryBust » Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:01 am

Callisper wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:53 pm
Regarding said digraphs, "u" is consonantal as follows: "qu" always; "gu" often e.g. "sanguis" but sometimes not e.g. "exiguus"; "su" in "suavis", "suetus", "suadeo", maybe a few more I forget.
Ok, so just to be clear, this implies that e.g. sanguis is scanned as a two-syllable word, suadeo as a three-syllable, etc. Is this the case?

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Re: Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

Post by Callisper » Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:32 am

ArbitraryBust wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:01 am
Ok, so just to be clear, this implies that e.g. sanguis is scanned as a two-syllable word, suadeo as a three-syllable, etc. Is this the case?
Correct. In these digraphs, you can write 'qv', 'gv', 'sv' and it will not hurt you at all. That said, since I classified the cases of 'u' being consonantal above, you may find it unnecessary to do so in writing (as most editors don't) as it should be straightforward to remember. Personally I would encourage writing (and pronouncing) with 'v' instead of 'u' where consonantal, as there are no rules here.

It does not occur to me that there exist any other such digraphs in Latin, except by occasional aberrant poetic practice. When I first learned this, I wondered whether "pu" was ever 'pv'; I was told no; it was not until 2.5 years later that I came across what remains the only counter-example I have noticed from antiquity - "Iam 'puerei uenere' e postremum facito atque i" (Lucilius).

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Re: Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

Post by Ronolio » Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:33 pm

Is there any such rule for i. I am able to distinguish between the two, but it would be nice to have a nice rule set to give to my students as I will definitely do with this for u and v.

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Re: Consonantal vs Vocalic 'u' in Perfect

Post by Callisper » Tue Apr 16, 2019 11:14 pm

Ronolio wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:33 pm
Is there any such rule for i. I am able to distinguish between the two, but it would be nice to have a nice rule set to give to my students as I will definitely do with this for u and v.
I'm glad my rule set can help. As a beginning student I wish my teachers had just given it to me like that.

Unfortunately I cannot provide any such rules for i vs y/j, let alone for u vs v in contexts besides digraphs.

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