Classical or Ecclesiastical

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chodorov
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Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by chodorov » Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:28 am

Hello everyone,

I studied Latin for nearly a year but then took a break for a while to learn Spanish. I'm ready to get back into Latin, but now I'm not sure which pronunciation I want to use. I started with classical and I enjoyed it, but I've recently found the arguments for ecclesiastical to be quite convincing. Here are the primary arguments/reasons why ecclesiastical appeals to me:

1) It connects Latin to the modern world as a living, spoken language, as the church seems to be the last place where people still actually speak the language (although not so much anymore since Vatican II).

2) It seems to be more fluid, easier to pronounce and read, and sounds nicer.

3) Many people, such as Dante, wo could read and speak fluent Latin did so in the Italian/Ecclesiastical pronunciation. So basically just the idea of "if it was good enough for Dante, it's good enough for me."

I know this is an issue that has probably already been debated at length in these forums, but I've never really seen someone put together all their best points and make the best possible argument for the classical pronunciation. So, whatever side of this debate you're on, I'd love to her your arguments and any suggestions.

PS. In the long run, I'm open to learning both pronunciations, but for now I just need to pick one of them, to focus on.

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by janaya2 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:38 am

Personally, I would say learn to be familiar with both and choose whichever suits your needs better. If you're reading a lot Classical Latin poetry, then I would say that the classical/restored pronunciation is the better of the two since the length of vowels are better distinguished and easier to get a feel for the meter. If you're reading a lot of medieval, liturgical, or ecclesiastical texts, then the Ecclesiastical pronunciation is the one to use, especially with the liturgical hymns which are based more on stress and rhyme. If you want to read prose, it probably doesn't matter which of the two use. Both are equally valid and acceptable, personally I use the ecclesiastical pronunciation since I mostly hear Latin in church and so it sounds more natural and less foreign to me.

chodorov
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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by chodorov » Tue Oct 23, 2012 6:40 am

Thanks for the reply. I think I'll probably use ecclesiastical more often. I hope to be able to read the entire range of Latin literature, from classical poetry and prose to medieval philosophy and theology. As you say, the only place where I can see a distinct advantage for classical pronunciation is in classical poetry. But that brings up the point I made about people like Dante. They were steeped in Vergil, Catullus, etc, and I don't think they missed much from not knowing classical. So I agree with you for the most part and I'll probably end up using ecclesiastical, but I'd like for someone to make a case and really try to sell me on classical, just to make sure I'm being fair to both sides.

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by Stephen Hill » Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:32 pm

Well, I don't know if I'll sell you on classical, but I'll give it a shot.

In Latin in Church; the History of its Pronunciation, I think Frederick Brittain argues that the so-called ecclesiastical pronunciation only rose to prominence in Italy in the latter half of the nineteenth century (it's available on google books if you want to look at it). So I'm not at all sure that the ecclesiastical pronunciation is what Dante, Aquinas, etc. would have used, but I would be very interested to see any research on this.

The trouble with the ecclesiastical pronunciation is that it pays no attention to vowel quantity. This is especially an issue if you're reading poetry, but I would argue that it's also something to consider if you're reading Roman prose. The original writer and readers heard the vowel quantities; why shouldn't we? How can we properly appreciate the rhythm and music of a text, even prose, if we ignore the vowel quantities that its composer intended it to have?

Also, many people who speak Latin do use the restored (classical) pronunciation and observe vowel quantity. Some of them are Catholic but not all. I believe Tunberg and Minkova at the University of Kentucky use the classical pronunciation, as does Evan Millner, as does Eduardo Engelsing, etc.

If you begin to read, speak, and listen to Latin with the ecclesiastical pronunciation, it will be very difficult to switch later. If you begin with the classical pronunciation, you would learn to hear the quantities organically, as it were.

So to sum up by taking your points in order:

1. Not necessarily. Many Latin speakers use classical pronunciation.
2. De gustibus non est disputandum, but the more I use classical in my own reading, the more I like it. Harder than ecclesiastical, yes, but much closer to the ancient Romans.
3. Like I said, I'm not sure this is true. I don't know what medieval/Renaissance continental Latin sounded like exactly, but it may or may not have been like the modern Italianate pronunciation.

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by chodorov » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:39 pm

Good post, Stephen Hill! The only issue I have with that argument of "classical is the way the Romans actually spoke it" is that, while studying Spanish, I came to realize how different actual pronunciation can be from the way that textbooks teach it (and I'm not just talking about elision in poetry). In practice, some letters may be over-emphasized and others may be de-emphasized to an extent that they're almost silent. And then you have to factor in the issue of all the different accents that exist in any language (as we in the Anglosphere know very well). So when people say classical is the way the Romans spoke it, I tend to think, "well, not really, it's just our best guess at the way the Romans spoke it." Thanks a lot for the list of classical speakers. I already know about Evan Milner, but I'll have to look up all those other names. And that actually addresses a big issue for me because I haven't found any good audio in ecclesiastical. And you make a good point that we don't even know when ecclesiastical came into existence and we don't know how Dante, Aquinas, etc. pronounced Latin. So you've definitely given me some points to consider.

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by bedwere » Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:49 pm

If you want to learn living Latin with ecclesiastical pronunciation, the very best is
CURSUS LINGUÆ LATINÆ VIVÆ or COURSE ON THE LIVING LATIN LANGUAGE. Fr. Suitbert Siedl, who was a gifted polyglot, knew many other languages besides Latin, and founded the Familia Sancti Hieronymi, recorded more than 20 hours of Latin conversation alongside the book.

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by Stephen Hill » Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:14 pm

The only issue I have with that argument of "classical is the way the Romans actually spoke it" is that, while studying Spanish, I came to realize how different actual pronunciation can be from the way that textbooks teach it
I know you didn't intend to quote me by using those quotation marks, but there's a reason why I said "much closer to the ancient Romans" and not "exactly like." You're definitely right that no reconstruction of a language that was never recorded can be completely accurate. But by all accounts I've seen, the classical restored pronunciation (best explained in Sidney Allen's Vox Latina) is pretty darn good. Certainly it's much, much closer than ecclesiastical, if we take the Romans as a point of departure. The difference might be thought of this way: think of trying to pronounce Spanish using textbook rules of Italian pronunciation vs. textbook rules of German or English pronunciation. Will you be perfectly accurate with either one? Nope. Would you still sound funny to a native Spanish speaker? Yep. Will one be much, much closer to the original than the other, and be more in keeping with the music of the language? Definitely.

I also forgot to mention Luigi Miraglia -- he's done tremendous work with spoken Latin (and Greek), and as both an Italian and a Catholic (I believe), he might be expected to use ecclesiastical. Yet I believe he does use the restored pronunciation. (I'd check his youtube videos but I'm not in a position to do that right now.)

But all that said, I almost decided to use the ecclesiastical pronunciation myself a while back. Ultimately it was the vowel quantities that sold me -- I didn't want to learn Latin with no sense of something so intrinsic to the language, so I went with the restored pronunciation. At first it sounded really weird, but like I said, the more I use it the more I like it.

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by chodorov » Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:30 pm

Thanks for the links bedwere, I'll definitely look into them.

And sorry, Stephen hill, I didn't mean to imply something that you didn't actually say. I knew what you meant in the first place. Since there seems to be a lot more audio available, I might go ahead and continue with classical because I already studied Latin for a year using classical.

For some background, I started by going through D'ooge, then I read Lingua Latina I and several chapters of Lingua Latina II. I felt like I hit a wall, so I took a break from LLII and read about 25 pages of Caesar. That raised my reading ability to a new level and I was able to read a few more chapters of LLII pretty comfortably. Then I hit another wall. LLII is just a really hard book to get through because the difficulty never stops increasing with each chapter. But I'll keep slogging through it; I definitely don't want to give up on it. Do you have any suggestions for how I should move forward? I want to use more audio this time around, and any other ideas would be much appreciated.

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by Stephen Hill » Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:43 pm

Chodorov, no worries. I didn't think you were quoting me incorrectly. I just wanted to clarify.

I believe there are restored pronunciation recordings of LL, at least Familia Romana, but I've never heard them.

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Re: Classical or Ecclesiastical

Post by Nesrad » Thu Nov 01, 2012 3:29 pm

Although we have a good idea how the Romans spoke, the restored or classical pronunciation is rather theoretical. And there's the whole problem of vowel quantities. Few modern speakers are able to respect the long and short vowels. So they end up using a poor approximation of the Roman pronunciation.

I personally think it's better to master a later pronunciation directly descended from the earlier one, than to poorly imitate how the Romans "most likely" spoke. When we read Shakespeare, do we adopt the 16th century pronunciation of English?

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