Classical latin alphabet.

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Sesquipedalian
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Classical latin alphabet.

Post by Sesquipedalian » Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:11 am

Hello all,

I was reading a small introduction webpage from the University of Georgia regarding 'classical latin' and came acrosss this quote:

"Except for a few purists, all Latinists today write v for consonantal u. This would have puzzled a Roman, who considered U and V to be the same letter."

I dont get it, as my understanding is that during the classical age of latin they only had the letter 'V' for a consonantal u, as the letter 'U' was not around at that time? The only other symbol people would use for consonantal u would be the letter 'U' itself, which I would of thought purists would not use!

Hoping someone can point me in the right direction. :)

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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Post by adrianus » Sun Mar 14, 2010 1:27 pm

Sesquipedalian wrote:I dont get it, as my understanding is that during the classical age of latin they only had the letter 'V' for a consonantal u, as the letter 'U' was not around at that time?
No. It's just more efficient to chisel or write "V". // Minimé. Modò efficacius est "V" litteram caelare scribereve.

Me too, Sesquipedalian, I think it can be quite confusing at times. In Classical times "v" and "u" were the same letter, whether vowel or consonant. I prefer to write "v" myself (and "j" for "i" consonant) because it's straightforward for machine tranlation. In addition to the intent by purists to write only as the Romans wrote, it had become in part affectation by those nearest our own times to write only "u", in part a declaration of intent to only pronounce the classical "w" sound for "u/v" consonant and not the later "v" sound.

Id confusius nonnunquàm et mihi videtur, Sesquipedalian. Eadem littera utrum vocalis an consonans aevo classico est "u" et "v". Meâ parte, "v" scribere praefero (et "j" pro "i" consonans), quòd in vertendo instrumentale utilius est. Separatim conatus puristarum ut omnia secundum Romanos faciant, in usu scriptorum saeculorum proximorum unâ parte sic facere rem ferè putidam factum erat, alterâ parte signum aliquibus "w" non "vi" sonum sonare.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

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ptolemyauletes
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Post by ptolemyauletes » Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:12 pm

The confusing term here is 'purists'. I believe that this refers to the practice in earlier times of Latin scholars using 'u' and 'j' in place of 'v' and 'i'. The Romans did not have a 'u' or 'j'. The letters they did use were 'v' and 'i', which seem to have been pronounced as a 'w' or 'u' sound, and as a 'ee' 'y' sound respectively.

It is clear that there is a difference between these letters used as consonant and as a vowel, but the difference is actually quite slight. The 'i' in 'machina' is actually not much different from the 'i' in 'iubeo'. If one actually examines the working of the mouth in these two sounds, one will find that a so-called consonantal 'i', sounding like a 'y', is really just an 'ee' sound sliding into the next vowel sound. 'iubeo' is pronounced 'eeoobeo' (do it slowly). The same is true of 'v' as a vowel or consonant. The difference between the sound in 'puer' and 'vocat' is very slight. pooer and ooOcat is proper pronunciation. Add a little breath and you get a hint of a 'w'.

As for the 'purists' I am not entirely sure where the 'u' and 'j' entered Latin, but it was likely in the middle ages. Certainly one finds many texts in the 1800s and even later which still use this practice. I believe that this is what your text was referring to by the term 'purists'. Using the letters 'v' and 'i' is a reversion to Real Latin. Even better would be to get rid of 'u' entirely, but I suspect this would cause a great deal of confusion for a long time. And who decides it? Any beginner textbook that makes this change is shouting into the wind.
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Post by adrianus » Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:46 pm

ptolemyauletes wrote:The Romans did not have a 'u' or 'j'.
That's strange. I can see "u" with the clearly curved left stroke in examples of handwriting (or both sides curved in examples). And "j" is just a lengthened "i". In medieval times it didn't denote "j" consonant, e.g., "iij" = "3", "filij" = "filii". I agree the Romans didn't use a lengthened "i" to signify anything.

Mirum est. Littera "u" cuius sinistra linea planè flexa est (et alicubi utra linea) in exempla chirographorum videri potest. Demagìs modò "i" protracta est "j" littera, quae aevo medio consonans non significabat, exempli gratiâ "iij" tres denotat et "filij" filii. Tibi concurro quoad "j": aevo classico "i" protracta vel "j" rem novam significans non invenitur.
Last edited by adrianus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

adrianus
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Post by adrianus » Sun Mar 14, 2010 3:35 pm

adrianus wrote:That's strange. I can see "u" with the clearly curved left stroke in examples of handwriting (or both sides curved in examples).
I was looking in // Inquirebam in hunc librum: Jean Mallon, L'Écriture Latine (Paris, 1939)
Vide etiam // See also Bernard Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages (CUP, 1990) p.64 "Capitalis, older and later Roman cursive".
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Post by vastor » Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:53 pm

I agree. It would be nice to see some consistency. We are expected to implicitly differentiate phonetically, consonantal i (j) from vocalic i, yet consonantal u (v) and vocalic u distinctions are explicitly denoted in texts. Personally I would prefer the puritanistic approach of single characters for both vowel and consonant, the beneficial side effect of which would be that actual inscriptions could then be more easily interpreted.

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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Post by adrianus » Mon Mar 15, 2010 12:42 pm

Examples of ancient handwriting with "u" forms found at the Vindolanda fort you can see online here:
Vide exempla palaeographiae in castro Vindolandae inventa et "u" litteram ostendentia per hanc paginam in interrete:

http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/tablets/TVII-4-2.shtml

Addendum

Note also this in the same ref. (which I only just noticed):
Hoc etiam ibidem nota (quod modò animadverti):
http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/tablets/TVII-4-2.shtml wrote:i The short form (col.1) frequently has a noticeable serif at top right, so that the letter can readily be confused with p or even t. The long form is commonest at word ends (often here in the ligature bi) and at the beginning of words, but is by no means confined to these usages.
I thought this was interesting because the long i used at word ends in Vindolanda examples serves the function, it seems to me, of "j" in medieval script.
Hoc mihi curae est quià possible est "i" litteram protractam et terminantem Vindolandae sicut "j" aevo medio servire, ut mihi videtur.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

nov.ialiste
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Post by nov.ialiste » Mon Mar 15, 2010 4:37 pm

Has anyone ever used a system where v is used for semivowel/consonant and u for full vowel?

This would lead to e.g. qvi, qvum, svadeo etc.
phpbb

adrianus
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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Post by adrianus » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:14 pm

Yes, some writers or editors of the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries do that, nov.ialiste.
Ita, nov.ialiste. Nonnulli scriptores vel redactores sexto vel septimo decimo saeculis sic faciunt.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.

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Re: Classical latin alphabet.

Post by Imber Ranae » Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:47 pm

ptolemyauletes wrote:As for the 'purists' I am not entirely sure where the 'u' and 'j' entered Latin, but it was likely in the middle ages. Certainly one finds many texts in the 1800s and even later which still use this practice. I believe that this is what your text was referring to by the term 'purists'. Using the letters 'v' and 'i' is a reversion to Real Latin. Even better would be to get rid of 'u' entirely, but I suspect this would cause a great deal of confusion for a long time. And who decides it? Any beginner textbook that makes this change is shouting into the wind.
Our lowercase 'u' comes from Carolingian minuscule, itself a development of the Uncial script (hence the rounded shape) which is believed to have its origin in Old Latin Cursive. It was used with both its consonantal and vocalic values. The distinct lowercase 'v' came much later and was at first merely a variant of 'u' when initial, such that we see 'vpon' and 'haue' for 'upon' and 'have' in early printed English. Eventually (starting around the mid-sixteenth century) 'u' and 'v' came to acquire their modern phonemic distinction in the printing conventions of all the western European languages, but capital 'V' was still undistinguished until 'U' came about much latter.

Lots of modern Latin texts (though not beginners' texts) use only 'u' for lowercase and only 'V' for uppercase, and this is the most historically justifiable method. Replacing lowercase 'u' with lowercase 'v' everywhere would be rather foolish.
Ex mala malo
bono malo uesci
quam ex bona malo
malo malo malo.

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