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#9311 - 11/16/00 06:46 AM Re: Latin derivation
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
You have William the Conqueror and his Norman thugs to thank for this. Eleventh-century social climbers quickly learned it was to their advantage to acquire the language of the court; while peasants doomed to fiefdom ate kuh instead of boeuf.

#9312 - 11/20/00 05:59 AM Re: Latin derivation
paulb Offline

Registered: 03/17/00
Posts: 460
Loc: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Hi Hearsay:

I was previewing the 1939 film "Goodbye Mr Chips" this afternoon prior to screening it tomorrow night. There's a scene in it when Mr Chips (now an old man) complains about being told to teach the 'new-fashioned'(ie turn-of-the-century) Latin style of using a hard 'C'. He says why should I teach them to pronounce it [Kikero] when they'll say [Cicero - soft 'C'] for the rest of their lives?

So, was there a pronunciation change around that time?

#9313 - 11/20/00 06:27 AM Good question
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
My knowledge of Latin is next to nothing, but I remember reading somewhere (??) that we do not actually 'know' how the Romans pronounced Latin. We can make some educated guesses, but the original pronunciation is now lost to us. So is there anything authoritative about the hard 'c' as opposed to the soft one?

#9314 - 11/20/00 06:47 AM Re: Good question
jmh Offline

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Latin Pronunciation

Like the hard/soft "C" debate - we were encouraged (1972-ish) to say "Salwe" for "salve".

#9315 - 11/20/00 07:05 AM Re: Good question
shanks Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 1004
Loc: London, UK
we were encouraged (1972-ish) to say "Salwe" for "salve".

Exactly. In India (but this was no doubt a corruption) when someone 'kept cave' (for a gang of boys up to mischief), we pronounced it kay-wee.

Your use of 'salve' reminded me of one of my favourite poems - Browning's "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister". Must LIU.

#9316 - 11/20/00 09:33 AM Re: Good question
Geoff Offline
old hand

Registered: 11/12/00
Posts: 819
Loc: Portland,Oregon, USA
My Latin teacher claimed the same regarding "Kikero" and "salwe," circa 1960. I'm sure she was right, since she was old enough to have heard native Latin speakers.

Does anyone here know how it's done in strongly Latin-like languages? Catalan comes to mind. Of course, we have examples from German, wherein "W" is pronounced more like "V," or French, wherein it's"V" and "doubleV."

#9317 - 11/20/00 09:50 AM Re: Good question
emanuela Offline

Registered: 03/16/00
Posts: 315
Loc: Italy - Perugia is a town with...
I am not sure to have fully understood the question; in any case, in Italian - before the English influence of the last years - there was NO " w" in the alphabet. We Italians - now - say "salve" in this way .

#9318 - 11/21/00 03:49 AM Re: Good question
Bridget Offline

Registered: 06/27/00
Posts: 444
Loc: Sydney Australia
We pronounce 'c' in two different ways in modern English. How can we say for sure that the Romans always pronounced it in one way? Why can't they have been like us and have had more than one pronunciation depending on the word?

They (or someone at some stage) had more than one pronunciation for 'v'. Back in the days when 'v' and 'u' were the same letter written down. (MARCVS VINCIT.)

My understanding is that it took some time for the separate pronunciations to settle out into 'v' and 'u'.

And even more time for 'w' to evolve out as a separate letter. Plus, it evolved differently in English and in German. Think about Vienna. Wien. wsieber or someone will correct me if I'm totally wrong, but 'Wien' in German is pronounced more or less as 'Veen' in English. And the classic fake German accent replaces all our English 'w' sounds with 'v' sounds. 'Vat vill you do?'

So tell me, what is 'uet'? Is it an animal doctor or is it the way rain feels?

#9319 - 11/21/00 04:15 PM Re: Good question
belMarduk Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/28/00
Posts: 2891
Bridget, I think that is a pretty commonsense notion you have there. In French, we also have different ways of pronouncing the c.

#9320 - 11/22/00 02:16 AM Re: Good question
Capital Kiwi Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/13/00
Posts: 3146
Loc: Northamptonshire, England
I guess the arguments about verbal pronunciation versus written language are based on the premise that the written language was designed, rather than evolved. This would also be true of the alphabets we use. We see them as "fixed" and treat them as if they sprang, fully-formed, from some linguistic womb. Think, for a minute, about how we use language in everyday speech, but write it significantly differently.

But from my perspective this simply cannot be true. An interesting little book by the bloke who was until relatively recently the editor of the OED (and I'm sorry, I forget the names of both the author and his microtome, but I'm sure someone on this list will know), traced the development of the alphabet. There were fits and starts. Letters (such as "y" and "j") came and went - almost as a fashion statement like bell-bottomed jeans - and were adopted into positions in words based on a set of "rules" or, more likely, circumstances, that had precious little to do with pronunciation. Remember, when written language first became common in Europe, it was the preserve of Father Steve's friends' religious forebears, scrivening away in scriptoriums.

When I was learning Latin (using the word "learning" in the broadest possible sense), I asked my Latin teacher how he knew that the "c" was hard and that the "v" was pronounced as a "w". He admitted he didn't know. I've never been able to find any evidence, and I've looked, for this assumption. The best explanation I've found came from yet another book which I cannot remember the name of. I remember it was written either very early last century or at the end of the nineteenth century. Anyway, this author believed that modern Latin pronunciation (i.e. how we believe today that it was pronounced up until about 550 AD) probably came down to us via the Catholic Church and Church Latin. This appears to have been taught to new priests, who were often illiterate when they entered the priesthood. Because of this, the language was taught as a formula for ease of presentation.

This explanation may also be a load of codswallop, but it does sound reasonable. Especially since Latin scholars are now studying Latin graffiti (some of it on unburned walls in Pompeii and Herculaneum) and they're finding out what I would have thought would have been intuitively obvious - not everybody spoke Latin the same way across the entire Roman world.

Why do I think this is so obvious? Look at English as spoken in various parts of England alone, ignoring Scotland, Wales and Ireland which all learned it as a foreign language in the first instance. Sometimes you'd be hard put to believe that RP and Brummie English were the same language.

Again, looking at how English as spoken elsewhere affects common usage at the source, England, both the pronunciation and the usage are influenced by repeated usage from elsewhere. English may be ever so slightly more prone to take these changes "on board", but I'm willing to bet that there was Iberian Latin, Mauretanian Latin, AEgyptian Latin Syriac Latin, Aramaic Latin, Graeco-Latin, yadda, yadda, yadda. And the legions would have picked up the local pronunication and usages as they were often posted to a province for a long time at a stretch and recruited locally. Even where the soldiers were not actually Romans, they often went to Rome, taking their linguistic usages with them. And let's not forget all of the "Roman citizens" who were certainly not Roman by birth, but who all saw Rome as a mecca and went there if they could, taking their version of the language with them.

I'm willing to believe that in the high patrician households, perhaps the imperial household and in the top plebian households "pure" Latin was maintained, in much the same was as Oxbridge and RP English is. But I would find it hard to credit that Marcus the tanner who worked in a leather shop at the base of the Aventine and who lived in a filthy and damp apartment on the fourth floor in one of the jerry-built insulae which Rome was littered with in imperial times would have given two figs about correct Latin usage. Any more than the residents of Seven Dials in London did in the mid-nineteenth century. Letters would have been pronounced hard or soft, omitted, inserted, replaced with others - or whatever - with gay abandon.

And since virtually the only written Latin that has come down to us over the ages was written by scholars of one ilk or another, and who would probably have made a fetish out of correct usage of the language, Heaven alone knows how the vernacular would have been written down, if it ever was!

Does this view seem unreasonable? I'd love to debate this with people who are interested!

Sorry for the outpouring ... spam me.

The idiot also known as Capfka ...

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