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Does Arbitrary Latin Pronunciation Bug Anyone Else?

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#1 RJMooreII

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 01:56 AM

I am not talking about Ecclessiastical Latin. The Roman Church can do whatever she pleases with that, it's their baby. I mean reconstructed classical Latin. I have heard sooo many annoying pronunciations 'siserro' and 'see-zur'. This is not just an Anglicization like 'William the Conquerer', that's an actual literal translation into equivalent English. This is like saying 'Hug-O CHaves' (rhymes with saves) for Hugo Chavez. It's just wildly innacurate.

I have heard various ill-informed folks say that 'we just don't know', which is ridiculous. A lot of comparative orthography, tracing of word-borrowing and spelling errors have provided us with a pretty good picture of how most Latin sounds were. We may be missing out on how Latins mispronounced their own language (vulgar Latin), but we have a pretty solid idea of how Latin grammarians would have told you to pronounce it. The idea that this is some insane difficult is absurd; observe that some people can speak Akkadian which has no living descendents. If these people want to prove a pretty solid linguistic scholarly consensus wrong the burden is on them, they can't just hand wave hundreds of years of scholarship away to suit their laziness.

Some people might say, "Well, I don't care." Maybe you don't, but you're still doing it wrong.

The worst is that so many Latin courses in schools still seem to teach some god-awful mix of Church Latin and lazy English pronunciations, which is basically unintelligible.
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#2 Ironhand

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 04:10 AM

Enlighten me. How should Cicero be pronounced? I've always wondered.
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#3 Kortoso

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 04:34 PM

In classical Latin, "C" is always pronounced like a "K".

I don't know what accident of linguistics changed "C" into an "S" or "I" into an "EYE". :)



#4 PaulMc

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 04:37 PM

In classical Latin, "C" is always pronounced like a "K".

I don't know what accident of linguistics changed "C" into an "S" or "I" into an "EYE". :)

Right. I'd heard "kaiser" came from "Caesar" - "keez-er".

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#5 Kortoso

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 04:47 PM

Correct.
Incidentally, I discovered that Google translate now does Latin. :)

#6 Almuric

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 06:37 PM

Okay, some people today speak Akkadian, but I suspect that the actual Akkadians would be correcting them on their grammer.
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#7 John Maddox Roberts

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 08:26 PM

Mark Twain: "Foreigners spell better than they pronounce."
The fact is, only English speakers even make an attempt to approximate Latin pronunciation. The French wouldn't dream of it. Those historical figures are invariably labeled "Jules Cesar," "Marc Antoine," "Ciceron" and so forth.
Incidentally, when referring to the capital of France in an ordinary conversation , say "Paree" instead of "Paris." People will consider you affected.

#8 Rockamobile

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 11:34 PM


In classical Latin, "C" is always pronounced like a "K".

I don't know what accident of linguistics changed "C" into an "S" or "I" into an "EYE". :)

Right. I'd heard "kaiser" came from "Caesar" - "keez-er".


As did Czar . :)

Edited by Rockamobile, 11 April 2012 - 11:36 PM.


#9 Almuric

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:30 AM

And I just realized I misspelled "grammar" as "grammer".

I guess that's how language changes: one spelling mistake at a time. ;)
"It is more than a mortal sea. Your hands are red with blood and you follow a red sea-path, yet the fault is not wholly with you. Almighty God, when will the reign of blood cease?"

Turlogh shook his head. "Not so long as the race lasts."


--- The Dark Man, by Robert E. Howard

#10 Pictish Scout

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 04:06 PM

I think it depends on your native tongue. I studied Latin for 3 years in high school in Portugal. I think we have the same Latin pronunciation as in Italy or Spain. And I am sure it wasn’t the ecclesiastic pronunciation.

In Portuguese we pronounce César (like: he “Sais” – and: we “are”). But in Latin we pronounce Caesar (K-eye ssar or K-eye sir and not keesar)

We had a foreign student who was North American (not sure if he was from US or Canada) and he had a hard time pronouncing the Latin “R”, “O”, “U”, “J”, etc.

But I am not sure we (and every Latin student in the world) were being faithful to the actual pronunciation.

There were so many variants, more than 600 years of Roman civilization.

I’m not sure the “classical” pronunciation was always the same even in the higher spheres of society. I don’t think Romulus Agustulus spoke like Julius Caesar the same way English politicians don´t talk like Shakespeare.

It is interesting the conservation of Latin words close to the original in English (like Julius Caesar), as the English speaking people are Germanic (linguistically) and were never part of the Latin world.

In Latin derived languages we had plenty of time to transform and distort the classical and provincial Latin and make it our national languages. That’s why we had Jules César in French, Julio César and Júlio César in Spanish and Portuguese respectively (though the Spanish pronounce like RRulio or Hulio and we pronounce “J” the same way as the French).

I found that pronunciation in The Passion of the Christ more ecclesiastical than classical. I’m used to the “Anglophone” pronunciation like “Marcas Aurilias” and “Maximas” but sometimes it sounds very funny like Ju Lee Eye (Julii). From what I learned is more like “You- Lee”.

#11 RJMooreII

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 11:10 PM

Okay, some people today speak Akkadian, but I suspect that the actual Akkadians would be correcting them on their grammer.

In most cases I suspect not. Your average Akkadian scholar reads far more Akkadian than 99% of Akkadian speakers ever would have. Though, doubtless, there were elements of speech and slang we were unaware of, and some rules of thumb they used that we don't (for example, it's perfectly acceptable for purposes of literal meaning to talk like Yoda in England, but you're basically not 'supposed' to.')

Enlighten me. How should Cicero be pronounced? I've always wondered.

For or less like Ki'ker'O where the Ki rhymes with 'me'.



I’m not sure the “classical” pronunciation was always the same even in the higher spheres of society. I don’t think Romulus Agustulus spoke like Julius Caesar the same way English politicians don´t talk like Shakespeare.

That's true, but what we've reconstructed probably reflects a theoretical average. Something a Latin speaker probably would have understood.

Naturally, people would have had their own idiosyncrasies then as they do now. In fact, one reason we know how much about how Latin words are supposed to be said and spelled is from persistant spelling mistakes people made.

Edited by RJMooreII, 13 April 2012 - 11:12 PM.

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#12 constantine

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 06:30 PM

Enlighten me. How should Cicero be pronounced? I've always wondered.


It is pronounced kee-KEH-ro.

#13 Kortoso

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 07:47 PM

If the word has more than two syllables, it follows the Law of the Penult: if the penult is long it is stressed, if it is short the antepenult is stressed.

#14 RJMooreII

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 01:43 AM

You also roll your Rs in Latin. Spaniards have retained that, though probably modified it.
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