Sunday, January 29, 2012

Allen's Vox Latina

Dude, IPA: 1888. Allen's Vox Latina: 1965. Why didn't he use IPA for everything?

Seriously, he's killing me. For the consonants Allen mostly used IPA. But then just to keep everyone on their toes, he makes a new system for vowels. Srsly? I can forgive the horrible triangle of vowels thing, mostly. The lack of IPA in the vowels is just inexcusable—it makes an otherwise clear book much more difficult to understand. I sometimes go nuts at classicists. Too many won't get on board with the rest of the world, be it Allen with IPA or shamefully too many teachers with second-language acquisition. <rant/>.

As for the book itself, it's an interesting read that is squarely aimed at folks that want the information without all of the nasty technical details. But I've got a bone to pick: how is he seriously saying that "gn" is pronounced, as near as I can tell /ŋn/. I don't know about you, but that's a tricky combo for me to make in flowing speech. Allen says that we should pronounce gn like "hang nail", but that is a low frequency word in English. "Magnus" is a bit more, shall we say, high frequency (the "gn" digraph occurs 93 times in Caesar's de Bello Gallico, Book 1). Maybe if I get motivated, I'll look into the pronunciation of "gn" thing.

Anyway. The whole thing seems like an invitation over to /ɲ/ to me. Or at least this is how I got to /ɲ/ in my ordinary pronunciation of Latin, despite aiming for /ŋn/.