Wednesday, January 25, 2012

IPA for Latin

We got introduced to the IPA in class this week. It was done in the context of English, which I understand. Everyone in the room speaks English and thus has a common point of reference—well, and really, would you want to learn IPA in the context of Quenya or something dangerously unfamiliar? So English sweeps in to save the day. But I find the exclusive study of English dull. So let's spice things up with Latin. Hopefully there aren't too many mistakes.

We have consonants.

Labial Labiodental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p   b

t   d

k   g

Aspirated stop ph





Nasal     m

   n     ɲ






Approximant     w

    j    w

Lateral Approximant


Most of these are what you'd think they are. Latin writes c where IPA uses /k/. Latin writes n, but does both /n/ and /ŋ/ depending on where it is. So regina gets /n/ and angulus gets /ŋ/. R is kind of tricky too. I've heard some people make the r/rr distinction be /r/ and /rː/, but I've also heard—and use personally—/ɾ/ and /r/ for that distinction.

Then we have ASCII art hiding out as vowels.


    \              |   |
     \   ɪ         |   |
      \            |   |
        \          |   |
         \         |   |
          \        |   |
            \      |   |
             \     |   |
              \    |   |

As you can see, not only is this really ugly, but Latin doesn't have much in the way of vowels. The sad thing is that /y/ is really only found in Greek loan words. There is also the matter of /ɪ/. I grayed it out, as I don't think (not having read Allen's Vox Latina, which you can buy for me if you love me) the Romans used it. I can tell you that /ɪ/ is taught for short i in the United States. I can't vouch for elsewhere. 

Each of the vowels is either long or short, as Latin vowels come in both flavors. Hic and hīc form a minimal pair that shows off vowel length.
hic (this) = /hic/ or /hɪc/, the former is probably better
hīc (here) = /hiːc/
Yes, I picked i. It shows off the /i/ versus /ɪ/ thing that we teach. Lastly there are nasalized vowels. I really wish these were more commonly taught. When vowel + m is the last part in a word, the vowel nasalizes.
am, as in tam = /tã/
em, as in hem = /hẽ/
im, as in turrim = /turĩ/
om as in the archaic quom collapsed into um
um as in virum = /wiɾũ/
There are other places that nasalization occurs, but this should be enough to get the idea. I haven't listed the diphthongs yet, so here you go:
ae = /ai/au = /au/ei = /ei/eu = /eu/oe = /ɔi/ or /oi/, but the latter is probably better.ui = /wi/

So now let's have some IPA fun at Catullus's expense. Here's Catullus 85:
odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
And in IPA:
/oːd et amoː. kwaːɾ id faciã foɾtasːe rekwiːɾis/
/nescio sed fieɾiː senti et ekskɾukioɾ/
The elisions were kind of tricky to show, so I just dropped 'em. I probably should've done something ever so slightly different, but my transcription somewhat preserves the word divisions as is. Shall we do this for Ancient Greek sometime?

For fun, here it is in Latin.