Sunday, February 26, 2012

Infantile [ð]

I hear that [ð] and [θ] are kind of tricky noises to make for young mouths. Yet my son was sitting on my lap and saying something like [θðθðθð] as if it were old news.

Clearly an advanced child.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Meanwhile g becomes engma

First a bit of rant. Then some fun.

Ok, I get that this happes in Latin:
/n/ -> [ŋ] / _C(+velar)
For those who don't read linguistic algebra, I mean something pretty tame. Oh, and if you're studying Italian the same thing is true. The phoneme /n/ becomes the phone [ŋ] in front of velar phonemes like /k/ and /g/. And it makes sense: if you want to say incus (anvil), you don't want your tongue on your alveolar ridge [n] just before the velar consonant [k]. Adjust to [ŋ] and it's easier to say. ['ɪŋkus] is right. ['ɪnkus] is weird.

And I also get geminated consonants. You pronounce both p's in oppidum, so that ['oppɪdũ] is what you say. Likewise innocens is ['ɪnnoke:ns]. At least it is if you geminate consonants they way they do in Italian—a matter that I gather is open to question for Latin.

But magnus is [mɑŋnus]? I can reliably make that sound, but it isn't very easy or flowing. Some Latinists, my teachers among them, said [mɑgnus]. The [gn] pronunciation completely skips this problem, but I've not read anyone saying that this is how gn was actually pronounced. I want to get to the bottom of this, since Allen's argument in Vox Latina didn't seem all that good in light of two things.

First, [ŋn] isn't easy to say in running speech. Maybe it's just a practice thing as I can readily say agmen, which goes from velar to labial.

Nor, as Allen points out, does [ŋn] help explain developments in the Romance languages. This to me is the big consideration for any restoration of pronunciation. It must help explain later stages of the language, since those developments did occur.

One thing is certain: the gn in Latin isn't like the γγ in Greek. For whatever reason, the Romans thought gn was a separate sound from both nn and gg. After all, we've got agger and innocens. Both have geminated n's and g's. Greek allows for geminated [n]: ἐννέα. But anywhere you see γγ, be sure that you'll say [ŋg]—ἄγγελος. So there's some other thing that gn does in Latin. (And maybe when the kids are old enough to not bang on the piano while I work, I'll make a serious look-see into the matter.)

Now for the fun. No engma in your California case? Need one anyway? Just turn a capital G 180º. Presto! (Image lifted from wikipedia.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

All tricked out

I had figured that "tricked out" was a more modern way of saying "decked out" or "gussied up." And I was wrong.

I'm reading L. R. Palmer's The Latin Language, and on one page he used "tricked out" to describe something. He was using it the way that the Urban Dicitonary uses it. Like them, I had figured it was relatively modern and referred to something you'd do to a car. So I was taken back when Palmer said
…the "modern" style of Seneca…tricked out with archaisms and poeticisms.
Palmer wrote this in a book published in 1954. He was an Oxford professor. Hardly the sort to be using modern slang. Well, I dug into the trusty ol' Ngram, and what do I find? That's right, "tricked out" has a long history in English.
…the Town-hall, wich was tricked out in the most theatrical manner…
Care to guess when? 1769. Yeah, I'm surprised too. (There are earlier, but this example makes me happy.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

3io and 4th conjugation

I went to a seminar at the University of Chicago yesterday, and, to be quite frank, the lecturer, Benjamin Fortson, was talking about things I didn't know much about despite the topic of the talk being the Latin passive infinitive in -(r)ier.

I did get some really cool take away from it, so it wasn't a waste of time. For the folks who are deep into IE historical linguistics, this is not news. For the rest of it is. I'd cite sources, but Prof. Fortson treated it like it was no big deal, so I guess he's my source for everything that follows.

I'm ditching the macrons and IPA to keep this visible for everyone. Here's where the 3io comes from. First the ugly chart.

verbs in -ye/o
“light” monosyllables
“heavy” monosyllables and polysyllables
this conjugation's i is short
this conjugation's i is long

Ok, so here it is in steps.

In the group of -ye/o verbs, one of two things can happen. If your root is a "light" monosyllable, you may go down the left side—but you aren't required to. (Light monosyllables: a short vowel followed by only one consonant, which is to say the syllable is open when combined with an ending.)
1. Standard -ye/o verb.
2. -y- contracts to short i.
3. 3io conjugation: now you know why the i's in the present tense are all short.
In the other group, some "light" monosyllables, "heavy" monosyllables and polysyllabic groups, the sequence is this:
1. Standard -ye/o verb.
2. An epenthetic i sneaks in.
3. -iy- contracts to long i.
4. 4th conjugation 
Cool. So far so good. As you can see, the left side works for capio. If you start with *fakyeo, you've got the light monosyllable *fak-, so you're ok to get to facio. Same with *gradyeo. Though it may have been nasty deponent way back when, so let's pretend what I'm showing is the case since the rule applies deponent or not. *grad- is light, so the left side is ok. You can wind up at gradior as a 3io using this scheme.

Obviously being a light monosyllable is no obstacle to going down the right side. Check out *venyeo. Follow the steps, and you get to venio. Heavy monosyllables, like *audyeo go down the right to yeild audio. Polyllable roots go down the right too. So with *sepelyeo, you get sepelio.

So far, so good.

But what about *egradyeo? Sure, it's related to *gradyeo by compounding, but its root is a polysyllable. So 4th conjugation right? What? Cicero says 3io? Sure enough:
…si ex Syria egredi atque irrumpere in meam provinciam conarentur…
                                                      —ad familiares 15.2
It has a typical 3rd conjugation infinitive form. What happened? Rules get broken? Well, first let me show you something else:
foras egrediri video lenonem Lycum.
                                                      —Plautus, Poenulus 742
Hey, wait a second. That egrediri looks like a 4th conjugation form. Well, Plautus must think it is. So somewhere between Plautus and Cicero, egrediri moved from 4th to 3io by analogy. 

Anyway. Here's the cool thing you can take away from this mess: In 3io verbs, CVCio, the V is short. 

The other cool thing I learned is that fio takes over the passive of facio by suppletion. I had always wondered why fio seemed like some awful anti-deponent.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rico suave

Ok, so maybe I'm making a terrible reference to that song. If Prof. Rico sees this, I can only hope he forgives my flippant attitude and takes it for the compliment I mean it as.

Anyway, Prof. Rico has that kind of command of Greek. This video is really long, but it should give you an idea of what an Ancient Greek class can look like. The guy never breaks away from target language. It's amazing. I've done stuff like this with Latin, but I don't think I've ever gotten much above 75% in target language.

I really like TPR-style and active-use approaches to teaching dead languages, since they can often be quite removed from our day-to-day experience. Of course, some of them are: Avestan anyone? But Latin and Ancient Greek have a broad literature that is made that much richer with active command of the language. Or at least that's been my experience with Latin.

You can find out more about Rico's book, Polis here, but it's a major pain to import to America. Just take my word for it. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Only a test…

In case you didn't think I actually spoke Latin…

I should probably do more stuff like this, since some students are always after me to speak Latin. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Must… write… abstract…

But this isn't the week that looks good. I've got a mountain of translation and lexicography to do. See how the big words make it sound nice? I'm trying to read some 3rd rate medical stuff and make a glossary for a textbook.

To top it all off, our slide into IPA hell continues in class. It's not like it's hard, but it's got lots of jiggery moving parts. I grouse and complain but work anyway.

Abstract deadline = 17 Feb.