Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Latin: Classical vs. Italian Pronunciation

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This is a perennial question for Latin teachers: which system of pronunciation to use.

I agree with the above analysis, and I teach Latin using the modern (Italian or Ecclesiastical) pronunciation (as well as using the living language approach of Hans Oerberg's Lingua Latina text). We also pray in Latin using modern church pronunciation.

The great 20th century scholar Dorthothy Sayers addressed this same issue in a 1952 paper.


Pr. H. R. said...

We use the Orberg stuff in our Lutheran school as well, and we hit it pretty hard around the house with our own kids - but we use the classical pronunciation.

My rationale is that if one goes on in Classical studies, the classical pronunciation is what you'll encounter most - and having learned that, it is easy to slide into Ecclesiastical pronunciation. I think it's harder going the other way.

Sed possumus vos (wohs) intelligere, si appelatis nos "vos" (vohs), et credo vice versa.


Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I agree with the conclusion of the man in your video. And I like that he refers to "Italian" pronunciation. For this gets to the heart of the key to that style. Ecclesiastical Latin ought to be pronounced basically as a Roman speaks on the street. It is noteworthy that William Sydney Allen claims in Vox Latina that this Roman Ecclesiastical Latin "is probably far less removed from classical Latin than any other 'national' pronunciation."

I don't condemn classical pronunciation per se. But it is funny to hear some of these Latinists pronounce words when they give papers at a symposium, or what is worse, when they say a prayer, with the wooden style of the classical pronunciation. It is a construct, as your vlogger points out, and in general, I just think it is far better to use the form that the Church, and academia, by the way, has used for centuries and centuries now.

Also, I humbly challenge the notion that churchly Latin provides any difficulties for the student who wishes to study the classics. Classical pronunciation is actually very logical, and not hard for the scholar to pick up when needbe.

Past Elder said...

Hah. Having learned Latin in RC schools, (mostly pre Revolution, er, Vatican II) there is only one pronunciation. The other is for secular scholars who want to divorce Latin from its connexion to the church, similar to the divorce of Scriptural study from belief in Scripture.

The video dude makes a good point, in that ecclesiastical Latin, or if you must, Italian Latin, is a form of the language as actually spoken, whereas "Ciceronian" as we called it back in the day is a guess, and educated guess, literally, but a guess nonetheless.

(Chichero being of course the standard third year in a four-year Latin curriculum: grammar; Julius Caesar; Cicero; Virgil. This is straight from God.)

So even if you find the RCC utterly loathsome -- not so far off from my present position -- we must not allow the RCC to rob us of something catholic again as "too Catholic". Latin pronounced "Italian" style is a living form of the language, not a later guess.

Not to mention, the writers of the BOC sure as hell did not speak Kickeronian Latin for Judas in the scriptorum's sake.

But, there are regional variations; German church Latin is a riot -- diphthongs come out like umlauts and all sorts of stuff. Ratzinger generally sticks to real ecclesiastical Latin, which is as the man said Italian, guess all those years in the Curia cured him more or less.

But living language? Forget it. Even the last Roman conclave was in Italian, not Latin.

As distinct from Sister Colleen's classes, in grad school in a secular university in my Graduate Review Latin to qualify Latin as one of my two doctoral languages -- the other was German; I was years away from being Lutheran then, but since discovered in some circles Latin and German are called the "confessional languages" and Hebrew and Greek the "Biblical Languages" -- I was the only one who spoke with a "church" accent.

Which leads to a reason the video dude did not give for ecclesiastical Latin usage -- as I used to kid my grad school classmates, when we get to heaven I'll be the only one here without an accent!