NativLang.

I can’t believe NativLang has been around since 1998 and this is the first I’ve heard of it, but so it goes. Thanks to Bruce for alerting me, and I will lazily quote his MetaFilter post on it for the links and descriptions:

NativLang, brainchild of linguist Joshua Rudder, has a series of videos dealing with various aspects of language, orthography, and so forth. For example: What Latin Sounded Like and How We Know. Kanji Story – How Japan Overloaded Chinese CharactersThe Tribe That Cursed Too MuchHow Korea crafted a better alphabetIndia’s awesome hybrid alphabet thingSemitic’s vowel-smuggling consonantsThe Hardest Language To Spell

And, taking something of a risk: What will Future English be like?

Bruce adds: Be sure to read the comments.

Comments

  1. The Quintillian quote in the video about the pronunciation of Latin (“c keeps its strength before all the vowels”) is the first direct evidence I’ve seen so far about the uniform pronunciation of the letter. The other sources I’ve read about Latin pronunciation (all in English, since I don’t know Latin, such as Vox Latina and public domain books on the web) merely cite indirect evidence such as transliteration of Greek and Latin words and spelling mistakes in inscriptions, for some reason.

  2. DJ Leslie says:

    I, too, just stumbled across NativLang’s Youtube channel. I’m particularly interested in his video on Modding the Latin Alphabet [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mC0wsuowbRA], and want to add it to my video list for educating librarians responsible for early printed materials.

    From what I know about the evolution of I/J/U/V/W in print, I’m strongly inclined to trust the rest of the content, but haven’t been able to come up with much information about creator Joshua Rudder. His books are self-published, and his authority record [https://lccn.loc.gov/no2014158087] makes no mention of academic credentials. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it would be good to have some confirmation from linguistic experts that his content is sound.

    Information? Thoughts? Advice?

  3. marie-lucie says:

    The Quintillian quote in the video about the pronunciation of Latin (“c keeps its strength before all the vowels”) is the first direct evidence I’ve seen so far about the uniform pronunciation of the letter.

    The context of the quote is whether the Greek letter K (kappa) should be used in writing Latin, as in VINKERE rather than VINCERE, and Quintillian argues that the letter is not needed. It seems to me that Quintillian’s quote could mean that at least some people (presumably the uneducated) did NOT “keep the strength” of C before all the vowels, otherwise there would have been no need for anyone to emphasize the approved pronunciation by using K and for Quintillian (a prescriptivist) to comment. The fact that NONE of the descendants of Latin except the geographically and culturally isolated Sardinian have preserved the K sound before i and e would seem to indicate that the shift in the pronunciation of C occurred fairly early, at least in uneducated speech.

    The fronting of Velars ([k, g]) before front vowels ([i, e]) is a natural phonetic adaptation (caused by the position of the tongue in pronouncing) that has happened (and keeps happening) in many languages, although the end results of the process can be different.

  4. @marie-lucie: I agree. “C keeps its strength before all the vowels” would be an odd thing to say — or at least, an odd way to say it — if it were descriptively accurate; rather, it only makes sense as a prescriptivist assertion about how it supposedly is. (It’s like saying that “I didn’t see nobody” means “I saw somebody”.) And this would not be Quintillian’s only prescriptivist pronunciation pronouncement.

    (The exception would be if he were contrasting Latin with some other language where the analogue of C did change before certain consonants. But that does not seem to be the case here.)

  5. Vox Latina says there’s no evidence for sibilant ‘soft’ C in Latin before the 5th century. On the other hand, in earliest Latin there were three different letters for the hard C/K sound: C before E and I, K before consonants and A, Q before O and U. This was of course simplified to C before everything except U, Q before U, and K only in a couple of archaic words (Kalendae and the proper name Kaeso). It certainly looks as if there was some difference between C, K, and Q, otherwise why bother with 3 different symbols? But there’s no reason to think any of them was a sibilant until very late.

  6. C/Q is a marginal, but real, phonemic distinction: cui is /kui̯/, qui is /kʷi/. But C/K is just inherited from Etruscan, which had no voiced stops and used Γ to write /k/.

  7. marie-lucie says:

    MH: It certainly looks as if there was some difference between C, K, and Q, otherwise why bother with 3 different symbols? But there’s no reason to think any of them was a sibilant until very late.

    It is likely that C was a palatalized velar, K a back velar, and Q of course a labialized velar. A palatalized velar tends to evolve in different ways, as we can see from the various reflexes of Ce- and Ci- in Italian, Spanish and French. A palatalized stop does not immediately become a sibilant: the usual intermediary is an affricate, of which there are several possible kinds.

  8. Sir JCass says:

    ’Tis true, on words is still our whole debate,
    Disputes of me or te, of aut or at,
    To sound or sink in cano, O or A,
    Or give up Cicero to C or K.

    Pope in The Dunciad, mocking Richard Bentley.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    The Quintillian quote in the video about the pronunciation of Latin (“c keeps its strength before all the vowels”) is the first direct evidence I’ve seen so far about the uniform pronunciation of the letter. The other sources I’ve read about Latin pronunciation (all in English, since I don’t know Latin, such as Vox Latina and public domain books on the web) merely cite indirect evidence such as transliteration of Greek and Latin words and spelling mistakes in inscriptions, for some reason.

    But what, if anything, did Quintilian mean by “strength”?

    Compare the language-specific meanings of “hard” and “soft”. English: C and G are “hard” when pronounced [k g], “soft” otherwise. German: /p t k/ are “hard”, /b d g/ are “soft”. Russian: palatalized (Gaelic: “slender”) consonants are “soft”, the others (Gaelic: “broad”) are “hard”.

  10. The first evidence of sibilant C being late doesn’t mean that the sound-change is late: as long as people can still spell, they will keep the old spelling even if it no longer fits the phonetic facts. Cf. the heritable/heridable, Pardeeville/Partyville discussion in the other thread.

  11. But people can’t spell, not consistently, if the spelling no longer fits the phonetic facts. See: bathroom walls the world over. If the phonetic facts have changed, popular scribbles will reflect it.

  12. Yes, the analogy is bad, because the voicing of /t/ can fairly be represented by d in English writing, but there was no plausible way to represent the fricativization of c in Vulgar Latin, so it would tend to be left alone falsa de melia. In the 5C, people writing Latin were still writing -s, -m even though they had been lost for six hundred years. And does French graffiti tend to the phonetic? A Google image search for “french graffiti” suggests the answer is no.

  13. Well, the French all have dictées from the time they learn to read, so they get proper spelling drilled into them.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    Don’t the Poles also have that? Reportedly, the very important word chuj shows up in graffiti in all four mathematically possible ways (h-, -ó-) about equally often.

    The fact that NONE of the descendants of Latin except the geographically and culturally isolated Sardinian have preserved the K sound before i and e would seem to indicate that the shift in the pronunciation of C occurred fairly early, at least in uneducated speech.

    Vegliot “Dalmatian”, on the less isolated island of Krk, kept [k] before e (though not before i) until it died out in the late 19th/early 20th century.

  15. marie-lucie says:

    LH: the French all have dictées from the time they learn to read, so they get proper spelling drilled into them.

    I grew up with those, but I am not sure if it is still true. Judging from what I see from French people on facebook (and sometimes even in Le Monde!), either there is far less drilling, or people just don’t care that much any more.

  16. Quelle dommage!

  17. David Marjanović says:

    Quel dommage – same pronunciation, but -age, -ège, -ige are masculine.

  18. Thanks!

  19. Apparently you can put me under the “people just don’t care that much any more” category.

  20. Trond Engen says:

    I never get the gender of French nouns right. But that words in -age are masculine is the worst. Or, well, for balance, I also don’t get that words in -tion are feminine.

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