Royal Language and Wayang.

Normally I don’t bother reposting stuff from the Log because I assume most people who are interested in language blogs frequent both venues, but this post by Victor Mair is so full of goodies I can’t resist. First he quotes General MacArthur’s translator, George Kisaki, on the difficulty of interpreting for the emperor:

The emperor spoke a whole different other kind of Japanese—a royal dialect, something that only the Imperial Family and the court really used. I had to study up on it to understand what he was saying. It was like learning a second language.

After discussing a couple of his own royal encounters, Mair goes on to Javanese shadow plays (wayang):

In all types of wayang, the dalang (performer) employs an extraordinary range of linguistic registers, from low, earthy colloquial to language that is heavily imbued with Sanskritic and Old Javanese forms, while the very highest register is reserved only for royal personages. When I attended performances of wayang by Indonesian dalangs, I could tell when they shifted from one register to another because they had a noticeably different sound and cadence, but I didn’t understand any of it.

Once, however, in the mid-70s, I attended an extraordinary wayang kulit performance in Paine Hall at Harvard University. Everything that the American dalang said and sang was in translated English, and when he delivered his lines in middle register, I could understand everything. However, when he shifted into lower and higher registers, his voice was electronically manipulated and modulated in such a fashion that it became more and more difficult to comprehend the higher and lower he went on the scale of politeness versus vulgarity. The effect was uncanny. I still remember straining to pick out bits and pieces of the lower and higher registers, and could manage with effort when the dalang was using what would have been mid-levels on the politeness scale of Javanese. But when he adopted the highest and lowest levels of speech and song, I could comprehend virtually nothing of what he was saying and singing.

It’s a brilliant idea in its way, but it would infuriate me — I hate being deliberately kept from understanding! Also, I agree with Mair when he says “I much prefer American English, where we don’t have elaborate honorific language.”

Comments

  1. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I don’t think you (or Mair) need the word “American” in the last sentence.

  2. Hear, hear, as one says.

  3. Athel: I think he’s talking about Your Majesty and such, which are marginal cases of honorific language. In the U.S., there are conventions for lawyers and legislators and such to use on each other, but the President is simply Mr. President, at least so far.

  4. Yes, there’s obviously nothing like the kind of differentiation you get in Javanese, but UK English still has a bit more in the way of formality levels than US.

  5. Legalese

  6. marie-lucie says:

    Some years ago I met an Anglican Church dignitary who happened to spend a few days in the same B&B as I was. One day he related how a friend of his, a bishop, had been invited to meet the Queen at one of her less formal residences, perhaps Balmoral. Like every such visitor he was first instructed in the proper behaviour. Among other things, if speaking to the Queen (only after being spoken to) he should address her as “Ma’am” (pronounced the British way, with the “a” of “father”). No “Majesty”.

  7. UK English still has a bit more in the way of formality levels than US

    There are some differences that go the other way, it seems to me. Bill Clinton can still be referred to as President Clinton or Mr. President, even though he isn’t anymore, whereas no-one in the UK would talk about Prime Minister Blair or Mr. Prime Minister, even when he was in office. Similarly, senators and governors and many military people in the US retain their titles in some contexts even when they are out of office or retired.

    Then there’s the habit of referring to Maestro Dudamel, or even addressing the man as “Maestro” — I don’t think you hear that usage in the UK.

    And wasn’t there an Attorney General — I want to say Alberto Gonzales, but that’s probably my political bias at work — who insisted on being called “General”?

    At the opposite end of the spectrum I hear football presenters on TV introduce their buddies Mike and Bill as Coach Ditka and Coach Cowher…

    This isn’t about formal language, I guess, but I have the feeling that Americans like to give certain job-holders titles more than the Brits do.

  8. David Marjanović says:

    Mr. President

    That actually comes with its own weirdness: in the whole English language, I’ve encountered Mr. + title only for President, Vice President and Speaker, and nowhere else. This contrasts very strongly with its ubiquity in German or (with the article in between) French.

    The story goes that George Washington himself came up with this in deliberate opposition to the suggestions that others had floated, like Your Electile Majesty. Even so, it’s strange.

  9. He proposed it, but did not invent the usage: Mr. President was often used as the title of the presiding officer of a club long before the Constitution of 1787. Mr. Chairman and its gendered variants were and are similarly in use. Also, Elective Majesty, not Electile.

    He did propose, with his tongue in his cheek, His Superfluous Excellency and His Rotundity as titles for John Adams.

  10. who insisted on being called “General”?

    Not as far as I know. Neither the Attorney General (the mostly administrative head of the Department of Justice) nor the Solicitor General (the U.S. government’s chief trial lawyer) is entitled to be called “General”.

    However, the Surgeon General is so entitled, because he is the most senior officer of the U.S. Public Health Commissioned Corps, a uniformed branch of the U.S. government (unless it so happens that the Assistant Secretary for Health is also commissioned). The USPHCC descends from the U.S. Marine Hospital Service, which originally served the medical needs of the U.S. Merchant Marine. (This is not a uniformed branch, but does have a service academy analogous to the U.S. Naval Academy.) It has only officer ranks, and provides medical officers to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the Coast Guard (which is military in war, but part of Homeland Security in peace). In addition, the USPHCC serves many civilian roles: including biomedical and behavioral research, and medical services for Native Americans and during civil disasters.

    Similarly, the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is also uniformed, but for a different reason: so that its members cannot be treated as spies when doing coastal surveys during wartime.

  11. @David L: I don’t think Alberto Gonzales insisted on being addressed as “general,” but I do recall one or more members of Congress addressing him that way during hearings. Referring to attorneys general that way seems to be a thing among a small but not insignificant number of southern politicians.

    @John Cowan: My grandfather was a commissioned officer in the Public Health Service back in the 1940s. He was drafted after finishing college in 1944, and the army sent him to medical school. Obviously, by the time he finished the war was long over, so he opted to serve in the Public Health Service rather than the army. At the time, the Surgeon General was really the official who ran the whole service, but after it was folded into Health and Human Services, the job became rather ill-defined, which is a problem it still has today.

    I also just thought of another title in American politics that used to be prefixed by “Mister.” Supreme Court justices used to be “Mister Justice Marshall” or “Mister Chief Justice Vinson.” Apparently, the justices decided to stop using that form of address with the appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor, since they couldn’t figure out what to call her (although Miss Manners said it should have been “Madame Justice”).

  12. No electile? How my hopes have been dashed.

  13. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Among other things, if speaking to the Queen (only after being spoken to) he should address her as “Ma’am” (pronounced the British way, with the “a” of “father”).

    That’s funny. I’ve always remembered the scene (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvZkkdPrT7I) in the movie movie The Queen in which Tony Blair is given a crash course on how to palaver with QE2. The protocol officer (or whatever you call him) specifies “/mæm/ as in ‘ham’, not /mɑm/ as in ‘farm'”. I assumed that he so specified because he expected /mɑm/ would be the usuaul pronunciation for someone with Blair’s accent, but it’s nevertheless not appropriate for queens because reasons.

  14. marie-lucie says:

    Perhaps the protocol has changed since the story I heard?

  15. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Either that, or one or the other of these men encountered a protocol officer who had a bit of a laugh at his expense!

  16. col. squiffy von bladet (ret.) says:

    (Spam filters these days, isn’t it? All this talk of electile dysfunction and not I assume a peep from them.)

  17. Horst-Dan Gliebitz, AJP says:

    Surgeons in England are known as Mr rather than Dr (the same goes for dentists) despite the surgeon having a higher qualification. It’s supposed to be because surgery was performed by barbers, rather than by physicians, back in the 18C. But my question is what are women surgeons called there? Mrs X or Miss X (Ms isn’t common in Britain) or Dr X?

    Anyone who’s interested in how Emperor Hirohito is seen in postwar Japan should watch The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, an extraordinary documentary from 1987.

  18. David Marjanović says:

    Mr. Chairman

    Oh yes – a bad example to forget.

    or one or the other of these men encountered a protocol officer who had a bit of a laugh at his expense!

    That is most likely.

  19. J. W. Brewer says:

    The story I have heard re SCOTUS is that, when O’Connor was in the process of being appointed, discreet back-channel inquiries were made by the then-Chief-Justice (Burger) as to her own preferences as to nomenclature, which were deferred to. If she’d preferred the “Madam Justice SURNAME” style, it would have been used instead, and Mr. Justice SURNAME would have been retained by her male colleagues. There are other appellate courts in the English-speaking world (including some state supreme courts in the U.S.) that do retain that latter usage. Note the path-dependence where the subsequent female justices of SCOTUS were stuck with O’Connor’s preference even if their own might have been otherwise.

    Re BrEng, I know a young American scientist who just returned from a few years in England (he was getting his doctorate at Cambridge) who reported that the standard online registration software for signing up to attend academic talks and the like around that campus gave you a dizzying array of honorifics to choose from. So rather than giving your title-of-preference out of a set of let’s say Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms./Dr./Prof./Rev., which would be a pretty wide array by US standards, you had many more specialized choices on the pull-down menu, with the one he was always personally tempted to use being “Wing Commander.”

  20. Among other things, if speaking to the Queen (only after being spoken to) he should address her as “Ma’am” (pronounced the British way, with the “a” of “father”).

    Debretts says “In conversation, address The Queen as ‘Your Majesty’, and subsequently ‘Ma’am’ (to rhyme with Pam),” and they should know.

  21. marie-lucie says:

    Ma’am

    I can’t speak for royal protocol, I just repeated the pronunciation I heard from the bishop’s friend, which I remember very distinctly as I had never heard it before.

  22. George Grady says:

    The first time I heard “ma’am” pronounced similarly to how I pronounce “mom” was on Inspector Lewis (on PBS’s Mystery…well, in its subsumed-under-the-title-Masterpiece form). It’s the pronunciation Lewis uses when talking to his boss, the chief superintendent. It really threw me for a loop at first, until I figured out what the word really was!

  23. Thai is known for having some strongly differentiated registers – both a royal one and a clerical one.

    Also, don’t forget Wilford Brimley’s turn as the Postmaster General on Seinfeld. “In addition to bein’ a postmaster, I’m a general.”

  24. I’ve always found it strange how a certain profession could become part of someone’s name: “My name is Dr John Smith”. No, sorry, your name is John Smith, and you happen to be a doctor. It doesn’t make sense.

  25. per incuriam says:

    a dizzying array of honorifics to choose from. So rather than giving your title-of-preference out of a set of let’s say Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms./Dr./Prof./Rev., which would be a pretty wide array by US standards, you had many more specialized choices on the pull-down menu, with the one he was always personally tempted to use being “Wing Commander.”

    Airlines perhaps reflect national expectations in this regard. Air France’s drop-down list is very “laïc et républicain” – just Mr/Mrs/Ms. By contrast, British Airways offers a choice of 19 different titles (Lord, Rabbi, Viscount…). The US airline Delta lies in between when it comes to the “prefix”, as they term it (7 options), but unlike the European carriers also provides a selection of 15 “suffixes” (Jr, MD, IV etc.).

  26. I have heard that Mr. President for ex-Presidents is a modern, post-Reagan, phenomenon.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    Lufthansa offers Prof. Dr., because of course it does.

  28. Not totally off topic: In the Elizabeth Taylor film The VIPs there’s a bit where Margaret Rutherford’s character is checking in for a flight. She announces her name as Brighton, but the staff can’t find her on the list until one of the VIP-handlers tells them to look under D for “Duchess of” .

  29. I have to admit that I enjoy it when I travel to Germany for academic work, and the locals are always introducing me as “Herr Doktor Professor,” especially when I was one of the youngest people in the room.

  30. That’s one of the few reasons I regret not having gone through with the PhD and academic career; it would have been a blast being called “Herr Doktor Professor.”

  31. AJP Crown says:

    it would have been a blast being called “Herr Doktor Professor.”

    Perhaps you could ask Mme Hat to do this, although I found that when I used to get magazines sent to the Rt Hon. Lord Crown, K.G., O.M., the enjoyment wore off before the subscriptions were up.

  32. David Marjanović says:

    “Herr Doktor Professor,”

    Wrong order.

  33. Right. I had a professor at IU who retired, went back to Austria,and took another position at Graz, where he became a Herr Professor Doktor Doktor.

  34. Lufthansa offers Prof. Dr., because of course it does.

    I read somewhere not long ago that these titles appear in German passports. If so, then Lufthansa may simply be copying that information or requiring passengers filling out online forms to do likewise.

  35. David Marjanović says:

    I read somewhere not long ago that these titles appear in German passports.

    They do (at least optionally); also on Austrian ones.

  36. Chris Hansen says:

    I have heard an apocryphal story about a banquet held for the Queen in a Northern city. The Lord Mayor of that city was a man of the people, but he wanted to say the right thing when he introduced the Queen before her speech. He asked her, “Ma’am, how should I introduce you to the banquet for your speech?” She replied, “Well, the first time you address me you say, ‘Your Majesty’ and thereafter, as ‘Ma’am’. However, I wouldn’t worry about that. During the entire banquet you’ve been calling me ‘Luv’.”

  37. > I read somewhere not long ago that these titles appear in German passports.
    They do (at least optionally); also on Austrian ones.

    And this immediately raises the question; does your passport say Herr Doktor David Marjanović? (Modulo encoding problems at the relevant Austrian authority. 🙂 )

  38. David Marjanović says:

    No, but that’s because I got my current one 2 years before I defended my thesis. It still says Mag..

    *evil laugh*

    The people at the bank back home in Vienna actually call me Herr Magister.

  39. If I could get anybody to call me “magister,” that would be even more awesome.

  40. Brett:
    Just take a job as a high school Latin teacher. Your textbook is likely to encourage the students to call you ‘magister’ even you don’t.

  41. marie-lucie says:

    I suppose the female equivalent would be called magistra.

  42. My wife speaks Latin; my daughter is learning Latin; but I don’t know any Latin, alas.

  43. Alon Lischinsky says:

    @marie-lucie: magistra is exactly what we called our Latin professor when I was an undergraduate. She did encourage it, too.

  44. David Marjanović says:

    We still performed the whole “Salvete, dis[ts]ipuli!” “Salve, magistra!” ritual in the mid-1990s.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    Alon, David: was Latin taught by “immersion”? or was the salute a tradition maintained since the Middle Ages (and earlier)?

  46. David Marjanović says:

    The latter. We were not taught to speak, only to translate into German.

  47. The same here when I took Latin in the early 70s, except we said /dɪskɪpuli/ according to the reconstructed pronunciation, but without vowel length: the short vowels were mapped to /ɑɛɪɔʊ/, which conflated ă and ā. Considerable emphasis was put on the ability to read Latin correctly out loud, though otherwise it was a “grammar-translation” method. In first year, all papers began with the words “Labor omnia vincit”; in second year, “Latina Vivat.”

  48. but without vowel length

    I guess there wasn’t much emphasis on poetry, because it’s impossible to hear how poetry works without vowel length.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    We translated lots of poetry, but only got the barest minimum understanding of vowel length; so when we had to read the sentence aloud before starting to look for the verb, we hardly ever got it right the first time.

    Latin has lots of unstressed long vowels, and lots of short vowels in stressed open syllables. German, to overgeneralize very slightly, lacks both.

  50. No salutes in my Latin class in Montreal. We had lots of translating (from Latin to French and French to Latin) and grammatical analysis of Latin prose texts (no poetry and no reading of prose for us), and a Classical (as opposed to a Church) pronunciation (Caesar and Cicero realized as /kajsar/ and /kikero/), with vowel length and stress undiscused (the texts occasionally used a macron to separate minimal pairs, i.e. rosa versus rosā (nominative versus ablative singular), but we were never told that this corresponded to a real phonological distinction made by Latin speakers.

  51. Someone suggests I should become a Latin teacher, and suddenly there’s a discussion of secondary school Latin pedagogy. I love it.

  52. the texts occasionally used a macron to separate minimal pairs, i.e. rosa versus rosā (nominative versus ablative singular), but we were never told that this corresponded to a real phonological distinction made by Latin speakers

    That’s just so bizarre to me! How… why… I just…

  53. I had a friend trying to teach himself Catalan decades ago who didn’t know the language had seven stressed vowels because Joan Gili, who wrote the only book available in English at the time, treated the distinction between acute and grave accents as purely orthographic.

  54. J. W. Brewer says:

    My teenager has a magister for Latin this year (9th grade), but alas they apparently do the ritualized “salvete discipuli, salve magist(er/ra)” exchange less consistently than they did with the magistra she had last year in middle school. I was actually quite pleased last year to be informed that they were still doing that just as my own Latin classes had done over three decades previously.

  55. marie-lucie says:

    Like Etienne (but about a generation earlier) I had several years of Latin in which we did mostly translation to and from French. In the last year we studied a bit of poetry, the textbook explained the various types of “feet” but since no attention was EVER paid to vowel quantity or stress these explanations were useless and not even mentioned by the prof. Unlike Etienne’s class, we used a pronunciation which was basically treating Latin as if it was French, so Cicero was [sisero], discipulus [disipylys], Caesar “César”.

    I think that to appreciate Latin poetry you would have to study it in Italy where vowel quantity and stress are alive and well.

  56. I think that to appreciate Latin poetry you would have to study it in Italy where vowel quantity and stress are alive and well.

    There’s no vowel quantity in Italian, and I doubt they’re any better at appreciating Latin poetry than anybody else (well, better off than the French, of course, but almost everybody is in that regard). It’s very, very hard for someone who doesn’t speak a quantitative language to feel how classical poetry works; I well remember my sense of triumph at finally “getting it,” and I’d been working at it for years as a lover of both poetry and ancient languages.

  57. gwenllian says:

    That’s just so bizarre to me! How… why… I just…

    My Latin class was just years of translating texts and memorizing proverbs. No one ever told us anything about the language. I think the teachers didn’t make more of an effort to actually explain things to us because they considered it unnecessary for what they were trying to accomplish, i.e. familiarizing us somewhat with the vocabulary. I feel that, with the approach they took, the first couple of months would have been enough, all the time spent in class after that just felt like a total waste.

  58. What a sad waste of a language class!

  59. David Marjanović says:

    There’s no vowel quantity in Italian

    Worse! There’s very conspicuous vowel quantity in Italian – but it’s completely predictable: vowels are long in stressed open syllables and short everywhere else. It’s like German on steroids (…or Central Bavarian on caffeine, and both my dialect and Viennese belong to Central Bavarian).

    We were taught the rule for assigning stress in Latin, which is exactly opposite to the above situation in that length is primary (the penultimate syllable is stressed if it’s long, otherwise it’s unstressed and the stress goes on the antepenult). We sort of got half of a feeling for it; but I don’t think it ever really sank in. Instead of memorizing the vowel lengths in monēre, habēre vs. dicere, facere directly, we memorized (with occasional failures) that the first two belong to the e-conjugation (2nd conjugation) and therefore end in stressed -ere, while the last two belong to the consonantic conjugation (3rd conjugation) and therefore end in unstressed -ere.

    The macrons were spelled out in the actual textbooks, but not in the editions of literature/poetry we were supposed to translate, despite many other concessions to modern conventions (consistent distinction of u and v, English-style capitalization).

  60. David Marjanović says:

    …Also, a syllable can be long without containing any long vowel just by having enough consonants crammed into it. Syllable length, not vowel length by itself, is what counts for stress assignment and poetic meter in Latin.

  61. marie-lucie says:

    LH, David: By “appreciating Latin poetry” I meant the sounds and rhythm of it, not the content or style.

    It is true that vowel quantity is predictable in Italian, but I think it would be easier for Italians to learn to produce Latin vowel quantity (especially if textbooks marked the quantity with some symbol) than for French people. And Italian has words illustrating all the different rhythms of the various “feet” (iambs etc), which French cannot emulate.

  62. There’s very conspicuous vowel quantity in Italian – but it’s completely predictable

    Right; I meant distinctive vowel quantity, of course.

  63. Hat, Gwenllian: In my own class we never even had the impression that Latin was a language at all: it seemed a sort of esoteric code whose sole purpose was to get us to master our L1 (French) better. Nominal case marking, especially, struck some of my classmates as something so outlandishly complex that their assumption was that there was no way it could have been part of a real spoken language (Gwenllian: Don’t laugh! For teenage French L1 speakers with L2 English it was not an unreasonable belief. I imagine that native Slavic speakers found it easier to accept that Latin is a natural, bona fide language).

    And to be fair the translations of complex sentences from Latin to French and French to Latin succeeded admirably in this purpose (getting us to master our L1 better), to say nothing of how much learned French vocabulary can be analyzed, understood and efficiently remembered once the Latin “key” is known.

    Still, I am sure that this could have been accomplished while making it clear that Latin was once a language spontaneously and naturally learned and spoken by human beings, including boys our age…

    David: your remark on Bavarian phonology reminds me of the work of a Bavarian scholar whom you might find of interest, who has argued that the genesis of Bavarian involved a Romance substrate which, he claimed, influenced Bavarian profoundly.

  64. Nominal case marking, especially, struck some of my classmates as something so outlandishly complex that their assumption was that there was no way it could have been part of a real spoken language

    See, if I were teaching it I’d do it via Old French: li voisins nom., le voisin acc., etc.

  65. See, if I were teaching it I’d do it via Old French: li voisins nom., le voisin acc., etc.

    And now students must be made to believe that voisins was pronounced as it was written, [vojzins] or something of that ilk: a deeply unintuitive concept.

  66. It’s okay. Real people doing Old French do pronounce it roughly as they should.

  67. And now students must be made to believe that voisins was pronounced as it was written, [vojzins] or something of that ilk: a deeply unintuitive concept.

    Right, but one it’s essential to master if you’re going to learn anything worth knowing about the history of your own language.

  68. marie-lucie says:

    In secondary school (le lycée) we obligatorily studied Latin (and two years later, possibly Greek), but we did not learn anything about the history of French. We were told that French was descended from Latin, but that was it. We might hear about La chanson de Roland and perhaps read one stanza in updated spelling and grammar, with our attention called to the fact that at the end of lines there were assonances rather than rimes, all literature was always written with today's spelling.

    Personally, I did not have any problems learning the declensions, and the conjugations were similar to those of French at least in principle, but it was hard to believe that Latin had ever been spoken by ordinary people.

  69. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne, if you have a chance to look up minus273’s link, which gives examples of current pronunciations of OF, what do you think of the pronunciation of “estoient” given by poster “Lucretius”? I think it is wrong, but would be glad of your opinion.

  70. But surely Classical Latin wasn’t a real language spoken by real people?

    I always had impression that it was a highly refined literary standard which no one used in real-life conversations even during times of Cicero and Caesar.

  71. I have always felt it strange that the only rhymes available to OF final unstressed syllables are and -ənt. These two and nothing more.

  72. marie-lucie says:

    minus273: It is because the OF poet was not looking for rimes but for assonances, which are less constraining. Thus romance rhymes with danse and cadence but not with branche or chante, because the same sounds must be present in both the stressed vowel and (if existing) the following consonant sound. But all those words could be used as assonances since they share the same stressed vowel (and the unstressed vowel, which is predictably schwa).

    Classical French poetry (as a type, not a period) based on syllable count ignores the line-final schwa which (in Standard French) is not normally pronounced at the end of an utterance. Songs have a little more leeway in the use of schwa since a musical note can be stressed or not, or lengthened or shortened, according to the melody.

  73. Sorry for the confusion, I meant rhymes/rimes in the Chinese/Mainland Southeast Asian sense, nucleus + codas. It’s reasonable to stipulate an nucleus ə at that position, but the coda set (either Ø or -nt, but not for example -n) looks really strange.

    On the second thought, however, there is at least another possible final unstressed rhyme: -əs, so it might be an accident that no -ən survived.

  74. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: I always had impression that it was a highly refined literary standard which no one used in real-life conversations even during times of Cicero and Caesar.

    Cicero himself made a distinction between two kinds of speech, which would correspond more or less to “conversational” and “oratorical” registers. The latter used long, convoluted sentences with many linked periods, the former, which he also used in writing personal letters, was much simpler. The texts which have survived from the period are probably not verbatim transcriptions but have been edited according to prevailing tastes. Closer to the present time I think one can find a similar distinction in English of the Victorian period, between the literary English found in narrative writing, with complex sentences and varied, Latinate-heavy vocabulary, and the forms of speech used by the characters in novels, especially the speech of illiterate speakers. I am sure that German offers an even sharper distinction between different registers. In each case, educated speakers navigate somewhere in between the registers, depending on whether they speak or write, as well as the social context.

  75. marie-lucie says:

    minus273: codas:

    Apart from plain -e, the other sequences -ent and -es are morphological suffixes indicating the plural (of verbs and nouns respectively), added to the main stem. They are not part of the stem itself and are never stressed. In the ancestor of Standard French, the -n- in unstressed 3rd plural -ent probably disappeared early from pronunciation: the -t can still be heard in some liaisons, but not the -n-. On the other hand, there is no unstressed suffix -en in either nouns or verbs, which could appear at the end of a word.

    (There are some dialects in which verbal -ent became stressed, probably by analogy with 1st plural -ons and 2nd plural -ez: stressed -ont in Acadia, stressed -aint in rural Ile-de-France, close to Paris).

  76. There are some Latin writers who strike me as writing in a fairly real language that probably wasn’t too far from upper class daily speech – Catullus for example. Plautus is pre-classic but his language feels very idiomatic. Even Julius Caesar writes in a simple style that can’t have been too artificial. Of course in Caesar’s time a lot of the soldiers and officers were probably still speaking Latin as a fluent L2 and it may have been a little stilted. But I can certainly imagine people speaking too each other in that language. Vergil, on the other hand…

  77. David Marjanović says:

    Right; I meant distinctive vowel quantity, of course.

    I know; my point in bringing up non-phonemic quantity is that if that’s what you’re used to, it makes it easy for you to believe you’ve understood it when in fact you haven’t.

    What we did to Latin ae is another example of this. It’s equated with ä. The name of that letter, if we don’t resort to Umlaut A, is [æː], and outside the Rhineland and Switzerland that’s a one-word phoneme. Elsewhere, ä is [eː] when long and [ɛ] when short. Result? We’d make an effort to pronounce aetas as [ˈæːtas] in isolation, but Aurea prima sata est aetas came out as [ˈäʊ̯ːʀɛaˈpʀiːmasaˈtasːtɛˈtasː] – all stressed syllables long, all unstressed syllables short, and unstressed [æː] was too hard to imagine.

    David: your remark on Bavarian phonology reminds me of the work of a Bavarian scholar whom you might find of interest, who has argued that the genesis of Bavarian involved a Romance substrate which, he claimed, influenced Bavarian profoundly.

    Please tell me more!

    A Romance-speaking population is mentioned in historical sources, and there are a few words left over (Ribisel “currant” – Latin ribes; Most “~ cider” – vinum mustum), but I can’t think of any grammatical or phonological features. The loss of vowel length was clearly caused by developments in the Early New High German period, and is not completely shared by South Bavarian:

    Guido Seiler (2015): On the development of the Bavarian quantity system. Interdisciplinary Journal for Germanic Linguistics and Semiotic Analysis 10(1): 103-129.

    (I tried to reconstruct the non-Google URL of this pdf, but that leads to an error.)

    Even Julius Caesar writes in a simple style that can’t have been too artificial.

    My impression is that Caesar paid great attention to his style; he used all kinds of classic rhetorical figures. However, he wasn’t aiming at the highest register possible (that would be Virgil); he pretended to present a sober report of facts, and for that a simple style was usually appropriate, all the way down to puzzling things like druidi […] habent instituta sacrificia.

  78. marie-lucie says:

    When I took Latin, the first year we did simple sentences, starting with things like formica rosam amat “the ant likes the rose” (I am just using some of the very first words that I learned). The second year we started to read De Viris illustribus, a work composed by a 17C (I think) author for use by students like us. The third year we read the De Bello gallico, an obvious choice for French students as well as a work of moderate difficulty (I don’t think many of us realized we were reading a celebration of the defeat of nos ancêtres les Gaulois). In later years there was some Cicero, Tacitus and others.

    druidi […] habent instituta sacrificia.

    Why is this puzzling? Is it an early example of the structure that gave rise to the passé composé and their equivalent in several languages? A structure perhaps considered colloquial and therefore not often found in other classical authors?

  79. David Marjanović says:

    Is it an early example of the structure that gave rise to the passé composé and their equivalent in several languages?

    Probably; and to the best of my later knowledge it doesn’t show up elsewhere until much later.

  80. @marie-lucie, similar constructions are found in Cicero as well, which fact I tried to sidetrack a Language Log discussion with. No luck.

    The quote is from de finibus bonorum et malorum (4,11) — not a colloquial register, I should think: cum cognitum habeas quod sit summi rectoris … numen. Note that the object of the main clause is a relative phrase, already a few steps on the way from the most literal “I have dinner cooked” model of the construction to pure auxiliary function.

    References at link above.

  81. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks Lars. Language Log is not often interested in history.

  82. I guess there wasn’t much emphasis on poetry, because it’s impossible to hear how poetry works without vowel length.

    Hear, no. People “got” the pattern of syllable lengths, because you couldn’t write a prose sentence without knowing where the long vowels were, nor could you pronounce anything unless the only vowel was “a”, long or short. But I think only I tried to feel and pronounce Virgil’s dactyls as musical 4/4 time: ♩♫ |♩♫ | ♩♩ | ♩♩ | ♩♫ | ♩♩. Unfortunately in my recitation, Latin stress accent was lost. Nobody’s perfect.

  83. David Marjanović says:

    Cicero? And Wulfila even? Curiouser and curiouser. 🙂

  84. David Marjanović says:

    Unfortunately in my recitation, Latin stress accent was lost.

    …It’s not supposed to be?

  85. marie-lucie says:

    JC: People “got” the pattern of syllable lengths, because you couldn’t write a prose sentence without knowing where the long vowels were, nor could you pronounce anything unless the only vowel was “a”, long or short

    I am puzzled. Who are the “people” here? the Latin speakers, or those of us moderns who were taught by people incapable of noticing or making a difference of vowel length? And why would vowel length matter for writing prose? Latin spelling did not indicate length, which speakers knew. You might as well say that it is impossible to write English prose without knowing which syllables are stressed. As for the long or short “a” as the only vowel, I have no idea what you mean.

  86. And why would vowel length matter for writing prose?

    This was my question as well.

  87. Marie-Lucie:

    By “we” and “people” I meant my fellow Latin students in American secondary school in the early 1970s. My comments beginning “The same here with” and “Hear, no” were intended to be read jointly. I write in the past tense because I am writing personally, but I have every expectation and even hope that this system continues, perhaps with improvements.)

    I know that other schools with other students at around the same time were teaching similarly, for once, because I attended with my 3rd/4th year class (perhaps six students) the National Junior Classical League conference in 1974. (I had quite forgotten this.)

    I note that the motto for that year was Fortiter, fēlīciter, fīdēliter, which would have been automatically read by any attendee as [ˈfɔɾtɪtɛɾ feˈlikɪtɛɾ fiˈdelɪtɛɾ] (with some imperfections around r, interdental t, and the mid vowels, of course). Latin as we learned it systematically marked written vowel quantity. It would have been a bad spelling-error to write appellatus ‘called’ for appellātus, leading to the pronunciation [ɑˈpɛlɑtʊs] instead of [ɑpɛlˈɑtʊs], as bad as to leave out one of the written ps or l. We knew that ancient Romans wrote without length marks, as we knew that they wrote in all caps without spaces and failed to distinguish U and V properly, but that didn’t affect our own writing. (I note here that whereas i could be [j], v was always [w] and vice versa.)

    So you’ll note that four of the five Latin vowel quantity contrasts were carefully mapped to English-like quality contrasts in a sort of recapitulation of proto-Romance. The fifth contrast, a/ā, and the consonant quality contrasts, were merged in our speech, though leaving their mark on stress assignment, which we were expected to perform whenever reading a Latin word aloud. (Of course, once done, the stress could be memorized once and for all, which is easier than English.) However, all length contrasts were preserved in writing with the usual obsession of anglophone teachers getting their students to spell correctly. Getting length correct mattered in writing prose because it was phonemic, just as getting vowels or consonants correct mattered: anything else was writing broken Latin.

    So we knew how to figure syllable length from the beginning, since the terms long and short were used of all vowels from the beginning, though sometimes representing a quality contrast and sometimes nothing phonological (the same as the English conventions, which all anglophone linguists must unlearn). It was easy to remember, learning verse, that a dactyl was one long syllable followed by two short syllables, and even easy to see why it alternated with a spondee (two long syllables): both had a syllable-time-count of 4. To hear that musically was another matter.

  88. Oops. “Consonant quantity contrasts”, as in p/pp, l/ll.

  89. I like to use [ɐ] for short a so that all the vowel pairs have a qualitative contrast.

  90. It’s very, very hard for someone who doesn’t speak a quantitative language to feel how classical poetry works; I well remember my sense of triumph at finally “getting it,” and I’d been working at it for years as a lover of both poetry and ancient languages.

    I would really like to hear more about how you came to “get it”. And from others as well. Is it a matter of finding a good explanation or listening to readings or …?

    Tamil is also quantitative, I don’t “get it” and it really frustrates me.

  91. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks JC for the explanation. I guess the vague word “people” confused me: it did not occur to me that it referred to your former classmates or to students in general.

    As I wrote before, in my French school (and no doubt in thousands of others) nobody bothered with length or stress. Sometimes we would see the ablative of the -a declension with a macron on the letter, but we were never asked to make a difference of pronunciation between the nominative and the ablative. Apart from this one case, we never saw a macron, let alone wrote one.

  92. I would really like to hear more about how you came to “get it”. And from others as well. Is it a matter of finding a good explanation or listening to readings or …?

    I didn’t have any readings to listen to; I just read all the explanations I could find of how meter worked and kept trying to say the verse out loud in a way that would click for me, and finally it did. I can’t be more precise after several decades, alas!

  93. David: have a look at these two articles (neither is available on-line, unfortunately): many of the claims made struck me as plausible:

    Eva und Willi Mayerthaler: Aspects of Bavarian syntax or Every language has at least two parents. In: Jerold Edmondson u. a. (Hrsg.): Development and Diversity. Language Variation across Time and Space. A Festschrift for Charles-James N. Bailey. The Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington, 1990, S. 371–429.

    Willi Mayerthaler, Günther Fliedl, Christian Winkler: Der Alpen-Adria-Raum als Schnittstelle von Germanisch, Romanisch und Slawisch: Infinitivprominenz in europäischen Sprachen. Narr, Tübingen 1995,

    Of course, some attention has been paid by other scholars to possible Romance influence on Early West Germanic in general, and the following strikes me as VERY interesting:

    http://www.academia.edu/1819630/The_High_German_Consonant_Shift_and_Language_Contact_draft_

    Marie-Lucie: You’re quite right, in “estoient” it is anachronistic to realize “oi” as /we/: it should be realized as /oj/.

    About “habere” as a past-tense auxiliary: because this is pan-Romance it is assumed that it goes back to the spoken Latin of the Late Empire; interestingly enough there are no clear-cut examples before Cicero and Caesar, not even in the language of Plautus. In Plautus’ plays, however, we do find an interesting innovation: in the speech of slaves “habere” + direct object is the sole way of indicating possession, with “esse” + dative being used only by the better-educated characters. This suggests (well, to me) that in the transition from Latin to Romance “habere” first became the sole means of indicating possession and only later became used as an auxiliary.

  94. In all my college classes, the emphasis was on translating the meaning, and everyone from the teacher on down read poetry like it was prose. They didn’t even bother teaching us how to scan a line. The first time I even got a glimpse of how it should sound was when I heard an 80+ scholar with some traditional training at a seminar and he read with a tune and exaggerated long vowels. I wish I had been able to record him.

    Actually, his exaggerated vowels reminded me of a recording I heard of the Iliad in which the long vowels were dragged out.

    It’s clear to me that the reason that I don’t “get it” is that I’m not reading it correctly. But maybe it will click for me one day!

  95. For me it was my own associating mind that showed me how quantitative meter worked: it was explicitly musical. 4:4 music is very common, and when reciting Virgil I was rapping (though I didn’t know the word then) to a steady 4:4 backbeat which I associated with marching feet (in hindsight, too fast for Roman soldiers!) Sometimes a syllable took up a beat, sometimes two beats, unlike English rap which associates each stressed syllable with a beat and packs in the unstressed ones. I could do it on the bongo drums today, I suppose, with practice.

  96. David, we talked about the Gauls and their sacrifices two years ago, but the subject got dropped. Someone else should have a look. You are right that habent cannot agree normally with natio, but now I wonder about notional agreement in Latin.

  97. David Marjanović says:

    Latin spelling did not indicate length

    It did, actually. But not with a macron.

    David: have a look at these two articles

    Oh. 🙁 I have no chance to get near them as long as they don’t appear online or maybe if I explore a university library for a day.

    Of course, some attention has been paid by other scholars to possible Romance influence on Early West Germanic in general, and the following strikes me as VERY interesting:

    …Me too!

    I do prefer something close to scenario (b) over scenario (a), though. Merovingian and Langobardian power can hardly have been felt in the fringe areas where the High German consonant shift is most consistently applied; and exaggerating aspiration till it breaks doesn’t need a special explanation, it’s something people do occasionally – it’s occurring without any substrate in and around Scouse right now.

    Two quotes from the paper:

    2. The High German consonant shift: treatment of Proto-Germanic *p, *t, *k
    The HGCS turns the Proto-Germanic voiceless plosives *p, *t and *k into the affricates *pf, *ts and *kx, which may then go on to develop into the geminate fricatives *ff, *ss and *xx.These may or may not be subsequently shortened to single fricatives. Whether or not the shift occurs and, if it occurs, whether or not the affricates develop into long or short fricatives, depends on the position of *p, *t, *k within the word and on geography.

    Shouldn’t these be considered three separate shifts that form a chain shift together?

    0) Proto-West-Germanic had a phonemic distinction between long and short plosives. This distinction did not exist at the beginning of words, behind resonants, and probably at the ends of words.
    1) The short plosives, when aspirated, shifted to long fricatives (likely with affricates as an intermediate; Schrijver obliquely mentions unspecified southern Alemannic dialects…) in those positions where they contrasted with long plosives. In the positions where the distinction wasn’t made, plosives counted as long.
    2) The long plosives shifted to affricates. These affricates could not go on to become fricatives, because that would have merged them with the reflexes of the short plosives. (…Long fricatives already existed in PWGmc, but were quite rare despite their phonemic status.)
    3) In East Franconian and Central German, the long fricatives were shortened behind long vowels and diphthongs (in other words, overlong syllables were outlawed), so that the reflexes of PWGmc *p and *k merged with the reflexes of PWGmc *f and *x. This is reflected in the spelling of Modern Standard German, and also of Old High German from those areas as far as I know, but not in more southern dialects or even in Austrian Standard German pronunciation.

    The partial or full devoicing of Proto-Germanic *b, *d and *g in many High German dialects is increasingly treated as a separate rule. I shall follow that practice and limit discussion of the HGCS to the shift of *p, *t, *k.

    Scenario (a) might have a problem with this shift, which turned [β~v d ɣ] into [b̥ t g̊]. (Notably, this shift didn’t happen in the Rhineland.) The voiceless lenis plosives [b̥] and [g̊] are not a Romance feature (Spanish excluded), while [d] is, and yet, Langobardic participated in that shift: in the Edictus Rothari Schrijver mentions, the crime of “throwing” someone out of their grave is called crapworf.

    You are right that habent cannot agree normally with natio, but now I wonder about notional agreement in Latin.

    You mean as in “a number of people have”? I’ve never encountered that outside of English at all, and Latin is about the last place I’d look for it.

  98. David Marjanović says:

    In the positions where the distinction wasn’t made, plosives counted as long.

    …except of course word-finally behind a vowel, where they counted as short.

  99. It did, actually. But not with a macron.

    Huh, I did not know about the apex! (Or if I did, I had forgotten, in my now obligatory disclaimer.)

  100. @David, so what did habeo mean to a patrician in Plautus’ times, or Cicero’s?

    If the auxiliary use ‘only’ goes back to Late Imperial spoken vernacular Latin, perhaps a Late Republic high style written use should be construed differently — could cognitum habeas be something like ‘you regard as known’ instead of ‘you have understood’?

  101. David Marjanović says:

    so what did habeo mean

    The older meaning is “hold”.

    could cognitum habeas be something like ‘you regard as known’

    Yes! “Hold” as in “we hold these truths to be self-evident”. 🙂

    (Except it’s subjunctive, as in “you should regard as known”.)

    Coming to think of it, maybe Caesar’s habent instituta sacrificia meant “they have sacrifices as a fixed, ritualized institution, not as some spontaneous expression of despair”. This would put emphasis on instituta, and that would explain what it’s doing in front of its noun.

  102. Yes, that makes sense to my (very undeveloped) sense of Latinity.

  103. OK, I did what I should have done to start with, and found English translations in context of the phrase from Cicero. I’m not less confused now, especially about what the 2sg form is doing there — but note that the whole text is addressed to Cato — and how the translators got it to mean what they have:

    Cicero: […] modestiam quandam […] cognitio rerum caelestium affert iis qui videant […] iustitiam etiam, cum cognitum habeas quod sit summi rectoris […] numen […] (modestiam and justitiam are two of three direct objects of affert, I elided magnitudinem animi).

    Charles Yonge (1812-1891), “literally translated” 1872: […] the knowledge of heavenly things imparts some degree of modesty to those who see […], and justice, too, when they come to know how great is the power […] of the supreme ruler […]

    H. Harris Rackham (1868-1944), second revised edition, 1932: […] the study of the heavenly phenomena bestows a power of self-control that arises from the perception of […], and justice by realizing the will […] of the Supreme […] Ruler

  104. David Marjanović says:

    Now I’m confused, too.

  105. Hale and Buck §504.2: “The volitive subjunctive may be used figuratively… in generalizing clauses in the second person singular indefinite, after or a relative of any kind.”

  106. Lewis&Short, sv habeo:
    II. In particular
    C. To hold or keep a person or thing in any condition; to have, hold, or regard in any light
    a. With a double object, esp. freq. with the part. perf. pass., to have, hold, or possess a person or thing in any quality or capacity, as any thing; to have, hold, or possess an action as completed, finished (a pregn. circumlocution for the perf.)
    A long list of quotes follows, going back to Plautus, though the use with the ppp seems to start with Cicero — including things like [Cic.] Rosc. Com. 3, 9: de Caesare satis dictum habebo — and ending with the remark that “[f]rom this use is derived the compound perf. of the Romance languages: ho veduto, j’ai vu, qs. habeo visum, I have seen“.

    So this is not a new discovery, but it’s still a much earlier precedent than is usually bandied about.

  107. @Y: So Yonge could have translated even more literally and used a generic ‘you’ (which would work just fine in modern English, and presumably at his time as well), but he chose to make the parallel stricter and use ‘they’ coindexed with the ‘those who see’. (And ignored the presence of a ‘pregnant circumlocution for the perfect’).

  108. I’d translate cum cognitum habeas ‘…as one comes to know…’, as a compromise between literalness and clarity.

  109. You are right that habent cannot agree normally with natio, but now I wonder about notional agreement in Latin.

    It’s actually pretty common in all periods, I believe. You often see it with e.g. pars in the meaning “some (people)”, which generally takes a plural verb; but also other nouns, e.g. multitudo convicti sunt (Tacitus). Latin is far from being the paragon of logical perfection it’s often made out to be.

  110. marie-lucie says:

    JC’s earlier post:

    Natio est omnis Gallorum admodum dedita religionibus, atque ob eam causam, qui sunt adfecti gravioribus morbis quique in proeliis periculisque versantur, aut pro victimis homines immolant aut se immolaturos vovent administrisque ad ea sacrificia druidibus utuntur, quod, pro vita hominis nisi hominis vita reddatur, non posse deorum immortalium numen placari arbitrantur, publiceque eiusdem generis habent instituta sacrificia.

    And his translation:

    The entire nation of the Gauls is very subject to superstitious rituals, and for that reason those who are afflicted with very serious illnesses, or who are involved in the perils of battle, either burn human sacrifices or vow that they will be burned, making use of the Druids as ministers for such sacrifices, because they believe that if a human life is not given in return for a human life, the anger [lit. power, sway, will] of the immortal gods cannot be placated; and in public affairs the nation has sacrificial customs of the same kind.

    I started to comment on this a couple of days ago, erased it by mistake and did not feel like starting again right away.

    In the meantime I agree with David’s comment: maybe Caesar’s habent instituta sacrificia meant “they have sacrifices as a fixed, ritualized institution, not as some spontaneous expression of despair”.

    Most of the paragraph deals with human sacrifices performed on behalf of individuals for various personal reasons, and only the last sentence with “publice” and “instituta” deals with public sacrifices performed for the benefit of the larger community.

    That said, it does not seem to me that the subject of habent is natio. I did not know that Latin could use a plural verb with a subject noun expressing some number, but in this case I think that natio is much too far from the verb, and the intervening sentences all have plural nouns and verbs. Natio itself is the head of a phrase with the complement Gallorum, and it is that word and not natio which is the antecedent of the following relative clauses describing the people involved in the sacrifices. It is not “the nation” which performs those sacrifices, but only the Druids on behalf of individuals facing very dire situations. I think the last verb habent refers either to the Gauls as a people, or to the Druids who in this case perform the prescribed sacrifices, not to the abstract “nation”.

    Let me know if I misunderstood!

  111. David Marjanović says:

    The subject of habent must be qui (sunt adfecti). Or Caesar actually slipped and thought he had mentioned the Gauls as a whole by the time he finally got to habent more than four lines later. 🙂

    de Caesare satis dictum habebo

    I wonder if this could be the supine rather than the perfect participle: “I will have enough to say about Caesar”. Of course, I also have to wonder if the supposed participle in the Romance perfect is only so identified because the supine is otherwise extinct.

    pro vita hominis nisi hominis vita reddatur

    Nice chiasmus!

    publiceque eiusdem generis habent instituta sacrificia.

    This parallels the emphasis on publice with the emphasis on instituta, it seems to me.

    I recently read that Caesar’s point in all this was that he had had to conquer Gaul to save the cruel Celts from themselves. At the same time, he portrayed the Germanic tribes as not just extremely hard to vanquish, but also simply not worth ruling over because they were so scarily spontaneous and unsteady that the very animals in their forest hardly obeyed the laws of nature.

  112. I think David is right that the strictly syntactic subject of habent is qui…, but marie-lucie is right that its actual intended referent is “the Gauls”; it’s not those specific people who have the established sacrifices, but the nation as a whole.

    de Caesare satis dictum habebo

    I wonder if this could be the supine rather than the perfect participle

    The accusative supine is pretty much restricted to appearing with verbs of motion, so probably not.

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