SUBJECTA BELLIGERANTIA.

I’m almost finished reading Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War (discussed here), and in discussing the painfully slow process that eventually led to the Peace of Westphalia she says (on page 462 of my edition) “The congress had been sitting for nearly a year when the delegates found that they were still in doubt as to the subjecta belligerantia.” The phrase in italics clearly meant something like “the subjects of the war” or “the reasons everyone was fighting,” but it wasn’t in my reasonably comprehensive Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases, so I googled it… and, to my astonishment, got exactly one hit: to this very book. I tried Google Book Search and got a few more hits, all of them in German and all of them, so far as I can tell (from the gottverdammt Auszug [snippet] view), referring to this very peace congress. Is it not odd that this reasonably normal-looking Latin phrase should occur only in this one context?

Comments

  1. In living languages you expect to see new phrases on occasion, ones that have never been applied before, or not above the threshold of historical visibility. Latin wasn’t living in the usual sense, but people still could coin new expressions in it, if usually only in writing.

  2. I just ran the phrase through about two dozen or so search engines and directories–the only ones that had any results at all were a9 and ask, with fewer results than google.

  3. Carl Caputo says:

    I’d speculate that Wedgwood is quoting verbatim from Acta Pacis Westphalicae, which is referenced pretty often in the footnotes.

  4. I agree about quoting from the Acta, but doesn’t it seem odd that in the many centuries in which people were both using Latin and making war, this phrase only occurred there?

  5. Here is the original Latin text (pdf) of the Acta.
    Assuming the search function works correctly, it doesn’t contain the phrase subjecta [or subiecta] belligerantia, although it does contain several instances of both these words separately.
    My Latin is extremely limited, so I don’t know what to make out of this. Could it be that the title phrase was never used outside of this context because it sounds odd and unnatural? Maybe it was coined by some German author whose Latin wasn’t too terribly good and subsequently copied by several others who wrote about the same topic. This is just speculation, of course.

  6. The word “belligerantium” appears in the document seven times.

  7. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Débita sive emptionis, venditionis, annuorum redi-
    tuuin, sive alio nomine vocentur, si ab una alterave belli-
    gerantium parte in odium creditorum violenter extorta sint,…

    Article 40 of The Treaty of Munster (Le traité de Münster est le second Traité de Westphalie signé, après celui d’ Osnabrück le 8 septembre 1648). This is from Les grands traités du règne de Louis XIV. As Ivan suggested, you’ll find out more if you just look up gerantium. But watch out you don’t look up geranium, many more hits. I don’t have time to do it now.

  8. Roger Depledge says:

    It looks rather as if someone has misinterpreted the genitive plural belligerantium ‘of the belligerents’ as a neuter singular -um and then made it plural -a in notional agreement with subiecta, in blissful ignorance of the lynx-eyed Language Hat.

  9. Roger Depledge says:

    Unlikely to have been Dame Veronica herself; according to the Telegraph obituary,

    Having done the Season (always keeping a small Latin book in her bag), Veronica Wedgwood went up to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, as senior scholar, in 1928.

    It may have been some poor copyediting skivvy at Jonathan Cape in 1938, who hadn’t “done the Season”.

  10. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    Are you trying to say it was a misprint, Rodge?
    Why are there only three pages of Bs in my Latin dictionary (there are twenty-two for A)?

  11. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I’ve been thinking about the hybrids of Greek and Latin that a couple of people say they dislike. They are missing the point that these words, television and so on, are English words. It makes no more sense to object to a Greek-Latin mixture in English than it does to any other: Celtic-Latin, Greek-Norman, Saxon-Xhosa, whatever. Abhorring these words seems to me to be more than pedantic, as Noetica called it; it’s a prescriptivist waste of my time whereby someone shows me that they can tell the difference between Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes and are therefore very something or other: well-educated, ‘intelligent’, conservative, bonkers, etc.

  12. Roger Depledge says:

    More to the point, AJP, why do the two volumes of my Tresor dóu Felibrige cover A-F and G-Z?
    I think we should be told.

  13. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Marie Lucie will certainly be able to give us the answer to that, if we ever hear from her again, her mother was a native-speaker of Occitan. Trouble is, everyone at Language Hat seems to have gone on the ten-day bus tour of Bulgaria that was advertised earlier in the year. I never thought it would come off, but some people have too much time on their hands, it seems.

  14. komfo,amonan says:

    Crown: sorry to waste your time. Thing is though, if you’re coining Greek/Latin hybrids in English, you’re already a pedant. But I reckon you’re right that opposing them is still pedantic, & perhaps I should consider reversing my opposition.

  15. “Is it not odd that this reasonably normal-looking Latin phrase should occur only in this one context?”
    as opposed to using the already well-accepted “casus belli”? Yeah, why would any one ever od that? Why you anyone bother to come with a clanky circumlocution like “enhanced interrogation techniques” when we already have a perfectly serviceable word for that? Maybe “subiecta belligerantia” was a way of side-stepping an admission no one wanted to make.

  16. Why are there only three pages of Bs in my Latin dictionary (there are twenty-two for A)?
    This sounds like the leadin for some sort of “Fear? I don’t know the meaning of the word” joke…

  17. A.J.P. Crown says:

    komfo,amonan, you weren’t wasting my time, you made me at least think about it. It was Noetica who said ‘I am as much against Latin-Greek hybrids as the next pedant’. But I was expecting more opposition to my point of view. Don’t forget, I’m more of a visual, touchy-feely, intuitive kind of a guy, I really don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to language. Don’t change your mind until you’ve discussed this with a professional, a Registered Linguist, someone like Language or Jamessal. I think they’re on this damn bus tour, though. It’s something Dravidian, but that may just be the food.

  18. Siganus Sutor says:

    Sapo: so I googled it… and, to my astonishment, got exactly one hit: to this very book.
    Isn’t it what some semi-pedants call a hapax*, or a hapax legomenon?

    A hapax legomenon (pl. hapax legomena, though sometimes called hapaxes for short) is a word which occurs only once in the written record of a language, in the works of an author, or in a single text.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hapax_legomenon
     
     
     
    * As far as I know it’s not a fish name; not even a rabbit’s.

  19. “Why are there only three pages of Bs in my Latin dictionary (there are twenty-two for A)?”
    Because initial B is a very rare sound in Indo-European languages generally.

  20. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Wow. According to my computer, it’s a dis, or dis legomenon, of Les grands traités du règne de Louis XIV, meaning it pops up twice there. Great phrase, Sig, thanks. I’ll use it all the time from now on. It gives the phrase ‘to diss someone’ lots of new ways for misunderstanding to occur.

  21. Siganus Sutor says:

    lots of new ways for misunderstanding to occur
    Hmmm…

  22. A.J.P. Crown says:

    You would think initial Bs showed up all the time, though, Gary. Bollocks, badger and battle, aren’t they Indo-European? Just the first three that came into my head.

  23. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Hmmm…
    Not dissing you, though, obviously. I didn’t even mention panties.

  24. Siganus Sutor says:

    Stop it now, will you?
    One can only note that la Wikipédia has much more to say about hapaxes in français than in any other language, Norsk included. Actually, the last paragraph could say more about English hapaxes and nonce words in than does the English article. A truly Huntingtonian clash of civilisations.
    “I ♥ hapax.”

  25. “… badger and battle, aren’t they Indo-European?”
    Probably, but I’ve got to assume that you know that they start with Germanic B, not Indo-European B.
    So you’re crawling around in the wrong swamp.

  26. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Hrumph, I know nothing about Germanic bees. Shifting the goal posts, I call that.

  27. When I ran the phrase subjecta belligerantia through google last night at 6:26 PM, there were only 4 google hits. Now I get 127 hits.
    So, Siganus’s dis legomenon is now more like an omni logmenon, or for Latin/Greek purists, a poly logmenon.

  28. mollymooly says:

    The modern term for “hapax legomenon” is “Googlewhack”
    I also thought of “casus belli”, but isn’t that more the pretext for an aggressor rather than a neutral term for the origin? In which case, it wouldn’t belong in a Peace Treaty.

  29. Not so sure about the ten-day bus tour of Bulgaria–given the level of interest of all things Dravidian, I seriously doubt they would have gone off on their own without issuing a blanket invitation, or at least some insurance policies. In fact, the little chores like taking out the spam have been attended to like clockwork; I suspect they are just out looking for googlewhacks.

  30. Truly amazing crosspost with mollymooly, but isn’t a hapax legomenon technically only one word, while a googlewhack is two words?

  31. GB’s scan of the little T-L book on the 17th century, Age of Kings, seems to miss p. 42, which says:

    One of the first of the conciliatory measures was the agreement to meet in two places: Sweden refused to concede superiority to France, and so the two countries conducted their negotiations with the Hapsburgs separately. France in Münster, Sweden in Osnabrück. But this did not help matters any. After nearly a year of meetings the delegates were still not agreed on the all-important subjecta belligerantia: who was at war with whom over what? Then, when they had finally picked their way through the tangled web and faced the serious business of bargaining, they encountered another obstacle. Because the war was still going on, the bargaining positions of the various parties changed from week to week; every time a battle was fought, the victor would raise his demands. Considering the difficulties, it is surprising that the Peace of Westphalia was ever concluded at all.

    Part of which is cited here, which Google hasn’t done a great job of indexing, either.
    I agree that casus belli doesn’t capture the breadth of confusion required.

  32. Crown: I don’t have any of my Latin dictionaries at hand at the moment, but I think the A-B disparity might be due in part to the fact that Latin has got the two highly productive prefixes “ad-” and “a(b)-”, and no major prefixes starting with B.

  33. John Emerson says:

    When someone says that written Chinese has 50,000 characters, a large proportion of these (80%?) are hapaxes, spelling errors, or rarely-used proper names. I’ve seen a report that a very erudite Chinese author checked his own vocabulary and found it to be 7-8000 characters, many of them obsolete. Literacy is 3,000 or so. Educated Chinese frequently come upon characters they don’t recognize once they get out of standard contemporary popular writing.

  34. John Emerson says:

    When someone says that written Chinese has 50,000 characters, a large proportion of these (80%?) are hapaxes, spelling errors, or rarely-used proper names. I’ve seen a report that a very erudite Chinese author checked his own vocabulary and found it to be 7-8000 characters, many of them obsolete. Literacy is 3,000 or so. Educated Chinese frequently come upon characters they don’t recognize once they get out of standard contemporary popular writing.

  35. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Ok, Lazar, but a- and ab- is only one and a half pages. Ad- is four, but that’s still a huge disparity and i’ve got twenty-six pages of Cs. There are only two-and-a-half pages of Gs, on the other hand, and the same with H.

  36. I’m pretty sure it’s the Indo-European thing. (Germanic b- is from PIE *bh-, which becomes f- in Latin; thus Eng. to bear = Latin ferre.)

  37. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    Doesn’t Casus belli mean just the immediate cause of a war: Franz Ferdinand, as opposed to dreadnoughts and colonies? (Answer: Yes, it does.)

  38. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Ah, thank you. Where do I find out about these Germanic thingys, then (what book)?

  39. David Harmon says:

    Gary: As far as I know it’s not a fish name; not even a rabbit’s.
    Hmm, are you another Narbonic reader? Ironically, the strip wouldn’t show up itself, because there probably isn’t a transcript online, but I’m surprised that at least the author’s comments wouldn’t show up.

  40. David H: Actaully the fish name/rabbit comment was made by Siganus Sutor. I have no idea what you two are on about. I just get the impression that it’s fascinating.
    Backpedalling a bit, I believe that the lack of words beginning with B in Indoeuropean worries the Indoeuropeanists. They feel that it’s a gap that ought to have an interesting explanation. but they haven’t come up with one.

  41. David Harmon says:

    Gary: OK… Weird, for some reason my browser breaks the formatting on his “Posted by” line. It’s stranded at the end of his footnote line, instead of the usual start of the next line.
    Anyway, I first saw that phrase as the name of a webcomic character, as linked.

  42. Siganus is a webcomic character? In another thread the name “Siganus” got traced back to the Arabic word for “rabbitfish”, but I don’t remember that anyone found out any more than that.

  43. John J Emerson says:

    Kron believes that all letters are created equal. Pleasepleaseplease don’t tell him about poor “q”.

  44. a Registered Linguist, someone like Language or Jamessal
    As appreciative as I am, I can’t let that go unremarked. I am not a linguist — not with Hat and Emerson and MMcM and Siganus and Marie-Lucie and Noetica and Michael Farris and Vanya and David M. (and sorry if I’m missing anybody else who studied their ass off) in the room. I’m a dabbler who enjoys talking shit.

  45. Siganus Sutor says:

    John, Creole speakers have long understood that q- is a useless letter. K- can do its job very well, thanks, without requiring any additional letter.
     
     
    Gary (who isn’t another me as far as I know): initial B is a very rare sound in Indo-European languages generally
    So, this BB who is xenophobic at times could well be not even Indo-European? Wow, that’s amazing!
    One could also think about that Indo-European language that writes the sound -b as -v — e.g. Havana —, but a language that tends to transform other languages’ v-sounds into b-sounds. (C’est la bérité, I swear.)

  46. Jamessal, you naughty boy succeeded in making me blush. But including me in your list is not correct. As you may recall, I was a cimentier, a “real” one, concreting everything under the sun. Unfortunately that’s still my trade, even if in a less direct manner.

  47. Siganus Sutor says:

    bibi: John, Creole speakers have long understood that q- is a useless letter. K- can do its job very well, thanks
    For that matter c- is as useless as q- and “Creole” ought to be written Kreol, as it generally is in Kreol.

  48. Bill Walderman says:

    “Creole speakers have long understood that q- is a useless letter. K- can do its job very well, thanks”
    I think that French through about the 18th century did not use the letter “k.” The voiceless guttural stop was represented by “c” except before “e” and “i” and by “qu” before “e” and “i.” “C” before “e” and “i” would of course be pronounced “s”. Thus, when the French settled in Canada they called it “Quebec,” not “Kebek.” (Sorry I don’t have acute accents.) If I’m not mistaken, the same orthographic principle prevails in Spanish. Unlike English, these languages haven’t preserved labiovelars.
    Incidentally, “bellum” was originally “duellum.” It’s true that the “b” sound seems to be underrepresented in Indo-European and Indoeuropeanists find this an embarrassment.
    It’s interesting that the Latin word seems to have been “belligerare,” i.e., first conjugation in -a-, which is a secondary formation–the root is “gerere,” 3rd conjugation (to conduct or wage). But the English word “belligerent” is formed as if from the present participle of “belligerere.” Belligerare is the only word attested in Lewis & Short and the Oxford Latin Dictionary, which are limited to classical Latin.

  49. One could also think about that Indo-European language that writes the sound -b as -v — e.g. Havana —, but a language that tends to transform other languages’ v-sounds into b-sounds.
    Spanish has both b and v–el barco, la bruja, el bano, la verdad, la vaca, veinte, but my Hispanic students have a terrible time pronouncing v in English.

  50. Sorry I don’t have acute accents. If you have Windows you should have a character map that can be tranferred to the desktop.

  51. Now it’s been a while since I last read Cicero, but subjecta belligerantia strikes me as very unidiomatic and downright weird, even for post-classical Latin. belligerare means to wage war and pretty much nothing else.
    The warring subjects? I might be wrong, but that sounds more like someone (not necessarily Wedgwood, who might well have copied it) trying to awe the reader with some fancy-shmancy high-falutin’ Latin. Which, incidentally is something German historians just love to do.

  52. If you use a Mac, it’s Option + e (pressed simultaneously), followed by the letter you want.
    Option+e = ´
    Then press e = é

  53. michael farris says:

    “Spanish has both b and v–el barco, la bruja, el bano, la verdad, la vaca, veinte, but my Hispanic students have a terrible time pronouncing v in English.”
    That’s because orthographic Spanish b and v represent the same phoneme, pronounced [b] at the beginning of an utterance or after [m] and [B] otherwise ([B] is a bilabial fricative, sort of like [b] but the lips don’t touch).
    Many Spanish speakers without a background in linguistics are convinced that orthographic b and v are or should be distinguished in speech but no linguist has ever found any speaker of Spanish who actually makes such a difference consistently.

  54. A.J.P. Crown says:

    @ Sutor:
    Hapax existentiel
    La notion d’hapax existentiel fut introduite par Vladimir Jankélévitch, qui explique : « Toute vraie occasion est un hapax,
    We can use the notion of the hapax existentiel all the time, just not with our imaginary friends.

  55. A.J.P. Crown says:

    sorry if I’m missing anybody else who studied their ass off
    Bulbul, bathrobe and all the Russians. Zimmer and the logs. Sorry if I’m missing …See, this is the trouble with linguists. You mention one, you’ve got to mention them all.

  56. The oddness of the expression seems to me to lie not in any perceived question of register, nor the participial form ‘belligerantia’, but in the meaning in which ‘subiecta’ is used (usually = ‘subject’ in the sense of ‘inferior’, or the ‘(grammatical) subject (of a proposition)’).

  57. Bulbul, bathrobe and all the Russians. Zimmer and the logs.
    Then there are all those gay Arab linguists who got kicked out the army…

  58. Bill Walderman says:

    Sorry I don’t have acute accents. “If you have Windows you should have a character map that can be tranferred to the desktop.”
    You’re probably right but I’m too lazy to figure it out.

  59. A.J.P. Crown says:

    You can always just copy & paste accents, that’s what I do with cidillas, or however you spell them.

  60. Perhaps the expression’s singularity is because the Thirty Years’ War was such a messy affair (not that I know much about it). NationMaster.com says that the near synonym casus belli is “the grievances section of a formal public declaration of war by a state, which lists…” In other words, it was a common, repeated formula when one state wanted to force another to do what it was told. I don’t know if there was any declaration of war for the Thirty Years’ War or not, but my impression is that it didn’t so much start as come about.

  61. Siganus Sutor says:

    Michael: no linguist has ever found any speaker of Spanish who actually makes such a difference consistently.
    Do you hear Spanish-speaking people talk of the state of “Bermont”, of “queen Bictoria” or of “Belcro” and say “thank you bery much” while speaking English? It seems to me that a number of them twist foreign words that way. I am wondering whether they visualise the written word before saying it, at least in the beginning, or whether they simply cannot pronounce the sound v-.
    > A.J.P. “B-King” Crown
    Maybe these photographs of timber houses were just hapaxes in the end. (Incidentally, think about the fact that no one can take exactly the same picture twice, which means that each one of the billion pictures taken on Earth is unique.)

  62. Siganus Sutor says:

    cidillas, or however you spell them
    They are spelt c.e.c.i.l.i.a and are pronounced [karla].
    gougueule.fr

  63. Character map in Windows:
    Point to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map to open Windows Character Map
    You can just click on it to use it or right click on character map and there will be an option to create a desktop shortcut. To use it, all you do is click on a character, select, copy and paste. Beats googling for an HTML chart to copy and paste.

  64. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    each one of the billion pictures taken on Earth is unique
    You are unique and I am unique and all the grains of sand on the beach. Are Carla & Cecilia hapaxes? I don’t think so. Nicolas is a hapax. The stavkirke photographs will be hapaxes..

  65. or whether they simply cannot pronounce the sound v-.
    They “can’t,” in the sense that it doesn’t come natural to them, pronounce English (labiodental) /v/ at all, and they “can’t” (in the same sense) pronounce the Spanish bilabial fricative at the start of a word (or rather after a pause). They can, of course, learn to make these sounds, just as English speakers can learn to make the bilabial fricative, but it’s not part of their native repertory of sounds.
    To repeat and emphasize what michael ferris said: the difference between Spanish written b and v is purely orthographic; it corresponds to nothing in the spoken language.
    Also, I’m not a linguist either, just a guy who studied the subject in grad school and never lost his interest.

  66. A.J.P. Crown says:

    So what makes somebody a linguist? Do you have to take a test and get a linguist’s license?

  67. michael farris says:

    There is no test, it’s more like indoctrination. Think combination cruise (on a badly designed ship) and a vision quest. The survivors don’t get a license but they do get a nice badge and learn the secret handsha …. oops I may have said too much already.

  68. Then there are all those gay Arab linguists who got kicked out the army…
    And we’re already short on Arabic translators. When you add that to the astronomical percentage of female military personnel serving abroad who experience sexual assaults, I see a way to solve both problems…
    The rumor here is that they prefer someone with immigration documentation problems to recruit for Arabic translators.

  69. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Yeah, ‘secret handshake’ you were going to say, weren’t you? I knew there was one.

  70. michael farris says:

    secret handshake? (looks around nervously) I never said anything about any handshake! That’s crazy talk. I meant handsha ….. handshadow! Yeah, that’s it! Handshadow puppets! All the linguists like handshadow puppets.
    I’m glad we cleared that up.

  71. The stavkirke photographs will be hapaxes
    Perhaps not. That chance remark sent me on a google mission to find out if I was the only person in the blogosphere who had noticed things about stavkirkes and Thai temples. Guess what, I found this group of geneticists talking about Buddhism and Norwegians. I have bypassed their secret codes and handshakes and initiations and made off with their links.
    More in the name URL.

  72. I am wondering whether they visualise the written word before saying it, at least in the beginning, or whether they simply cannot pronounce the sound v-.
    My Hispanic students tell me they do not pronounce b and v the same, although I can’t hear a difference. To me, it sounds like an unexplosive b. I guess the technical term is “unaspirated”. They also say they can’t hear “t” in a lot of English words, like “little” although I can hear it just fine. So maybe we’re even.
    In Spanish, p is also unaspirated, but as far as the difference between b and p, I’m not going to go there.
    The way I pronounce the Spanish b is with the lips together quickly and lightly, the v is with the lips almost together but not quite. (I’m not a native speaker though.) When I teach the students to pronounce v, I draw a picture on the board of huge front teeth against a bottom lip, and they have a lot of fun trying it out. It doesn’t matter to me if they can pronounce it or not; everyone will understand them. I get more excited when they pronounce “third” like “turd”.

  73. My Hispanic students tell me they do not pronounce b and v the same
    They are wrong. One of the first things you learn when you study linguistics is not to trust people’s self-reporting; people are terrible at analyzing their own language use.

  74. They are wrong.
    I’ll try to remember to ask them more details tomorrow and report back what they say.

  75. Siganus Sutor says:

    I believe linguists should also be able to produce a medical certificate, where and when required, to show that they are fit for the job, no? (After all, it’s the authorities’ duty to check that they do not represent a risk to any third party.)

  76. A.J.P. Crown says:

    It’s the authorities’ duty to check that they do not represent a risk to any third party.
    I remember (could this be right?) in New York hairdressers have to be licensed, who knows why. I supposed you can die of shock from a bad haircut. Anyway, it’s a risk coming here with all these unlicensed linguists and it’s obvious that regulation is necessary. Someone should write to Obama and Karla. I vote for Language.

  77. Bill Walderman says:

    “There is no test, it’s more like indoctrination. Think combination cruise (on a badly designed ship) and a vision quest. The survivors don’t get a license but they do get a nice badge and learn the secret handsha …. oops I may have said too much already.”
    We’ll have to kill you. Sorry.

  78. Siganus Sutor says:

    I’m afraid Language would have problems being accepted as I remember him saying once that he was a “linguist manqué”. (No doubt manqué de peu, though.) But if by any chance he succeeds in giving them the right handshake…
    I for one wouldn’t even dare try my chance, just in case the jury asks me something about mass nouns.
    I’ve heard once that doctors too — I mean Doctors of Medicine — needed to be registered in some countries, God knows why.

  79. Siganus Sutor says:

    “We’ll have to kill you. Sorry.”
    That’s exactly what the Camorra said to writer Roberto Saviano because he wrote a book called “Gomorrah” (a book apparently considered to be a subecta belligerantia, or a casus belli, of some sort.) This morning I heard on the radio that they wanted him dead by Christmas.
    Actually I’m not sure whether they said “sorry”.

  80. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I think everyone ought to be licensed. “Licensed to live on Earth”. If you fail the test you can come and live on Mars, where the test will be much easier (just more expensive to take).
    I took stavkirke photographs today, Sig.

  81. Siganus Sutor says:

    Hallelujah! We were about to declare a holy war on Norway because it was not possible to wait for another Thirty Years. But God is greatest: He appeases His children and He prevents oddly-built constructions from falling down, falling down, falling down. (Look, the Holy Sepulchre is still up, despite many, many wars.)

  82. Bill Walderman says:

    “One of the first things you learn when you study linguistics is not to trust people’s self-reporting; people are terrible at analyzing their own language use.”
    Like French speakers who insist they never, ever drop their ne’s.

  83. A.J.P. Crown says:

    “One of the first things you learn when you study linguistics is not to trust people’s self-reporting; people are terrible at analyzing their own language use.”
    One of the first things you learn in graduate school is never trust anyone except your teachers. If you want to graduate, that is.

  84. the difference between Spanish written b and v is purely orthographic
    Okay, I’ve got the poop from my students and I’m relieved (but not surprised) to say Hat is right.
    Here are four groups of words, and if v and b were pronounced differently in Spanish, they should be minimal pairs (like three/tree).
    basto (truncheon)–vasto (large, vast)
    bello (beautiful)–vello (fuzz)
    baso (I base)–vaso (vase)
    a vuela (flying, in flight)–abuela (grandmother)
    My students say these are pronounced exactly the same, the difference is only in “ortographía”.
    Spanish does have separate b and v sounds, but they are dependent on position within the word.
    The b sound is softer than in English and pronounced with the lips together lightly. This pronunciation is used when the b or v is at the beginning of a word or after m or n. (bueno,vino, cambio).
    The v sound is pronounced with the lips almost together. It looks to me like they are saying b, but I hear v. This pronunciation is used when the b or v is in the middle of a word. (sabe, habla)

  85. michael farris says:

    “Spanish does have separate b and v sounds, but they are dependent on position within the word”
    Actually within the utterance: la vaca and la boca are both word initial but both have the fricative sound. Say them by themselves (where they become utterance initial) and they both have the stop sound.
    And both sounds belong to the same phoneme and IME Spanish speakers are not consciously aware of the different allophones (stop vs fricative) anymore than most English speakers are aware of aspirated and non-aspirated and unreleased “t” sounds (as in top and stop and pot) though maybe in the context of a foreign language class it’s easier for them to perceive and/or talk about.

  86. He prevents oddly-built constructions from falling down
    The Church of the Holy Sepulcher has been compared to a garage sale, perhaps as an insult to garage sales. I have never seen such a hodge podge. Why they want to play King of the Mountain in it, I’ll never know. That was a great fight scene though, Siganus. With all those colorful robes, it looked like something out of Star Trek.
    I hear they do the same thing at Bethlehem. Only two denominations there, but they say the annual cleaning week can get really intense when one group brushes dust off the rafters into another group’s territory.
    I bet if one were to look into it further, they’re none of them married.

  87. George Kosinski says:

    “Is it not odd that this reasonably normal-looking Latin phrase should occur only in this one context?”
    Perhaps – then again, it looks more like Pig Latin than Latin, doesn’t it?

  88. Otnay igpay atinlay–efinitleyday.
    Illegitimi non carborundum.

  89. marie-lucie says:

    My computer was misbehaving the past week or so, and I sorely missed the present company. When things got back to normal I tried to catch up with what was happening here but was frightened off this particular thread by the huge number indicated for the comments, and I waited until I had more time to read them all.
    A few comments which I would have made earlier if I had been able to:
    - subiecta belligerantia has to be an error. I agree that the most sensible explanation is that belligerantia must have been substituted for belligerantium because of misunderstanding of the function of this word, by a copyist who did not quite know enough Latin.
    - why so many A’s and not B’s (etc) in the dictionary: letters (representing sounds in logical alphabets) are not all created equal, which is why Scrabble games have different sets of letters for different languages (eg k and w are very rare in French), and in the game letters are worth more or less depending on their frequency in the relevant language.
    - Indo-European b: the sound [b] is not rare in Indo-European languages but in their reconstructed ancestor, referred to as Proto-Indo-European. Reconstructed sounds and forms are indicated by prefacing them with an asterisk, so the rare PIE sound is noted as *b. As someone wrote earlier, present-day b can come from other * sounds, especially *bh. As for explaining the rarity, there has been a suggestion that the PIE consonants *b, *d and *g were actually ejectives (sounds produced with a constriction of the vocal cords), since the ejective corresponding to the sound [b] ([p']) is also quite rare in languages that do have other ejectives, but this hypothesis has not been generally adopted. In any case, knowing the exact nature of the pronunciation would not make a difference to the sound correspondences and relationships between the various languages of the family.
    - Spanish b/v: in Modern Spanish there is no difference in the pronunciation of the two letters, but the reason for the difference in spelling is that the pronunciation difference did exist in Old Spanish, as in Modern Italian and French. The modern Spanish sounds ignore the spelling difference but vary according to their position in the word, as several pointed out. But the sound heard between vowels is not quite [v] but a similar sound represented in phonetics by the Greek letter beta, pronounced with the lips in the same basic position as for [b] but not quite closed. (Incidentally, the same thing is true in some varieties of Occitan).
    - do linguists have to be licensed? No, anybody can call themselves a linguist, although if you want to get a job as a specialist in linguistics you need at least an MA (sometimes an MSc) in the subject as a seal of approval. One thing that linguistic training does for you is to enable you to look at your own language in a more objective manner. This is especially useful if you are going to teach it to others.

  90. David Marjanović says:

    Backpedalling a bit, I believe that the lack of words beginning with B in Indoeuropean worries the Indoeuropeanists. They feel that it’s a gap that ought to have an interesting explanation. but they haven’t come up with one.

    They’ve come up with one, but now mostly abandoned it again, because it doesn’t fit other evidence all that well: the Glottalic Theory, which (at least in its original version) said that the Proto-IE /b d g/ were actually ejective consonants (look that up in Wikipedia); lo & behold, /p`/ is very rare or absent in Afro-Asiatic languages that retain ejectives.
    This might still hold if the shift from ejective to voiced consonants happened before the origin of PIE (as opposed to several times after it). But it requires some version of Nostratic, because there’s apparently nothing inherent to /p`/ that makes it difficult — it’s present in every single language in the Caucasus that has ejectives at all, and it’s very common in Georgian (if you like, I can give you ghit numbers for every Georgian plosive).

    Many Spanish speakers without a background in linguistics are convinced that orthographic b and v are or should be distinguished in speech but no linguist has ever found any speaker of Spanish who actually makes such a difference consistently.

    I’ve read there are dialects somewhere in the north of Spain that do still distinguish them, but that’s all. BTW, Basque has the exact same unitary phoneme that’s pronounced [b] utterance-initially and behind [m], and [β] everywhere else; sensibly, however, it doesn’t use the letter v.

    Like French speakers who insist they never, ever drop their ne’s.

    WTF? There are such people?!?

    They also say they can’t hear “t” in a lot of English words, like “little” although I can hear it just fine.

    Because you are used to interpreting [ʔ] as /t/, and they aren’t used to interpreting it as a sound (as opposed to, say, a pause) at all. [ʔ] is what’s written with the letters ʔalīf and/or hamza in Arabic.

    In Spanish, p is also unaspirated, but as far as the difference between b and p, I’m not going to go there.

    It’s an ordinary voice contrast.
    The trick is that it’s a pure voice contrast, and therefore not ordinary; for example, in English, /p/ is aspirated and word-initial /b/ is usually voiceless (except in singing). There’s a Wikipedia article called “Fortis and lenis” that tries to deal with this highly underresearched issue.

    ejectives (sounds produced with a constriction of the vocal cords)

    No, just while the glottis is closed. In other words, you hold your breath, say [p] or whatever, and then exhale. That’s BTW why voiced ejectives are impossible.

    (Incidentally, the same thing is true in some varieties of Occitan).

    Let me guess: southwestern ones?

  91. It is indeed good to have you back, marie-lucie!

  92. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you, LH!
    “”They also say they can’t hear “t” in a lot of English words, like “little” although I can hear it just fine.””
    - Because you are used to interpreting [ʔ] as /t/, and they aren’t used to interpreting it as a sound (as opposed to, say, a pause) at all.
    David, I think that you are used to hearing British English. In North American English /t/ between vowels does not become [ʔ] but a very light flap, something between a [d] and an [l]. In the word little the /t/ and the /l/ are almost undistinguishable (as shown by the short/dialectal form li’l), with a slight change of manner while the tongue stays in the same position.
    But you are right about pronouncing ejectives: I was using a simplified description. However, there must be a phonetic link between ejectives and voicing: I know a language where ejectives (eg [t']) in one dialect corresponds to voiced consonants (eg [d]) in another. And the language has a glottalized (= ejective) [m'] where a near relative has a glottalized [p']. Thus far I have not seen this sort of change hypothesized for the rarity of [b] in PIE.
    About the lack of b/v opposition in Occitan, I did not want to make a generalization that might not hold overall, but it was true for my grandparents’ speech, from just West of the South-Central area, and it is true further West.

  93. Siganus Sutor says:

    One can only note that Marie-Lucie and David are back at the same time. :o)

  94. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I knew there weren’t equal quantities of words starting with each letter of the alphabet — when I was a child there were 22 pages of Smiths in the London phone book — but Marie-lucie, did you see this?
    Why do the two volumes of my Tresor dóu Felibrige cover A-F and G-Z? Posted by Roger Depledge, near the top.

  95. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I would welcome David back too, but he’s always going away. I think he has another hobby, like you and Language.

  96. A.J.P. Crown says:

    22 pages of Smiths in the London phone book*
    *Now i come to think of it this isn’t really relevant. Anyway, i have played Scrabble so I knew about the Q, John Emerson.

  97. marie-lucie says:

    Why do the two volumes of my Tresor dóu Felibrige cover A-F and G-Z?
    I did see that, and I don’t have an explanation beyond the randomness of letter distribution. A possibility could be that the compilation was done by different people, some of whom were more diligent than others? But really, I don’t know.

  98. marie-lucie says:

    (In Spanish) The v sound is pronounced with the lips almost together. It looks to me like they are saying b, but I hear v.
    As mentioned above, what you hear is not [v] but a sound intermediate between [b] and [v].
    This kind of interpretation is very common: expecting one of a pair of sounds that are distinctive in our own language, we interpret an intermediate sound as the other member of the pair, so expecting [b] from the lip position, but hearing [β], we interpret this sound as the [v] that is in our own language.
    Another example is in common transcriptions of a French accent in English, as in “a leetle beet” for a little bit. The French vowel written i is not the same as English written i, but it is not the same as ee either, it is somewhere in between, so that English speakers expecting their i interpret the French sound as their ee.
    This perceptual tendency has a counterpart in visual perception: for instance it is well known that the same shade of grey appears lighter next to black and darker next to white, because we tend to exaggerate the difference.

  99. Did Mistral have collaborators? Did he share the Nobel booty with them?
    It appears that there are simply unpopular letters in the second volume:

    A   1   199 199
    B  199  397 199
    C  397  692 296
    D  693  833 141
    E  833 1084 252
    F 1084 1196 113

    G    1  113 113
    H  114  118   5
    I  118  149  32
    J  149  172  24
    K  172  172   1
    L  173  239  67
    M  239  390 152
    N  391  422  32
    O  422  453  32
    P  454  666 213
    Q  666  679  14
    R  679  824 146
    S  825  940 116
    T  940 1067 128
    U 1067 1076  10
    V 1076 1144  69
    X 1144 1144   1
    Y 1144 1144   1
    Z 1144 1148   5
  100. I really feel badly for the letter Q; someone should stick up for it. Now, in the above listing, it seems to have acquired the mark of the beast, being on page 666.

  101. (In Spanish) The v sound is pronounced with the lips almost together. It looks to me like they are saying b, but I hear v.
    This is also how I say the b/v in Spanish, even if I can’t hear the difference, and Hispanics seem to understand me just fine. In Arabic there are some 5 or so letters representing various shadings of d and t that I can’t distinguish from each other, along with the two forms of s. I’ve always suspected they really represent a consonant plus the vowel that follows it, and the Arabs are just unclear on the concept of vowels.
    It seem the formal linguists describe sounds by how they are formed and not by how they are perceived. It would be interesting to try to categorize sounds by the way they are received by the ear (or recording device).

  102. michael farris says:

    In Arabic I think you’re talking about the emphatics (traditionally there is emphatic s,t,d and either dh or z depending on dialect). Some modern dialects extend the set with emphatic b, l, n, r etc. Alternately, some dialects de-emphasize them and the contrast can be lost in casual speech.
    I’ve seen different (sometimes more or less mutually exclusive) descriptions of how they differ from their non-emphatic counterparts. Generally the neck muscles are tightened and tongue position is altered somewhat. Non-Arabic speakers tend to not hear the difference between the consonants but can hear the difference in vowel sounds around them easily enough.
    Some of the distinctive features of emphatics correspond roughly with the paralinguistic features that accompany stress or anger in (at least American) English and this can affect how Americans perceive Arabs and their language(s).
    In the field methods class I lead, we just began elicitation with a speaker of Tunisian Arabic, which I’ve seen described as _both_ extending the emphatic series _and_ as losing the distinction between emphatic and neutral consonants. It’s too early to say anything about emphatics one way or the other (I will say the vowel qualities are not at all like anything I expected so far).

  103. Please report back when you’ve figured out what’s going on!

  104. A.J.P. Crown says:

    You just know that MMcM did that by utilizing some clever computer keyboard trick that most of us can’t do. It took him about fifteen seconds.

  105. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    If this blog were a one-room schoolhouse, run by Miss Hat, you also just know that MMcM would always come top of the class. He’s just better than us.

  106. Arabic has two forms of h as well, usually transliterated h and H. Those are easier to hear, once you know what to look for.

  107. marie-lucie says:

    It seem the formal linguists describe sounds by how they are formed and not by how they are perceived. It would be interesting to try to categorize sounds by the way they are received by the ear (or recording device)
    Actually there is some categorization by perceived quality in older technical phonetics, for instance calling r and l “liquids”. But such impressions are too subjective (and influenced by the language of the describer) to be very useful, as we tend to hear foreign sounds according to those in our own language (an operation of the brain rather than just the ear). Categorizing sounds by how they are formed allows a person unfamiliar with a sound (eg in learning another language from a book) to pronounce it with a fair degree of accuracy according to its technical description. This aspect of language study is called articulatory phonetics and is useful for other aspects of linguistics, such as the study of language change through history.
    Recording the sounds for analysis is the province of acoustic phonetics, which (among other things) separates the sounds into their “formants”. Acoustic phonetics is useful for many technical applications but less so for the study of language itself.

  108. David Marjanović says:

    Oopsie. I have, to my surprise, heard glottalizing Americans, but they only turned word-final /t/ into [ʔ]. Yes, for Americans the /t/ in little can go all the way to disappearing. Would you like to hear another lamentation on how I shouldn’t post so late at night? :-)

    However, there must be a phonetic link between ejectives and voicing:

    Sure. There are languages in the Caucasus where every consonant is either voiced or aspirated or ejective; the least marked ones are the ejective ones, so they can end up losing all marking (the ejection) and becoming voiceless lenes which are then reinterpreted as voiced. Or something. Anyway, ejectives becoming voiced happens in Kabardian according to the IPA Handbook (pdf).

    glottalized (= ejective) [m']

    Being voiced and nasal, it isn’t ejective. It could be implosive, but chickening out and using the cover term “glottalized” can never go wrong. :-)
    (Hausa has implosive /ɓ/ and /ɗ/ but ejective /kʼ/, which looks like it’s the result of a change from ejective to implosive from front to back — indeed, some versions of the Glottalic Theory of PIE have postulated that implosive consonants were an intermediate between ejectives and voiced consonants.
    (Hmmmmm. It looks like all those half nights that I spent surfing in Wikipedia have finally paid off.)

    Thus far I have not seen this sort of change hypothesized for the rarity of [b] in PIE.

    Paleoglot, the guy who got so incredibly upset that John Emerson’s presence and his in-jokes about Dravidian are tolerated here, has suggested that the PIE unaspirated voiced consonants come from ejectives via creaky-voiced consonants (and the aspirated voiced ones from unaspirated voiced ones). I bet he hasn’t published, though. He’s such a misanthropist, it’s hard imagining him dealing with an editor, let alone peer-review.

    About the lack of b/v opposition in Occitan, I did not want to make a generalization that might not hold overall, but it was true for my grandparents’ speech, from just West of the South-Central area, and it is true further West.

    The reason I asked was of course if the geography is consistent with it being Basque influence.
    Funnily enough, there’s evidence that the Basque phoneme is itself a fusion of older /b/ and /w/.

    Tunisian Arabic, which I’ve seen described as _both_ extending the emphatic series _and_ as losing the distinction between emphatic and neutral consonants

    One complication in western Arabic is that the differences between the dialects don’t align with the countries, but mostly with cities vs Bedouins. And that’s just one of the complications; search the archives of this blog for more.

    You just know that MMcM did that by utilizing some clever computer keyboard trick that most of us can’t do. It took him about fifteen seconds.

    He has 1337 HTML sgillz.

    Arabic has two forms of h as well, usually transliterated h and H.

    You won’t be surprised to learn that I, with my German background, interpret the latter as a (very odd) form of [x] (spelled ch) rather than of [h].

    such impressions are too subjective (and influenced by the language of the describer) to be very useful

    Categories like “liquids” can be very useful for describing how a language treats sounds. They are just very badly portable between languages.

  109. A.J.P. Crown says:

    He has 1337 HTML sgillz.
    Is that the German version?

  110. Arabic has two forms of h as well, usually transliterated h and H.
    You won’t be surprised to learn that I, with my German background, interpret the latter as a (very odd) form of [x] (spelled ch) rather than of [h].

    Arabic also has a letter tranliterated as x. It’s common as in the greeting “Kafe hallek?” (how are you?) “Bxeer.” (blessed) The x is sort of the spitting sound a cat makes when defending its territory. I think it’s the unvoiced version of the sound wirten as gh which is sort of gargeled.

  111. woops, this posted itself before I could edit. continuing…
    Arabic has two forms of h as well, usually transliterated h and H.
    You won’t be surprised to learn that I, with my German background, interpret the latter as a (very odd) form of [x] (spelled ch) rather than of [h].
    Arabic consonents:
    h=same as English
    H=exhaled very audibly, as you would when saying HA! or when testing for halitosis :~)
    x=cat hiss originating in the throat
    gh=vocalized cat hiss, sort of gargled–my Arab friends would not let me practice this consonant during meals. In fact, my pronunciation of this consonant is so not understandable they taught me alternative vocabulary so I wouldn’t have to say it.
    kh=sort of a k that isn’t completely closed off or a cat hiss from the roof of the mouth.
    Then of course there’s the kaf, qaf, jeem thing and the terrible way the Egyptians massacre the letter j by turning it into a g.

  112. Michael Farris says:

    I’ve come across those four so far (I think). Nb transcription is very ad hoc (it’s best to avoid IPA in early versions of fieldwork – it doesn’t really help) I’m also using something I can easily type (in arial unicode I might restrict myself to Latin extended A later) also, these haven’t been checked yet so I might still adjust a little or a lot)
    h – easy choice, as in nha:r (day)
    x – easy choice as in sxu:n (hot)
    ħ – our consultant has been unimpressed with my attempts to render this so far, as in ekħıl (black) I borrowed the letter from Maltese
    ǥ – as in sǥi:r (small)
    so far q always has g as a free variant with a change in vowel quality too qalb/gelb ‘heart’.
    Also, I’m trying to simultaneously anticipate some problems (since an Arabic colloquial is not necessarily ideal for an intro field methods class – the difficulties pop up from the very beginning) and wipe my mind clear of preconceptions (IME anything I thought I knew about a language ahead of time was just as likely to work against me in field methods class as help).

  113. the differences between the dialects don’t align with the countries, but mostly with cities vs Bedouins.
    Yes, the Egyptians can’t stand me. Speak English! Speak English, they bellow. With their outrageous hard g’s and their min fin intee‘s. So I go look for the bedouins, and I understand them just fine–as long as they are talking about tea.
    implosive, ejective, glottalized, emphatic, IPA
    Yes, I’ve seen those awful charts and they made sense at one time in some class. But here I can’t follow the pronunciation descriptions at all when the discussion gets technical. And wikipedia is even worse. There MUST be another way.
    He has 1337 HTML sgillz.
    ZOMG! I see what you mean. The columns are all nicely lined up, as if he was using Excel. I don’t even know how to do that with my WordPress HTML text editor. It’s LEET?
    John Emerson’s presence and his in-jokes about Dravidian
    Some of us take Dravidian very seriously–although Mr. Emerson could be a bit quicker with arranging the excursions.

  114. michael farris says:

    Oh, and our consultant has a fricative where most colloquials have an affricate (and Egyptians have [g])
    ra:žıl = man

  115. so far q always has g as a free variant with a change in vowel quality too qalb/gelb ‘heart’.
    This would be the letter qaf? ﻕ I met someone named Qassem (after the prophet’s father?) who insisted on grilling me over the pronunciation of ﻕ . He insisted this consonant was not pronounced like either g or k but was somewhere in between. After listening me try to pronounce it more like one then the other, settled on g, and said I should pronounce his name like “gahsum”.

  116. Nb transcription ? arial unicode?…
    “:” is a syllable marker?
    Oooh, I wish I could follow this.

  117. michael farris says:

    Arial unicode is a font that has a bunch of symbols (incl latin letters with diacritics) not found in Times New Roman and the like.
    : means the vowel is long, so sxu:n and nha:r are single syllables in Tunisian. In general the maghrebi colloquials have a lot of initial consonant clusters where further east there would be a short vowel between them.
    qaf in classical and modern standard arabic is IINM a post velar stop (pronounced further back in the throat than k). It often turns into [g] in the colloquials. Our consultant gives variants with [g] or [q] _as_ variants, which are perceived as distinct versions of the same word (maybe like different pronunciations of the word ‘either’ in English and not unconscious variation (like the precise vowel qualities in unstressed short vowels which move around somewhat).

  118. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, it looks like what you need is a short course in articulatory phonetics. Not necessarily a formal course, but someone who can not only demonstrate the sounds but teach you the ways the “difficult” Arabic sounds (and others) are formed in the mouth, and the technical terms associated with them. Most English consonants are formed in the front part of the mouth, but for Arabic you have to learn to use not only the back part of your mouth but also parts in your throat below the mouth itself. All this can be taught and learned, and then practiced. I don’t know where you live but if you are near a sizable university you should be able to find someone who can help you. This person would not have to be an Arabic specialist as long as they have a good grounding in phonetics.
    Egyptian turning j into g: this topic came up before, I don’t remember where. Egyptian has not changed the pronunciation, instead it preserves an older pronunciation which has changed in other varieties of Arabic.

  119. the terrible way the Egyptians massacre the letter j by turning it into a g.
    I was just coming here to point out that Egyptian in fact preserves the earlier pronunciation, but was beaten to the punch by marie-lucie.

  120. marie-lucie says:

    sorry, LH, I did not know you were on the trail.

  121. No, no, I wasn’t complaining—I’m a lazy man, and would much rather someone else explain things for me!

  122. “articulatory phonetics”
    aha!
    It’s cold here in Chicago; I’d rather go to Wikipedia. I think all that fricative, affricate stuff is what I need to understand the discussion. I already know about glottal stops and aspirated consonants, but it looks like there’s a whole lot more.
    When we were studying colloquial Arabic, everyone sort of made up their own pronunciation code. I ended up with a part time roommate who was bilingual in Spanish and we both transliterated the Arabic based on Spanish phonics, so we could more or less read each other’s handwriting. (We didn’t know the Arabic L33t for texting either.) But from Michael Farris’ comments it looks like there’s already a formal pronunciation code out there that uses symbols like “:”, that you can use for both handwriting and typing

  123. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, if you are in Chicago, there should be plenty of resources (human and written) you can access. Spanish phonics would only go a little farther than English in helping to transliterate Arabic. In your place I would put an ad on the University of Chicago campus asking for a few sessions with a graduate student to help you with the phonetics (pronunciation and transcription) of Arabic. There are just too many sounds there which sound “hissed” or “gargled” (your words) and you need to be able to differentiate them, both in pronunciation and for making reliable notes. Even a few hours of tutoring with the right person should make you much more confident about pronouncing and recording the language accurately.
    (“:” is a symbol added after a vowel to show that it is long, replacing the earlier bar over a vowel, which is OK for handwriting but difficult to reproduce on an ordinary keyboard)

  124. Yes, Michael Farris explained the “:” symbol in the thread above; I’ve never seen it before, but apparently others have.
    It sounds like my attempts to describe consonants without the “articulatory phonetics” thingy are painful.

  125. I love how this crowd can turn a post about an obscure Latin term into a discussion about the phonetics of Arabic dialects. Rock on!

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