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Latin C&G with I&E

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Cainntear
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 Message 1 of 16
20 June 2011 at 3:00pm | IP Logged 
I have often been told that in Latin, C and G are always hard, ie they do not change sound when followed by I or E.

However, I've been learning Romance languages mostly, and as all the ones I've learnt have a hard/soft distinction for C and G, I was starting to wonder about that. So I looked up Romanian, Sardu and Rumansch, and sure enough all three make have hard and soft forms.

So if all the Romance languages do it, why do the experts say that Latin didn't do it?

It's hard to imagine it spontaneously occurring in all these different languages. Given that the Slavic languages, the Germanic languages, the Celtic languages and Basque don't do it, and that these were the traditional languages of most of the regions where Romance languages are spoken, where on Earth did it come from?!?!?
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Ari
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 Message 2 of 16
20 June 2011 at 3:20pm | IP Logged 
Just guessing, but it seems to me that the most likely explanation is that it was a change that took place in Latin before it split up. It's to be expected that Latin would change during the hundreds of years it was used in the Roman Empire. When experts talk about the hard 'c' and 'g' they're probably talking about Latin as it was spoken (guessing here) in the Republic. Latin then had a long time to develop these changes before it split up into the Romance languages.
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Doitsujin
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 Message 3 of 16
20 June 2011 at 4:47pm | IP Logged 
Most Latin grammar books cite contemporary Greek texts as evidence. The standard example seems to be the transliteration of Cicero, which was written as Κικέρων (Kikerōn) even though Greek has a letter that is the equivalent of Latin S.
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Hampie
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 Message 4 of 16
20 June 2011 at 9:23pm | IP Logged 
G and C changing before certain vowels happens in many languages, even Germanic ones. As for Latin, there’s solid
evidence that c and g indeed was ‹hard› during the Golden Age.
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Iversen
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 Message 5 of 16
21 June 2011 at 1:42am | IP Logged 
Good question.

The spelling of Roman words in Greek and the form of certain loanwords in Germanic languages (like the words for emperor, which are derived from Caesar (kejser, Kaiser etc)) all point to a situation with hard c's in all position. But it is actually thought provoking that all modern Romance language have soft and hard c's, and that symptomatic changes in the ortography occur from their first appearences - cfr. for instance caput ---> chef, cantus (-um) ---> chanson in French, but c in front of a,o etc. in precisely those words where Modern French has a hard /k/ sound..

In spite of the evidence for hard c's in Classical Latin it is hard not to suppose a difference in pronunciation at an early stage in the ordinary spoken language, called 'Vulgar Latin' (which actually just means the Latin of the people, not that everything the average Roman cared to say was vulgar - in spite of the fact that much of our knowledge about this kind of Latin stems from graffitti in the brothels of Pompei and Herculanum).

One puzzling thing to consider in this discussion is that the earliest inscriptions in Latin actually made a distinction between 'k' and 'c':

"In the earliest Latin inscriptions, the letters C, K and Q were all used to represent the sounds /k/ and /g/ (which were not differentiated in writing). Of these, Q was used to represent /k/ or /g/ before a rounded vowel, K before /a/, and C elsewhere. Later, the use of C (and its variant G) replaced most usages of K and Q. K survived only in a few fossilized forms such as Kalendae, "the calends"."

What is unclear here is why 'c' almost completely pushed 'k' out - was this due to a change in the pronunciation, at least among cultivated Romans? Or was the distinction never more than a remnant from the Etruscan alphabet with no basis in Latin? If there actually was a distinction in archaic Latin, could it have lived on without being documented in the spoken language of the lower classes? To answer this last question you have to look at sources like the graffitti in Pompei and typical spelling errors made by pupils. The scholars have apparently concluded that even the lower classes used /k/ in front of e,i, but I have not been able to find actual proof in the form of examples for this by my searches on the internet. Maybe others can be more lucky.


Edited by Iversen on 21 June 2011 at 9:29am

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Cainntear
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 Message 6 of 16
21 June 2011 at 12:56pm | IP Logged 
Doitsujin wrote:
Most Latin grammar books cite contemporary Greek texts as evidence. The standard example seems to be the transliteration of Cicero, which was written as Κικέρων (Kikerōn) even though Greek has a letter that is the equivalent of Latin S.

Ah, I see.

(However, I'd just like to point out that sometime "learnèd" borrowings are polluted by overconcern with etymology. To whit:

The prefix psych- PS cluster with unpronounced P because of Greek, Y because it's Greek, and CH because that's more like what the Greeks had than CK, even though we say CK.)

But OK, I see your point, and that's what I was wanting to know.
Thanks.
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Grassmanian
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 Message 7 of 16
21 June 2011 at 11:00pm | IP Logged 
I found an interest book that discusses the pronunciation of classical Latin and summarizes the evidence. It is
"Vox Latina. The Pronunciation of Classical Latin" by W. Sidney Allen.

He claims that c was uniformly hard until the 5th century AD.

Here is his evidence:

(1) Inscriptions sometimes replace the more usual c with k even when this sound was followed by an e or an i.

(2) Greek writers regularly replace c with a kappa when transcribing Latin words even when the Latin c was followed
by an e or an i.

(3) Contemporary Latin grammarians made no indication that c was pronounced in more than one way.

(4) There are Romance languages that still preserve the hard pronunciation. (The Sardinian word for 100 is cited)

There doesn't seem to be much evidence to the contrary, or at least no evidence that the author thinks is worth
mentioning.

Even though the c sound was uniformly hard in classical Latin, the exact sound was "colored" by the following
vowels. However, this distinction was not phonemic in Latin. Latin borrowed its alphabet from the Etruscans, and
some of the distinctions between these "k-sounds" were phonemic in Etruscan and were distinguised in Etruscan
spelling. Latin inherited three ways to write the same Latin phoneme: c, k, q. In early Latin inscriptions, the c
tended to be used before e and i, the k before a, and the q before o and u. This was a practiced influenced by
Etruscan, but with a few exceptions (such as qu- words, and a few k- words such as Kalendae) this practiced
died out and c became the norm.

Edited by Grassmanian on 21 June 2011 at 11:01pm

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Iversen
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 Message 8 of 16
23 June 2011 at 1:28pm | IP Logged 
And something I found in a book on the internet about "The Roman Pronunciation of Latin" by Frances E. Lord (1894):


C appears to have but one sound, the hard, as in sceptic:

[Mar. Vict. Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] C etiam et . . . G sono proximae, oris molimine nisuque dissentiunt. Nam c reducta introrsum lingua hinc atque hinc molares urgens haerentem intra os sonum vocis excludit: g vim prioris pari linguae habitu palato suggerens lenius reddit.

Not only do we find no hint in the grammarians of any sound akin to the soft c in English, as in sceptre, but they all speak of c and k and q as identical, or substantially so, in sound; and Quintilian expressly states that the sound of c is always the same. Speaking of k as superfluous, he says:

[Quint. I. vii. 10.] Nam k quidem in nullis verbis utendum puto, nisi quae significat, etiam ut sola ponatur. Hoc eo non omisi, quod quidam eam quotiens a sequatur necessariam credunt, cum sit c littera, quae ad omnes vocales vim suam perferat.
11 And Priscian declares:

[Keil. v. II. p. 13.] Quamvis in varia figura et vario nomine sint k et q et c, tamen quia unam vim habent tam in metro quam in sono, pro una littera accipi debent.



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