Vowels in prooemia

By Bitmap, in 'Reading Latin', Mar 19, 2019.

  1. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena
    I remember reading about this in a German online article by Niklas Holzberg (classics professor from Munich) that was called "Wann sind Übersetzer lateinischer Poesie mit ihrem Latein am Ende?" - "When Do Translators of Latin Poetry Reach the End of Their Latin*?"

    * "mit seinem Latein am Ende sein", lit. "to be at the end of your Latin" is a German idiom that means "to be at your wit's end" / "to have no (more) idea(s)"

    The article was here, but unfortunately it seems to have been taken offline. I still have it on my computer, but I don't know if I'm allowed to upload it here.

    He made the observation that in a lot of great works, the first verse features a parade of all 5 basic vowels (a, e, i, o, u) before the middle caesura in the 3rd foot (penthemimeres). That is certainly true for the Aeneid, but I've also noticed that it happens a lot in Ovid's opera:

    Vergil, Aeneid
    arma virumque cano // Troiae qui primus ab oris

    Ovid, Amores
    arma gravi numero // violentaque bella parabam

    Ars
    si quis in hoc artem // populo non novit amandi
    (The hyperbaton here in hoc <> populo does not only move "artem", essentially the title of the work, into a more prominent place right before the caesura, it also helps to fulfil the premise of having all vowels in there)

    Metamorphoses
    in nova fert animus // mutatas dicere formas

    Fasti
    tempora cum causis // Latium digesta per annum

    Tristia
    parve nec invideo // sine me liber ibis in urbem
    (this is a bit of a stretch because you would have to equate the "v" in parve or invideo to a u)

    All of this already seems to have its roots in Homer's Odyssey:
    andra moi ennepe, Moysa (= Musa), // polytropon, hos mala polla


    Holzberg only focuses on the beginning of the Aeneid and the Amores, and he writes that in the past, people had doubt as to whether that parade of vowels was intentional. However, it seems like this phenomenon is not that rare, so I'd say there's reason to believe that it was done on purpose.

    If so, I wonder what the intention is ... I'm not very knowledgable at music, but it reminds me a bit of a singer warming up for a song by going through all of the notes once again. Do you think that's plausible?
    Last edited by Bitmap, Mar 19, 2019
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  2. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    I don't know if it was intentional. I guess it could be, but what would have been the purpose of it, I've no idea.

    Comparing vowels in a poem to musical notes seems far-fetched, because the vowel isn't the unit of poetry like the note is the unit of music.
  3. Pacifica grammaticissima

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    Belgium
    In French we have a somewhat dated idiom "en perdre son Latin", literally "to lose one's Latin from (= because of) it", meaning to be completely flummoxed by something.

    It's most common in the context of saying that something is "à en perdre son Latin", that is, utterly confusing, such that one would lose one's Latin because of it.
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  4. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena

    Have you ever tried to write a poem without vowels? Maybe the Polish can do that ;)
  5. Etaoin Shrdlu Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
  6. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena
  7. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Actually, I'm not aware of any Polish words without any vowels. Godmy can attest that there many Czech words, though, which are competely devoid of vowels. Or try Arabic, lol.
  8. Godmy A Monkey

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    Bohemia
    Well, yes, we have many words "without vowels" (Strč prst skrz krk.)

    ... but to break the myth, a phonetician would very much deplore this description of the state. Of course, in all of these words there IS a vowel, but it's a central vowel (like the English schwa) following in these cases the "r" or "l" - for which vowel we have no special sign - and since that is how we sometimes pronounce the name of the letters in isolation (=all consonants simply can be followed by a schwa), we can as well write the whole words like this. But Bulgarian, for example, has (to my knowledge) exactly the same phonetic reality in this aspect, but unlike us, HAS a special sign for the central vowel and I haven't seen them being accused of having no vowels in words :p

    Of course that phonetically, a word without vowel doesn't exist ;)
    Last edited by Godmy, Apr 14, 2019
  9. Etaoin Shrdlu Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Good luck with that.

    A British person will often say that a word like 'syzygy', for example, has no vowels. An American will not. This is because Americans learn at school that the vowels are A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y, but that last bit is left out in British schools.

    As a consequence, the average person refuses to believe that Y can be a vowel in English, because they were told that it wasn't. If you're going to add things like L and R acting as vowels, or even the Welsh W, you're just going to get blank looks.

    (I assumed Bitmap was joking, if only because the German words for consonant and vowel – Mitlaut and Selbstlaut – would push one towards the side of the phoneticians.)
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  10. Godmy A Monkey

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    Bohemia
    Funny :D

    Well, I think that linguistics must be in the forefront of the sciences that fight most with the folk/pseudo science from laymen or sometimes even elementary/high school teachers: because everybody is a user of a language and therefore everybody often thinks (and especially people having attempted to learn a foreign one) that they basically understand a language in general (theoretically) and can throw terms left and right... and I end up irritated : D
  11. Etaoin Shrdlu Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
  12. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    I've been able to access twitter links a few times lately. It seems like whatever caused the "erreur" has fixed itself.
  13. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
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    Varsovia
    It's still interesting that graphically, they're left out.
    Btw sorry for being an ignoramus on this topic.
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  14. Dantius Homo Sapiens

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    Are you implying that the average person is British?

    (also, you could have chosen a much simpler word than "syzygy", like "fly" or "sky")
  15. Etaoin Shrdlu Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    I meant the average British person, of course. Obviously, the numerical preponderance of Americans would skew the average.

    Surely one should take advantage of any opportunity to use 'syzygy'.
  16. Etaoin Shrdlu Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    I should probably have tagged Godmy in my post above. I don't always do things instinctively in an internet manner.
  17. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    Nono, I read it, but following what I have just written to Dantius elsewhere, it's always kind of difficult to me to collect my strength and actually post ; P

    (that is, I haven't read the newest one, you're right)

    I must confess that, atm., without googling, I have both no idea what 'syzygy' is and how it should be pronounced... but it looks quite Polish or Hungarian to me :D (sorry for being an ignoramus)

    ...and a funny story with that twitter user; I don't know him though. I post to the Twitter (my only 'real' social network) once in a blue moon.
    Last edited by Godmy, Apr 17, 2019 at 4:48 PM
  18. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
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    Varsovia
    Definitely not Polish. :p
  19. Godmy A Monkey

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    Bohemia
    :D
  20. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Probably some made-up BS.

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