Latin minimal pairs distinguished only by vowel length

Iáson

Cívis Illústris
like the third line in the third asclaepiad
If I remember correctly, there may be a degree of uncertainty over whether the fourth line in such cases is actually a real separate line or a continuation of the third, whatever that means exactly.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I see absolutely no problem with that term.
I've mentioned this before. To me the term seems inexact, or at the very least misleading, because the last syllable of e.g. domus is naturally long: if you take the word on its own, it's do = short and mus = long. The second syllable only becomes short if it loses its s to a following vowel, e.g. domus illa = do-mu-sil-la, where mu is short. Hence, it seems to me that it would actually be more logical to talk of short by position instead of long by position.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I've mentioned this before. To me the term seems inexact, or at the very least misleading, because the last syllable of e.g. domus is naturally long: if you take the word on its own, it's do = short and mus = long. The second syllable only becomes short if it loses its s to a following vowel, e.g. domus illa = do-mu-sil-la, where mu is short. Hence, it seems to me that it would actually be more logical to talk of short by position instead of long by position.
Oh ... I remember now. I can see the point, but I wouldn't find that more logical ... mainly because I wouldn't consider the syllable mus to be naturally long.
 

Iáson

Cívis Illústris
I do see what you mean, but that is assuming that the 'natural' state of a word is its pronunciation in pausa. Most words are found with other words.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I mean, the -mus is long wherever it's allowed to stay together as a syllable. Do-mus-me-a, do-mus-tu-a, do-mus-Mar-ci... It, or rather the -mu- part of it, is short when the s goes to the next syllable because the latter starts in a vowel. Ergo, -mus is long; -mus minus -s = -mu- is short.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I get your point, but it's really just two ways of explaining the same phenomenon, which both seem somewhat consistent to me ... but yours is more confusing :D
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I mean, the -mus is long wherever it's allowed to stay together as a syllable. Do-mus-me-a, do-mus-tu-a, do-mus-Mar-ci... It, or rather the -mu- part of it, is short when the s goes to the next syllable because the latter starts in a vowel. Ergo, -mus is long; -mus minus -s = -mu- is short.
So, actually, even saying that -mus was "short by position" in domus illa would be inexact as well. It's really -mu- that's short. The s simply no longer belongs that the same syllable, as it becomes do-mu-sil-la.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I get your point, but it's really just two ways of explaining the same phenomenon, which both seem somewhat consistent to me ... but yours is more confusing :D
I think the traditional terminology is not representative of what actually happens and causes confusion and misunderstandings (which I myself went through before realizing these things; e.g. I wondered "How the heck does a following consonant miraculously make a short syllable like -mus long?" while in fact that's not at all what happens, unlike what the terminology would seem to suggest). But let's just agree to disagree.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I think the traditional terminology is not representative of what actually happens and causes confusion and misunderstandings
Try teaching your explanation to a bunch of undergraduates and try to see if it causes no confusion or misunderstanding :p

e.g. I wondered "How the heck does a following consonant miraculously make a short syllable like -mus long?"
It's because that explanation operates on the distinction of natural length and positional length.
 

Serenus

legātus armisonus
@Pacifica Besides your (good) argument for the term "short by position", another problem is the distinction of syllable length vs. vowel length. A lot of people get confused because they're (correctly) taught that the -u- of domus is short, but they're supposed to think of the syllable as "long" unless followed by a vowel, or are (correctly) taught the -e- of est (sum es est) is short, but are supposed to think of the syllable as always "long".

Maybe it'd be better to the switch to the terminology used in linguistics: heavy and light syllables, short and long vowels, and thus also speak of syllables that are "light by position".
 
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Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
Try teaching your explanation to a bunch of undergraduates and try to see if it causes no confusion or misunderstanding
It, like many things, might cause confusion, but if one managed to get it then it would dispense with the misconceptions the current terminology causes.

Besides, would an explanation like this be comparatively so hard to understand?

1) A syllable is long if a) it contains a long vowel; b) it contains a diphthong; c) it is closed = ends in a consonant.

2) A consonant followed by a vowel gets attached to the latter, and thus belongs to the same syllable as that vowel, even if it belongs to a different word. E.g. domus illa = do-mu-sil-la.

3) Just follow the above two rules and you'll figure out that -mu- in do-mu-sil-la is short and -mus in do-mus-me-a is long.
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
Besides, would an explanation like this be comparatively so hard to understand?
As I said, you should really try to teach that to a group of undergraduates and let reality hit you :D

It, like many things, might cause confusion, but if one managed to get it then it would dispense with the misconceptions the current terminology causes.
I didn't really run into any confusion with the rules by which I learnt Ancient metres. Then again, many other people did ... but that was mainly because they failed to understand general principles and to abstract from a rule. I haven't heard of anyone being confused because he overthought the whole issue the way you did. At some point, I also realised that the correct separation of domus illa would be do-mu-sil-la, but that didn't really conflict with the way I scan verse.

Your model has the drawback of equating length to the question of open vs. closed syllables. It does not account for the question of natural length.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
As I said, you should really try to teach that to a group of undergraduates and let reality hit you
Well, whatever you try to teach a class, some students will always be confused anyway. I don't see how my explanation is inherently more confusing.
It does not account for the question of natural length.
I'm not sure what you mean.
1) A syllable is long if a) it contains a long vowel; b) it contains a diphthong; c) it is closed = ends in a consonant.
I'd say all the above is "natural length" but maybe you mean something different by the word "natural".
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I'd say all the above is "natural length" but maybe you mean something different by the word "natural".
I'm sorry. I fully understand your argument, but it has a few shortcomings.
I'm not sure why you are not willing to understand the argument I'm making, given that even other people have weighed in on it, but I don't want to take this thread off-topic any further.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I genuinely wanted to know what you meant by "It does not account for the question of natural length" but if you don't want to explain, fine. I guess the discussion has lasted long enough and you're right to put stop to it, anyway.
 

Serenus

legātus armisonus
Qui sic? Nonne de "cedo = da!" agitur? Gaffiot utramque correptam dat: https://logeion.uchicago.edu/cedo, idem lexicon Oxoniense. Quanquam confesso me non animadvertisse in LS ultimae vocali nullum signum imponi, quod apud eos forsitan ancipitem significet.
Nōn dē cĕdŏ, sed dē ego agitur, quod dē hōc verbō, nōn illō loquēbar cum subitō respōnsistī nūllum lexicon esse quīn indicāret o prōductam.

L&S rārā occāsiōne vōcālis ad fīnem verbī inventae indicant longitūdinem.
 

Michael Zwingli

Active Member
Here's one: the adjective iūgis "continuous, persistent, perduring, everlasting", and iugīs, the ablative plural both of the adjective iugus "joined together, joined by means of a cross-member, yoked, and (figuratively) married", and of the noun iugum "a cross-member, a crossbeam, a yoke". Incidentally, iūgis and iugus/iugum derive from two completely different IE roots, which was not generally recognized until about 1994. Before that, either they were assumed to derive from the same root, or that iūgis derived from iugum (!), which consideration might make some type of (vague) sense semantically, but posed both morphological and analogical problems.
 
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Bitmap

Civis Illustris
That's not a minimal pair.

But I suppose the neuter iuge and the vocative iuge would be one.
 
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