Magister, magistra

Dumnorix

New Member
I have a question about the accented syllable in magister, magistra. I believe that this is accented maGISter, maGIStra, according to pronunciation rules. And in Scripture readings in church I also hear the penultima accented, maJISter. But I have noticed that some (fairly inexperienced) Latin teachers accent the first syllable; they use ecclesiastical pronunciation and pronounce this as MAjister, MAjistra. Is accenting the first syllable perhaps an acceptable Anglicized pronunciation? Or is it just wrong?
 

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member
Yes, this is very common, and has to do with the fact that in English, /st/ often acts as a complex onset, i.e. the whole cluster counts as beginning the next syllable, leaving the preceding syllable /gi/ open and thus unstressed by the penultimate law. These speakers parse the word as magi-ster. In Latin /st/ cannot be a complex onset inside the word (unlike /tr/, /pl/ which are regularly so), and every syllable before it is closed. The word-initial /st/ would also originally close the previous syllable, but in poetry it sometimes doesn't, probably under Greek influence where it's ambiguous like /tr/, /mn/, /ps/ etc.
 
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Clemens

Civis Illustris
Luckily liturgical books are printed with the stress marked, although the local priest here often mispronounces things (and not just the stress). I think I'm the only one who notices.
 

Dumnorix

New Member
Good on him -- at least he is trying! Yes, Mass readings are printed with the accent marked. And there are also helpful websites for viewing the Mass propers.
 
Yes, this is very common, and has to do with the fact that in English, /st/ often acts as a complex onset, i.e. the whole cluster counts as beginning the next syllable, leaving the preceding syllable /gi/ open and thus unstressed by the penultimate law. These speakers parse the word as magi-ster. In Latin /st/ cannot be a complex onset inside the word (unlike /tr/, /pl/ which are regularly so), and every syllable before it is closed. The word-initial /st/ would also originally close the previous syllable, but in poetry it sometimes doesn't, probably under Greek influence where it's ambiguous like /tr/, /mn/, /ps/ etc.
/st/, /sp/ and /sk~ʃ/ were also treated differently in English, metrically, i.e., each of them alliterated only with itself, never with /s/ alone or with /s/+any other consonant. But that obviously changed. Not really relevant, but a fun fact, I guess.
 

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member
/st/, /sp/ and /sk~ʃ/ were also treated differently in English, metrically, i.e., each of them alliterated only with itself, never with /s/ alone or with /s/+any other consonant. But that obviously changed. Not really relevant, but a fun fact, I guess.
Oh this is quite relevant actually, and quite striking! I read about this once but had totally forgotten, and I appreciate you mentioning it here.
 

Dumnorix

New Member
Yes, this is very common, and has to do with the fact that in English, /st/ often acts as a complex onset, i.e. the whole cluster counts as beginning the next syllable, leaving the preceding syllable /gi/ open and thus unstressed by the penultimate law. These speakers parse the word as magi-ster. In Latin /st/ cannot be a complex onset inside the word (unlike /tr/, /pl/ which are regularly so), and every syllable before it is closed. The word-initial /st/ would also originally close the previous syllable, but in poetry it sometimes doesn't, probably under Greek influence where it's ambiguous like /tr/, /mn/, /ps/ etc.
Thank you for this reply. So, in dividing Latin words with st into syllables, generally the s and t are separated: ma GIS ter, NOS ter, IUS tis (unless the st stands first or last in the word), whereas in English st tends to stay together (MA gi strate)?
 

Anbrutal Russicus

Active Member
Thank you for this reply. So, in dividing Latin words with st into syllables, generally the s and t are separated: ma GIS ter, NOS ter, IUS tis (unless the st stands first or last in the word), whereas in English st tends to stay together (MA gi strate)?
It should always be divided (with the noted poetic exceptions, and either way is possible if there's a third consonant preceeding, like extrā /ek.stra:~eks.tra:/), including when it's last - Latin resyllabifies consonants between word boundaries in the stream of speech, like all the Romance languages do. A consonant followed by a vowel always begins the following syllable and never closes the previous, so e.g. the small-er of English is impossible in Latin, the next closest thing being a double consonant. In English consonants in such cases belong to two syllables at once.
 
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