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Goals - oral and aural appreciation.

One thing strikes me - so much of the very substance of a Classical Roman text - for example, Cicero, is determined by technical metrical effects - his very choice of words is driven by the metrical requirements of his prose, especially at the ends of sentences and clauses. I do not believe one can properly appreciate what Cicero, or any Classical author, or poet was doing with language, unless one appreciates the auditory effects of quantity, both in prose, and in poetry , certainly, much of his brilliance and the sparkling nature of Cicero's prose is lost if it is just words on a page, dissected, as someone once remarked, 'like a dead frog'.

I know this aesthetic tradition of literature appreciation is very pre-19th century, after which time in the universities philological analysis, and then in the 20th century political analysis of text took over....largely ignoring what was seen as the mere sentimental aspect of the work.
Even here, however, one needs to be aware of the driving forces behind word choices made by authors....which are often driven by the requirements of eloquence, striving for rhetorical effect, not only in meaning, but in the very sound of the words. Without an appreciation for quantity, all of this just flies by, unheeded. One is , effectively, reading as though partially blinded.

So, before one reaches for the scalpel, a student, to my mind, needs to be able to appreciate to some degree the beauty of the text, and certainly be listening to it,( at least once!) if not actually being able to recite it.

There is a beauty in language and in poetry that is lost if the work is not vitalised, and listened to or read aloud. I read English poetry aloud to appreciate it, as I do French. I read Latin aloud too, for the same reasons.


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Comment by Laura Gibbs on October 27, 2008 at 9:26am
Hi Evan, as you know, my main interest is the fable tradition and storytelling in general. This tradition is most strongly represented in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, and much less so in the classical period.
So, I would put in a plug here for reading out loud even without appreciating the mysteries of vowel quantity. The Latin authors whom I treasure - like Odo of Cheriton, just to take one example of many - were storytellers, often oralists (Odo was a preacher), and they were very aware of the use of word order and sound patterns to convey meaning in what they wrote ... even if Odo's own pronunciation would have been oblivious to the quantity system used by the ancient Romans.
So, I too would endorse the reading of Latin out loud as essential - including those authors for whom quantity is not one of the aesthetic effects at their disposal. Word order itself (and related features, such as parallelism, alliteration, etc.) - constituted an incredible component of Latin style for all Latin authors, including non-classical authors. That means reading Latin out loud is a great experience for all kinds of Latin - even if the author is not writing quantitative poetry or Ciceronian cola.
Comment by Latinum Institute on October 28, 2008 at 7:27am
Of course - the same applies to Latin from any period - no matter according to which 'system' or pronunciation is used for reading - even when reading without quantity, the alliteration, assonance, and stress patterns still make themselves apparent. Down to the time of Dickens, books were written to be read aloud, and much of their structure derives from that.
Interestingly, I have been trying to workout where Comenius gets his system for Latin tonal rendering from, and have found out that from the 900's through to the 1100's, hundreds of Latin manuscripts were marked out for vowel quantity, in quite a painstaking way, and also, that special signs were used marking tonal raises for questions. In portions of text that were often read aloud, the marking up for quantity and stress is even more detailed.
After the 1200's, the acute begins to appear as a marker, and as you say, not all Latin texts at all time periods were written with a quantitative reading intended.
Comment by Laura Gibbs on October 28, 2008 at 8:04am
It would be fascinating to know just what kind of relationship all those users of Latin over all those centuries felt towards Latin. I would guess that there is an incredible range of ways in which they thought about the language and regarded, far far far greater than the range of attitudes towards Latin which we see today (and that range is itself not small!). Someone like Odo is interesting to me because he will sometimes include vernacular proverbs in his Latin writings, when he realizes there is an especially apt or artful proverb in the vernacular - which would be understood by his audience - so he includes it right together with the Latin. So while he was clearly thinking and writing in Latin, his Latin writings also reveal an awareness of the multilingual environment around him.


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