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Interestingly, some of the tomb inscriptions in the Jewish Roman catacombs are in Latin, but are written in Greek. (and some are the other way around) This is really interesting, as these are phonetic transcriptions. For example, we see the dipthong ae rendered as restored classicists would have us render it on one inscription, and with a simple E in another. We find the accusative ending is simply not there - evidence for it's simply being a nasalisation?
Has anyone done any work on these inscriptions viz Latin pronunciation? I have never seen a reference to inscriptions from the catacombs in any reference text on Pronunciation I have so far come across. Mention is made in Allen of isolated words transliterated, not of whole sentences.
cf. pg 33.

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Comment by Laura Gibbs on February 7, 2009 at 12:30pm
Yes, Evan, there is great stuff in the scholarly literature about inscriptions and pronunciation. I took an awesome course in graduate school with an Italian linguist (Hungarian by origin), Jozsef Herman, on late Latin and proto-Romance, and inscriptional evidence for pronunciation was one of the important topics we discussed, along with the use of scribal "errors" of all kinds (papyri, etc.), transliterations into other ancient languages, etc. as indirect phonetic evidence. I don't know what access you might have to his books and/or articles, but he is a marvelous scholar. That seminar had a huge impact on me because it was the first true LINGUISTICS course which I had in Latin - as opposed to the endless stream of Vergil and other literature courses I had taken where we didn't actually learn much at all about the Latin language and its history.
Comment by Latinum Institute on February 7, 2009 at 12:45pm
I've read some Herman - it was he who put to rest the canard that you can't have vowel length differences, and stress operating together - as he points out, Hungarian does have both, and people manage to speak it ( notably,these are mainly Hungarians). To some degree, my rendering of restored Classical has Herman's argument to blame for he was the one who ultimately convinced me that my intuition that Latin must have had stress, as well as varying the vowel lengths, was not just an error of judgement. Instead of sounding like I am reading funeral orations,( which seems to be the prevailing fashion when reading Latin. What odd people the Romans would have been if they sounded like that!) my Latin is expressive, and we have Herman to thank for that.
I've read of references to this stuff in WS Allen and elsewhere, but, as I said, most of it seems to deal with individual words and phrases, not entire sentences. You are very fortunate to have had Herman teach you, what I have read of his is crystal clear, and well argued. I am a fan, and wish I could have been sitting in that class.
Comment by Laura Gibbs on February 7, 2009 at 1:04pm
He is a true scholar, of the sort you don't meet often these days! I just wish all of graduate school had been that useful. Not to go into details but, ahem, let's just say that it was not. :-)


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