Classical vs. Ecclesiastical Latin

OK, what gives? I just can't buy the idea that my Roman ancestors pronounced Latin in the classical way. Why do some (most? all?) Latin scholars think they did? Where'd the idea come from? Any of you Latin scholars out there buy it?

Pronouncing Latin as one would pronounce Italian (the ecclesiastical way) makes more sense to me and is much more beautiful.
Do you mean Protestant vs Catholic Latin? 
No, Classical as in the pronunciation of Latin during the Golden Age of Roman literature, the Latin of Cicero. It's not anything novel. Even the Jesuits in their Latin textbooks over 100 years ago mention that it's up to the discretion of the professor to teach either or both. Of course, Ecclesiastical Latin was taught for the liturgies.

Latin was always pronounced differently depending on the accents of the different regions, e.g. French, Spanish, British, German, etc. The Roman or Ecclesiastical pronunciation is Italian. St. Pius X worked to unify this pronunciation since it is the Roman rite after all.

Latin derivative words in English take their pronunciation from the British. Celestial is pronounced seh-les-chul (or seh-les-tee-ul) instead of the Italian cheh-les-chul.
Why wouldn't they have? The main differences are the pronunciation of c as k, v as w, and æ more or less like English i rather than English a.

I'm not sure how we know C was always pronounced k, but why wouldn't it be pronounced the same way all the time? For V, remember that U and V were the same letter until fairly recently - and if you write the perfect tense with a U instead of a V, and pronounce the vowels as they are, you get a w sound: amaui, monui, audiui - and the U stayed around in the second conjugation. Likewise, a + e gives an I sound (the modern English I, which is actually a diphthong, /ai/.

Languages change over time - we don't pronounced English the same way Shakespeare did, and even less so than Chaucer did. We see it with French and words borrowed into English at various times. Captain, chief, and chef are all ultimately from Latin caput and all mean basically the same thing, someone in charge of something, but with different initial sounds, reflecting when they were borrowed. There's also German kaiser, which comes from Latin caesar - with the same sounds as classical Latin.

I'm no linguist, but I do know they've studied sound changes in a lot of languages, and they often change in a fairly regular way, so they could look at pronunciation in other languages and how those sounds move into Latin.

While I prefer the Italian pronunciation, that's not the only way to pronounce Latin. There's also the German pronunciation, where C before E or I becomes ts, rather than ch. Ultimately, we don't know exactly how the Romans pronounced Latin, but there's no reason not to use the Italian pronunciation - after all, we read Shakespeare with a modern English pronunciation, and it works just fine.

What I'm after is the evidence classical Latin scholars use to back up their assertion that the classical pronunciation is what was used in ancient Rome. I know that it's generally held that the classical pronunciation was the way -- but I want to know why this is thought. I mean, it's also "generally held" that the Church hates Science, tortured Galileo, waged unjust wars against innocent Muslims, etc.
(02-24-2016, 02:16 AM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: What I'm after is the evidence classical Latin scholars use to back up their assertion that the classical pronunciation is what was used in ancient Rome. I know that it's generally held that the classical pronunciation was the way -- but I want to know why this is thought. I mean, it's also "generally held" that the Church hates Science, tortured Galileo, waged unjust wars against innocent Muslims, etc.

You might find this video helpful.  It is about the English language, not Latin, but it demonstrates well how language changes over time.

Here is an article I read for a class that you might also find informative.

Wow, absolutely fascinating video, Credidi! Thank you for posting that!

I'm hip to the fact that languages and their pronunciations change, but am wondering what sorts of evidence, if any, classical Latinists have in the same way the older man in the video has with regard to how Shakespeare's works were originally pronounced.

Somewhere, some time ago, I remember having read something about how the push for classical pronunciation had an anti-Catholic origin and agenda behind it. I have no idea whether that is true, and can't remember where I read it, but that idea has stuck in my mind and I'm fascinated to learn the Truth about it all.

Whatever the case, ecclesiastical Latin is so much more beautiful and flowing than the harsh classical form. And it definitely much better fits the way modern Italian is spoken.
I meant to put this section from the link I gave in my earlier post.

Imagine a village of a thousand people all speaking the same language and never hearing any language other than their own. As the decades pass and generation succeeds generation, it will not be very apparent to the speakers of the language that any considerable language change is going on. Oldsters may occasionally be conscious of and annoyed by the speech forms of youngsters. They will notice new words, new expressions, bad pronunciations, but will ordinarily put these down to the irresponsibility of youth, and decide piously that the language of the younger generation will revert to decency when the generation grows up.

  It doesn't revert, though. The new expressions and the new pronunciations persist, and presently there is another younger generation with its own new expressions and its own pronunciations. And thus the language changes. If members of the village could speak to one another across five hundred years, they would probably find themselves unable to communicate.

  Now suppose that the village divides itself and half the people move away. They move across the river or over a mountain and form a new village. Suppose the separation is so complete that the people of New Village have no contact with the people of Old Village. The language of both villages will change, drifting away from the language of their common ancestors. But the drift will not be in the same direction. In both villages there will be new expressions and new pronunciations, but not the same ones. In the course of time the language of Old Village and New Village will be mutually unintelligible with the language they both started with. They will also be mutually unintelligible with one another.

  An interesting thing -- and one for which there is no perfectly clear explanation -- is that the rate of change will not ordinarily be the same for both villages. The language of Old Village changes faster than the language of New Village. One might expect that the opposite would be true -- that the emigrants, placed in new surroundings and new conditions, would undergo more rapid language changes. But history reports otherwise. American English, for example, despite the violence and agony and confusion to which the demands of a new continent have subjected it, is probably essentially closer to the language of Shakespeare than London English is.

  Suppose one thing more. Suppose Old Village is divided sharply into an upper class and a lower class. The sons and daughters of the upper class go to preparatory school and then to the university; the children of the lower class go to work. The upper-class people learn to read and write and develop a flowering literature; the lower-class people remain illiterate. Dialects develop, and the speech of the two classes steadily diverges. One might suppose that most of the change would go on among the illiterate, that the upper-class people, conscious of their heritage, would tend to preserve the forms and pronunciations of their ancestors. Not so. The opposite is true. In speech, the educated tend to be radical and the uneducated conservative. In England one finds Elizabethan forms and sounds not among Oxford and Cambridge graduates but among the people of backward villages.

  A village is a fairly simple kind of speech community -- a group of people steadily in communication with one another, steadily hearing one another's speech. But the village is by no means the basic unit. Within the simplest village there are many smaller unitsgroupings based on age, class, occupation. All these groups play intricately on one another and against one another, and a language that seems at first a coherent whole will turn out on inspection to be composed of many differing parts. Some forces tend to make these parts diverge; other forces hold them together. Thus the language continues in tension.


In that Shakespeare video, the "original" language sounded more Irish, maybe even more American, than what we typically think of as a British accent.  This demonstrates what was explained in the article- that when a group of people "break away," they retain the older pronunciation of the language more closely than the group that stayed.  Applying this to Latin, we could suggest that classical Latin, separated by the mountains and rivers of central Europe from Rome, would be more faithful to the "original."  We must also consider, however, that Latin did not begin with the Church.  There may have already been a pronunciation shift in Roman (eventually Ecclesiastical) Latin when Christianity got there.
(02-24-2016, 12:38 AM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: Pronouncing Latin as one would pronounce Italian (the ecclesiastical way) makes more sense to me and is much more beautiful.

Because you are an English speaker, and the "soft", Italian pronounciation seems natural to you.

Yet a big part of the Catholic word has never used Italian pronounciation, so it is not even quite fair to call it "ecclesiastic" pronounciation. Listen to the following recoring and pay attention how they pronounce "regona" and "dulcedo". This is how Latin was and still is pronunced in churches of Poland, Austria, Germany, Hungary.


You guys, I'm aware of the general mechanics of how languages can evolve, etc., what I'm after is the sort of evidence the man in that video talked about. Are there any ancient Roman sources that reveal how their language was pronounced? Is there evidence from Roman poetry? Is there evidence from ancient puns that work if Latin is pronounced one way rather than another? Etc.

I've heard Latin pronounced by Korean SSPX priests, and their Korean-ness is evident. What I refer to as "ecclesiastical Latin" is how it would've been typically pronounced at the Vatican for the past two millennia... KWIM?


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