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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

Contributors to Latin: Please mark the long vowels

(I had to post this as a thread, too...)

If someone from the Latin team reads this: Please mark long vowels like they did in the High Valyrian course (ā or â). You can accept answers without them but it's so important that you mark them.

For many people who are serious about the language this is essential and otherwise the course would not be very useful to us. We'd have to learn every single word and ending from a different resource than Duolingo. But we would like to learn Latin the Duolingo way! :)

Grātiās agō

August 14, 2019

55 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DavidStyIes

Agreed! I may be biased from my own study background (Cambridge Latin Course, and Oxford University Press renderings of classical texts, with a trusty copy of Kennedy's Revised Latin Primer), but it makes a big difference.

I wonder how the audio will be.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

I'm wondering about the audio, too. If we're even getting audio I don't have high hopes for it.
But a good pronunciation is not so important in the case of Latin – as long as the vowel length is distinguished in writing. What's important is that we get all the information!
If we do get all vowel distinctions in writing then anyone can choose their own reconstructed (or ecclesiastical) pronunciation.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jairapetyan

Is the ecclesiastical pronunciation the one that German monks invented, after traveling back from Italy and forgetting what they had heard? Where they say for example /AG-nus De-i/ and /KVI to-lis/ instead of /A-ñus/ and /QUI/?:

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pancho_Delanave

Ecclesiastical pronunciation is the one used officially in the Catholic Church and it is very similar to the pronunciation of Italian. For exmample, “Parce Domini” is pronounced “par-che do-mi-ni”, and “Agnus Dei” is pronunced “a-nyus de-i”.

In the past, different countries had their own pronuncations (the way different countries have different accents in English) and Germany is one of those countries. From what I can remember, German pronunciation had or has features like the ones you mentioned (a hard G, etc.)

Nowadays most people keep or try to keep to either Ecclesiastical or Classical pronunciation but naturally, people’s native languages sometimes influence their pronunciation of Latin. I remember listening to Pope Benedict XVI and noticing a bit of a German accent to his Latin. I have recordings of Gregorian chant by French monks and I can sometimes hear the French U in their singing.

For what it’s worth, Ecclesiastical pronunciation has been around a whole lot longer than Classical or Restored Classical pronunciation. Classical pronunciation is great and wonderful but it recreates the pronunciation of the upper and literary classes of a couple of centuries of ancient Rome. Ecclesiastical pronunciations roots go back to the first half of the first millenium A.D. (so it has more or less existed for centuries), it mirrors the pronunciation of the living dialects of Latin (that is, the Romance languages), and it is the pronunciation used by the majority of living, breathing Romans who still use Latin in the city of Rome today. Ecclesiastical pronunciation is a method of pronouncing Latin that is just as legitimate and just as historical as the Classical or Restored Classical way of speaking Latin.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jairapetyan

Great explanation! What I am taking from it is that Ecclesiastical pronunciation is the one I am used to, that I have heard in churches where Latin is still spoken, the pronunciation that is usually used by choral directors when singing works written in Latin, and the one that some people refer to as "Italian" pronunciation.

Last year, I performed a mass by Beethoven and the director had us use the German pronunciation. I'm wondering if this reconstructed classical pronunciation is more like the Italian or German one, in its treatment of C's and G's? Also, since Ecclesiastical pronunciations grew out of the same place that was the very center of the Roman Empire, why are there people so dogmatically against it that they state they would smash their monitor to ensure they'd never hear it?

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pancho_Delanave

Hello! Yes, Ecclesistical pronunciation is the one you’re used to that is used in churches, by most choral groups and that some people call rhe “Italian” pronunciation.

Nowadays, some perfomers of early music (medieval, rennaisance, baroque, etc,) attempt to use the pronunciation used at the time and place a work was first composed and performed. It seems like that is what your music director was doing when you performed the Beethoven mass.

I don’t know the details but I think the German pronunciation does have some similarities to Classical pronunciation such as hard Gs and Cs. There might be other similarities but I’m not sure but guess what? It turns out there is a Wikipedia article on regional pronunciation of Latin that you might enjoy and it looks like it has information on German pronunciation (make sure to scroll to the right on a smartphone):

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_regional_pronunciation

Why are some people so against Ecclesiastical pronunciation? It’s hard to say and there are probably a bunch of different reasons. Many people today are concerned about authenticity such as authentic folk music, authentic ethnic food, etc. Latin not spoken like Caesar and Cicero is seen by some people as “inauthentic.” Some people are also very enthusiastic about Ancient Rome and are into its literary, philosophical, and political ideals. They might see Ecclesiastical pronunciation as a falling away from those ideals and so react negatively towards it. There is also the sensitive subject of religion. A lot of people have some baggage regarding Catholicism or Christianity in general and that also affects their viewpoint.

Personally, I think that’s their loss because the amount of text and music from after the Classical period outnumbers the texts from the classical period but I may be biased :-) .

[Full disclosure: I am an eternal beginner in Latin, a native bilingual Spanish/English speaker, and a practicing Catholic.]

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

I'd say: Not only but that would be a specific kind of Church Latin.
But I'm better informed about sound changes in the native varieties.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ISpeakAlien

That is neither Classical nor Ecclesiastical pronunciation. It looks like it might be a German-based pronunciation or something.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BradinFMajor

As someone who uses Ecclesiastical Latin almost exclusively, I second and greatly desire the long marks as well! They make all the difference sometimes for pronunciation, or even the meaning of a word.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/stephen_zissou

You use ecclesiastical Latin almost exclusively? Wow, I only use it in religious contexts. How do you order food?

(Just kidding, I know what you mean!)

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/A_Sesquipedalian

I read a fact at one point that said that the Vatican City is the only country to have vending machines and cashpoints/ ATMs in Latin.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jairapetyan

Awesome! Now we have an excuse to return (if you didn't throw a coin into the fountain of Trevi)! I have to check out those ATMs.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BradinFMajor

Lol! Well played sir. Ah, if only I was so fluent as to order food in Latin...

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

The decision as to this was made long ago. Either they've been marking them or they haven't. I don't think the decision made is at all likely to change as a result of this thread.

Duolingo precedents that might have informed the choice are mixed:

  • Arabic course marks short vowels
  • Hebrew course doesn't
  • original version of the Japanese tree uses much more hiragana than one would expect in normal Japanese
  • second version of the Japanese tree uses much more kanji
  • Russian course distinguishes е from ё but does not mark stress (which has important consequences for vowel quality)

You seem to think the only way vowel length distinctions can be learned is via a writing convention. That's not accurate. They can be learned by ear. The Russian course may be the closest to mirroring the situation of Latin of the above precedents, and that was the course taken there.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

"You seem to think the only way vowel length distinctions can be learned is via a writing convention. That's not accurate. They can be learned by ear. "

Obviously, but that depends on an error-free, accurate audio that makes these distinctions. And I think it is really unlikely that we're getting it in the case of Latin.
Even the courses of living languages that we have have problems with homographs that aren't homophones in contexts where there shouldn't be problems.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

And apparently, we didn't get this accurate audio but a pseudo-Classical Pronunciation. So, here you are ;)

September 1, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/chaered

Analogously, the Japanese course does not mark pitch accent in writing, but obviously does in the audio.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

Many languages unfortunately have no letters for some important distinctions. Pitch accents in particular.
At least the Japanese audio is based on a native accent.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RadioAngel_

I would love if this course also focuses on spoken/conversational Latin. I'm currently working my way through Wheelock's and want to learn conversational Latin for Lupercal.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FreeFromDuo2019

Wheelock's is hard for a beginner like me. Hope Duo Latin comes out el rapido!

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BradinFMajor

There are some nice resources for learning Latin in a more natural manner for speaking, reading and writing: the "Latin per se Illustrata" series by Hans Ørberg is quite good, or "Latin by the Natural Method" by Fr. William Most for Ecclesiastical Latin. There's also a handy book, "Conversational Latin for Oral Proficiency" by John Traupman. While I love Wheelock (I started there too!), the systematic treatment given there and in other textbooks is not as efficacious for natural speaking and reading fluency.

August 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/slogger

Agreed. You are absolutely right, Semeltin. For learning to pronounce Latin, macrons are the way to go, and Duo's course is intended to help us learn.

See my comments here.. To add to that: marking the long vowels works so well to indicate pronunciation of each syllable and where the accent falls in each word that it would be self defeating for Duo not to do it. It makes being able to pronounce the words from what is written foolproof: it is an even better system than what is used in Spanish. I only suggest adding accent marks (i.e., acute or apex), too, for those who do not want to learn the few rules needed, so that they will at least know where the accent falls in each word.

The answers typed in by those studying should (IMHO) be accepted w/ or w/o macrons, but corrected with macrons included at the foot of the page (as accents are handled in some courses now). Duolingo could easily provide clickable onscreen "keys" that have vowels with macrons, for those who cannot type the macrons on their keyboards.

The very sensible reasoning behind including macrons in a recent re-edition of Alice in Wonderland in Latin are given in the "Look Inside" pages here (discussion begins in Latin on p. v and in English on xii).

So, let's hope that macrons will be used in the course for Latin presented by Duo, although not required for Latin entered by the students.

[Added] A very good "macronizer" is available online here.

August 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

but corrected with macrons included at the foot of the page

I don't think "corrected" is a good word choice here since macrons, unlike accent marks in French or Spanish, are not part of the spelling of the word.

August 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/slogger

. . . but corrected with macrons included at the foot of the page . . .

I don't think "corrected" is a good word choice here . . .

That is not surprising, as you seem to be aganst macrons from the ouset, for some reaon. If a person has attempted to write macrons and gotten them wrong, should they not be corrected? Would you prefer, instead, some wording like, " . . . the Latin should be given at the foot of the page w/ macrons supplied . . . "? But why do you pedantically pick nits, here, seemingly to no useful purpose?

Macrons are a great aid to learning Latin. What sense would there be to do without them if it is possible to include them?

Russian and Latin are only somewhat equivalent in this regard. I get the idea that you haven't studied Latin. Is that right. You are studying Russian on Duolingo, I know.

August 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/piguy3

If a person has attempted to write macrons and gotten them wrong, should they not be corrected?

Sure.

Concretely it seems that Duolingo has two existing paradigms into which to try to fit the matter of showing "macronized" sentences for those who enter their translations without macrons: (1) with it labeled something like "another correct translation" (2) with the "Pay attention to the accents." notation.

I would like to see situation (2) avoided.

August 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/slogger

I would like to see the situation (2) avoided.

Are you complaining about the label shown when the sentence w/ macrons are listed? How about, "Here is a response showing the correct vowel lengths," since it will have (or should have) been explained in the Tips and Notes what macrons are useful for and the user has seen that their miss-use or absence is not penalized? I really don't get what you object to. "Pay attention to the macrons" (not accents) is really good advice, BTW.

And of course Duo will do what Duo will do, anyway.

August 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EchoInfinity

Agreed!

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AlineGarma1

agreed! Please mark them! I´m so happy about this course and this is really important. I will start it as soon as its there.

August 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Judit294350

Actually I learnt Latin without marking them. Next you will be asking the Arabic course to add the short vowels.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

Well, sorry, you learned it badly. Or can you tell me which vowels are long and which short in "Cur tam confusus es? –Dicam tibi, pater" Or "Ulixes cunctos fere homines prudentia multo superavit"?
The difference is that you do learn the Arabic vowels, you just don't write them. Every learning material has to teach you these Arabic vowels.
In Latin the vowels are not predictable at all. If you don't learn the correct vowels in Latin then you don't learn to distinguish anus from ānus.

It's like learning German and not distinguishing ä,ö,ü and a,o,u or learning French and not distinguishing nasal vowels from oral vowels.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Judit294350

Sorry - but we were reading Caesar, Catullus, Virgil etc and - no, no vowels were marked in their text.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/t20f7gYt

That's exactly the problem. They're usually not marked. Now, if you actually read Vergil and did not learn the vowl quatities beforhand, how did you work out the hexameters? You lose so much from classical poetry if you don't know the metrum.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Judit294350

By knowing how it should sound?

August 16, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

You can read German without umlauts too. Congratulations. You can learn to write the language but have no grasp of the phonology – I consider that not learning the language properly.

German even lacked letters for many umlauts for hundreds of years. It still had these sounds. That's true for many languages. Let's take Italian (venti 'winds' vs. 'twenty' or fosse 'pits' and fosse 'to be – congiuntivo imperfetto, 3rd person singular') If you just know how to write the words, then your knowledge of the languages is very limited.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jairapetyan

Yes, don't most of us pronounce the words in our minds while reading? I know if you want to learn to speed-read, you shouldn't, but most people do.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

I highly value the sound of languages and their sound systems. Many aspects of the Latin sound system can be reconstructed beyond reasonable doubt. And I think it's a very interesting one.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/smokey2022

actually long vowels were written in ancient latin, usually with an apex or by doubling the vowel

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vwm5guox

They weren't "usually" written. They were only sometimes written.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PERCE_NEIGE

But, when you read Virgil, do you add the comad and the stops? Because no coma, and no spots in their text, and oh, no spaces in Latin inscriptions. Do you use spaces? I'm very glad we don't read the Latin texts as they had been written, because I don't think we could.

Latin has always been taught with macrons. Maybe you want it the easy way, but why would the people who want to learn the language very sharply, penalized? What would be retired in your course if the people who want macrons, to learn the proper way to pronunce it, could have it? Sorry, I don't understand your point.

September 11, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Judit294350

Latin has always been taught with macrons

No, it has not. I studied Latin for four and half years and never saw one.

September 11, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

Oh, and if you don't learn which vowels are long then you instead have to learn which syllable to stress for countless words. Totally pointless as that is obvious if you know the vowel length.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jairapetyan

Wow, I hope they mark the long vowels then! Spanish is so easy because they have rules regarding word stress and written accent marks. Italian lacks them, and even journalists sometimes make mistakes!

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ARCANA-MVSA

I am always endlessly fascinated by the u written as a v that (in Classical pronunciation) is in fact a u. Looking at you, SVPERAVIT. :D

Volgav vitsenanieff nivya kevach varatsach.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/stephen_zissou

You shouldn't need to mark them, but it's helpful if they are marked, so we know what's long/short. Or, in the case of people interested in ecclesastical/medieval Latin, we need to know what's stressed/unstressed. In Arabic, we don't need to write the short vowels, but we sure do need to know what the short vowels are, or we can't pronounce the words! So it's nice when they are there for learners, as long as we learners know that we won't see them in most texts.

Same with Latin -- good to mark the vowels in a course, but they won't be marked in a copy of Caesar or the Vulgate or in a Latin inscription you see on a visit to Rome.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/smokey2022

they were actually marked in more formal manuscripts and were sometimes displayed as a double vowel in certain contexts / engravings

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/stephen_zissou

But how common was this? My impression (I am open to correction) is that writing Latin without vowel markings is accepted and correct, but it's better for learnings to have them, in order to learn correct pronunciation.

August 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/qwentarie

Exactly. It may help in learning, but in no way should it be crucial to the course creators as some sort of a dealbreaker. I mean, it's 90% complete, and we've waited for so long already. Don't be pushy. I'd rather have it without the long vowels than with them if a complete overhaul is needed on the part of the actual course contributors and volunteers. They are not robots, and demanding something like this for the correct learning of Latin as if learning it without would mean it would be incorrect Latin is... well, mean-spirited and entitled.

I have also learned Latin in with long vowels, but most of the time we read perfectly fine without them. And I agree that if the audio for the lessons is good enough, then it would be just fine regardless.

Ideally, all courses should have all the possible best stuffs in them, but it's not always feasible to ask when most of the work is already done. (And we don't know what it will even look like -- I just don't want people to have super-hyped expectations that will lead to disappointment). Again, don't complain about someone else's free job that's already an absolute fan-service.

(I say this because I severely doubt anyone really needs to learn Latin for business or school. It is, after all, a dead language only enthusiasts care about. And if anyone does need to learn it professionally, believe me, they wouldn't need Duolingo since their areas of study have extensive Latin courses by default).

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/qwentarie

@Semeltin, sorry, I can't answer underneath your reply to me since your comment doesn't have a reply button, for some reason!

Then you can lend your services to them. They always need help, and thus, it's a win-win for everybody.

August 17, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

Well, checked out the application form after making this thread but I do not fulfill their expectations regarding fluency.

August 18, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

I'm not sure if 90% means much. If they raise their goals then this number could drop to 10%.
For me it's a major deal breaker if that information won't be present.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/garpike

DL Arabic does mark short vowels, thank goodness. Distinguishing long or short vowels in Latin is a binary matter, so there are far fewer ways to get it wrong. However, it would certainly do no harm, particularly as we don't know of what quality or exhaustiveness the audio will be.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

Binary for every single syllable and every single vowel. Adds up to quite a lot of ways to get it wrong.

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vojtech_S.

I haven't seen the text, but I would expect that every latin teacher would start with marking of vowels like in every latin textbook.

Do you have any indication that they wish to omit the markings?

August 15, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Semeltin

In my text books the markings were only in the grammar sections and vocabulary lists. There are also resources that completely ignore them except for the hexameter lessons.
I doubt my teachers understood the vowel length completely. You have to have a good phonetic understanding, else you'll project your native language's phonology on Latin as a teacher.

August 15, 2019
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