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Include macrons the same way accents are in Greek

I am sorry for posting a copy of something I wrote in a different post, but I believe my point was made there. So, here goes:

Macrons should be included in all lessons, the same way they are in Greek. Macrons were used by the Romans themselves to some extent. They were not always consistent, but they were aware, and numerous inscriptions show this. Ward forwarded a solid argument for this already back in 1962, if my memory serves well, and modern teachers are leaning more and more—it seems—to considering the emission of macrons in student works as an error on par with not using double consonants in German or Norwegian.

An example:

  • emō: I buy; emit: s/he buys
  • ēmī: I bought; ēmit: s/he bought

Vowel length matters! Compare pax to pāx, English /hɪt/ to /hiːt/, German isst to ist or Pollen to Polen, Norwegian hatt to hat.

As already stated: Macrons should be included the way accents are in Greek. Technically this could be solved the same way as in German, where they have included clickable letters for ä, ö, ü and ß, and as in Greek where you get told to mind the accents if you leave them out. Not including them is poor pedagogy and this should be adressed by the developers.

We do, after all, pay for this service (some of us, that is).

Edit: Corrected IPA and autocorrect error.

November 14, 2019



This is not possible in the current tree for technical reasons. The contributors may be considering changing how this is handled in a future tree version, I don't know. If so, and they do change, be aware that it will make the next tree version take far longer to develop, and when the new version is rolled out it will show skills as having a lot of new things to learn (possibly uncomplete them all) even if they were just old words with the macrons/accents added.


This is a fair point, and one that is worth discussing. Is it worth the further delay? Would I personally be saddened if that made me lose all my progress? Sure. But I would still think it worth it. I would rather have a solid product that was worth the wait, rather than a rushed product. Presently, I would not recommend any of my future students to go through Duolingo’s Latin course, without having a solid dictionary to help, to make sure they learn the words correctly. I do believe it is worth noting that several OpenAccess projects now releasing commented Latin classics. The Latin Library (https://thelatinlibrary.com/vergil/aen1.shtml), and The Dickinson College Commentaries (http://dcc.dickinson.edu/) to mention but a few.


I doubt many would agree with me, but if that what it takes.... I'm trying to learn Latin with the goal of reading poetry. If repeating the material is what I'd have to do, than I'd do it.


and when the new version is rolled out it will show skills as having a lot of new things to learn (possibly uncomplete them all)

Yeah, welcome to Duolingo :). Having trees reset themselves when new versions are released seems to be a recurring theme in many languages ;). I'm not saying it's a joyous event of anything, but it does happen.


Macrons ARE important for learning Latin if you want to do anything with poetry. I was learning Latin with Lingua Latīna per sē Illūstrāta but I wasn't using the macrons. When I got to Capitulum XXXIV, the poetry chapter, I realized how important macrons are to correctly scan lines of Latin poetry and I am currently going back through the book, struggling to re-learn words with macrons. If I was able to, I would go through this course and add macrons to words that need them.

Thank you, Duolingo people for what you do and if I can help, please allow me.


Which I too would be happy to do. Thank you for your point on poetry, which I completely agree with.

By the way, I find that studying the etymology of words help me remember quantity. If from a Greek word with an η or ω, this is usually kept (I cannot think of any cases where it is not). Adverbs generally (some extensions here, of note bene, not benē) have long final vowels; this applies particularly to those made from adjectives by adding -ē (obviously) but also to those made from dative/ablative, such as quō, quotīdiē. And finally IE original h1, h2 or h3 were realised in different ways; if of interest, I can provide more detail on those.


Most of us don't pay, especially because Duolingo promoted itself as free-to-use, so that final remark is technically wrong. Other than that I am all for the accents suggested here, but, that would be a nice addition and not all too necessary. I do think you're being a little too demanding though, saying that if Duolingo doesn't implement more accurate vowels then they are bad at teaching or whatever.


I changed my final comment to reflect your point about paying users; you probably are correct in this.

If I teach you Norwegian, and do not care whether you write fult vs. fullt, hatt vs. hat, suge vs. sugge, hake vs. hakke, I am a bad teacher. (For reference, the words were horrible–full, hat–hate, suck–sow (female pig), chin–pick.) If I teach you Latin, and I do not teach you the difference between málum vs. malum, páx vs. pax, émo vs. emo, véní vs. vení, mánus vs. manus, líber vs. liber, I am a bad teacher. (For reference, the words were apple–bad (n.), peace–period/presto/stop, I bought–I buy, I arrived–I arrive, good–hand, free–book).

If it is poor teaching in any other language, it is the same for Latin. Disagreeing to that is simply a special pleading fallacy; there is no good reason Latin should get special treatment.

Now, if we were talking about mediaeval Latin, it would be a completely different thing, as quantity was lost (more or less completely). In classical Latin, this was not the case yet. It should therefore be an included part of the Latin course. If nothing else, it would prevent the audio from being wrong (which it is in so many cases, especially with verbs where vowel length dictates the difference between present and perfect tense.

  1. As I've said before, I don't consider it necessary.

  2. As Duolingo have said, if they decide to include them, this will delay the development of the Latin course by many months.

  3. There is still a lot of dispute about when and how often macrons or apex marks were used in Classical Latin. Please see the information regarding the Vindolanda tablets - the unique letters written by ordinary Romans during the occupation of Britain, which clearly shows them only used rarely when there would otherwise be ambiguity in the writing.

  4. I think it's sufficient to understand when and why some vowel are long vowels, and that macrons or apex marks can be used if there is ambiguity in meaning.

  1. Necessary or not: That seems to often be argued for on subjective reasons.
  2. A long delay is not desired, but I do believe it should be a stated goal to teach as accurately as possible.
  3. I’m currently taking a course on Roman epigraphy, so I am aware of the not exactly consistent usage, even within the same document. A good example of this is the announcement of games in Pompeii (CIL IV 3884, my copy of it from Cooley’s The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy), where you see numerous apices, but also numerous examples of omitted apices (Lucreti, not Lucrétí/LucretI (i longa); flaminis, not fláminis; but Nerónis and fílI (again, i longa)). Quintilian (if my memory serves me correctly) comments on the usage of apices; his opinion is that they should be used to make clear the meaning of a word, such as malum vs málum. Ward discusses the evidence for vowel length in his series of articles; see https://www.jstor.org/stable/4344896?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents for more. A point of interest here is his comment on final -m before initial vowel as per Quintilian and Velius Longus; it was merely an indication of nasalisation and a means to separate two vowels from each other.
  4. I agree with you. My point is that in modern writing our way of communicating this in Latin, is by adding macrons. For beginner students, especially, learning this immediately will alleviate so many problems one may encounter later on, caused by laziness either from teacher or student in properly learning the vowel length of words.

  1. That does not really mean that the pronunciation was not distinct or that it was not important for the meaning. In my language I will drop the diacritics in a text message or a short e-mail because you can just guess what belongs where if you already know the words well - that worked for the Romans, but does not work for a student of Latin as a foreign language.

If you don't know the words (and their vowel lengths) well, you can easily mistake a hag for something ugly. Textbooks without macrons work well for classroom courses but here many learners may not even notice there were any long vowels in Latin at all. It is not particularly emphasized anywhere.


Classical Latin was never writen with macrons. If you want to improve syllabic skills put more listening and speaking exercises.


I refer you to my answer above.

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