Sunday, October 18

Pater Noster

The Lord's Prayer in Latin, read by myself, Filius Lunae, with a Classical pronunciation. This being an ecclesiastical text, it is usually read with what's referred to as a Church pronunciation. This pronunciation developed over the centuries, as Latin thrived as the European lingua franca throughout the Middle Ages. It is a direct development of Vulgar Latin, the Latin spoken by the Romans that eventually gave birth to the Romance Languages. Particular to this Latin of the Ecclesiastical type is Italian, the language which serves as the basis for this pronunciation.

Though commonly referred to as "pronunciations", like I have done above, I like to think of them as different accents, the type of which you would hear in any language by speaking to different groups of people: the English of Texas and London; the Spanish of Lima and Madrid. In essence, you would find a priest who reads Latin with this Italianate pronunciation, while a Classicist, though he may be familiar with both, would prefer the reconstructed pronunciation from the Golden Age of Latin (80 B.C.-14 A.D.).

Here I present to you my rendition of that reconstructed Classical pronunciation. Not having a recording of a Roman from that time period, there are some who will argue that we can never be sure of what the Latins sounded like. We have, however, the Romance Languages themselves, which tell us about their development from Latin, not to mention the accounts from Roman authors themselves, describing and prescribing the pronunciation of their language.
While I don't dislike the Ecclesiastical pronunciation, because, as I just mentioned, I simply consider it another accent of Living Latin (that is, Latin being used for communication purposes today), I do prefer the Classical one. I am confident that this is an accurate representation of the pronunciation of an educated Roman around the birth of Jesus Christ.

I will conclude by pointing out, briefly, the main differences between a Classical and an Ecclesiastical pronunciation. First, while some diphthongs are fully sounded in the Classical model, they are reduced in the Church pronunciation: Classical L. /aj/ and /oj/ (written ae and oe, respectively) are merged in Ecc. L. into /e/. Second is the palatalization of Latin c (pronounced /k/, always) before /e/ and /i/, just like in Modern Italian. Thus, caelo and cibo are pronounced /kajlo:/ and /kibo:/ in the Classical standard, and /tʃe(:)lo/ and /tʃibo/ in the Church one (cf. Italian cielo and cibo with the same exact pronunciation). As can be seen from these last two examples, vowel length, critical and phonemically important in Classical Latin, especially in poetry, is often ignored in the Ecclesiastical pronunciation of Latin. Thirdly, v is rendered as /w/ in the reconstructed idiom, and /v/ in the Italianate one; so vino, /wino:/ vs. /vino/. Lastly, written g goes through the same palatalization, or softening, as explained for c above before /e/ and /i/ in Church Latin, and the same goes for t before a diphthong started by i, i.e. ge /dʒe/, gi /dʒi/; ti /tsi/. For more information regarding these differences, follow this link.
Simply put, with few exceptions, Ecclesiastical Latin is Latin read according to the rules of Modern Italian orthography.


Matthew Lancey said...

That's fascinating. I learned Latin for 3 years at school, and had two teachers... an older one who just pronounced the words with a standard received English accent, and a younger one who gave things a definite Italian feel. Guess which one I preferred...

One question... you pronounce word-final M as a velar nasal (I think). How do we know that was how it was pronounced? Does that still happen in some Romance languages today?

Graham Asher said...

I am not sure I agree with the pronunciation of 'gn' in 'regnum'. Wasn't the g a velar nasal or something like that, as in Swedish 'regn' ('rain')?

Filius Lunae said...

@Graham: I say it as reng-num there.

@Matthew: Early in my reading of Latin, I learned and became accustomed to pronouncing final m that way. I would have to look up some references, and I can get back to you on that. With the disappearance of final m in Vulgar Latin, along with other sound changes, many declension endings could no longer be differentiated: casa, casā, casam merged into casa, for instance. What I believe happened is that a final m nasalized the preceding vowel, followed by an eventual denasalization; and that's what we find in Romance. I sometimes pronounce the vowel as a nasal as well, which is easy to accomplish if you're treating the m as an indicator of a velar consonant.

Clare said...

Pater noster, qui es in caelis:
sanctificetur Nomen Tuum;
adveniat Regnum Tuum;
fiat voluntas Tua,
sicut in caelo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
sed libera nos a Malo

Clare said...

I wish it was just a little slower, but I'm glad to find this video!

PaterNoster said...

I am a teacher who would like to start a lunch club to teach classical latin, as you used for pater noster. I will be using all three, our father, ave maria, and dies irae; however, is there any way you my read ecclesiastes or at least a few chapters? I need material. The focus is pronunciation and memorizing. I hope to hear a response. Thank you so much for your work. I admire it and appreciate it. Ms. M.

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