On Cicero’s fine-grained perception of the prosodic features in Latin

Author: Marotta, Giovanna
Title: On Cicero’s fine-grained perception of the prosodic features in Latin
Review/Collection: "Journal of Latin Linguistics", 17
Editor: De Gruyter
Year edition: 2018
Pages: 259-278
Keywords: Commentaires - Commenti - Commentaries, Éloquence - Eloquenza - Eloquence, Philologie - Filologia - Philology, Stylistique et genres littéraires - Stilistica e generi letterari - Stylistics and literary genre
Description: [Abstract] The long tradition of philology and comparative linguistics acknowledges the distinctive value of vowel length in Latin phonology. However, to think of Latin as a spoken language, and not only as a literary one, implies the adoption of a sociolinguistic perspective based on the idea of variation, at all levels of grammar. In this view, with due caution, it is possible to argue that vowel length was unstable ab antiquo in spoken Latin, at least in the low diaphasic and diastratic levels. In this view, the paper analyzes some passages by Cicero often interpreted as testimonies in favor of the maintenance of contrastive vowel length in the phonological competence of Roman speakers. In those passages, Cicero compares the performance of the orators in the forum to the one of the actors in the theater. This comparison is based on the idea that the competence in the phonetic and prosodic elements of language could determine the success of the locutory act in both communicative contexts. The detailed analysis of the texts suggests that the whistles of the audience in the theater of which Cicero speaks to us might refer to prosodic errors concerning the length of the verse rather than that of the vowel. Therefore, those testimonies could not be considered an evidence in favor of the fine-grained perception of vowel length by all the speakers of Latin.
Link: https://doi.org/10.1515/joll-2018-0007
Author initials: Marotta 2018