ELI5: just how do we know what latin sound like? We have written text, but how execute we understand we're pronouncing the right?


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There's a selection of evidence that can be provided to item it together. It's not 100% guarantee that we're right, however it's close. It help a lot the there is a large written corpus of Latin end a long duration of time, the it has several surviving descendants, and that the was vital language so human being from other countries tried to learn it. Church Latin isn't yes, really so helpful, except as another example of a living descendant.

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In no certain order:

Poetry. This provides us deep insight into the rhythm and meter that words, and seeing the rhyming and alliteration in between different indigenous is one aid.

Instruction manuals. Because Rome was a big expansive empire, Romans had actually to connect with civilization that spoke various languages. Occasionally you find a pronunciation overview or a language textbook indigenous one language into an additional (either direction helps).

Patriotism. Believe it or not, some Roman poets and orators actually took the moment to describe, in an excellent detail, why Latin is sooo much far better than what those smelly barbarians speak ~ above the other side of the hills. This diatribes may encompass descriptions that phonetics.

Surviving descendants. Linguistic development actually follows particular predictable rules. Looking at the pronunciation of French, Spanish, Italian etc can offer us some clues and constraints on just how Latin was probably spoken.

Evolution over time. We have several hundred years of created Latin records, and also we deserve to see how the assignment of some words readjusted over time. If, because that example, a indigenous drops among its vowels over the food of fifty years, the tells united state that the vowel was most likely weak or elided to begin with.

Some caveats to the above: most of the approaches are relative, no absolute. We deserve to see how Latin compared to that is neighbors, or once two native rhymed, but that doesn't exactly tell us how it to be pronounced. Still, with sufficient evidence we can nail down a how amazing amount of detail.

Also, rather a the majority of the written proof is because that "official" or "literary" Latin (although we have actually quite a corpus of graffiti, consisting of over 900 slang words for penis). As with in English, literary composing is somewhat various than spoken every-day language, and poetry is possibly removed even further.

EDIT: Replying come some typical comments.

Church Latin isn't as useful as you could think. The pronunciation wasn't preserved. The grammar and vocab stayed approximately static, however the pronunciation ended up complying with the advancement of Italian. That's simply kinda what happens when you shot to maintain a language, yet your technology can just transmit created samples, and not spoken.

Several human being pointed out that another important resource of data is typos. If a native is generally misspelled, that provides you two hints: one, that the joint of the word has changed over time. And also two, that the "right" and "wrong" spellings represent comparable phonetics. This sort of dovetails with my last point above, because very often alters in assignment are pertained to as "errors" at first, and also then become accepted as time passes.

And several various other people also pointed the end that another resource of data is regional variations. Due to the fact that Latin to be so wide-spread, that had local dialects. This help in a pair of ways. Because that one thing, local dialects would give various spellings because that the same words. And also like the "Patriotism" point above, some orators will describe at great lengths the proper pronunciation and elocution that noble, proper Romans have, in bespeak to define what's wrong with how those country bumpkins over the hill speak, and also why that proves their mother bumped uglies through the barbarians following door.

EDIT 2: electrical Boogaloo

Thank you because that the gold, type stranger.

Some much more replies stated another method that Latin interacted with various other languages: obtained words, especially an individual and ar names. Seeing how one language renders an additional gives understanding into both. The outsider's perspective, if girlfriend will.

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I think it's clean already, but I think it's precious pointing out: This type of analysis is easier for Latin 보다 for other languages, because of the wide range of sources available. Due to the fact that Rome was a reasonably literate society, we have actually a broader source of texts available, including children's schoolwork and also misspelled graffiti, i beg your pardon is surprisingly valuable. The breadth and also political strength of Rome also method that it interacted with a large number of civilization that spoke other languages, i beg your pardon provides one more wealth of resources. With many languages, we don't have actually the same depth of understanding available, and reconstructing pronunciation is because of this harder and less exact.