There are two main ways of spelling and printing Latin: academic and Ramist. The Ramist form, which distinguishes semivocalic J from I and semivocalic V from U, is named after its early proponent, iconoclast French humanist logician and mathematician Pierre de la Ramée [1515-1572 (murdered)], Latinized as Petrus Ramus. (The idea of such a distinction had been first proposed by the Spaniard Antonio de Nebrija in 1492 and the Italian Giovanni Trissino in 1529.) The academic form is today used primarily by those in public schools, colleges and universities, while the Ramist form was used extensively in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, and until recently by the Roman Catholic Church. After the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the replacement of Latin in many liturgical texts by vernacular languages, the remaining Church Latin has tended to be written (often, alas, with many mistakes!) in the academic manner.
This is a pedantic mistake.
The academic form pretends to imitate the writing of the ancient Romans. This is seen primarily in the semivowels whose sounds are written in English with the letters W and Y. The Romans used V for the two sounds /W/ and /U/ in monuments written in stone, but U on paper (papyrus) or wax. (The change in pronunciation to the sound of the English consonant V for the semivowel came towards the end of the Empire.) In its extreme form, academe uses the upper-case letter V for U when capitalized, and the lower-case letter u for v when not. Thus, the Latin word for vulnerable, which is written in Ramist Latin respectively as VULNERABILIS or vulnerabilis, is found in many academic texts as VVLNERABILIS and uulnerabilis. No orthographic distinction is made between them, and the academics pronounce the semivowel like English /W/.
Most academic editors do not go so far. But many are quite inconsistent: they will print VVLNERABILIS in capitals, but vulnerabilis in lower case.
But virtually all academics omit the use of the letter J. As mentioned, this letter, suggested originally by de Nebrija, was popularized by French professor Petrus Ramus around 1548 (in his Grammatica Latina) to designate the semivowel written in English as the letter Y (as in you). In contrast, modern academics use only the letter I (and i in lower case). Thus, the name for the first month of the year is written academically as Ianuarius, as opposed to Ramist Januarius, and the word for justice is written respectively as iustitia rather than as justitia. (The Romans, by the way, placed no dot atop the lower-case i. Thus in that way, too, even iustitia deviates from ancient writing.) The name given to the new letter was ïota [yōta] from the Greek name (ἰῶτα) for the letter I. From this we get Spanish jota, German Jot, both meaning the letter ‘J’, and English jot.
As had de Nebrija and Trissino, Petrus Ramus not only introduced J but also reserved V, originally used only in inscriptions, to serve as a letter corresponding to the semivowel spelled in English with W. Today both letters occupy an important place in the English alphabet. The phonological reality underlying them is not negligible: there is a clear difference between etiam (also) and et jam (and already), or between īēns (going) and jentāculum (breakfast), as well as words introduced from Greek such as ïambus (ἴαμβος iamb, a metrical, short+long foot in poetry); Ramus’s innovation is also helpful in distinguishing between words such as the following:
or even between sequī (infinitive of sequor, I follow) with /kw/ (since u after q is always /w/) and secuī (past tense of secō, I cut), with /ku/. Another noteworthy case is the group of words beginning with su- as in suāvis sweet, suādeō I persuade and suēscō I accustom, in which the pronunciation is /sw-/; and there is also āiō I say, which is better written as ājō (or occasionally even as ājjō).
The academic practice is full of inconsistencies. To begin with, among the great number of modern English words derived from Latin we use j, not i: we spell conjecture, not coniecture (Ramist Latin conjectura versus academic coniectura). It makes it easier for students to learn Latin if we print j in the dictionaries and textbooks we use, since the j (and v) forms are already so familiar to them. This fact alone means that, in learning to speak Latin (i.e., use it), rather than merely reading it, the Anglophone learner will have an easier time.
Next, the ancient Romans wrote in a way foreign to us today. As Clive Brooks, an English scholar, points out in his Reading Latin Poetry Aloud (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 24): with manuscripts written in capitals or uncials (rounded capitals), without punctuation and with no spaces between the words, even experienced readers must have needed to practice a bit (Brooks italics). Thus, if we want to write in true Roman style, let us compare the beginning lines of the Apostles’ Creed in Latin. The English is
Next we can consider the neo-Ramist use of the digraphs Æ (æ) and (), both of which are often pronounced in the Italian way as English long A as in the word rate. In Roman times, these were spelled separately as AE and OE, and were pronounced as dipthongs /ai/ and /oi/. But in the Middle Ages they coalesced into monophthongs (single sounds), and their modern English descendants are also pronounced monophthongally, e.g., preposition from Latin præposition- and economy from Latin œconomia (originally Greek οἰκονομίᾱ). The Ramist spelling and pronunciation are much closer to modern English practice, and hence easier for English speakers to learn.
Moreover, when we use the spelling quum for the conjunction (at the time) when and cum for the preposition with (which takes the ablative case), it is much easier to distinguish between these words than when both are spelled in the same way as cum.
An additional benefit of using æ and is that it is also easier to tell from sight alone when foreign words such as Israel (i.e., Isra-el) and Michael (Micha-el) are to be pronounced with the A separate from the E, since the two letters are themselves separate. (In fact, such names are in fact composites of separate words.)
Thus the Ramist form of spelling is the preferable way to write and learn Latin. For modern students of the Latin language, it should be the first and main avenue for accessing the written records of that beautiful tongue.
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|Deus vult !||— Brian Regan ( Inscriptio electronica: Brennus@brennus.bluedomino.com )|
|Dies immutationis recentissimæ: die Solis, 2013 Apr 8|