Why Accentuation (and ultimately, syllable quantity) Matters…

I recently took part in a great dialogue concerning scansion and pronunciation on LatinTeach.  Aside from my beliefs of simplified versions of such  practices, the following quote supports how I feel about natural accent in opposition to any practice that accents the ictus, as perpetuated by study of metrical feet.  Sure, it’s from 1938 (Problems of the Latin Hexameter), but here’s what one F. Shipley has to say about Virgil’s verse:

“It was clear that he meant his lines to be read with their natural word-accents; that his caesurae were not artificial breaks at mere word-ends within the foot, but natural pauses; that ictus was more of an abstraction than a reality, and that if he recognized it at all as anything more than a purely theoretical marking of time intervals, it was entirely subordinated to the normal accent of words and phrases; and that if we read his verse with the natural accents upon the words, and with the pauses which sense or rhetorical and poetical emphasis demand, we need not concern ourselves with the so-called ictus or with the caesura as a mechanical device…”

Here is an example of the difference between the two…

ictus Ex.:
ARma viRUMque caNO troIAE qui PRImus ab Oris

natural accent Ex.:
ARma viRUMque CAno TROiae qui PRImus ab Oris

The latter has so much more life in it that I am amazed people still follow (or consider using) the former practice at all.

One thought on “Why Accentuation (and ultimately, syllable quantity) Matters…

  1. Pingback: Rhythmic Fluency | Magister P.

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