Friday, April 15, 2011

Special Edition: Online Sources for Texts with Macrons

Although I am not a fan of macrons myself (except in elementary Latin textbooks and reference works like dictionaries and grammars), there are many people who put a premium on the use of macrons. Because macrons are not widely found in earlier printed Latin texts which are now in the public domain, most Latin texts you find on the Internet do not have macrons. This is an unfortunate situation: even though I do not advocate the use of macrons, I think people should be able to choose what works best for them, and the lack of texts with macrons online represents a real barrier. If you want a text already with macrons, you have to buy that text from a commercial publisher or you may just be out of luck, as most Latin texts have never been printed with macrons at all. Luckily, though, this is a situation easy to remedy: people just need to share their own texts marked with macrons online!

The debate about macrons flares up at LatinTeach once a year or so, and this year I asked if people had sources for Latin texts with macrons online that they wanted to share. Even though I don't like macrons, I did a year-long project of publishing texts with macrons online, and I also keep an eye out for texts marked with macrons at GoogleBooks. John Whelpton responded to my query at LatinTeach with some additional suggestions for finding texts with macrons online, so below you will find above a list of what we have so far. IF YOU KNOW OF TEXTS WITH MACRONS ONLINE - either texts you have put there (it's easy to do with a blog or wiki or even just public GoogleDocs) or texts someone else has published online - please add a comment to this blog post with a link to the online text and a title/description, and I'll keep the list updated based on those additional contributions. I am really counting on people to help me with this, since I am not especially interested in macrons and am not likely to seek out and find these resources on my own... but I am glad to share the links here!

For those of you with texts you would like to share, Google's is one great ad-free option, and so is GoogleDocs, where you can import existing Word documents and publish them as webpages, all for free. You can also use wiki software, like for educators or :-)

From Nubifera: Throcmorton, Equus quī canis esse vellet:


James said...

As a big fan of macrons, I have been working on producing macronized texts. Mostly, what I've actually put on the net is a small collection of public domain comics translated into Latin:

And I've got other translations of public domain materials that I suppose could go in the same place, including a new translation of Peter Rabbit that people are free to use and distribute (the older translation is rare and expensive, and you're not allowed to copy it for your friends, but the original book is on Gutenberg).

It has also occurred to me that for some of the Latin translations that are still readily available in print, I could put out a template that showed people where to mark the macrons themselves.

Laura Gibbs said...

James, this is SUPER - I've added your Nubifera wiki to the list, and any time you have an announcement or new text you want to publicize, just let me know. I think the idea of doing the comics like this is delightful! I read Throcmorton, Equus quī canis esse vellet... since Aesop's fables are my main thing, I was enraptured by this story! Euge! It reminds me of the fable of the donkey who wanted to be a lapdog!

James said...

I suspect there are still errors on the page. The translations were done at different stages in my Latin studies. I should probably put in a contact e-mail so people can put me to rights.

Laura Gibbs said...

That sounds like a good idea! I'm always grateful when people find typos and errors and points them out to me in a blog comment - I use my blogs as kind of rough, working drafts to do a book later and it is amazing how easy it is to overlook typos and errors, even though they might stand out like a sore thumb for another reader! The more eyes, the better! :-)

123 said...

Dear Laura,

I understand your arguments. It is absolutely true that most Latin texts on the Internet are only available without macrons.

However, it is not true that the Romans did not mark long vowels. Please refer to this Wikipedia article.

Thanks a lot for your effort to make the list.

Laura Gibbs said...

The apex was used only in cases of special ambiguity, and I am all for using macrons in cases of real ambiguity (you will see highly ambiguous words marked in lots of early modern printed text also). That is completely different from the mark-all-macrons approach of the teaching-driven agenda for macrons in contemporary textbooks.

Anonymous said...

When I look at the examples (the pictures of inscriptions) from the above link, the use of apices and i longae does not seem to be restricted to disambiguation.

For example, in: dédicátióne, iv́liánvs, órnámentꟾs, cópia, pácáto, vbꟾqve etc. there seem to be quite a few of them that (as far as I can tell) would not be necessary.

Now, I do agree that they are often used in ambiguous situations only (in early modern printed texts there are even cases of disambiguating circumflexes on presumably short vovels, e.g. short gen. pl. forms of the 2nd. declension), but your answer seems to suggest that, in antiquity, they were never used to mark long vovels in general, like in more and more modern textbooks. Those inscriptions seem to prove otherwise, don't they?

Laura Gibbs said...

I never said never, Anonymous - and of course you are free to follow whatever strategy you think is most effective for you, as were the ancients.

Anonymous said...

You're right, you didn't say never. But "used only …" – that's why I wrote "seems to suggest …".

I was genuinely interested in what you think about these examples, because your answer seems to suggest that you don't find them convincing as far as ancient use of vovel length marking is concerned. In fact, I wondered about your comment since I first read it a year ago. Since you are a latin scholar (which I am not), stumbling upon it again, I thought you might have some background information or sources, maybe about the frequency of use.

Maybe my comment sounded harsh or attacking. That wasn't intended. I am very fond of your work and have greatly benefited from all the information, expecially the fables and disticha, you put online. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

That should read vowel, and of course especially.

Laura Gibbs said...

Anonymous, I'll confess that the ancient practices interest me not very much except for the fact that teachers who advocate for macrons (over)emphasize the scanty ancient evidence. Frequency of use is low - the only reason we really even know anything about it is that the evidence can be of use in historical linguistics (just as ancient spelling errors are incredibly useful to modern linguists). In terms of ancient evidence, I think it's worth noting that the Roman alphabet did not, as the Greek alphabet did, distinguish between long and short vowels (Greek does that with two vowel pairs - o as long or short, and e as long or short - using different letters for each item in the pair). As a result I think of that major difference in the Greek alphabet, there has never been this pedagogical tendency in Greek to mark the long/short vowels (for a, i, u) as there has been in Latin texts except in dictionaries and in cases of important ambiguity. It is my purely personal opinion that Latin teachers who promote their students' dependence on macrons are doing them a terrible disservice, because 99.99% of Latin texts are not going to be marked with macrons. Others disagree, and because it is such a matter of personal preference, I'm not really even sure it's worth discussing. I am glad you find my stuff useful, but I don't consider myself a Latin scholar (I teach English composition), and I really am not working on Latin anymore - but it's a hobby I cannot give up entirely, since there is an endless supply of so much delightful Latin out there to read and enjoy. My apologies if I came across as harsh in my comments back to you. I never really had much use for macrons as a student or as a teacher; there are other things (like vocabulary) which I find way more useful and interesting, just speaking for myself.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the answer!

I understand your position, and what you said about most available texts being unmarked is certainly true. I just want to mention (we don't have to discuss our preferences here), that I try to use the pronuntiatio restituta, and reading marked texts – lots of them – is very helpful (if not indispensable, since there are no native speakers and I don't have many friends I could speak latin in PR with) in memorizing the correct vowel lengths.

It sure is true that the marks also help distinguishing the forms, but to me, that's just a side-effect. Actually, I find the use of diacritics in early modern printed texts, for example my edition of Descartes' Meditationes de Prima Philosophia, but also the plethora of Neo-Latin texts available at Google Books now, to be much more helpful and spoiling, since they are (more or less, especially the graves) consequently used for the sole reason of disambiguation. (They are much more helpful in recognizing adverbs, for example.)

Anyway – as I said, we don't have to discuss our preferences here. What pronunciation to use would be another discussion that tends to evoke even more heated debates than whether or not to use macrons. I just wanted to explain why I, personally, am very fond of editions with macrons. I do agree, however, that it wouldn't be a good idea, to use such editions only.

Cura, ut valeas!

Laura Gibbs said...

Yes, discussions about pronunciation are also something very personal. Since I read mostly non-classical texts, I am not really interested in restored pronunciation, but I know it is something many people are very excited about, and anything that is a motivating factor for someone to read more and speak more is a good thing! There are other motivations, too, though - and my own motivations are not very Roman.