The Latin demeanor

Why say circle, if we say cat?
The initial letter shape, c, sounds as {s} in circles, and as {k} in cats. The origin for both words is Latin, circulus and cattus, or catta, for a female cat. We may compare the audio here.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: AUDIO, CIRCLE
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: AUDIO, CAT

 

The matter is about pronouncing the US Great Seal phrase, Annuit coeptis, according to classic Latin and knowing what and why, not only repeating memorized sound patterns.

 

BOY READING CICERO, FRESCO BY VINCENZO FOPPA

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: YOUNG BOY READING CICERO,
FRESCO BY VINCENZO FOPPA, US PD 1923

 

In the name Cicero as well, Latin had a sound that modern English hardly has today, written as [ts] in some phonetic scripts. We may try to produce it, saying [s] and closing on the hard palate, as for [t].

 

We can hear the sound in Russian, Polish, or German, for example, in words deriving from Latin decimals, as cent. We may compare the audio.

 

GOOGLE TRANSLATE, CENT, IN RUSSIAN
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: AUDIO, CENT, IN POLISH
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: AUDIO, GERMAN ‘ZEHN’, 10

 

The Latin centesimus meant a hundredth, and cententionalis was a small coin.

 

We can be back with circles and cats. In modern English, and in words that derive from Latin, we speak as for [s], if the letter shape c comes before a front vowel. If it comes before a back vowel or a non-vowel, we sound as for [k].

 

Phonetic classes for speech sounds, as consonants and other types, have become very disputable; we have a general term, “non-vowel”, as sufficient.

 

Regarding back and front vowels, it is the position of the tongue to decide. For example, we might even protrude our lips to say [u], but the position of our tongue is still going to make a back vowel.

 

We take English vowels because the Amber Trail languages, as it happens with linguistic acquisitions, adopted the sound [ts] and naturally began using the letter shape c or the sound [ts] also in native wording.

 

There is no Roman Latin pattern preserved in those languages, for the letter shape c or speech sound [ts]. In Polish, a later regularity occurred, to have the letter shape c for all occurrences of the sound [ts], and the shape k for all speech sound [k]. Polish pronunciation for medical calcium is {kalc-ium}, however. The native term is “wapń medyczny”. 🙂

 

Not only in German, and not only in the word {informatsion}, the sound [ts] became used where it did not occur in Latin: to create forms on words that came from Latin. The earliest written record for the word “information” in English is dated for the 14th century, and people continue sharing messages and news today, as before.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: GERMAN ‘INFORMATION’

 

Why didn’t the people of the river Thames adopt the sound [ts], the same as the people of the Rhine and Vistula rivers? Well, like the people of the Loire, they did not have as much AMBER.
PICTURE: AMBER

 

The illustration below shows amber deposits in Europe, but it does not tell how big or accessible the deposits were.
PICTURE: AMBER SOURCES IN EUROPE

 

Baltic waters would bring much amber, especially after storms, and it was mostly the AMBER TRAIL to bring the Latin influence to the region. The trail also happens to be named the Amber Road, but the region did not have an ancient Roman “highway”, like VIA APPIA, and locomotion was foot, hoof, or boat, were the surface of Earth allowed.
PICTURE: THE AMBER TRAIL

 

Ancient Roman trade communication was mostly spoken. The Latin word abacus could mean a kitchen table, as well as a counting frame. Written resources were abundant in Rome, but if they ever got transported, it was for scholarly reasons.

 

The French and the English began their acquaintance with Latin via written materials more; they actually do not have [ts], and their tolerance is low to [v], in word-initial clusters. [Svastika] remains an infamous exception, in French.

 

Italian has {tse:na} and {kosto}. Let us mind, Italian is not “a modern Latin”. Still, it is along the Amber Trail and in Italy, to derive the speech sound [ts] for all of it today.

 

To recur to the US Great Seal: we know there was a sound in ancient Latin that phonetic scripts may render as [ts]. How do we read it, however, if a digraph as {O E} followed? Circles and cats show we should not jump into conclusions.

 

As regards a state motto and written Latin, we should consider the ROMAN SQUARE CAPITALS, a style for ceremonious and official presentations of text.

 

arch-of-titus-inscription

Wikimedia: Arch of Titus, Roman square capitals

 

The Great Seal motto would look as here, in the style.
E PLVRIBVS VNVM
ANNVIT CŒPTIS
NOVVS ORDO SECLORVM

 

Latin gave special treatment, to the letter shapes and sounds u and v. Let us take the word language. The Latin word was lingua, and the way to say it was {lingva}, as a low vowel followed, compare cuius {kuius}. The nominative decided for all declension.

 

Further, all words that contained the letter shape q, had it followed by the letter shape u, to be pronounced as v. We may compare Perseus, the word study tool.
WORDS CONTAINING THE LETTER SHAPE Q IN LATIN

 

Looking to phonology, [g] as in lingua and [k] as in qualitas differ solely in voicing. Let us compare the Amber Trail languages, again. Our “Latin genetics” may be quota and qualitas; in English, quota and qualification, respectively.

 

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: GERMAN ‘QUOTE’
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: POLISH ‘KWOTA’
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: GERMAN ‘QUALIFIKATION’
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS: POLISH ‘KWALIFIKACJA’

 

Italians have developed {quota}, but again, Italian is not a “modern Latin”. After the fall of the empire, those were mostly written resources, for the people to begin own way with literature. DANTE ALIGHIERI came in the Middle Ages.

 

Well, there is no context in the Roman square capitals to change the sounding of the letter shape c. We only take the letter shape v for the shape u, except one occurrence in the word novus. Handwritten, the motto would look as follows:
E pluribus unum
Annuit cœptis
Novus ordo seclorum.

 

The Latin digraph {O E} sounded much as the A E in the word “aera”, a front vowel. We pronounce the letter shape c as [ts], in the word {tseptis}.

 

For vowel patterns, we may compare the English inception as well as concept, and coercion. In Latin, it was in the word coērcere that the speech sound ē was long, therefore, {O E} was not a digraph. I took the examples from neighboring dictionary entries.
KONCEWICZ DICTIONARY, IMAGE000158

 

The entire dictionary is available from Internet Archive:
ŁUKASZ KONCEWICZ, LATIN-POLISH DICTIONARY

 

Here we go,
{annuit tseptis}.

 

Ancients kept double non-vowels separate, as in
{an—nuit}.

 

Feel welcome to read about the Seal.

A New People

*****

LINK: READ THIS IN A SLAVIC LANGUAGE, POLISH

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