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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  April 2005

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION April 2005

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Subject:

Re: Latin and other languages

From:

Rob Howe <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 11 Apr 2005 22:05:43 +0000

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Hi,

>To bring this back to medieval religion--we have been straying quite a
>bit--has anyone actually done a study of or know of studies of this
>question for the medieval world? I'm sure there are plenty of general
>comments about mumbling or hurrying etc., but it would be quite interesting
>to search for more telling comments, by fully Latinate medieval people
>(clerics, university students) about what they expected and what they got
>in terms of quality of declamation, projection, intelligibility etc. when
>Latin was spoken in the liturgy, in university lectures, disputations, in
>the public square/market etc. and then to compare that to how less-fully
>Latinate people perceived these same events (to the degree that they
>participated in them--obviously they would not have been at university
>lectures and disputations???

Well, as at least liturgical chant is sung by definition, it's worth turning
to musicological sources. I recall reading a lot of collected criticism of
the performance of chant and polyphony dating from the middle ages and
after. I believe the main book *might* have been:

Don Harrán, "New Light on the Question of Text Underlay Prior to Zarlino,"
Acta musicologica 24 (1973): 26-54

This discusses how text was placed under notes. If my memory serves, it has
quotes from theorists and listeners of the time explaining how
mispronunciation could lead to pseudo-heresies being uttered in the liturgy.
Then again, I might be remembering the source incorretly - it was a few
years ago now. I will repost if I recall a correction.

You might also examine the reception of the technique of "hocketing" in the
medieval church for contemporary reaction to it.

There is also the Commemoratio Brevis (9th century?) which is a guidebook to
psalm-singing, which discusses clear delivery of the texts (eg. "Although
the devotion of many who are not able to pronounce correctly either the
psalmody or the words themselves pleases God very much, nevertheless one who
does not show to God what he ought to show, as proficiently and as
reverently as possible, does not have a full devotion."), but I forget if it
refers to actual examples of bad delivery.

I believe there are sources from the 16th C that complain about inaudibility
of chant (can't bring them to mind). The Council of Trent examined the
complexity of music disrupting the actual flow and comprehensibility of
polyphonic texts sung - isn't this all related?

No idea about Latin spoken out of the Liturgy though. I guess there might be
some Law references? We don't have written judgements from back then as
explicit as that of Lord Hewart CJ in betraying the prevaling pronunciation
he was railing against by saying "my judgement will be short, like the first
i in nisi" (the i is long in "legal" Latin, which was how counsel was
pronouncing it when he requested it)

I have picked up this from a Law textbook though. More of an anecdote (or
even a joke) than solid data, but paints an amusing picture...

"There is a medieval tale, told by an assistant in the Record Office, of
some nuns who needed extra help about the convent and who accordingly sent
down to the village by word of mouth for servitia. The request was
understood by the villagers as a request for cervicia, an ale-feast, and
they acted accordingly." (Glanville-Williams, Learning the Law (12th ed.,
London, 2002), 89 fn.4)

Rob Howe.

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