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Stress Accent on Contracted Preterite Forms

by Dick Hindman
(Orinda, California)

Dear Latin Teacher,


My question concerns the placement of stress accent on contracted preterite verb forms, for example audiit instead of the longer form audivit. I have normally followed the practice of shifting the accent on such contracted forms according to the usual rule for accentuation, so that I would pronounce audiit on the first syllable.

In "A Latin Grammar" by Hale and Buck (p. 15 in my edition). under the heading ACCENT the following statement appears.

"32.1. When a final syllable following a long penult is lost, the accent remains on what has now become the final syllable. So illíc from illíce, tantón from tantóne, addúc from addúce, Perfect audít from audívit, etc."

This would suggest that the preterit form adívit, when contracted, would be pronounced as adíit instead of ádiit, períi instead of périi (replacing perívit), and so forth.

I actually do not know if the answers to all these pronuncation questions are even known with any certainty. Do you have any guidance that you could share with me.

Many thanks,

Dick Hindman


Dear Dick,

Forms such as perii, audiit, adiit, or even audisti have lost a letter or syllable from the middle of the word, not the last syllable. (Called syncope or syncopated, if you would like to look it up in the grammars.) For these syncopated forms you are right to shift the accent according to normal rules of pronunciation.

My Allen and Greenough agrees with your Hale and Buck regarding certain words that have lost the last syllable:

Allen and Greenough: Certain words which have lost a final vowel retain the accent of the complete words: as, illi-'c for illi-'ce, pro-du-'c for pro-du-ce, sati'n for sati'sne.

Hope this helps, and thanks for asking a Latin teacher.

Sincerely,

John

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