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When people are adding macrons to text, how do they know where the macrons should be? Is there a list somewhere?

e.g.

insula -> īnsula or īnsulā
maxima -> maxima or māxima

etc.

I'd like to write a program to take a text and output a macronized version. Does one already exist?

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Unfortunately, you can't always do it automatically. In Classical Latin, a and ā are distinct vowels just as much as a and i are, and they have to be learned as part of the word. Without context and human-level understanding, there's no way to know whether "levis" is meant to be lēvis "smooth" or lĕvis "light", for example, of if "senatus" is senātus "senate" or senātūs "senates/of the senate".

On the plus side—morphemes being distinguished solely by macrons aren't too common, and I can only think of a handful off the top of my head. If you have a way of breaking the words down into their morphemes (like Perseus's word study tool), you can then look up the morphemes in a database to figure out their vowel lengths, asking the user to clarify if there's ambiguity ("from context, does this word mean ali- 'other' or āli- 'garlic'?").

For making such a database, stems can be extracted from Lewis and Short's famous dictionary, which marks long vowels in headwords when possible. There are few enough noun endings that they can be listed out by hand, and verb endings are more predictable than they seem.

I wish you luck with this project! I for one would appreciate an automatic macron-adder to check my scansion when writing metered poetry.

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  • Thanks for the link to text Lewis and Short, invaluable! Actually my question was prompted by noticing that Wheelock, Lingua Latina, and Lewis and Short often disagree, and wondering if more modern scholarship might have produced updated lists. – John Lawrence Aspden Jun 7 '19 at 18:39
  • @JohnLawrenceAspden Now that's very interesting. Unfortunately that's past my area of expertise, I just go from my own knowledge and rely on L&S when that fails. – Draconis Jun 7 '19 at 18:42
  • Generating from stems looks easy enough. I was thinking that I might write something which spots sēnatus and senatus as wrong, and suggests senāt{uū}s for later hand-tidying up, but passes senātūs and senātus unchallenged. A more pedantic mode could point out all possible ambiguities. That solves most of the problem. If I can get that working version two will probably get clever with trying to deduce cases where it can, but that looks much harder! – John Lawrence Aspden Jun 7 '19 at 18:48
  • There already is one: alatius.com/macronizer – John Lawrence Aspden Jun 28 '19 at 11:31
  • L&S is known to have quite a few errors regarding vowel length. Better to look at OLD. – Kingshorsey Jun 29 '19 at 17:47
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There's already a program that does this:

http://www.alatius.com/macronizer/

It does pretty much exactly what the program I was going to write does, only better.

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