Does anybody know how normal Latin dialog sounded — not the oratory or ecclesiastical versions? Are there any audio files that you recommend?
I don't know of any recordings. But we can make a good guess:
- The high-class, "proper" pronunciation is documented in books on oratory and rhetoric; Allen's Vox Latina summarizes and explains it thoroughly
- We know how the common/vulgar pronunciation differed from this standard
- Common features of prosody like stress and elision are known through poetry (and through descendants in Romance languages)
- We don't know how fast or slow the Romans spoke (this varies a lot between modern languages)
- We know where the stress was placed, but not how it was actually distinguished
From this, it should be possible to imitate a passable Vulgar Latin conversation. But it would be a reconstruction by non-native speakers, with all the drawbacks that entails.
Does anybody know how normal Latin dialog sounded
We don't know enough about the historical pronunciation of Latin to make an audio file that we could confidently say would have the same feeling as listening to the normal speech of a Latin speaker during the time of the Roman Republic or Roman Empire.
We know with a high degree of certainty the basic sound system (phonology) of Latin in classical times. We also have a pretty good idea of certain special phonetic aspects of pronunciation—for example, the use of a "light" and "dark" allophone of L.
But for any language, there are many phonetic details about how it sounds that cannot all be deduced from the kind of written and circumstantial evidence that we have about pre-modern Latin pronunciation. When people learn a second language, they often have an accent based on their first language(s), even after being able to listen extensively to native speakers of their second language. No one living today has the option to listen to even one example of a native speaker of pre-modern Latin, so it's pretty ambitious to think that somebody could perfectly acquire the accent of a pre-modern Latin speaker.
Are there any audio files that you recommend
No, but I haven't looked for any. An audio file would give you the speaker's best effort at producing the pronunciation that the speaker thinks was used historically. So the value of the audio file as a source of information will be based on the speaker's knowledge of evidence about how Latin was historically pronounced, the speaker's evaluation of that evidence, the speaker's skill at producing language sounds accurately, and your skill at perceiving language sounds accurately.
Also, a single audio file would not be able to represent the range of normal pronunciation. No language has uniform pronunciation, so we can probably say that there was more than one "Latin accent" (even if we can't say exactly how the accents differed, or how they were distributed or changed over time).
Latin audio files definitely can be helpful in some ways–for example, I think that it's been found that listening helps people become more fluent in a foreign language. And listening to audio files might help you learn to avoid some pronunciation habits from your native language that we don't think existed in Latin. (For example, English speakers tend to automatically reduce vowels in unstressed syllables to a schwa sound, but we don't think that this was a feature of Latin pronunciation in classical times.) But I think it's unlikely that you'll be able to get an accurate impression of what a "normal" Latin accent in ancient times would have sounded like by listening to an audio file.
This is a video that should help you:
The world's best expert on Latin pronunciation is Alex Foreman. Listen to these:
Am guessing that the Romans spoke with Italian accents--what else? Given the close relationship between Latin and its evolutionary descendant--contemporary Italian--many words are the same ("agricola", just one of 1000s off-top-of-head). Latin would have sounded like Italian people, having a "chinwag".
Latin/ Russian: have looked at this: both evolved from proto Indo-European tongues. So Russian was evolving before the 9th C. Also this would account for the similarities between the two sets of grammar. Having conceived the alphabet, it seems illogical that the monks would have stopped dead; did they not work to develop the language?
Given that contemporary Italian evolved from Latin, do not understand: "...Italian, an arbitrarily picked language...", nothing arbitrary about it: the one begot the other, generating phonetic closeness, of sorts, perhaps.
What about the sound? The OP asked about sound. The accent. Contemporary recordings are spoken in which accent? Is it the correct one? How would anybody know? Researching ancient accents--how would you approach that?
Here, in the UK, as in other countries, there are strong regional accents. Certain cities are renowned for unique accents, to be heard there (Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow). Visitors, to these, understand the English, when not peppered with dialect, but the English sounds completely different, from place-to-place.
After four-years of study, in Liverpool, was advised that I was speaking in a "scouse" accent; something of which, had been blissfully unaware. Conclusion: Latin sounded like the accent, from the place of origin, of that particular Roman/ Italian--coloured, possibly, by x-years of service in this-or-that posting.