According to an earlier question, we do not know how stress was realized on classical Latin. It may have been dynamic (stressed syllables are louder), tonal (stress changes pitch), or a combination, or perhaps something yet different. While we do not know exactly how the stress was realized in prose (normal spoken language), do we know about the relations of stress in prose and poetry?

The way I pronounce Latin, prose stress is mainly dynamic. However, I also use the same kind of stress to indicate stressed syllables in verse, such as the first syllable of each of the six metrons in a hexameter. This means that prose stress is completely lost in verse. (Both kinds of stress have a tendency to fall on long syllables so they do coincide more than one would expect by random.) However, it occurred to me that this may be wrong. Perhaps prose stress is dynamic and metric stress is supposed to be tonal, allowing the two to coexist.

Do we know whether metric stress (the stressed syllables in a metric poem) replaced the usual stress pattern of classical Latin? Does prose stress have an audible role recited poetry? Do we know at all how the two stress types were related? It may also be that the answer depends on the kind of poetic meter.

  • I don’t think we know any of this for sure. I will try to make a post later beneath this question, but for now, I wanted to link to an answer I have already written that I think has some relevant quotes: latin.stackexchange.com/a/6397/9
    – Asteroides
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 20:58
  • Why do you think that stress in poetry and in prose was different? Even though one should know what ictus is, the idea seems to have been abandoned by serious Latinists of our time.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jul 21, 2018 at 1:14
  • @AlexB. I don't think it was different. It occurred to me that I didn't know at all whether they were. I wanted to base my pronunciation on more than guesswork.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 21, 2018 at 5:50
  • 1
    It’s not that we don’t have the best experts on the site that is the problem. It’s has been a thorny issue for a long time and it’s by no means settled. Any evidence from classical authors on language issues/theory should always be taken with skepticism.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 18:17
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    @AlexB, it is worth noting that a conspicuous absence of such evidence in the loci where it is rather anticipated may possibly be more reliable. :) I'll attempt to put together my observations into an answer to this question; my notes are in a permanent disarray, so I need to get back to sources. I am by no means a classicist, just an amateur, and my area in linguistics is much more technical. But, with this full disclaimer, it still might be an interesting topic to ponder. Commented Jul 24, 2018 at 0:25


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