Friday, December 28, 2012

Cuidoient li losengier

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My latest bardic project was to work on a song I wanted to sing. The song name is Cuidoient li losengier, written by Guillebert de Berneville from the 13th Century (from the Oxford Anthology of Music: Medieval Music, page 73). There is just one major problem. I don't know early or even middle French. Gracious, I don't even know modern French.

So I worked on my number one fall back when it comes to languages: IPA. The International Phonetic Alphabet. Of course, this took a little research and a lot of varied steps. IPA is something I had learned in college and took an immediate liking to. I found I could easily notate people's accents, so certainly it had to be useful as well in trying to learn how to pronounce things in French.

I am only going to talk about the first verse. It is easier than going through the whole thing (which I will do at some point in the near future). The first verse, written as it is in the book, is:

Cuidoient li losengier
Por ce se il ont menti
Que je me doie esloignier
D'amors et de mon ami
E non Dieu, je l'amerai
Et bone amor servirai
Nuit et jor
Sans fere folor
Et g'iere envoisie
Chantant et jolie

Not speaking French at all, I didn't even know where to go with the words, so I asked my teacher to write it out in some sort of phonetics to give me a stepping stone in starting on the IPA free hand. The first draft of phonetics I was given I will not be posting here as I have not been given permission. Needless to say, it was ingenious and the kind of thing I needed to kick me into starting this project.

Sitting at home with my text books in front of me, I began sounding out each word as it was written. The problem is, it is written in Americanized phonetics. Reading this with my American mind, I wasn't able to form the gentle nuances of French phonemes. Because of that, my first draft looked much like this:

kwidwaɛnt li losɛnʤiɛr
pɔr keɪ seɪ il oʊnt mɛnti
keɪ ʤʌ mɛ dwa ɛslwaŋʤiɛr
damɔrs ɛt dɛ mɔn ami
ɛ nɔn diʊ ʤɛ lamɛreɪ
ɛt bɔnɛ amɔr sɛrviɛreɪ
nʊit ɛt ʤɔr
sans fɛrɛ foʊlɔr
ɛ ʤiɛrɛ ɛnvwazi
ʃantant ɛt ʤoʊli

Now, when I had this read out loud to me later, I noticed many many mistakes. One being that I mistook that French would be anything at all like English with its phonemes. It is not. In fact, there are some consonants, such as /r/, that French doesn't even have. All of their /r/s are, in fact, a voiced uvular fricative as opposed to our alveolar trill, defined by the symbol ʁ. Other differences are with their nasalized vowels, which are denoted as such:/ã/, /ɛ̃/, /ɔ̃/, and /æ̃/. So there were some extreme differences that I just hadn't even thought of. After studying how things were pronounced for me and then looking through my IPA textbook as well as a French/English dictionary that the phonetics were written in IPA, I felt more confident. My second rendition of the same verse is as follows:

kwidwaɛ̃t li lɔzɛ̃ʒiʁ
pɔʁ sə sə il mɛ̃ti
kə ʒə mə dwa ɛslwãʒiʁ
damuʁz e də mɔ̃ ami
ø nɔ̃ djø ʒə lamɛʁe
e bɔ̃ɛ amuʁ sɛʁviʁe
nɥi e ʒɔʁ
sã feʁe fɔloʁ
ø ʒiʁe ãvwazi
ʃãtã e ʒɔli

You will notice quite a few differences between the first and the second renditions of the verse. The first had a lot of 'n's in it. The second, most of them are dropped because a vowel before an 'n' usually creates a nasalized vowel. I am still having some questions whether, like in the first word, the final 't' in cuidoient should be pronounced or dropped. It is noted that the affricates /ts/, /dz/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/ became fricatives ([s], [z], [ʃ], [ʒ]) in Middle French.

There is also, from looking at the music, moments where two words are supposed to blend together. Taking that into account, it appears the third rendition of the verse is:

kwidwaɛ̃t li lɔzɛ̃ʒiʁ
pɔʁ sə sə il mɛ̃ti
kə ʒə mə dwaslwãʒiʁ
damuʁz e də mɔ̃ ami
ø nɔ̃ djø ʒə lamɛʁe
e bɔ̃amuʁ sɛʁviʁe
nɥi e ʒɔʁ
sã feʁe fɔloʁ
ø ʒiʁãvwazi
ʃãtãt e ʒɔli

I am certainly open to comments and thoughts as I'm not particularly certain how some of these words would have been pronounced.

Cuidoient Part 2
Cuidoient Part 3 

Berneville, Guillebert de. “Cuidoient li losengier.” The Oxford Anthology of Music: Medieval Music. Ed. W Thomas Marrocco and Nicholas Sandon. Oxford: University Press. 1977. 73.

Handbook of International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge: Univeristy Press. 1999. 78-81.

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