Chapter 1 concisely describes contrastive vowel length in Classical Latin, as seen for instance in mălus ‘bad’ vs mālus ‘apple tree’, addressing the different sources of evidence which allow us to establish its existence (internal phonological evidence as well as external evidence from orthography, metric poetry, metalinguistic judgements by Latin authors, comparative reconstruction within Indo-European, and evidence from borrowing from and into other languages). Particular attention is paid to the relationship of vowel length to consonant gemination (and, more broadly, syllable structure) through the different stages of the history of Latin. The chapter also focuses on the harbingers of loss of the vowel length contrast which can be spotted as early as prehistoric Latin, then becoming more and more salient at subsequent stages. It ends with a description of the structure and aims of the volume.
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