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Latin pronunciation Posted by on Apr 4, 2012 in Latin Language

There is not “one correct way” of pronuncing Latin, it depends on which kind of Latin you are trying to speak.

 

Classical Latin

Classical Latin alphabet had these (capital) letters:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Y, Z

  • C letter always sounds /k/ like in car although it precedes e or i. Cicero /kikero/.
  • G sounds always /g/ like in game, although it precedes e or i. Leges /leges/.
  • U is always pronunced, also when it is in the QU group. Quintus /kuintus/.
  • LL sounds like adouble L (long). Puella /puella/.
  • X is sounds like /ks/. Dixi /diksi/.
  • Z sounds like /ds/. Zephyrus /dsefyrus/.

The emphasis on the Latin words:

In Latin there is no graphic accent as in other romance languages (á, à, é, è, etc). The accent is marked by the penultimate syllable: if the penultimate syllable is long, that will be the stressed syllable (au-‘tum-nus), if the penultimate syllable is short, the stressed syllable will be the antepenultimate. Note that there are no words in Latin stressed in the last syllable.

Long and short syllables:

In Latin there are long and short syllables. Long syllables are those containing a long vowel or diphthong, the short syllables are the ones containing a short vowel. The general rules for determining the kind of vowels are:

  • The diphthongs are always long. The classical Latin diphthongs are ae, au, oe, eu (caelum).
  • A vowel followed by two or more consonants or double consonant is long (ancilla).
  • A vowel followed by another vowel is short (philia).

 

Ecclesiastical Latin

The ecclesiastical Latin has the same pronunciation of modern Italian.

  • C followed by e, i, æ and œ, sounds like english “ch” in “cherry”. Caelo /tʃe-lo/,  sanctificetur /sanktifitʃetur/.
  • For the vowels, we have the following: a, e, i, o, u, are the same as in Spanish, Italian…, but also we have two fusions: æ and œ, which formerly, in Roman times, had the value of /ai/ and /oi/, respectively, but in ecclesiastical Latin they are pronounced simply as /e/. Caelo /tʃe-lo/, poena /pena/.
  • J is semi-consonant, and has the value of a y. Alleluja /alleluya/, Jesus /Yesus/.
  • U is always pronunced, also when it is in the QU group. Quintus /kuintus/.
  • G followed by e or i sounds like ginger in English. Regina /re-dʒi-na/.
  • G followed by n sounds like Spanish ñ. /ɲ/.
  • H has two different sounds in ecclesiastical Latin. Germans tend to pronounce it like in English: hodie /hodie/. Italians, French and Spanish tend to make it mute: hodie /odie/.
  • T followed by i + a, e, o, u, takes a complex sound: /ts/. Tentationem /tentatsionem/.

 

Anglo-Latin

Anglo-Latin is the name given to Latin words used in English non-liturgical contexts, as some mottos or phrases directly adopted from Latin.

  • C before e or i or diphthongs ending in e sound like /s/.
  • G ibefore e or i sounds like dg (/dʒ/) in judge.
  • Diphthongs ending in -e sound like ee in English see…  For example, “annuit coeptus” on the reverse of the dollar bill is pronounced in Anglo-Latin as “an’-yew-it sep’-tus”, with stress as in classical Latin.

 

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Comments:

  1. Maureen:

    V is pronounced like English W in Classical Latin, isn’t it?

  2. 小王:

    how should R be pronounced? I am not sure if I should do it as in Spanish or as in French etc. each person seems to do it its way.
    one more question. What should I do if I want to read text written in Neo-latin, is it worth studying classical latin?
    Thanks in advance.