Latin spelling and pronunciation
Latin spelling or orthography refers to the spelling of Latin words written in the scripts of all historical phases of Latin, from Old Latin to the present. All scripts use the same alphabet, but conventional spellings may vary from phase to phase. The Roman alphabet, or Latin alphabet, was adapted from the Old Italic alphabet to represent the phonemes of the Latin language. The Old Italic alphabet had in turn been borrowed from the Greek alphabet, itself adapted from the Phoenician alphabet.
Latin pronunciation continually evolved over the centuries, making it difficult for speakers in one era to know how Latin was spoken in prior eras. A given phoneme may be represented by different letters in different periods. This article deals primarily with modern scholarship's best reconstruction of Classical Latin's phonemes (phonology) and the pronunciation and spelling used by educated people in the late Republic, and then touches upon later changes and other variants.
- 1 Letters and phonemes
- 2 Syllables and stress
- 3 Elision
- 4 Latin spelling and pronunciation today
- 5 Pronunciation shared by Vulgar Latin and Romance
- 6 Examples
- 7 Article notes
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Letters and phonemes
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In Latin spelling, individual letters mostly corresponded to individual phonemes, with three main exceptions:
- Each vowel letter—⟨a⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩, ⟨o⟩, ⟨v⟩, ⟨y⟩—represented both long and short vocalic phonemes. As for instance mons /ˈmoːns/ has long /oː/, pontem /ˈpontem/ short /o/. The long vowels were distinguished by apices in many Classical texts (móns), but these are not always reproduced in modern copy. (Where they are, they are typically replaced with a macron: mōns.)
- Some pairs of letters represented either two vowels in separate syllables, or a diphthong in a single syllable. For instance, aérivs /aˈeːrius/ starts with the syllables /a/ and /eː/, but aenéás /ae̯ˈneːaːs/ starts with the syllable /ae̯/.
- the letters ⟨i⟩ and ⟨v⟩ represented either the vowels /i/ and /u/, or the semivowels /j/ and /w/. So iv́lvs is /iˈuːlus/, starting with the vowel /i/, but iv́livs is /ˈjuːlius/, with the semivowel /j/.
The other 17 letters had mostly always the same sound value, with very few exceptions, such as the word vrbs, which was pronounced /ˈurps/ due to assimilation (the stem, however, continued to be urb- in all other declensions).
In the tables below, letters (and digraphs) are paired with the phonemes they usually represent in IPA. English upper case letters are used to represent the Roman square capitals from which they derive. Latin as yet had no equivalent to the English lower case. It did have a Roman cursive used for rapid writing, which is not represented in this article.
Table of single consonants
Labial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal plain labialized Plosive voiced b /b/ d /d/ g /ɡ/ voiceless p /p/ t /t/ c or k /k/ qv /kʷ/ aspirated ph /pʰ/ th /tʰ/ ch /kʰ/ Fricative voiced z /z/ voiceless f /f/ s /s/ h /h/ Nasal m /m/ n /n/ g or n [ŋ] Rhotic r /r/ Approximant l /l/ i /j/ v /w/
- ⟨c⟩ and ⟨k⟩ both represent /k/. In archaic inscriptions of Early Latin, ⟨c⟩ was primarily used before ⟨i⟩ and ⟨e⟩, while ⟨k⟩ was used before ⟨a⟩. However, in classical times, ⟨k⟩ had been replaced by ⟨c⟩, except in a very small number of words. ⟨q⟩ clarified minimal pairs between /k/ and /kʷ/, making it possible to distinguish between cvi /kuj/ (with a diphthong) and qvꟾ /kʷiː/ (with a labialized velar stop). ⟨x⟩ represented the consonant cluster /ks/, which in Old Latin which could be spelled ⟨ks⟩, ⟨cs⟩ or ⟨xs⟩. Adding to all this, ⟨c⟩ originally represented both /k/ and /ɡ/. Hence, it was used in the abbreviation of common praenomina (first names): gáivs was abbreviated ⟨c.⟩, and gnaeus as ⟨cn.⟩ Later misunderstanding of this convention would lead to the erroneous modern spelling ⟨Caius⟩.
- In the classical period, /kʷ/ (spelled ⟨qv⟩) became labio-palatalized [kᶣ] when followed by a front vowel. For example, ⟨qv⟩ was pronounced [kᶣiː].
- The digraphs representing aspirated phonemes began to be used in writing around the middle of the second century B.C., and were primarily employed for transcribing Greek names and loan-words containing the aspirated sounds represented by phi (⟨φ⟩ /pʰ/), theta (⟨θ⟩ /tʰ/), and chi (⟨χ⟩ /kʰ/), as in philippus, cithara, and achaea. In such cases, the aspiration was likely produced only by educated speakers. Subsequently, the aspirates began making an appearance in a number of Latin words which were not learned borrowings from classical Greek, initially as allophones of the unaspirated plosives in proximity to /l/ and /r/. Because ⟨ch⟩, ⟨ph⟩ and ⟨th⟩ were already available to represent these sounds, this resulted in standard forms such as pvlcher, lachrima, gracchvs, trivmphvs, thereby reducing the phonemes' erstwhile marginal status, at least among educated speakers.
- /z/ was at first represented by ⟨s⟩ or ⟨ss⟩ in Koine Greek loanwords (e.g. sona from ζώνη). Around the second and first centuries B.C., zeta (⟨ζ⟩) was adopted to represent /z/. Based on Italian Greek, where ⟨ζ⟩ was still pronounced /dz/, ⟨di⟩ and ⟨de⟩ before a vowel in Latin replaced ⟨z⟩ standing for /dz/. For example, zeta became diaeta. Thereafter, ⟨z⟩ was pronounced either /z/ or /dz/. In classical verse, ⟨z⟩ always counted as two consonants. This might mean that the sound was /dz/ or geminated /zː/.
- The phoneme transcribed by ⟨f⟩ may have represented a bilabial [ɸ] in Early Latin, or perhaps [ɸ] in free variation with [f]. Lloyd, Sturtevant and Kent make this argument based on certain misspellings of inscriptions, the Proto-Indo-European phone from which the Latin ⟨f⟩ descended, and the way the sound appears to have behaved in Vulgar Latin, particularly in Spain.
- It is likely that, by the Classical period, /m/ at the end of words was pronounced weakly, either voiceless or simply by nasalizing the preceding vowel. For instance decem ('ten') was probably pronounced [ˈdɛkẽː]. In addition to the metrical features of Latin poetry, the fact that all such endings in words of more than two syllables lost the final ⟨m⟩ in the descendant Romance languages strengthens this hypothesis. For simplicity, and because this is not known for certain, ⟨m⟩ is always represented as the phoneme /m/ here and in other references.
- /n/ assimilated to /m/ before labial consonants as in impar < *in-par [ˈɪmpar], to [ɱ] before labiodental consonants, and to [ŋ] before velar consonants as in qvinqve [ˈkʷɪŋkʷɛ]. Also, ⟨g⟩ probably represented a velar nasal before ⟨n⟩, as in agnus [ˈaŋnʊs].
- The Latin rhotic was either an alveolar trill [r], like Spanish ⟨rr⟩ and Italian ⟨r⟩, or maybe an alveolar flap [ɾ], as in Spanish ⟨r⟩.
- /l/ (represented by ⟨l⟩) is thought to have had two allophones in Latin, comparable to many varieties of modern English. In ancient Roman grammatical discussions, these variants were known as el pinguis "thick el" and el exīlis "thin el". It appears that "thick el" was velarized [ɫ], as in the English dark el in full, while "thin el" was a plain alveolar lateral approximant [l] approximately like the light el in English leaf (or even closer, as in Spanish or German). There is some disagreement about in exactly which circumstances the different allophones occurred. According to Andrew Sihler, comparative evidence indicates that, when after a vowel, el exīlis [l] occurred before an /i/ or another /l/, while el pinguis [ɫ] occurred in all other circumstances. According to Allen, /l/ when not after a vowel (word-initial or following a consonant) was always el exīlis [l].
- /j/ appears at the beginning of words before a vowel, or in the middle of the words between two vowels (for instance in Julius Caesar and cujus); in the latter case, the sound was usually doubled: iv́s /ˈjuːs/, cvivs /ˈkujjus/, and sometimes spelled accordingly. Because such a doubled consonant in the middle of a word makes the preceding syllable heavy, the vowel in that syllable is traditionally marked with a macron in dictionaries, as in cūius or cūjus, although the vowel is usually short. Compound words preserve the /j/ of the element that began with it: adiectꟾvvm /adjekˈtiːwum/. Note that intervocalic ⟨i⟩ can sometimes represent a separate syllabic vowel /i/, such as in the praenomen gáivs /ˈɡaː.i.us/.
- ⟨v⟩ and ⟨i⟩, in addition to representing vowels, were used to transcribe the corresponding approximants. Before a vocalic ⟨i⟩, the semiconsonant was often omitted altogether in spelling, for instance in réicit [ˈrejjɪkɪt] 's/he threw back'.
Double consonants were geminated: ⟨bb⟩ /bː/, ⟨cc⟩ /kː/, etc. In Early Latin, double consonants were not marked, but in the 2nd century BC, they began to be distinguished in books (but not in inscriptions) with a diacritical mark known as the sicilicus, as it had the shape of a sickle.
Latin has five vowel qualities, which may occur long or short.
Front Central Back long short long short long short Close ꟾ /iː/ i /ɪ/ v́ /uː/ v /ʊ/ Mid é /eː/ e /ɛ/ ó /oː/ o /ɔ/ Open á /aː/ a /a/
Long and short vowels
Each vowel letter (with the possible exception of y) represents at least two phonemes. ⟨a⟩ can represent either short /a/ or long /aː/, ⟨e⟩ represents either /e/ or /eː/, etc.
Adoption of Greek upsilon
⟨y⟩ was used in Greek loanwords with upsilon (⟨υ⟩, representing /y/). Latin originally had no close front rounded vowel as a distinctive phoneme, and speakers tended to pronounce such loanwords with /u/ (in archaic Latin) or /i/ (in classical and late Latin) if they were unable to produce [y].
An intermediate vowel sound (likely a close central vowel [ɨ] or possibly its rounded counterpart [ʉ]), called sonus medius, can be reconstructed for the classical period. Such a vowel is found in docvmentvm, optimvs, lacrima (also spelled docimentvm, optvmvs, lacrvma) and other words. It developed out of a historical short /u/ which was later fronted due to vowel reduction. In the vicinity of labial consonants, this sound was not as fronted and may have retained some rounding.
- With word-final nasal consonants:
- monstrvm /ˈmonstrum/ > [ˈmõːstrũː].
- nómen /ˈnoːmen/ > [ˈnoːmẽː]
- dentem /ˈdentem/ > [ˈdɛntẽː]
- With nasal consonants followed by a fricative[dubious ]:
- mensis /ˈmensis/ > [ˈmẽːsɪs]
- dens /ˈdens/ > [dẽːs]
- infans /ˈinfans/ > [ˈĩːfãːs]
These long nasal vowels had the same quality as ordinary long vowels. In Late Latin times, the nasalisation was lost, and they merged with the long vowels (which were themselves shortened by that time).
⟨ae⟩, ⟨oe⟩, ⟨av⟩, ⟨ei⟩, ⟨ev⟩ represented diphthongs: ⟨ae⟩ represented /ae̯/, ⟨oe⟩ represented /oe̯/, ⟨av⟩ represented /au̯/, ⟨ei⟩ represented /ei̯/, and ⟨ev⟩ represented /eu̯/.
In the earliest Latin, ⟨ae⟩ and ⟨oe⟩ were pronounced as /ai̯/ and /oi̯/, with a fully closed second element, and were written as such in early texts (⟨ai⟩, ⟨oi⟩). In the late Old Latin period, the falling element was lowered, and the pronunciation shifted first to /ae̯/ and /oe̯/. These then became the monophthongs /ɛː/ and /eː/, starting in rural areas at the end of the republican period. This process, however, does not seem to have been completed before the 3rd century AD in Vulgar Latin, and some scholars say that it may have been regular by the 5th century.
Vowel and consonant length
Vowel and consonant length were more significant and more clearly defined in Latin than in modern English. Length is the duration of time that a particular sound is held before proceeding to the next sound in a word. Unfortunately, "vowel length" is a confusing term for English speakers, who in their language call "long vowels" what are in most cases diphthongs, rather than plain vowels. (This is a relic of the Great Vowel Shift, during which vowels that were once pronounced phonemically longer became these diphthongs.) In the modern spelling of Latin, especially in dictionaries and academic work, macrons are frequently used to mark long vowels: ⟨ā ē ī ō ū⟩, while the breve is sometimes used to indicate that a vowel is short: ⟨ă ĕ ĭ ŏ ŭ⟩.
Long consonants were usually indicated through doubling (for example, anvs 'old woman' and annvs 'year', two different words with distinct pronunciations), but Latin orthography did not distinguish between the vocalic and consonantal uses of ⟨i⟩ and ⟨v⟩. Vowel length was indicated only intermittently in classical sources, through a variety of means. Later medieval and modern usage tended to omit vowel length altogether. A short-lived convention of spelling long vowels by doubling the vowel letter is associated with the poet Lucius Accius. Later spelling conventions marked long vowels with an apex (a diacritic similar to an acute accent), or in the case of long ⟨i⟩, by increasing the height of the letter (long i). Distinctions of vowel length became less important in later Latin, and have ceased to be phonemic in the modern Romance languages, where the previous long and short versions of the vowels have either been lost or replaced by other phonetic contrasts.
Syllables and stress
In Early Latin, as in Proto-Italic, stress normally fell on the first syllable of a word. During this period, the word-initial stress triggered changes in the vowels of non-initial syllables, the effects of which are still visible in classical Latin. Compare for example:
- fació 'I do/make', factus 'made'; pronounced /ˈfa.ki.oː/ and /ˈfak.tus/ in later Old Latin and Classical Latin.
- affició 'I affect', affectus 'affected'; pronounced /ˈaf.fi.ki.oː/ and /ˈaf.fek.tus/ in Old Latin following vowel reduction, /af.ˈfi.ki.oː/ and /af.ˈfek.tus/ in Classical Latin.
In the earliest Latin writings, the original unreduced vowels are still visible. Study of this vowel reduction, as well as syncopation (dropping of short unaccented syllables) in Greek loan words, indicates that the stress remained word-initial until around the time of Plautus, the 3rd century BC. The placement of the stress then shifted to become the pattern found in classical Latin.
In classical Latin, according to the penultimate rule, stress was placed relative to the end of the word rather than the beginning as in early Latin. The distinction between heavy and light syllables was important as it determined where the main stress of a word fell, and was the key element in classical Latin versification. According to Cicero and Quintilian, it determined the accentuation of classical Latin. According to the rule stress-accent falls on the penultimate syllable if it is of 'heavy', and on the antepenultimate if the penultimate is 'light.'
Words were normally stressed on the penultimate syllable if that syllable was heavy, and on the antepenultimate syllable if the penultimate syllable was light. In words of two syllables, the stress was always on the first syllable. A heavy syllable (sometimes called a "long" syllable) is a syllable that contains either a long vowel or a diphthong, or ends in a consonant. If a single consonant occurs between two syllables within a word, it is considered to belong to the following syllable, so the syllable before the consonant is light if it contains a short vowel. If two or more consonants (or a geminated consonant) occur between syllables within a word, the first of the consonants goes with the first syllable, making it heavy. Certain combinations of consonants, e.g. ⟨tr⟩, are exceptions: both consonants go with the second syllable.
Where one word ended with a vowel (including a nasalized vowel, represented by a vowel plus ⟨m⟩) and the next word began with a vowel, the first vowel, at least in verse, was regularly elided; that is, it was omitted altogether, or possibly (in the case of /i/ and /u/) pronounced like the corresponding semivowel. When the second word was est or et, a different form of elision sometimes occurred (prodelision): the vowel of the preceding word was retained and the e was elided instead. Elision also occurred in Ancient Greek but in that language it is shown in writing by the vowel in question being replaced by an apostrophe, whereas in Latin elision is not indicated at all in the orthography, but can be deduced from the verse form. Only occasionally is it found in inscriptions, as in scriptust for scriptum est.
Latin spelling and pronunciation today
Modern usage, even when printing classical Latin texts, varies in respect of i and v. During the Renaissance the printing convention was to use I (upper case) and i (lower case) for both vocalic /i/ and consonantal /j/, to use V in the upper case and in the lower case to use v at the start of words and u subsequently within the word regardless of whether /u/ and /w/ was represented.
Many publishers (such as Oxford University Press) have adopted a purist convention of using I (upper case) and i (lower case) for both /i/ and /j/, and V (upper case) and u (lower case) for both /u/ and /w/.
An alternative approach, less common today, is to use i and u only for the vowels, and j and v for the approximants.
Most modern editions, however, adopt an intermediate position, distinguishing between u and v but not between i and j. Usually the non-vocalic v after q or g is still printed as u rather than v, probably because in this position it did not change from /w/ to /v/ in post-classical times.
Textbooks and dictionaries indicate the length of vowels by putting a macron or horizontal bar above the long vowel, but this is not generally done in regular texts. Occasionally, mainly in early printed texts up to the 18th century, one may see a circumflex used to indicate a long vowel where this makes a difference to the sense, for instance Româ /ˈroːmaː/ ('from Rome' ablative) compared to Roma /ˈroːma/ ('Rome' nominative). Sometimes, for instance in Roman Catholic service books, an acute accent over a vowel is used to indicate the stressed syllable. This would be redundant for one who knew the classical rules of accentuation, and also made the correct distinction between long and short vowels, but most Latin speakers since the 3rd century have not made any distinction between long and short vowels, while they have kept the accents in the same places, so the use of accent marks allows speakers to read aloud correctly even words that they have never heard spoken aloud.
Since around the beginning of the Renaissance period onwards, with the language being used as an international language among intellectuals, pronunciation of Latin in Europe came to be dominated by the phonology of local languages, resulting in a variety of different pronunciation systems.
Loan words and formal study
When Latin words are used as loanwords in a modern language, there is ordinarily little or no attempt to pronounce them as the Romans did; in most cases, a pronunciation suiting the phonology of the receiving language is employed.
Latin words in common use in English are generally fully assimilated into the English sound system, with little to mark them as foreign, for example, cranium, saliva. Other words have a stronger Latin feel to them, usually because of spelling features such as the digraphs ⟨ae⟩ and ⟨oe⟩ (occasionally written as ligatures: ⟨æ⟩ and ⟨œ⟩, respectively), which both denote /iː/ in English. The digraph ⟨ae⟩ or ligature ⟨æ⟩ in some words tend to be given an /aɪ/ pronunciation, for example, curriculum vitae.
However, using loan words in the context of the language borrowing them is a markedly different situation from the study of Latin itself. In this classroom setting, instructors and students attempt to recreate at least some sense of the original pronunciation. What is taught to native anglophones is suggested by the sounds of today's Romance languages, the direct descendants of Latin. Instructors who take this approach rationalize that Romance vowels probably come closer to the original pronunciation than those of any other modern language (see also the section below on "Derivative languages").
However, other languages—including Romance family members—all have their own interpretations of the Latin phonological system, applied both to loan words and formal study of Latin. But English, Romance, or other teachers do not always point out that the particular accent their students learn is not actually the way ancient Romans spoke.
Because of the central position of Rome within the Catholic Church, an Italian pronunciation of Latin became commonly accepted, but studies by Frederick Brittain (published as Latin in Church; the history of its pronunciation) show that this was not the case until the latter part of the 19th century. This pronunciation corresponds to that of the Latin-derived words in Italian. Before then, the pronunciation of Latin in church was the same as the pronunciation as Latin in other fields, and tended to reflect the sound values associated with the nationality of the speaker (Brittain, Latin in Church; the history of its pronunciation).
The following are the main points that distinguish modern ecclesiastical pronunciation from Classical Latin pronunciation:
- Vowels are long when stressed and in an open syllable, otherwise short.
- The digraphs ⟨ae⟩ and ⟨oe⟩ represent /ɛ/.
- ⟨c⟩ denotes [tʃ] (as in English ⟨ch⟩) before ⟨ae⟩, ⟨oe⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩ or ⟨y⟩.
- ⟨g⟩ denotes [dʒ] (as in English ⟨j⟩) before ⟨ae⟩, ⟨oe⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩ or ⟨y⟩.
- ⟨h⟩ is silent except in two words: mihi and nihil, where it represents /k/. Of course, the medieval spellings 'michi' and 'nichil' are now considered incorrect. However, the silent ⟨h⟩ is regional, as ⟨h⟩ is fully pronounced in North America in all cases, e.g., in the phrase da nobis hodie from the Pater Noster.
- ⟨s⟩ between vowels represents /z/; ⟨sc⟩ before ⟨ae⟩, ⟨oe⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩ or ⟨y⟩ represents /ʃ/.
- ⟨ti⟩, if followed by a vowel and not preceded by ⟨s⟩, ⟨t⟩, or ⟨x⟩, represents [tsi].
- the letter ⟨v⟩ when it starts a syllable is pronounced /v/, and not /w/ as in classical Latin. Between ⟨ng⟩ or ⟨q⟩ and a vowel, it retains the ancient /w/ pronunciation, and as a syllable nucleus it retains /u/. Unlike in the ancient orthography, the letter v is now written ⟨v⟩ when it is pronounced /v/, but ⟨u⟩ when it is pronounced /w/ or /u/.
- ⟨th⟩ represents /t/.
- ⟨ph⟩ represents /f/.
- ⟨ch⟩ represents /k/.
- ⟨y⟩ represents /i/.
- ⟨gn⟩ represents /ɲ/.
- ⟨x⟩ represents /ks/, the /s/ of which merges with a following ⟨c⟩ that precedes ⟨ae⟩, ⟨oe⟩, ⟨e⟩, ⟨i⟩ or ⟨y⟩ to form /ʃ/, as in excelsis /ekʃelsis/
- ⟨z⟩ represents /dz/.
In his Vox Latina: A guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Latin, William Sidney Allen remarked that this pronunciation, used by the Catholic Church in Rome and elsewhere, and whose adoption Pope Pius X recommended in a 1912 letter to the Archbishop of Bourges, "is probably less far removed from classical Latin than any other 'national' pronunciation"; but, as can be seen from the table above, there are, nevertheless, very significant differences. Pius X issued a Motu Proprio in 1903 stating that "[t]he language proper to the Roman Church is Latin". Although the document explicitly forbids "to sing anything whatever in the vernacular", it implies that the ecclesiastical pronunciation is the standard for all liturgical actions in the Church. The ecclesiastical pronunciation has since that time been the required pronunciation for any Catholic performing an action of the Church and is also the preferred pronunciation of Catholics whenever speaking Latin even if not as part of liturgy. The Pontifical Academy for Latin is a regulatory body in the Vatican that is charged with regulating Latin for use by Catholics similar to the way Académie française regulates the French language within the French state.
Outside of Austria and Germany it is the most widely used standard in choral singing which, with a few exceptions like Stravinsky's Oedipus rex, is concerned with liturgical texts. Anglican choirs adopted it when classicists abandoned traditional English pronunciation after World War II. The rise of historically informed performance and the availability of guides such as Copeman's Singing in Latin has led to the recent revival of regional pronunciations.
Because it gave rise to many modern languages, Latin did not strictly "die"; it merely evolved over the centuries in diverse ways. The local dialects of Vulgar Latin that emerged eventually became modern Italian, Spanish, French, Romanian, Portuguese, Catalan, Romansh, Dalmatian, Sardinian, and many others.
Key features of Vulgar Latin and Romance include:
- Almost total loss of /h/ and final unstressed /m/.
- Conversion of the distinction of vowel length into a distinction of height, and subsequent merger of some of these phonemes. Most Romance languages merged short /u/ with long /oː/ and short /i/ with long /eː/.
- Monophthongization of /ae̯/ into /ɛː/ and /oe̯/ into /eː/.
- Loss of marginal phonemes such as aspirates (/pʰ/, /tʰ/, and /kʰ/), which became plain voiceless, and the close front-rounded vowel [y], which became unrounded.
- Loss of /n/ before /f/ and /s/ (CL sponsa > VL sposa), though this phenomenon's influence on the later development of Romance languages was limited due to written influence and learned borrowings.
- Palatalization of /k/ before /e/ and /i/ (not in all varieties), probably first into /kʲ/, then /tʲ/, before finally developing into /ts/ or /tʃ/.
- Palatalization of /ɡ/ before /e/ and /i/, and of /j/, into /dʒ/ (not in all varieties), then further into /ʒ/ in some Romance varieties.
- Palatalization of /ti/ followed by vowel (if not preceded by s, t, x) into /tsj/. This merged with /ts/ in dialects where /k/ had developed into this sound, but remained separate elsewhere (e.g. Italian).
- The change of /w/ (except after /k/) and /b/ between vowels, into /β/.
The following examples are both in verse, which demonstrates several features more clearly than prose.
From Classical Latin
Virgil's Aeneid, Book 1, verses 1–4. Quantitative metre. Translation: "I sing of arms and the man, who, driven by fate, came first from the borders of Troy to Italy and the Lavinian shores; he [was] much afflicted both on lands and on the deep by the power of the gods, because of fierce Juno's vindictive wrath."
- Ancient Roman orthography (before 2nd century)
- Traditional (19th century) English orthography
- Arma virúmque cano, Trojæ qui primus ab oris
- Italiam, fato profugus, Lavíniaque venit
- Litora; multùm ille et terris jactatus et alto
- Vi superum, sævæ memorem Junonis ob iram.
- Modern orthography with macrons (as Oxford Latin Dictionary)
- Arma uirumque canō, Trōiae quī prīmus ab ōrīs
- Ītaliam fātō profugus, Lāuīniaque uēnit
- lītora; multum ille et terrīs iactātus et altō
- uī superum, saeuae memorem Iūnōnis ob īram.
- [Reconstructed] Classical Roman pronunciation
- [ˈarma wiˈrũːkᶣe ˈkanoː ˈtrojjae̯ kᶣiː ˈpriːmus aˈboːriːs
- iːˈtaliãː ˈfaːtoː ˈprofuɡus, laːˈwiːnjakᶣe ˈweːnit
- ˈliːtora ˈmuɫtᶣ ĩll et ˈterriːs jakˈtaːtus eˈtaɫtoː
- wiː ˈsuperũː ˈsae̯wae̯ ˈmemorẽː juːˈnoːnis oˈbiːrãː]
Note the elisions in mult(um) and ill(e) in the third line. For a fuller discussion of the prosodic features of this passage, see Dactylic hexameter.
Some manuscripts have "Lavina" rather than "Lavinia" in the second line.
From Medieval Latin
Beginning of Pange Lingua by St Thomas Aquinas (13th century). Rhymed accentual metre. Translation: "Extol, [my] tongue, the mystery of the glorious body and the precious blood, which the fruit of a noble womb, the king of nations, poured out as the price of the world."
1. Traditional orthography as in Roman Catholic service books (stressed syllable marked with an acute accent on words of three syllables or more).
- Pange lingua gloriósi
- Córporis mystérium,
- Sanguinísque pretiósi,
- quem in mundi prétium
- fructus ventris generósi
- Rex effúdit géntium.
2. "Italianate" ecclesiastical pronunciation
- [ˈpandʒe ˈliŋɡwa ɡloriˈoːzi
- ˈkɔrporis misˈtɛːrium
- saŋɡwiˈniskwe prettsiˈoːzi
- kwem in ˈmundi ˈprɛttsium
- ˈfruktus ˈvɛntris dʒeneˈroːzi
- rɛks efˈfuːdit ˈdʒentsium]
- Appius Claudius / C(ai) f(ilius) Caecus / censor co(n)s(ul) bis dict(ator) interrex III / pr(aetor) II aed(ilis) cur(ulis) II q(uaestor) tr(ibunus) mil(itum) III com/plura oppida de( )Samnitibus cepit / Sabinorum et Tuscórum exerci/tum fudit pácem fierí cum Pyrrho / rege prohibuit in censura uiam / Appiam strauit etaquam in / urbem( )adduxit aedem Bellonae / fecit
- Allen 2004, pp. 15–16
- Allen 2004, p. 17
- Allen 2004, p. 26
- Allen 2004, p. 27
- Sturtevant 1920, pp. 115–116
- Levy, Harry L. (1989). A Latin Reader for Colleges. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 150.
- Lloyd 1987, p. 80
- Lloyd 1987, p. 81
- Lloyd 1987, p. 84
- Allen 2004, p. 23
- Allen 2004, p. 33
- Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508345-8.
- Allen 2004, Chapter 1, Section v
- Allen 2004, p. 39
- Allen 2004, p. 47
- Allen 2004, p. 51
- Allen 2004, p. 56
- Allen 2004, p. 59
- Clackson 2008, p. 77
- Ralf L. Ward, Evidence For The Pronunciation Of Latin, The Classical World, Vol. 55, No. 9 (Jun., 1962), pp. 273-275
- This simplification was already common in rural speech as far back as the time of Varro (116 BC – 27 BC): cf. De lingua latina, 5:97 (referred to in Smith 2004, p. 47).
- Clackson & Horrocks, pp. 273-274
- Fortson (2004:254)
- Sturtevant 1920, pp. 207–218
- Romance Languages: A Historical Introduction - 2010 p7 "1.1.4 The Penultimate Rule This rule assigning word stress in Latin is stated in terms of syllable weight. Once you have identified the boundaries of a syllable, you have to determine whether it's heavy or light. Definition: A syllable is heavy if it ..."
- Vox Graeca: The Pronunciation of Classical Greek William Sidney Allen - 1987 p151 "The Latin system is, as we know, governed by the so-called 'penultimate' rule (cf. VL, p. 83), whereby a stress-accent falls on the penultimate syllable if it is of 'heavy' structure, and on the antepenultimate if the penultimate is 'light'; according to ...
- Hayes, Bruce (1995). Metrical stress theory: principles and case studies. Chicago: University of Chicago. p. 91.
- Allen 2001, p. 400, section 612 e, f
- Thus, for example, Henri Estienne's Dictionarium, seu Latinae linguae thesaurus (1531)
- This approach is also recommended in the help page for the Latin Wikipedia.
- Gilbert, Allan H.: "Mock Accents in Renaissance and Modern Latin (in Comment and Criticism)", PMLA, Vol. 54, No. 2. (Jun., 1939), pp. 608-610.
- This change, like many of the others, dated from early mediaeval times and was by no means limited to Italy: "Already in the Old English period vowel-length had ceased to be observed except in the penultimate syllable of polysyllambic words, where it made a difference to the position of the accent ... Otherwise new rhythmical laws were applied, the first syllable of a disyllabic word, for instance being made heavy by lengthening the vowel if it were originally light (hence e.g. pāter ... for pǎter)" - Allen 2004, p. 102
- This pronunciation of mihi and nihil may have been an attempt to reintroduce /h/ intervocalically, where it seems to have been lost even in literary Latin by the end of the Republican period (Smith 2004, p. 48).
- In ecclesiastical Latin, following usage in Rome rather than in Italy in general, this intervocalic softening is very slight (Liber Usualis, p. xxxviij).
- Liber Usualis, p. xxxviij
- Allen 2004, p. 108
- "Pope Pius X". Tra le Sollecitudini. Rome, Italy: http://www.adoremus.org/. November 22, 1903. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
- Allen 2004, pp. 28–29
- Allen 2004, p. 119
- See Pope, Chap 6, Section 4.
- "The word-divider is regularly found on all good inscriptions, in papyri, on wax tablets, and even in graffiti from the earliest Republican times through the Golden Age and well into the Second Century. ... Throughout these periods the word-divider was a dot placed half-way between the upper and the lower edge of the line of writing. ... As a rule, interpuncta are used simply to divide words, except that prepositions are only rarely separated from the word they govern, if this follows next. ... The regular use of the interpunct as a word-divider continued until sometime in the Second Century, when it began to fall into disuse, and Latin was written with increasing frequency, both in papyrus and on stone or bronze, in scriptura continua." E. Otha Wingo, Latin Punctuation in the Classical Age, Mouton, 1972, pp 15–16.
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- Latin alphabet
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- Deutsche Aussprache des Lateinischen (German) – traditional German pronunciation
- Schulaussprache des Lateinischen (German) – revised "school" pronunciation
- Französische Aussprache des Lateins (German) - traditional French pronunciation
- Allen, William Sidney (1978). Vox Latina—a Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Latin (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37936-9.
- Allen, Joseph A.; Greenough, James B. (2001) . Mahoney, Anne, ed. New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges. Newburyport, Massachusetts: R. Pullins Company. ISBN 1-58510-042-0.
- Brittain, Frederick (1955). Latin in Church. The History of its Pronunciation. (2nd ed.). Mowbray.
- Clackson, James; Horrocks, Geoffrey (2007). The Blackwell History of the Latin Language. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4051-6209-8.
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- Pope, M. K. (1952) . From Latin to Modern French with especial consideration of Anglo-Norman (revised ed.). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
- Smith, Jane Stuart (2004). Phonetics and Philology: Sound Change in Italic. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-925773-6.
- Sturtevant, Edgar Howard (1920). The pronunciation of Greek and Latin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- phonetica latinæ: Classical and ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation with audio examples
- "Ecclesiastical Latin". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1910.
- Lord, Frances Ellen (2007) . The Roman Pronunciation of Latin: Why we use it and how to use it. Gutenberg Project.