Talk:Latin spelling and pronunciation

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A Medieval Latin Pronunciation Problem[edit]

In the Section entitled "Medieval Latin", there is a poem and a transcription:

   Pange lingua gloriósi
   Córporis mystérium,
   Sanguinísque pretiósi,
   quem in mundi prétium
   fructus ventris generósi
   Rex effúdit géntium. 

When I read the poem aloud, I realized that I did not pronounce every word the same as in the transcription. Specifically, I did not shift the "ti" in "gentium" to "tsi". I read it aloud several times and "gentsium" just sounds wrong, even while "pretsiosi" and "pretsium" sound fine. What gives?

Then I remembered that in the transition to Italian, that "pretium" formalizes this sound change into "prezzo", but "gente" retained the original pure "t". So I have to wonder if there are some cases in which the existence of a preceding vowel or consonant (the "n" in "gentium" in this case) stops this "ts" change from occurring? I can't bring any academic arguments to the table, but having spoken Latin since before Vatican II (early 60s) and Italian for nearly that long, perhaps I can have the right to just question when things sound wrong... —Preceding unsigned comment added by Mccalpin (talkcontribs) 20:22, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Italian gente is not derived from Latin gen. pl. gentium, but from acc. sg. gentem. So the pronunciation of the Italian gente is not related to the medieval pronunciation of gentium. If you pronounce pretium as pretsium (or precium), then there is no reason why you shouldn't pronounce gentium as gentsium (gencium). The only position (for this pronunciation manner) which prevents ti from shiftins is after 's' (e.g. in caelestium ti should be pronounced, not tsi).
I admire you speaking Latin for so long, but I am afraid, that your pronunciation customs have no authority, as you are not a native speaker. Mamurra (talk) 13:49, 29 August 2009 (UTC)
Mamurra, I thank you for your response. However, you did not address the fundamental issue - pretium did shift to prezzo in all cases, while gente did not shift to genze or gezze. Well, of course not...but are we positive that "gentium" had the same sound shift as "pretium"? That is, do you have any empirical evidence that "gentium" and "pretium" were necessarily pronounced the same way?
I do not mean this as an argumentative question, but as a serious question...just how do we know that "ti" was always pronounced "tsi", or are we just applying a rule that actually didn't exist in Late Latin?

William J. 'Bill' McCalpin (talk) 05:33, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure that the pronunciation example titled "'Italianate' ecclesiastical pronunciation" is not meant to be a historical reconstruction, but is simply the modern Italian pronunciation. --Alatius (talk) 10:58, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, William said "Late Latin" though; while the Italianate pronunciation section certainly is what it says (the ecclesiastical/modern Italian pronunciation), it's pretty certain some change of that sort must have happened at some stage in Latin, because it's reflected in most (if not all) Romance languages as well as Italian. --LjL (talk) 12:09, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
Nothing to do with having an "n" before the "t"; "gentem" simply has an "e" after "t", not a semivocalic "i" + vowel. That's what triggers the change in Italian. A hypothetical accusative singular "gentium" would most definitely become "genzio". --LjL (talk) 12:09, 30 August 2009 (UTC)

Myriad systems??[edit]

Troublesome statement:

Myriad systems[dubious – discuss] have arisen for pronouncing the language — at least one for each language in the modern world whose speakers learn Latin[citation needed].

While the statement correctly indicates that there are millions of ways to mispronounce Latin, mispronouncements aren't systems proper, they're most usually system violations. I would actually guess that there use to be approximately one way to pronounce a Latin borrowing per language, which is not the same as pronunciation habits in Contemporary Latin ― a foreign language to everybody, having its own independent pronunciation rules. ... said: Rursus (bork²) 15:01, 21 June 2009 (UTC)

That couple of sentence is a conglomerate of weasel words. Toning it down and removing tags, but feel free to re-add them if you still don't find it satisfactory and undisputed. LjL (talk) 15:22, 21 June 2009 (UTC)

simple questions[edit]

Wondering why the ae in trōiae [ˈtroːj.jă.e] is not a diphthong, and why Gāius [ˈɡaː] is three syllables. Details like this aren't covered that I see. kwami (talk) 09:21, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Where do you get the information that "Troiae" is three syllables? I'm surprised by that. I've included information about "Gaius", although I haven't explained "why", but I guess the answer is just "because" :P LjL (talk) 13:40, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
The transcription in this article has three syllables for trōiae. Perhaps it's just an error? I'll adjust the transcription; please correct me if I get it wrong. (Someone noted the same problem below.)
As for gāius, I just wanted to make sure that it wasn't an error too. Given that reicit is [ˈrejjikit], might gāius be something like [ɡaːjjijjus]? kwami (talk) 18:23, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Where in the article does it show Troiae with three syllables? In the example IPA transcription from the Aeneid it doesn't divide anything in syllables, and I didn't see it anywhere else...
As for Gaius, I don't have sources, but I think there is no reason to even remotely suspect it might be [ɡaːjjijjus]; it's simply that the "i" is being used as a plain vowel, but normal Latin orthography (without "j") has no way to distinguish these two usages. With "reicit" one is simply assuming it's equivalent to "rejicit" because of the etymology, re+ieci. I think I stumbled upon a source for that today but I passed it by without noting it down.
LjL (talk) 20:53, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Trōiae was transcribed [ˈtroːjjăe], which is three syllables because it has three vowels: [oː], [ă], and [e]. kwami (talk) 21:52, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
That was simply a mistake. No one is seriously arguing that the ending "-ae" should be disyllabic. --Alatius (talk) 10:58, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
This whole discussion puzzles me, as neither Troiae nor Gaius are three syllables - in Ecclesiastical or Medieval Latin. In both cases, the "i" has become a glide like the consonantal "y" in English. Would it be appropriate to mention this in the section that shows "Gaius" as three syllables ("Ga -i-us")? Otherwise, those of us who grew up speaking Church Latin might wonder what this was all about. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Mccalpin (talkcontribs) 20:09, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
For that matter, I don't think the trisyllabic pronunciation Gā-i-us is very common amongst speakers who use the reconstructed classical pronunciation either, either because they are not aware of the original pronunciation or because they don't bother with such minute pedantry. But that section doesn't deal with the pronunciation used today. --Alatius (talk) 10:58, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
Not sure about Gāius, but the very similar māior and māius, and also cuius, huius etc., actually have a geminate /jj/ – resulting in a heavy syllable, which is what the macron awkwardly and misleadingly tries to indicate. Etymologically, /jj/ in these words goes back to */gj/ and */sj/ respectively. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 00:33, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
I'm surprised no one has answered the second question yet. In the Lewis and Short entry on Gāĭus it explains that the word is trisyllabic in several poems, including Catullus 10. Here, I understand (though I have never read Catullus and had to quick look up hendecasyllable) that the meter requires the word to contain a long vowel followed by two short vowels. (Take note that the linked text is a scansion, and the macrons and breves in it mark the syllable weight, not vowel length.) Therefore, Gaius as pronounced by Romans must have been Gāĭŭs /gaː, not Gajus /gaj.jus/, and it doesn't rhyme with maius /maj.jus/. — Eru·tuon 23:58, 11 December 2014 (UTC)

Rising diphthongs[edit]

In the Classical pronunciation example, all the "ae" diphthongs are represented as [ăe], but isn't this suggesting a rising diphthong (since that seems to be the IPA diacritic for "extra-short") when those diphthongs were actually always falling [1] (either [ai̯] or [ae̯], using the kind representation that Diphthong uses)?

Actually, [ăe] would be two vowels with hiatus, not a diphthong. Corrected to simple [aj] per comments above. It's possible Latin distinguished [j] from [i̯], in which can we'd need to be more precise. Were aea and aia distinct, say across a word break: ae a vs. a ia, in set phrases where the words are run together? Or would they both be geminate [ajja]? kwami (talk) 18:38, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Uhm, I don't know about that (IIRC Vox Latina says something about that but only in passing and without any degree of certainty), but while in the example phonetical transcription using [j] is probably alright, I'm not a fan of using it in when denoting phonemic values of the diphthongs... because it would mean you're not really analyzing them as diphthongs to begin with - after just saying they are. And if you keep in mind that they soon developed into something where there was something short of a full [i] as the falling element (rather [e] or similar), eventually resulting in monophthongization... putting [j] kind of puts the opposite idea across, i.e. that it wasn't that prone to lenition/assimilation. LjL (talk) 20:58, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
If we avoid /j/, how do we decide between /ai̯/ and /ae̯/? (Not an objection, just a question.)
I disagree that /aj/ implies they weren't prone to lenition, though you are correct that /aj/ would not be a true phonemic diphthong--but then we're back to my question above: is /aj/ distinct from /ai̯/ in Latin? kwami (talk) 22:00, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Well no I guess it doesn't imply it, just kinda suggests it subtly.
About /ai̯/ vs /ae̯/, I'd choose /ae̯/ for the following reason: sources suggest that the change in spelling from AI to AE that occurred in the Republic reflected a change in pronunciation occurring at the same stage. So if we pick AE in the plain text (and I'm sure we would, as that's what virtually everyone uses to spell "classical" Latin nowadays), it makes sense to "match" that to a phonetic rendering for the same historical period, i.e. /ae̯/.
LjL (talk) 22:39, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Interesting that something that subtle would be reflected in the orthography, unless maybe there was a contrast between aea [ae̯.a] and aia [aj.ja]?
We have a fair number of Classical Latin transcriptions in Wikipedia, and I've never seen one that used /ae̯/. If we use that here, wouldn't we want to convert the other articles too? kwami (talk) 23:39, 27 June 2009 (UTC)
Look, you keep hinting to this contrast between [ae̯.a] and [aj.ja] - I would be delighted to be able to say whether there is such a contrast or not, but I don't know. Honestly I kind of doubt anyone knows for sure, Vox Latina certainly seems uncertain when it comes to such really subtle things.
You may have a point that if the other articles (and I suspect quite a bit of the literature) use [ai], it might be better to just use that. That's a valid point also because I think none of the sources in the article actually go as far as saying that [ai] evolved into exactly [ae], but just that the tongue position was lowered, that the articulation was more relaxed, or other such vague phrashings.
At the end of the day, I'm pretty neutral on whether to use [ai] or [ae], there's decent arguments for both. There's one source (don't remember which right) that says it was probably pronunced "exactly" like American English [aɪ], that might be another decent in-between choice.
LjL (talk)

There was certainly a contrast between AEA (like in Aeaea, the island) and AIA (like in Traianus), as Romans themselves tell us that intervocalic 'i' is doubled; so it is actually 'ajaja' but 'trajjanus'. However, the intervocalic position is somehow a special case. Otherwise, where 'i' is followed by a consonant, the 'ai' cluster forms two syllables (like terra-i frugifera-i in Martial), whereas 'ae', with few exceptions (mostly loan words, like 'a-er', with long 'e') is normally one syllable. Just a note. Mamurra (talk) 11:42, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

So phonemic /ai̯a/ vs /aia/, /ai̯k/ vs /aik/, phonetic [aja] vs. [ajja], [ajk] vs [aik]? kwami (talk) 18:30, 28 June 2009 (UTC)

gu + vowel[edit]

I have one source that seems to indicate that gu before a vowel became /gw/ rather than the expected /gu/. However, this doesn't seem to be discussed in our article. I'd like to know because it would affect syllabification. --EncycloPetey (talk) 18:27, 9 July 2009 (UTC)

Why is /gu/ "expected" in that context? --LjL (talk) 20:06, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Because g is /g/ and u is /u/. --EncycloPetey (talk) 20:34, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Err... no? "U" is exceedingly often /w/ ("uiuus" /'wiwus/), and the article definitely mentions that. --LjL (talk) 20:38, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes, between vowels it is, and at the beginning of a word when followed by a vowel. I'm asking about the situation where it occurs after g but before another vowel, in a situation where my sources differ as to the pronunciation. Do you have any helpful information? --20:51, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Helpful? I don't know, I thought this was about the article - which has "Usually the semi-consonant 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", which to me implies a semivocalic pronunciation after "g". It's unsourced, that's true. This claims that "gu" is pronounced /gw/ only when preceded by "n", as in "sanguis". My dictionary agrees. --LjL (talk) 21:28, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Which dictionary? This does help with my case, since the specific word(s) I am dealing with have ngu in them. --EncycloPetey (talk) 22:24, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
Castiglioni-Mariotti, Vocabolario della lingua latina, 3rd, Loescher, 9788820166502; but it really only "agrees" in the sense that it puts neither a brevis nor a macron on the "u", which normally means the letter is not a syllable nucleus, but it isn't entirely consistent in its usage. It's got a brevis sign on "puella" though, for instance. --LjL (talk) 22:50, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
These are the Indo-European labio-velar series: *kʷ becomes Latin qv, and *ɡʷ becomes Latin gv (though *ɡʷʰ I think becomes just v), so it's not surprising that v-vowel after g and q would behave differently than after p or other consonants. Or is that not the question here? kwami (talk) 06:53, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I actually meant to say that the fact it's got a breve sign on "puella" but not on "sanguis" reinforces the idea it's doing it for a valid reason, even though it seems to be a bit inconsistent in other cases (mostly by just not putting any sign on vowels that are "obviously" syllable nuclei and, I guess, "obviously" short or long - obviously for the dictionary, that is, not quite for me). --LjL (talk) 13:16, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

This is not "gu + vowel" but "ngu + vowel" which "consonantizes" the "u". BTW. a dictionary putting no quantity sign on a vowel is no information, as some quantities are uncertain or simply unknown. Mamurra (talk) 12:33, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

I see... it does seem to do it a bit frequently, though. --LjL (talk) 13:05, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
Generally, dictionaries mark vowel quantities and do not mark syllable quantities, as these are usually obvious (for natural length) or follow some constant rule (for positions). Maybe this is your case. My remark above was about the difficult questions of words, in which the real vowel quantity is undeterminable. Mamurra (talk) 10:54, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Pronunciation of 'suauis'[edit]

The Latin adjective SVAVIS originates Italian soave which is trisyllabic ( My guess is, it was prononunced /su'a:wis/ (not /'swa:wis/), that is, it is a counterexample. Please provide a cite or change the example.-- (talk) 21:42, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

I had my doubts about that claim, too (being Italian it did seem weird). However, 1 and 2 --LjL (talk) 21:46, 10 September 2009 (UTC)
That guess is wrong, "suauis" was disyllabic, with both "u" being semivowels. Such semivowels were sometimes vocalized (e.g. disyllabic "sol-uit" shows trisyllabic variant "so-lu-it"), but I can't find any single instance of that for "suauis". In any case, ancient Latin poetry constitutes stronger evidence than modern Italian pronunciation. Mamurra (talk) 14:56, 19 October 2009 (UTC)
I don't think that Italian "soave" is trisyllabic: the "oa" is pronounced as a diphthong on one syllable. At least, that's how I pronounce it. It is true that the "o" has more of a vocalic character than an English "w", and it is perfectly possible that the first "v" in "svavis" also had a more vocalic character than our "w", but still falling well short of forming a separate syllable. Alternatively the phoneme has become more vocalic than it was. Either way, the evidence that "svavis" had only two syllables is overwhelming. JamesBWatson (talk) 10:49, 27 October 2009 (UTC)

The aspirated plosives[edit]

Th, Ph and Ch were not exclusive to Greek loanwords. Not in the classical period anyway. They appear in a number of words of non-greek origin such as lachrima, pulcher, triumphus, bracchium, Carthago, sepulchrum and others. I've gone and fixed this, with a note on these sounds' peculiar status in Latin phonology. Szfski (talk) 11:18, 30 October 2009 (UTC)

I am not sure if one is entitled to light-heartedly describe all of these words as "native Latin words"; bracchium is from βραχίων; triumphus from θρίαμβος via Etruscan, and lachrima from δάκρυμα (all three of them were borrowed into preclassical/old Latin). Plus, from a strictly historical/diachronic viewpoint, even the rest of the words might not be considered native, since they don't have an IE etymology. I do understand what you are saying and I agree with your proposal about a disambiguation, but I find the phrasing you used a bit ambiguous. --Omnipaedista (talk) 12:32, 30 October 2009 (UTC)
That's largely irrelevant. By the classical period, there's no reason to think that most Romans would have seen lachrima or triumphus as foreign words anymore than native English speakers think of words like froth, move, chair, skirt, candle, they or sky as Norse or French words. Even if that weren't the case, Latin-speakers clearly didn't aspirate these words simply to mimic their counterparts in Greek, since if they had done so, they wouldn't have added an aspirated ch where the original Greek word had no aspiration (i.e. as if the Greek cognate were δάχρυμα) or refrained from rounding front vowels where they are rounded in Greek (as if the Greek form were were δάκριμα.) This is an entirely different (and, yes, native) phonological process from the conscious imitation of Greek sounds in learned words like pyramidum and Philtrum.
Moreover, the fact that a word cannot be found to have any discernible ancestor in a proto-language doesn't necessarily make it a borrowing or in any meaningful way "non-native." (c.f. American English words like wacko, okay, howdy, bogus, clobber, malarkey, gizmo, bonkers and doodle.) More to the point, the fact of having been borrowed into some earlier stage of a language in no way prevents that word from being subject to the language's native phonological rules in later periods. Diachronic evidence is irrelevant when evaluating what was, essentially, a synchronic phenomenon specific to the classical period.
In any event, even if all the above weren't true, your argument still wouldn't hold up since sepulchrum *does* have a PIE etymology: *sep- "to honor (one's dead)" "to handle skillfully" (c.f. Sanskrit saparyati,' Greek ἑπειν)
In sum, I don't really see your point. Szfski (talk) 13:42, 30 October 2009 (UTC)
I don't disagree with any of the above (and of course you are right about sepelire and ἕπειν); I didn't defend an opposite opinion. All I was trying to say (but obviously didn't express it adequately --sorry for being needlessly arduous) is this: the term "native" by itself might cause ambiguity in the minds of readers who are unaware of the difference between the synchronic and the diachronic levels of description (but know about the etymologies of these words), and thus it might be desirable to add an additional characterization to the adjective (as it appears in the text); for example: e.g.: "native Latin words" --> "synchronically native words" (unless of course, the consensus is that such a change would be überpedantic, and therefore unnecessary). --Omnipaedista (talk) 16:21, 30 October 2009 (UTC)
hmm you may be right. Let me see if I can phrase it better. Szfski (talk) 22:30, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

I don't now how relevant is this to "aspirated plosives", but out of your examples, "lacrima", "pulcer" and "sepulcrum" are better written without h. Abuse of aspirates is affectionate for classical times (see Quintilian's remarks on that), and later such writing gets more common because "h" in later times gets silent. Mamurra (talk) 16:35, 20 November 2009 (UTC)

I take it you mean "an affectation in Classical time";) garik (talk) 16:42, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
This is a descriptive, rather than prescriptive, article. Therefore notions of "abuse" of sounds or which sound is "better" than another are irrelevant to the topic at hand. In any event, the use of aspirated stops in native Latin words of non-greek origin was not a purely graphical phenomenon, nor was it an affectation. It represents an actual change in popular Roman speech habits, for which there exists a fair amount of evidence. For example, such words were often transliterated in Greek in ways that suggest an aspirate pronunciation (e.g. πουλχερ, ανχορα, σεπουλχρον). Some grammarians describe this as a phenomenon of popular speech, such as Cicero (Or. 160) when he says "usum loquendi populo concessi" to describe his acceptance of the fact that stops in non-greek words can be aspirated. Moreover, this is an entirely different phenomenon from the hypercorrection described in Catullus 84, since this aspiration occurred regularly even in vulgar Latin words borrowed into Celtic languages, as evidenced by Welsh hefys and Breton hiviz from Vulgar Latin *chamisia (had the original borrowed word been the more standard camisia, we would expect *cefys to occur in Welsh, just as we have cadwyn and ceffyl from vulgar Latin catena and caballus.)
The silencing of H did not apply to instances of H in digraphs representing aspirates. "Ph" became later /f/ in all environments (c.f. french Triomphe, Spanish Triunfo.) Likewise, a uvular, glottal or velar fricative very often occurs as a reflex of Ch in vulgar Latin words when borrowed into languages that had them.
For sources see Archivum Linguisticum, X (158), 110 ff. along with Allen, W.S. Vox Latina p 26-27. For data on Celtic see Archaeologia cambrensis Vol IV, Series IV, pp 359. Szfski (talk) 19:15, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
I think what Mamurra may be referring to in part is that the article says this allophony resulted in "standard [written] forms" such as pulcher, lachrima, gracchus, triumphus. While this article is descriptive, "standard" by definition includes prescription, so the question is whether the allophony was prescribed and whether the spelling indicating the allophony was considered "correct" or whether it was just a common mispelling. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 05:16, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
That depends on the word in question, and the particular grammarian you're looking at. Cicero, for example, came to accept Pulcher, Carthago, Triumphus and Cethegus as "proper" but wouldn't stand for Otho, Chorona or Sepulchrum in either speech or writing. Of these, I believe Marius Victorinus only mentions Pulcher as acceptable. The grammarians in general show a fair amount of disagreement in the matter, but it seems fair to say that the general practice was to represent the allophony graphically in certain words such as Carthago and triumphus to such a degree that they became the standard forms, at least in the inscriptions and papyri from the 1st century B.C. onward. Allen speculates that this may ultimately be due to a residual Etruscan substratum. Szfski (talk) 06:44, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Ah, that's pretty much how I interpreted it. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 15:55, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

@garik: you're right, I wanted to say something more like "pretentious" (sorry, English isn't my native language and sometimes I make horrible errors). In any case, I see no etymological (nor any other) justification for "h" at least in lacrima (< gr. dakry) and sepulcrum (< sepelio > *sepulculum or such, no aspirate). I am also in doubt about "pulcer". If the spelling with "h" is purely ortographical thing, does it belong to phonetics? Mamurra (talk) 14:09, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Mamurra, I can't shake the feeling that you didn't read my most recent post here. At least, not very carefully. As I said, the aspiration of consonants such as the /kʰ/ of lachrima does not require any justification, etymological or otherwise. It was a purely synchronic process that, unlike the learned aspiration of words like cithara or theatrum, did not depend on the word's etymology. Moroever it was *not* a purely orthographical phenomenon, as Cicero (Or. 160) and others explicitly state, and modern scholars such as W.S. Allen confirm. Szfski (talk) 16:59, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
That's possible that I don't understand your point. But you at least seem mistaken with the reference to Cic. Or. 160: Cicero explicitly states there that "lacrima" is commonly pronounced without aspiration, and he also is doing that: "usum loquendi populo concessi" (as to pronunciation of pulcher, Cethegus, triumphus, Carthago) "Orcivios TAMEN et Matones, Otones, Caepiones, sepulcra, coronas, lacrimas dicimus, quia per aurium iudicium licet". So I admit I don't understand, why lacrima or sepulcrum underwent inclusion into a discussion of aspirated plosives... Mamurra (talk) 12:59, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Traditional Orthography[edit]

In the "traditional orthography" for the Virgil passage there are now a number of accents. What's the rationale behind these (and I suppose I should say is there a citation for them)? I presume the acute accent is supposed to indicate the stress in the case of words with suffixed -que which the reader might otherwise be doubtful about, but if so it's clearly wrong in the case of "Lavináque" where the stress has to be on the first syllable. --rossb (talk) 11:40, 30 October 2009 (UTC)

Upper/lower case[edit]

There is a bit of a natural inaccuracy here I am trying to correct. The classical Romans used their block or their cursive; our "lowercase" (a renaissance term) was not known. The tables begin by making a point to employ block. Then in the notes we slip into lower case representations, a natural enough mistake. Where we are trying to use graphemes - the ones the Roman used - I am putting over to block if not that already. Where we are simply referring to Latin words using any script I let the lower case stand. Phonological representations of course have their own representations in lower case.Dave (talk) 16:04, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

Changes by aeusoes1[edit]

My friend! Those are a lot of changes to hit us with all at once. You seem to have some knowledge of linguistics. Some, I say. I'm surprised you are in this Latin article because Latin is not in your repertory. I can say that because you are asking for references on things that are standard to Latinists and asking for clarifications of things that are clear to Latinists. Nevertheless an experienced editor with a linguistics background is not to be brushed off. I am sure we might benefit by some professionalism. First, I note that you have gone ahead and done this without discussion. Some of your tags call for discussion. I will in fact ask you for discussion. But, everything in its time. Here are some questions, which anyone may take up and answer. I say questions, I mean questions; that is, they are not rhetorical but are a request for data so that I may assess what you say. This is obviously going to be a long slow process but you have thrown your hat in the ring and I think we should go through it. Otherwise it will be on Wikipedia for a long time as a bad article until the sysadm's have to start calling for experts. I can put little bits of time on a regular basis.Dave (talk) 22:38, 31 October 2009 (UTC) PS I see from your user page you are begging off until December 28. And yet you have enough time for major changes to the article. Perhaps you may spare us a little time so that I may understand you. Otherwise I will have to decide these questions in my favor, and that would be a shame, as I like to understand people if I can.Dave (talk) 22:47, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

There's very little substance that I actually altered. There was an "other orthographic
Sometimes little things are big things when it comes to readability, so I see them as more "substantial". Right now substantial to me means amount of work required to check accuracy and format. Your unsubstantial is my substantial, but no conflict. Analogous.Dave (talk) 23:50, 31 October 2009 (UTC)
notes" section that ended up, for the most part, covering ground that was already discussed. The OGN about C and K sort of contradicted the footnote on it so I merged them and put in a cite request on the matter of dispute. There were a few places where I altered the wording,
I don't see the dispute. C replaced K. What is disputable or unclear about that? see next question when I get it typed. I think you must mean something else.
often to clarify that letters aren't pronounced but rather represent pronunciations. Otherwise, all I did was use single chevrons (‹›) whenever discussing graphemes or letters, make correct distinctions between phonemes (in /slashes/) and phones (in [brackets]).
I have to agree with the chevrons and those are xplained in another article. The public will not know why the chevrons but they can find out with a click and a read.Dave (talk) 23:50, 31 October 2009 (UTC)
It seems like I've done a lot more because I also eliminated spaces between bulletpoints, which messed up the way the track changes sees it. I did change the statement that length was
Well, I have not been through to where I was yet. I had not yet got beyond vowels (and I'm already starting to get bored with it). So, I'm not comparing what you did with the way it was, only checking, as it now seems, what YOU say. I do believe you are wrong there about the phonemic rather than morphemic. Length is often a just a phoneme but in this case it also is a morpheme. If you contrast those two words the only difference is the length of that one vowel and that changes the meaning, so it is a morpheme, and length there is morphemic, not vandalism. I'm the supposed "vandal" by the way.Dave (talk) 23:50, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

often morphemic to that it was often phonemic, which I'm was pretty sure was simply undoing unnoticed vandalism. Believe me, when I make substantive edits, I use sourcing.

Also, by the way, this article is geared towards a mass audience, not one of Latinists. So the two calls for sourcing I put were more of a request to improve the article rather than questioning the accuracy of the statements. Who knows, perhaps upon finding sourcing we'll find a better and more accurate way to word it. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi]
I recognize your edits as serious but your view is considerably ironic. I would have thought this article is one for linguists and you moved even further in that direction whereas the suppose Latinist articles are much easier to read and understand, in my view. In any case I am all for clarification so if you want a ref I can put it in there - but - no insult intended - you are not recognizing the refs that are there! On with the show.Dave (talk) 23:50, 31 October 2009 (UTC)
My point with C and K is that the two notes told two slightly different stories. I suppose it can seem obvious that words with kappa changed to have C; if Allen (2003) can be said to back that up, then we need only to move the citation to after that sentence.
Regarding length, if it can be morphemic then there needs to be an example to demonstrate that there is a "length" morpheme akin to other morphemes. Whether that's true, it is also true (and the example shows this) that length is phonemic for both consonants and vowels. What you describe as a morphemic contrast ("the only difference is the length of that one vowel and that changes the meaning") is actually a phonemic contrast, not a morphemic one.
At some point this article will be reviewed for good article status. If the references aren't clear enough, they'll point it out. I tend to go overboard with references when I edit (see Russian phonology, Catalan phonology, and Spanish phonology for some examples). — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 00:21, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

The small caps question[edit]

Do you have a reason for going over to small caps? I ask that because some of your small caps are smaller than lower case; for example, c. Roman square letters are fairly large graphemes. They did not have any lower case and the size of the square letters depended on the context. Would it not be clearer to use caps? Also, you left the caps in the consonant table. Are we doing this for consistency according to some standard or are we trying make things easy to read?What is your thinking here?Dave (talk) 22:38, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

In my edit today, I made some inconsistent usage of {{smallcaps}} to mark orthography (both in talking about graphemes and in examples), figuring if we decide to go against the smallcaps template it's easy to remove. I agree that when the Romans used block lettering, we should as well. I was unfamiliar with the smallcaps template before seeing it on this page, and I'm not sure which is more proper: {{smallcaps|text}} or {{smallcaps|TEXT}}, but I agree we should be consistent. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 23:10, 31 October 2009 (UTC)
If it OK with you then I think I will go back to Roman square letters - our caps- for those.Dave (talk) 23:21, 31 October 2009 (UTC)

Does the use of small caps for Latin represent the norm in Classical Studios, or is it basically a Wikipedia affectation? If the latter, it should obviously go. (talk) 21:46, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

Replacement of K by C[edit]

Here is the statement I commented out:

"Words from Greek with kappa (‹Κ›) came to be represented with ‹c› instead.[citation needed]"

Here is the preceding statement:

"However, in classical times, ‹k› had been replaced by ‹c›, except in a very small number of words.[1]"

  1. ^ Allen (2003:15-16)

At first I thought they were saying the same thing, but now I see the difference. The first statement would certainly need a ref if anyone had said it. It looks to me as though you made one up and asked for a reference on it. Off the top of my head I would say, this is in no way necessary and gives the wrong implication. C generally replaced K from any source, not because it was Greek. The whole alphabet was modified Greek. The Romans did not pick on Greek words for the replacement, they all were replaced. There is no point in that statement and it should come out. Where did you get it? If you got it from below, let's just take it out; it is wrong.Dave (talk) 00:05, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

Yes, I got it from another part of the article. Perhaps someone was under the impression that, at some point, Greek loanwords with /k/ got the k spelling and Latin otherwise used C. If you say it's wrong, then we shall strike it down. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 04:50, 12 November 2009 (UTC)
He/she's right. C is normative in Latin for /k/ regardless of etymology, even where Latin uses special characters to otherwise mark the word's Greek origins (c.f. Cyclops, cyclus, centaurus, Theocritus from Κύκλωψ, κύκλος, κένταυρος, Θεόκριτος.) On the other hand, the rare list of words which did use an optional K grapheme includes many forms (such as Kalendæ) which have no Greek etymology. The letter C is in fact ultimately derived from the Greek Gamma Γ.Szfski (talk) 15:12, 12 November 2009 (UTC)

This sentence in Consonant Table Note 1
x⟩ represented the consonant cluster /ks/, where in Old Latin it had often been used for /ks/, which could be spelled ⟨ks⟩, ⟨cs⟩ or ⟨xs⟩.
says "It changed from /ks/ to /ks/". On the assumption that this is a cut-and-paste error, I'm taking out any mention of phonological change:
x⟩ represented the consonant cluster /ks/, which in Old Latin which could be spelled ⟨ks⟩, ⟨cs⟩ or ⟨xs⟩.
(So was ⟨x⟩ used by itself in Old Latin?)
--Thnidu (talk) 18:09, 9 October 2012 (UTC)


May I protest at the rash of angle brackets/chevrons that have recently disfigured this article. They're ugly, quite unnecessary, and meaningless to most readers. --rossb (talk) 15:00, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

  Sorry, I don't know what you're referring to...can you give us an example?
  William J. 'Bill' McCalpin (talk) 20:11, 1 November 2009 (UTC)
If you look at "Consonants" for example you'll see beneath the table: "‹c› and ‹k› both represent /k/" with the chevrons round the c and the k. And many more examples --rossb (talk) 20:18, 1 November 2009 (UTC)
They're used at orthography related articles like List of Latin digraphs, Spanish orthography, and Trigraph (orthography). They might be "ugly" to you, but AFAIK, that's how you do it I've also seen <angle brackets like these>. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 02:31, 2 November 2009 (UTC)
I can see both points of view. The chevrons mark a grapheme (I think it is an allograph), just as slashes mark a phoneme and brackets mark a phonological representation. Most people don't know any phonology, either. There is an issue of consistency. If we don't use grapheme markers why should we use the others? And yet this can hardly be a professional type article without some phonology. It's a tough question. I appreciate your chiming in, Ross. Let me try this. We already agreed not use small caps as that is very confusing. How about if we put a few footnotes in there to explain our usages and term? This might be done in two autogenerated sections, sources and footnotes, as I've seen done in and have added to some articles (a minority). I have not yet heard the Wikicops complain about that. If they don't like something they usually say so in regulative language. Let me see if I can find the code again. However, the question is by no means closed and certainly will spill over into other articles. Just how linguistic shall we get in linguistics articles? We don't want to mystify the public.Dave (talk) 05:26, 2 November 2009 (UTC)
PS. What a mess. I tried caps on the first table note. I better not go further until we get this resolved. The chevrons do not fit the caps so we have either to go over to genuine leather angle brackets, abandon the caps, or abandon the angles. For sure the public is not going to know that all we mean by the angles is that K alternates with C for /k/. Maybe we should wait for more comments. By the way much of those unreferenced notes are wrong and have to go. I suppose I could work on that. I'm staring at at least a dozen totally unreferenced Latin articles full of linguistics jargon that contains many errors. One thing at a time I guess.Dave (talk) 05:45, 2 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't think the analogy wish slashes and brackets is valid.They're needed to signal that the characters in question are being used in a special way, as symbols to indicate the pronunciation rather than as ordinary letters: without them, the readers would be seriously confused (although I do wonder whether we explain the usage sufficiently in articles). But surely graphemes (including allographs) are just examples of letters of the alphabet, and don't need this extra marking off, which I still think is very ugly and detracts from the readability of the article. In other articles I've seen italics used in a similar context, and maybe this would work here. --rossb (talk) 07:57, 2 November 2009 (UTC)
In adding the chevrons, I noticed sentences like: In classical verse, the letter Z always counted as two consonants. The chevrons negate the need to say "the letter" in this context. Similarly, we use slashes and brackets not just to mark off pronunciations but also to eliminate the need to say "the labial element of the phoneme ".
I honestly don't see how the chevrons make the article less readable. I can concede that it's often neutral (as slashes and brackets can be), but there are times when they can clarify or help reinforce that we're talking about spelling and not a word, such as in the first footnote under the consonant chart: "Misunderstanding of this convention has led to the erroneous spelling ‹caius". Thus we make a distinction between words (in italics) and orthographic items (in chevrons). — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 08:23, 2 November 2009 (UTC)
We might want to add a footnote explaining what the brackets do. But whenever we deal with orthographic variants, we can potentially lose the reader if we don't dab. kwami (talk) 21:18, 2 November 2009 (UTC)
Should we perhaps create a template like we do warning readers about IPA usage? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 01:48, 3 November 2009 (UTC)

I'm quite unconvinced that "<Z>" is an improvement over "the letter Z". We should we writing articles for the general reader not the specialist. The slashes and brackets for pronunciation are necessary, but the chevrons are not, and I strongly feel that they have no place in this article. --rossb (talk) 07:35, 3 November 2009 (UTC)

If the general reader can understand slashes and brackets, I think they can get chevrons, so including them isn't an appeal to specialists. Do you say that slashes and brackets are necessary because conventions require them or because they're a lot more likely to disambiguate than the chevrons? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 18:53, 3 November 2009 (UTC)
If the general reader,particularly a reader who's seen other Wikipedia articles, or has used dictionaries, sees slashes and brackets, hey are quite likely to realise that it has to do with pronunciation, although they may not grasp the difference between phonemic and phonetic. The point is that by surrounding the letters with these characters we're marking them out as no longer letters of the alphabet in the ordinary way but as having a special function. So when they see chevrons they're quite likely to get confused and think that they've also got something to do with pronunciation. We're not here writing for the specialist but for the general reader, and I would strongly urge that the chevrons reduce the readability of this article rather than improving it, and should therefore be removed. --rossb (talk) 07:05, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
I see what you're saying, but I don't agree that the chevrons are all that confusing. So far, you're the only one who'se brought it up and I assume that you yourself weren't confused but rather you believe a significant enough portion of our readership could be. Am I correct? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 07:32, 4 November 2009 (UTC)
I'm concerned that the chevrons will just make the article off-putting to general readers. Those readers who have seen articles with slashes and brackets are quite likely to think that the chevrons are some further variation of pronunciation. I think I've already said that the slashes and brackets are a necessary evil: we need them to distinguish between letters of the alphabet and phonemic/phonemic symbols, which just happen, perhaps unfortunately, to use some of the same glyphs. But in the case of the chevrons they're really just saying that the letters of the alphabet are being used as letters of the alphabet. They're totally unnecessary, and make the article less readable, without as far as I can see giving any benefit. -- This last contribution was by me: I'd forgotten to log in. --rossb (talk) 19:27, 9 November 2009 (UTC)
Well, we've both given our opinions on the matter and it doesn't look like we can solve it by butting heads. I can bring it up at the language reference desk. Should this be brought up somewhere else? It seems like an issue that would affect many more Wikipedia articles. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 18:29, 10 November 2009 (UTC)
As a follow-up, this is from a conversation at User talk:Kwamikagami#Angle brackets:

They're in the maths section of Unicode. I've just been checking Google Books, and many texts use either <...> or guillemots as an approximation, even though they call them "angle brackets". However, I did found this,[2] which uses true angle brackets for literal transliterations of Syriac, and closer to home this,[3] which makes the [x], /x/, <x> distinction. (Also here, here, here, etc.) So it seems pretty clear that when sources say "angle brackets" are used for this, they actually do mean "angle brackets", even if not all printers stock them.

So the convention is ubiquitous, even if it isn't universal. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 18:33, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Correction to my comment: there's a second set at U+2329/A, which are the non-math angle brackets. (They were deprecated and replaced for math use because of equivalence with CJK punctuation.) kwami (talk) 02:49, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Pronunciation Problems[edit]

The author of this page misinterpretation several statements from Vox Latina:

1) The assimilation of n to [m] takes place only in the preposition in before a word starting with labial. see p28 ¶1

2) n before f represents a labio-dental nasal [ɱ] p29 ¶2

3) I see no evidence for the pronunciation of qu as [kɥ] before front vowels on p17. —Preceding unsigned comment added by

Take a more careful look at Vox Latina.
The assimilation of n to m is indeed described as occurring with the preposition in, however it does not say anywhere that this is the only environment where such assimilation occurred. Moreover, on page 31, he cites inscriptional evidence and explicitly quotes Cicero and Velius longus for examples of /m/->/n/ in other environments.
On Page 29 Allen states that the same considerations apply to f as to s for preceding n, and uses this as an explanation for inscriptional forms such as cofeci, iferos for confeci, inferos. He then goes on to state that the labio-dental pronunciation existed as an artificial restoration of a previously dropped n.
On page 17, the penultimate paragraph cites Priscian (K. ii, 7) as stating that the "u element of qu when followed by a front vowel has a special quality like Greek υ (i.e. like the initial sound of French huit as contrasted with oui). In a footnote he confirms this for the classical period with inscriptional Greek spellings such as Ακυλιος and Κυιντιλιος for Aquilius and Quintilius, and κυι for qui as against κοα for qua.
Happy re-reading! Szfski (talk) 19:55, 5 November 2009 (UTC)

On point 1 /m/ -> /n/ in not the same as /n/ -> /m/ and to quote the silence of an author as proof seems like a bad case of reading between the lines. (talk) 21:44, 3 December 2009 (UTC)

Vowel Question[edit]

In the vowel chart the short vowels are given as [i], [e], [u], [o], but in the second bullet point it says that they should be [ɪ], [ɛ], [ʊ], [ɔ]. Which one is correct? (talk) 14:36, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

When vowels appear between /slashes/, it means they represent phonemes. In this case, the phonemic representation for short vowels is slightly different from their actual phonetic realization. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 17:23, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
I am really sorry about my lack of linguistic skills, but can you explain this in difference in more detail please. If I understand correctly a Latin speaker would of perceived a [ɔ] as a short o and a [oː] as a long o. Is this correct? (talk) 20:50, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
Yes, you are correct. However, we've chosen to represent the short o as /o/ when we're using the more abstract phonemic representation for a number of reasons. We discussed the matter a couple of years ago here. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 21:32, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

The problem is that the reasons given are in that discussion are not supported by the sources. I quote from the Vox Latina (p 47): "There appears to have been no great difference in the quality between long and short a, but in the case of the close* and mid* vowels (i and u, e and o) the long appear to have been appreciably closer than the short."

Aeusoes's statement that the letters are distinguished only by length is thus incorrect, and the statement that sources use the same symbol for both was successfully countered in that discussion. There are not several reasons.

While phonemic IPA transcriptions do not necessarily match the phonetic transcriptions, there has to be a reason why. If we all agree that the more open symbols are more correct phonetically, and the literature that actually uses IPA agrees, there is no reason to continue to confuse people with the two different notations.

I'm having to right now clarify this for someone who has been misled by this article. — trlkly 10:19, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

Did I say they were distinguished only by length? My argument is that the phonemic representation with both long and short vowels being transcribed the same is consistent with the literature's representation, not with the phonetic accuracy. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 13:32, 14 December 2010 (UTC)

Division of syllables[edit]

Currently, there is a discussion on Wiktionary, concerning the division of syllables, on whether a preposition can form a syllable with an initial vowel of a verb in compounds or whether the separate parts of compounds are kept distinct. It would be helpful if anyone had any more information or views on this issue. For the discussion on Wiktionary, see [4] further down. Caladon (talk) 09:13, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

Pronunciation of short o[edit]

The article says that short o is pronounced [ɔ] - is there any good source for this? Allen seems to prefer [ɒ], which I would have thought is more likely. --rossb (talk) 12:45, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

Why is it more likely? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 22:46, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

Sonus medius?[edit]

Shouldn't this article mention sonus medius? See the article about Claudian letters, as well as this mention in Italian wikipedia. Jec (talk) 21:56, 25 April 2010 (UTC)

It already did, though it didn't name it. Fixed. ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 22:39, 26 April 2010 (UTC)

Nasal vowels[edit]

Is there a source that says nasal vowels were phonemic? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 06:28, 10 May 2010 (UTC)

Not directly that I know of. But Wells says,
"The reason that a vowel plus m was subject to elision was that the spelling m here did not stand for any actual nasal consonant but just for nasalization of the vowel."
He doesn't describe it as allophony, and as behaving as any other vowel. — kwami (talk) 06:31, 10 May 2010 (UTC)
They contrast with non-nasal vowels as in rosa vs rosam, but I dunno whether they contrast with vowel-plus-/m/. ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 07:43, 10 May 2010 (UTC)
I think we need a little more than that to assert that they were phonemes in the article. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 08:14, 10 May 2010 (UTC)
Even if there's no contrast with Vm, one could argue that they're phonemically simple vowels if they behave as simple vowels. — kwami (talk) 08:18, 10 May 2010 (UTC)
Right but our standard is if somebody has argued it, not if somebody could argue it. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 17:46, 10 May 2010 (UTC)
There seems to be disagreement as to whether they were phonemic or not. Part of the problem is that Latin orthography was not designed for nasal vowels (presumably because they had not yet developed at the time the Etruscan alphabet was adopted), though there are verbal descriptions of them and various ad hoc transcriptions, such as writing only half of the M or N, or marking the vowel with a tilde (this in Classical times). Rodney Sampson (Nasal vowel evolution in Romance, 1999:42-43, 49-50) has this to say:
It is generally assumed that in Classical Latin there were no nasal vowel phonemes [...] However, there are grounds for believing that strongly nasal vowels arose at various stages in the history of Latin including the Golden Age period and that phonemically nasal vowels may even have become established in some varieties of Latin. This is indicated by the fact that certain phonological changes have operated which seem to imply heightened vowel nasality. [...] Many scholars have concluded that after syllable-coda nasal consonants were deleted long nasal vowels appeared in Latin [...]. However, [...] few have wished to accept that these nasal vowels would have given rise to surface contrasts with oral vowels and hence would have been phonemic, as in DĒSUM 'I am lacking' vs. DĒNSUM 'dense' [...] ROTA 'wheel (nom. sg.)' vs. ROTAM 'wheel (acc. sg.)' etc.). Maniet [..] indeed explicitly denies phonemic status to the nasal vowels deriving from word-final vowel + M sequences, describing them instead as combinatory variants with demarcative function. Nonetheless, the evidence for surface contrasts between nasal and oral vowels is strong and it suggests that at certain periods and in certain styles of speech nasal vowel phonemes may well have arisen. [Foot note:] A similar view is adopted by Safarewicz who recognizes distinctively nasal vowels in Latin, which he claims survived down to the secord century AD [...]
So it would seem there is a significant minority of scholars who do argue for their phonemicity. — kwami (talk) 18:38, 10 May 2010 (UTC)
Nice find. The info on the scholarly disagreement should be reflected in the article. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 05:53, 11 May 2010 (UTC)

Consonant table design[edit]

I thought this table and its notes were a bit hard to read. The table was too dense, the notes were too wide. It was not clear that they are table notes. The C number might be part of the phoneme, for all the public knows. And yet, the encyclopedic information is all there. We would not want to omit it. Therefore this seemed to be a problem in layout and design. How can we present the table and its notes in a clearer fashion? If we had some of the manual production tools that are out there the job would be much easier. But what we have is WP markup language, which is not bad. So, I tried my hand at a new layout. We want the notes in the table so the reader will identify them with the table. We want to explain the C numbers. We don't want a section with a little tiny head and a great body, like a certain character in Beetlejuice, so we want to open the table out. Also, opening it out makes it less dense and easier to read. If you disagree with the analysis or like the other design better speak up. Try your hand at your own design, but be careful not to leave it messed up. If you just want to change the width there is now a width parameter in the table to do that, at the top. I tried 100% but the page looked a bit crowded to me so I went for 80%. We could make it less and put some sort of graphic right. Also by using the "reflist" template instead of "references" we could make the note font smaller. I tried that but really some of the characters became too small to read. So, what's your input, if any?Dave (talk) 23:39, 27 June 2010 (UTC)

I don't like the change. The columns are much too wide and I don't see this as an improvement (the table is no denser than others if its kind at other phonology articles). Rather than have the notes be part of the table as you have done, we could have a header like the one at Spanish phonology. Something like "phonetic notes."
It doesn't seem to me that the notation is too confusing, but instead of having C1, C2, etc, we could have letters or roman numerals (a, b, c; i, ii, iii). — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 23:49, 27 June 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for your input (input, Stephanie, input!). Spanish phonology is a good-looking arrangement. The table is centered. The table notes are a bit different; the auto-generated note system is not there. It seems less cluttered. If we keep the autogeneration system then actually I like either the letters or the small Roman numerals. In summary these alternatives have been suggested by ye: 1) close-up centered table without internal notes 2) A separate subsection for the notes 3) letters or Roman numerals instead of C numbers 4) no autogeneration of notes. These are good suggestions. Does anyone have more? No point in holding your peace. We don't bite. When we get a good modicum of suggestions then we can vote on these specific features. Anyone else throwing his hat in the ring? Now's the time for input. Once we take a vote (there are three of us currently) one of us can change it (probably me). Incidentally I see the discussions we used to have on the phonetic symbols have all led to a resolution. I'm glad of that. Apparently we have a linguistics article here rather than a digest. Fine with me. The public has to come up once in a while; we can't have all non-technical material. Now let's make it into a good one; however, I would not like to wait quite so long as previously. Still, we need some time for input to develop.Dave (talk) 12:11, 28 June 2010 (UTC)
Well, I only pointed out the Spanish phonology article to make suggestion 2. I don't have a problem with internal notes. I think it can work either way. If we decide to keep them, having the autogeneration is a nice feature. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 17:11, 28 June 2010 (UTC)

Meta-clarification request[edit]

"Z /z/{{#tag:ref|/z/ was at first represented by ‹S› or ‹SS› in Hellenistic Greek loanwords (e.g. sena from ζωνη). In the around the second and first centuries BCE zeta (‹Ζ›) was adopted to represent /z/. Based on Italian Greek, where ‹ζ› still represented /dz/, di- and de- before a vowel in Latin was represented Z standing for /dz/: zeta for diaeta. Thereafter Z was either /z/ or /dz/.[clarification needed]

What clarification? It seems pretty clear to me. <Z> can be either /z/ or /dz/ depending on the scribe or the location. Did I miss something? I'm temporarily removing this tag until I can see what you mean or what you need or think you need.Dave (talk) 13:22, 28 June 2010 (UTC)

I didn't tag it, but the second to last sentence doesn't make sense. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 17:05, 28 June 2010 (UTC)

What IPA symbol should be used for the open vowel?[edit]

The IPA vowel chart as shown in Vowel#Articulation shows the open (front / central / back) unrounded vowels as [a / ä / ɑ]. Latin spelling and pronunciation#Vowels shows a central set of vowels using /a/. A recent edit to the table "Classical Latin alphabet" in Latin alphabet#Origins has changed the vowel in one of the four pronunciation entries using [a] to [ɑ]. Which IPA symbol should be used? —Coroboy (talk) 04:48, 14 May 2011 (UTC)

As far as I can tell, ‹a› is the correct symbol, even if it is central. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 19:10, 14 May 2011 (UTC)

More on <i> and <ae>[edit]

I suppose a great confusion is added for Anglophones when they read that <i> in relation to vowels turns into j, as they probably assume that it's the same sound as in Jones (probably which might be approximated rather by a particular mode of <c> in classical Latin?). However, in both Italian and German pronounciation of Latin, the sound is the same as in English you, i. e. the palatal approximant [j]. It might help to clear up some confusions to mention that in the article.

Second, <ae>. In both Italian, as well as Italian and German pronounciation of Latin and ecclesiastical Latin, <ae> is pronounced as the open-mid front unrounded vowel [ɛ:], which resembles German umlaut <ä> and English (particularly broad AE) <a> as in hand. Now, it occurs to me that the confusion here is due to the traditional association with the spelling <ai>, which happens to refer to the Greek diphtong <αι> that in the classical era was transliterated into Latin as <ae>, whereas before it had been represented in Latin writing as <ai>. This transition from <ai> to <ae> spelling in the same words, for instance, gives rise to the common misconception that classical caesar was somehow pronounced like modern High German Kaiser (as well as confuse people about the classical Greek pronounciation of <ai>).

My educated guess here is based upon the (sourced? see a few sections above here on the talkpage) opinion that has been voiced before above that Greek <αι> represents an [ɛɚ̯] diphtong as in AE maid, as that's exactly what <αι> happens to be pronounced as in modern Greek as well (see more reasons to assume such a pronounciation also for classical Greek in the next paragraph below). Now, how did the spelling change from <ai> to <ae> come about in Latin transliterations of Greek words from the republican to the classical era? Indeed, Old Latin spelling was still largely influenced by Etruscan, as it was via Etruscan transfer that the Greek alphabet evolved into the Latin one (see Old Italic script).

Thus, I posit that [ɛ:] and [ɛɚ̯], albeit not identical, are close enough to each other that early Romans, still influenced by Etruscan writing, may have used Latin <ai> to both transliterate Greek <αι>, *AND* represent the native Latin [ɛ:] sound that is equivalent to a.) the modern Italian pronounciation of <ae>, b.) the ecclesiastical Latin pronounciation of <ae>, c.) the AE broad <a> as in AE hand, d.) and finally, the German umlaut of <ä> which is used for German pronounciation of Latin <ae>. Then, in the classical period Roman writers left their Greek and Etruscan legacy spelling rules behind to now represent their native Latin [ɛ:] by the genuine Latin spelling of <ae>, *AND* at the same time also simplify transliteration of Greek <αι> into <ae>, for [ɛ:], albeit not entirely identical, was their most approximate native sound to [ɛɚ̯]. -- (talk) 01:08, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

"[ɛɚ̯] diphtong as in AE maid " ?!
IPA ‹ɚ› is a rhotacized schwa, as in American English "butter". I'm not sure what sound you're trying to talk about, but it sure ain't that one. (BTW, it's ‹diphthong›, < Gk. δίϕθογγος.)

--Thnidu (talk) 17:28, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

That is ɚ. -DePiep (talk) 21:53, 9 October 2012 (UTC)
The IP is wrong about the classical pronunciation of ae and Caesar: ae was indeed pronounced [ae] in Classical Latin, much like English eye, and Caesar was pronounced [kaesar], much like German Kaiser. This would at least be the educated urban pronunciation. In rural speech, the monophthongisation to [ɛː] is already found in the Old Latin period, in the 2nd century BC, probably under Umbrian influence, although it is only by the 1st century AD that the monophthongal pronunciation is apparently fully established in popular speech (as attested by the Pompejan inscriptions). Proto-Romance also must have had the monophthongal pronunciation, but it was certainly considered nonstandard (rustic or provincial) by the urban elites. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 14:19, 5 January 2014 (UTC)
@Florian Blaschke:, if you can find sources for this, could you correct the article? It currently says ae was /aj/, which seems a bit unlikely to me as well. CodeCat (talk) 00:02, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
My source for this is Meiser's Historische Laut- und Formenlehre des Lateinischen, but the article does not substantially contradict his account. The pronunciation in the Archaic/Old Latin period was /aj/, in the Classical period /ae/ (with lowered second element) and in the post-Classical period it was a monophthong /ɛː/. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 00:12, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
By the way, I suspect that the IP intended to write [ɛɪ̯̯] or [ɛe̯̯], considering the reference to American English maid. However, the IP is wrong not only about Latin, but also about Classical as well as Modern Greek – the diphthong is not used in, or reconstructed for, any of these languages, except possibly in certain modern pronunciation traditions. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 00:25, 14 February 2014 (UTC)

Small caps[edit]

I replaced full-sized caps in the phoneme tables to small caps. Is this what's intended?

Also, Latin in the article is rendered inconsistently: sometimes in small caps and sometimes in ordinary lettering. Should all Latin be converted to small caps, or are there cases where ordinary lettering is to be used instead? — Eru·tuon 00:06, 29 December 2011 (UTC)

Actually, you did not turn them into small caps. The template used this way: {{sc||A}} does not do anything with the input "A": it just passes it through. Since is is a capital, the output is a full capital (no smallcaps). Good example caps and small caps: A -- a.
Next: I have edited out all uses of {{sc}}. First because it is misunderstood (e.g. in you edit). Second because I made the page single style: all letters in examples &tc are full capitals (now). Third because most uses were idle, pass through. Fourth because the {{sc}} template is to be merged into the regular {{smallcaps}}, so exotic usage is to be cancelled.
If you want to use small caps though (I do not object!), I suggest this: use them everywhere in the article to keep consistent style, and use like {{smallcaps|a}}. Important note: to get smallcaps, the input must be lowercase. Uppercase is not changed: {{smallcaps|Aa}}Aa. So the first one is still a regular capital, unaffected! Another bad effect is that when copy-pasting these smallcaps from the page, one gets lowercase letters in the new place.
If I can help you, just drop a talk. -DePiep (talk) 13:24, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
Yes, he did turn them all into small caps. The behaviour of the template has changed. I reverted your changes. Please sub the template correctly, rather than just deleting the formatting. It's much easier to do it that way, automatically, than to go through it all manually again. — kwami (talk) 13:35, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
You could have read my last line. You also reverted the minor other manual edits. And note: now the page style is mixed again. The subst you point to should have been taken care of when changing the template. -DePiep (talk) 13:49, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
Oh, and on December 29, 2011, when User:Erutuon edited, the second parameter was not in smallcaps: [5]. It was explicitly made regular uppercase. Now, importantly, since you paid no attention to the page style inconsistence, and did not communicate a question, I will revert into my edits. -DePiep (talk) 13:59, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
And then there is this: For better accessibility, Latin quotations should never be set in all caps or small caps, even when such use might seem anachronistic., in MOS:Ety. If only one could Talk. -DePiep (talk) 15:48, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
Your latest revert is not helpful either, and its es is not helpful either. Why don't you just connect in a conversation? -DePiep (talk) 03:01, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

As in other articles, Latin words were displayed in small caps. This is good formatting style. Rather than replacing them with full caps, just so you can get rid of the template, it would be better to leave them as-is and place a cleanup tag. It's a lot easier to search for templated text and reformat it than it is to do a manual search after the templating has been deleted.

Never saw that MOS topic. I agree with it in general – a Latin quotation in an otherwise English text should be punctuated as in English – but this article is specifically about Latin. (Note the MOS topic is "Foreign terms", and in this case we're not dealing with foreign terms, but with the orthography of the language itself.) Latin formatting and punctuation is therefore appropriate. — kwami (talk) 03:24, 25 February 2012 (UTC)

That should take care of it. — kwami (talk) 04:31, 25 February 2012 (UTC)


Slight confusion: Article has "r if beginning a syllable = /ɾ/ (as in Spanish pero); r if finishing a syllable and rr = /r/ (as in Spanish perro)" while this article ( says "8.^ The Latin rhotic was either an alveolar trill [r], like Spanish or Italian ⟨rr⟩, or maybe an alveolar flap [ɾ], with a tap of the tongue against the upper gums, as in Spanish ⟨r⟩.[11]"

Also, when it is alveolar, why is it listed in column "Dental"?

As a side note: The IPA bracket symbols do not show correctly for me in IE, Firefox or Chrome. This is annoying. -- (talk) 20:42, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

Roman ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation required in the Catholic liturgy?[edit]

I added calls for citations to the following claims:

Pius X issued a Motu Proprio in 1903 making the Roman pronunciation the standard for all liturgical actions in the Church meaning that any Catholic who celebrates a liturgy with others present be it the Mass, a baptism, or the Liturgia Horarum, then they are to use this pronunciation. The ecclesiastical pronunciation has since that time been the required pronunciation for any Catholic performing an action of the Church...:

I assume that this is referring to the instruction Tra le Sollecitudine (1903), issued motu proprio, by Pius X (Italian original; English translation). However, this document says nothing regarding how Latin is to be pronounced or spoken, only that it alone was to be used in solemn liturgical functions, and that the vernacular was not to be used for the variable or common (propers and ordinary) texts of the Mass or Divine Office (nn. 7-9).

However, in a letter from Pope Pius X to Louis Ernest Dubois, Archbishop of Bourges (later Cardinal Archbishop of Paris), dated 10 July 1912, he expressed his "great satisfaction that since the promulgation of Our MOTU PROPRIO of November 22, 1903, on Sacred Music, great zeal has been displayed in the different dioceses of France to make the pronunciation of the Latin language approximate more closely to that used in Rome" (Michael de Angelis, The Correct Pronunciation of Latin According to Roman Usage, ed. Nicola A. Montani, St. Gregory Guild, 1937, p. 4). He further writes, "We desire that the movement of return to the Roman pronunciation of Latin should continue with the same zeal and consoling success which has marked its progress hitherto; and ... We hope that under your direction and that of the other members of the episcopate this reform may be propagated in all the dioceses of France" (ibid.)

Pope Pius XI, in a letter to the same prelate (now Cardinal Archbishop of Paris), dated 30 Nov. 1928, writes: "We also esteem very greatly your plan of urging all who come under your jurisdiction to pronounce Latin more romano [in the Roman manner]. Not content like Our predecessors of happy memory, Pius X and Benedict XV, simply to approve this pronunciation of Latin, We, Ourselves express the keenest desire that all bishops of every nation shall endeavor to adopt it when carrying out the liturgical ceremonies" (de Angelis, p. 5) De Angelis also includes other letters from Pietro Gasparri, Cardinal Secretary of State, conveying Benedict XV's esteem for similar initiatives by a French abbot and Spanish abbot (p. 6). To Dom Marcet, he expresses that those who followed the abbot's "initiative have given proof of a filial and enlightened respect to the desires of the Holy Father" (p. 6). Notably, he (and Pius XI in the above quotation) did not speak of obedience to commands, but filial respect for desires.

Additionally, I am unaware of any official dictates (liturgical laws, instructions, or decrees), at least from the Holy See, which require that when the current ordinary form of the liturgy is celebrated in Latin, the Roman/Italianate pronunciation be used. Echevalier (talk) 22:41, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

Isn't there a scholarly dispute about the pronunciation of V[edit]

But isn't this actually disputed.

I know there is a camp that insists that V is pronounced w, based on a ridiculous theory about a "wine". The Germanic tribes which were the least influenced by the Romans would have a w sound from Scandinavian languages or Polish which has a special letter for slash L or and there is Runic letter for W sound. The languages closests to Latin,pronounce the V as v or sometimes b and the Church which has had the longest continuous usage of Latin says v as /v/ not /w/. On google scholar there is a book from 1880s Three pronounciations of Latin which discuss the dispute (it seems as if it is American (protestant scholars) and English who came up with v as /w/ while the continental Europe was doing the v as /v/ at least back then.

There must be some better scholarship on this. Take for example a greeting around Innsbruck Austria "servus" pronounce with v sound, purported it is a remnant of Roman influence with the v as v. (talk) 14:44, 13 September 2012 (UTC)

There is no serious dispute. It is well recognised that Latin V originally represented /w/ (and /u/). The /v/ pronunciation (along with other variants, such as in Spanish) developed later. garik (talk) 17:55, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
what is your source for no serious dispute,
%T The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin
%A Sturtevant, E.H.
%D 1920
%I University of Chicago Press
And I've read elswhere that "well before the fall of Rome (476 A. D.), the pronunciation had shifted to something much like that of modern Italian" what I am suggesting is the possibility that the whole /w/ pronunciation was bad late 19th century linguistics and more modern research is casting doubt on theory. The /w/ sound came from the North rather that this theory which leads to presumption that the /w/ sound was introduced to runic, scandinavian and polish by Latin. Why would they make up their own letter for the sound when adopting Latin alphabet if purportedly v already held that spot.
In the Netherlands, the pronunciation system used for Latin is quite similar to the the restored Classical version, but the letter v is pronounced as [v] and not as [w].
A call for some really good scholarship rather that 19th century "folk" linguistics masquerading as actual linguistics. (talk) 12:00, 14 September 2012 (UTC)
Frances E. Lord. — The Roman Pronunciation of Latin; Why we use it and How to use it. Ginn and Company. 1894 This supports [vf] not [w]. I think it is pretty clear that the whole [w] theory is 19th century "invention" which spread and got adopted by mostly protestant American "scholars". (talk) 12:35, 14 September 2012 (UTC)
Title Latin Or The Empire of a Sign: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Centuries
Author Françoise Waquet
Translated by John Howe
Edition reprint
Publisher Verso, 2003
ISBN 1859844022, 9781859844021
Describes the history of the ongoing debate between 1870 and 1960, thereafter nobody cared about Latin so it wasn't as if the debate was really settled. A lot of pseudo science in the 19th century. (talk) 12:41, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

BTW, Polish "special letter for slash L" was ɫ even 100 years ago, so projecting w to proto-Slavic times is ridiculous. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

I'm not aware that anyone disputes that the sound had shifted before the Fall of Rome. The point is that the Latin reflex of PIE *w was [w], which later changed. There's minor debate as to when precisely the change had been completed, but no serious scholar contends that the Latin letter v always represented [v], or that Caesar didn't say something like [ˈweːni ˈwiːdi ˈwiːki]. garik (talk) 15:23, 28 October 2012 (UTC) altered by garik (talk) 15:32, 28 October 2012 (UTC)
Bear in mind, incidentally, that this article concerns the reconstructed phonology of Classical Latin, a particular dialect spoken (probably by a minority of Latin speakers) up to roughly the third century. This would have differed from the phonology of Vulgar Latin from the same period. The modern Romance languages are descended primarily from Vulgar Latin, and other European languages influenced by Latin were influenced by both Classical and Vulgar Latin to different degrees. There was also, of course, dialectal variation within Vulgar Latin, meaning that some sound changes would have occurred later in some places than in others (or not at all). Now let's put an end to this fruitless discussion. garik (talk) 15:32, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

Umm..., I'm a Catholic and I'm fine with the classical pronunciation, it's not just protestants. In fact, I even learned it at a Catholic school. I'm not saying Ecclesiastical Pronunciation is inferior, cause it's not and you can use it if you want to. Personally, I use the Classical pronunciation when it comes to secular stuff and the Ecclesiastical when it comes to Churchly stuff. The [w] pronunciation was used in Classical times, there's evidence; and you can still use [v] if you feel like it, but you'd be using Ecclesiastical. (talk) 20:43, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

Stress placement and vowel reduction[edit]

The article currently doesn't say a lot about stress, just how it relates to the weight of syllables from the end of the word. But the article does mention vowel reduction, albeit in passing. If I'm not mistaken, vowel reduction happened within the Old Latin period, and some very old inscriptions retain the old unreduced vowels. There are also some sources that state that the reduction was conditioned by the earlier word-initial stress placement (as in Celtic and Germanic) and that the shift to the classical stress pattern happened after the reduction (in the same way that the conditioning factor for Verner's law was erased by stress shift). So I wonder if some more information could be included in the article on this earlier word-initial stress, about how it affected vowels when reduction occurred, and how stress then changed into its placement in classical Latin? CodeCat (talk) 15:32, 14 November 2012 (UTC)

"German Latin" pronunciation[edit]

The article currently does not address at all the significant differences in pronunciations for choral works in Latin done by Germans (e.g., Bach's Mass in B Minor) as opposed to the pronunciations for ecclesiastical Latin--how most (non-German) choral works in Latin are pronounced.Weyandt (talk) 15:13, 14 June 2013 (UTC)

Some criticism...[edit]

  1. The article assigns /r/ a value [ɾ] or [r]. This seems acceptable for /r-/ in initial position (just the situation for /r/ in Spanish, Italian, Catalan and South Occitan). But the transcription in one example is [arma] for arma, but in the cosa /-r/ in no Romance language is [-r] but [-ɾ]. It is likely that the single /r/ in Latin has the same allophonic distribution that these modern Romance languages: initial [r-/ɾ-], medial [-ɾ-] and final [-ɾ]. The realization of double /rr/ is another difficult point.
  2. About diphthongs ae and oe the article proposes [aj/ai̯] and [oj/oi̯], but phonetically [ae̯] and [oe̯] are perfectly possible. Given the spelling it is probable that the pronunciation was this latter pronunciation. Remember that previous /oi, ou/ dihpthongs evolved to /ū/ (*oinos > ūnus 'one', *lou(k)sna > lūna 'moon'), this suggest that /oe/ and the previous /*oi/ have had different pronunciations. --Davius (talk) 23:49, 4 March 2014 (UTC)

anglicised pronunciation of <ae>[edit]

Article currently says: "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. In the Oxford style, 〈ae〉 represents /eɪ/, in formulae, for example"

Surely this isn't true! I don't know that there is a single reference that is "the Oxford style", but I checked my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, and it says "/i:/ in all positions". Of course, there is a growing tendency to pronounce <ae> as /eɪ/ thanks to confusion with loans from other languages -- notice, for instance, that /eɪ/ is far more common in vertebrae than in formulae, which must be due to the visual similarity with brae -- but thankfully this is not yet standard. (talk) 22:14, 18 March 2014 (UTC)

church latin and i in hiatus[edit]

Someone has been applying Italian pronunciation too literally in thinking that i in hiatus is /j/. It is always sung as a separate syllable, and I venture this is clear evidence of its proper pronunciation as such. Benwing (talk) 21:10, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

Also, I question whether the alternation between [ɛ] and [e] as given here is real. I have read that common medieval pronunciation always had [ɛ]. In any case the usage isn't consistent in the pronunciation given, e.g. for gentium which probably should have [ɛ]. Benwing (talk) 21:12, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

Take a look at this link [6] which verifies both of these statements as well as the fact that the /ts/ in a word like gratia is not lengthened (/ˈgra-tsi-a/). Benwing (talk) 21:20, 16 April 2014 (UTC)

You left the /ts/'s long. (I'm not going to fix, I don't know anything about this.)
Your ref is a bit suspicious, though. It's been dumbed down, which allows the possibility that they've left out distinctions in the interest of accessibility. — kwami (talk) 02:52, 17 April 2014 (UTC)

Evidence for Latin Vowel-Sounds?[edit]

Right now the article states that the reconstructions of Latin vowel-sounds are based on Romance vowel-sounds. I understand that this is one important source, but afaik Latin transcriptions of Greek works, and Greek, Gothic, Syriac, etc. transcriptions of Latin words are together another important source. (talk) 04:24, 14 October 2014 (UTC)

Nasal + f sequences[edit]

The article currently states that Latin turned sequences of vowel + nasal consonant into nasal vowels before fricatives. These then became long non-nasal vowels in the development to Vulgar Latin. But while there are plenty of cases with -s-, what about -f-? Most sources seem to write īnfāns with the length marks suggesting nasalisation, but the development > Old French enfes seems to suggest that this sequence was not affected the same way. Instead of becoming a long vowel, the development is as a short vowel with the usual lowering, and the nasal consonant is preserved. So I wonder, were these sequences nasalised in the same way in earlier Latin? CodeCat (talk) 14:55, 22 November 2014 (UTC)

Sidney Allen describes the situation with vowels + ns, nf on pp. 28-30 (the page on the letter n) and pp. 65-66 (on vowel length). It seems he indicates the vowels were pronounced in various different ways from Old Latin to the Vulgar Latin period: as long and nasalized, simply long, and as short vowels with the nasal consonant intact (likely from analogy with other forms). He suggests that the latter case was true for the Vulgar Latin form of the words infans and insignem that developed into French enfes and enseigne. This was also true for consilium > conseil, but not for constare > coûter. — Eru·tuon 02:49, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
I think this is a matter of analogical restoration. The problem is that in native/inherited Latin words, f only occurs word-initially, so all examples of mf/nf are due to prefixation and thus susceptible to analogical restoration. Are there any cases in the Romance languages where the nasal indeed disappears before f? CodeCat (talk) 22:30, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
Allen doesn't list any. I searched on Wiktionary in categories of Old French words and found nothing; I searched Spanish and came across cofrade, but I don't know if this was derived from a form in Vulgar Latin or a new coining. Allen does list forms like cofeci, iferos used in Latin inscriptions, but these are not carried over into French (confire, enfers). — Eru·tuon 22:53, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

Template for epigraphic Latin style[edit]

I've created {{Script/Latin}} to specify fonts that include the tall . At the moment this template only includes font-family styling. It would make sense to create a Latin-language template including both this font-family specification and smallcaps style, and replace {{smallcaps|text}} throughout this article with that template. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to use {{lang}} or a related template for this, though. What do others think? — Eru·tuon 21:58, 10 December 2014 (UTC)

I've removed {{Script/Latin}} because I realized it refers to the Latin alphabet in general, rather than the alphabet used for the Latin language. So, another template is needed to fulfill the same purpose. — Eru·tuon 04:15, 11 December 2014 (UTC)

I created {{Latin-epigr}} to replace both the {{smallcaps}} and {{unicode}} templates encircling Latin text. I've replaced {{smallcaps}} and {{Unicode}} in the Classical Latin example with this new template. The i longa character looks strange, because it's twice as high as the surrounding characters. This is because (I assume) it is unaffected by the CSS font-variant: small-caps; property:

  • qvꟾ·prꟾmvs·abórꟾs

But this is probably no different from what editors with proper font-selecting software are already experiencing, so if no one objects, I will replace all the instances of {{smallcaps}} and {{Unicode}} encircling Latin text throughout the article with {{Latin-epigr}}. — Eru·tuon 01:20, 12 December 2014 (UTC)

A solution to the problem with i longa: use CSS text-transform: caps; and font-size: 73%;. This gives the same effect as font-variant: small-caps;, except it applies to i longa as well as the other letters. — Eru·tuon 03:04, 24 December 2014 (UTC)


Please look at [this]. --Espoo (talk) 12:21, 16 December 2014 (UTC)

Quality of nasalized vowels[edit]

There is one question that Sidney Allen does not address: the quality of nasalized vowels. For instance, was -um pronounced with the quality of long u or short u? The reflex of -um in the Romance languages was -o, like that of short u. On the other hand, en in mensem became e in Italian mese, the same reflex as long e. So perhaps close nasalized vowels were pronounced like the corresponding short vowels (that is, near-close) and mid nasalized vowels were pronounced close-mid (so that the two were similar, like short u and long o). On the other hand, insulam became Italian isola, not esola, reflecting the quality of long i. Perhaps stressed nasalized vowels were pronounced with the quality of long vowels, and unstressed with the quality of short vowels, or perhaps unstressed ones eventually became short, merging with short vowels in Vulgar Latin. Anyone know anything about this? — Eru·tuon 18:50, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

Not all Romance languages have -o, some have or had -u which can be distinguished from -o (from -ō). See also Romance languages#Unstressed vowels. CodeCat (talk) 20:50, 24 December 2014 (UTC)
There's also Asturian which has a distinction between masculine -u and "neuter" (for mass nouns) -o, but it's not entirely clear how that relates to Latin. I think that the -u ending may continue -um, while -o continues -ud (neuter of the pronouns and articles). CodeCat (talk) 17:12, 25 December 2014 (UTC)
Interesting. So the evidence from the Romance languages on the quality of the nasal vowels is pretty ambiguous. I'm not sure what to think then. — Eru·tuon 03:18, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't know if it's all that ambiguous. It may be that most Romance languages simply underwent a change of final -u to -o at some point. This could be checked by looking for other possible sources of final -u in Romance, which would have to originate from Latin -ū (possibly with a consonant following). If those also show up as -o, then it's most likely a general sound change. At the very least, it seems that the 4th declension plural -ūs may be a candidate. CodeCat (talk) 15:27, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

Final vowel + n[edit]

The article currently says that final vowel + nasal sequences were nasalized. Allen says that final vowel + m sequences are nasalized, but he does not mention anything about final vowel + n sequences. The reference currently given is Clackson's chapter on Latin in Ancient Languages of Europe, which I don't have access to; can anyone confirm whether this source indeed says that -Vn sequences are nasalized in addition to -Vm sequences?

-Vn is rarer in Latin than in Greek. If I recall right, the main examples of it are third-declension neuters with stems in -n, like nomen, and various un-assimilated forms in Greek loanwords. — Eru·tuon 03:00, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

This is what Clackson has to say: "In Classical Latin there was also a series of nasalized vowels ... which were restricted in occurrence to (i) word-final position, where in the standard orthography they are written im, em, am, om, um; or (ii) before a sequence of nasal + continuant." Thus, no mention of nasalization of vowels before final -n, and rightly so: the most obvious evidence for -im, -em etc. representing nasalized vowels is the fact that they can be elided in poetry; however, no such thing ever happens with final -n, which not only occurs in third-declension neuters, but also in the common word non. —Alatius (talk) 07:37, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
Thanks! That description agrees with Allen. Strange — someone must've misread Clackson, or modified the text without reading the source. I'll correct it. — Eru·tuon 08:05, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
non is a single-syllable word, though, so it's not surprising that its -n survives in Romance. Compare rem, which retains the nasal in several Romance languages as well. Are there any other final -n words that may have survived into Romance? I know there's the -men nouns, but as they are neuters they would have likely been reformed as masculines at some point, giving -minem > -mene > (medial contraction) -mne. CodeCat (talk) 15:23, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

Z, di, and dz[edit]

Allen indicates that Koine Greek zeta was pronounced /z/ or /zz/ while loanwords with this sound were being borrowed into Latin, and that this is what ⟨z⟩ represented in Classical Latin. However, the article seems to indicate that Edgar Sturtevant's Pronunciation of Greek and Latin says that zeta was represented with di in Latin, indicating that an affricate /dz/ was used for zeta in Italian Greek. I don't have access to the book; could someone who has access to it confirm that this is what Sturtevant says, and which period of Latin he is referring to — whether he disagrees with Allen about the pronunciation of zeta during the Classical Latin period? The article on Z seems to indicate that the alternation between z and di occurred in Late or Vulgar Latin, and if so, this should be noted in the article. — Eru·tuon 21:55, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

I found Sturtevant online, and he seems to indicate on pp. 115-117 that zeta was usually pronounced /z/ in Italian Greek, but /dz/ must have occurred as well, given certain spellings of Greek words (I assume from both the Old Latin and Classical periods). He quotes a passage by Velius Longus that says that the pronunciation /zd/ was used in Doric, but that in Latin the sound was not a consonant cluster — it ended with the same sound with which it began. — Eru·tuon 23:24, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

Actually, I misread the source. The evidence for /dz/ is based on spellings with, on the one hand, ⟨z⟩ for ⟨dz⟩ from earlier ⟨di⟩ or ⟨d⟩ before ⟨e⟩, and ⟨di⟩ or ⟨dz⟩ for earlier ⟨z⟩. One spelling, ⟨diaeta⟩, seems to be Late or Vulgar Latin, or at least a colloquial form where ⟨ae⟩ was pronounced [ɛ]. I guess the argument is that the pronunciation /dz/ must have remained in Greek till Classical Latin or later for these spellings to occur. — Eru·tuon 00:04, 3 January 2015 (UTC)

I remember reading somewhere on Wikipedia that, in Late Vulgar Latin, when the affrication of /tj/ and /dj/ started to set in, the spelling -z- was sometimes used to represent former -di-. This still remains in many Romance languages of course, but if my memory is correct, there were some spelling errors of that kind in the imperial period or early post-imperial period already. CodeCat (talk) 00:54, 3 January 2015 (UTC)
Yeah, that's discussed in Z. Nothing on it in Vulgar Latin, which is a disappointing omission. — Eru·tuon 07:02, 3 January 2015 (UTC)

Small caps, once again[edit]

I posted in WikiProject Latin on small caps in this article. If you've got an opinion on whether they should be used or not, head over there. — Eru·tuon 04:41, 4 January 2015 (UTC)

I replaced {{sm}} and {{unicode}} throughout the article with {{sqc}}. I described this template in Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Latin § Small caps:

The template {{Sqc}} stands for "square capitals", as in Roman square capitals, the letterforms used in Roman inscriptions. It was originally {{Latin-epigr}}, but I thought an abbreviated title would be best, if this template is to be used for almost all Latin text in Latin spelling and pronunciation. Currently the inline CSS of the template specifies fonts containing i longa, and converts text to uppercase and makes it 73% height, which seems to be x-height in some fonts at least. This has to be used as a replacement for the font-variant: smallcaps; property, which does not appropriately convert i longa to small caps. I've also added lang="la" xml:lang="la".

If there are any objections to my adding this template, please voice them here.

If you don't want Latin text in this article to display in small caps, you can add some code to your common.css:

:lang(la) { text-transform: none !important; }

The !important at the end of the CSS attribute is necessary, in order to overrule the inline CSS used in {{sqc}}. To add other CSS attributes, you must put !important after each. — Eru·tuon 20:45, 18 January 2015 (UTC)

Also, input requested: Do you know of fonts that have i longa (ꟾ)? Add them to the inline CSS in {{sqc}} if so. — Eru·tuon 20:51, 18 January 2015 (UTC)

  • At least these fonts has i longa (U+A7FE):
    • DejaVu Sans
    • DejaVu Serif
    • Everson Mono
    • FreeSerif
    • unifont

--Lüboslóv Yęzýkin (talk) 23:04, 19 January 2015 (UTC)

As discussed on the WikiProject Latin talk page some time ago (see the link at the top of this section), we need to change Roman square capitals with I, V, apices, and i longa to regular modern Latin orthography with i and u and macrons. Classical-era orthography should be compared with modern orthography in a table. This is a big change, and may be easiest done with AWB. And maybe the table should be created first. — Eru·tuon 07:59, 21 March 2015 (UTC)

I just read the discussion you refer to and it seems the consensus there is to keep the small caps. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:10, 17 July 2015 (UTC)

Etruscan's influence on Latin pronunciation[edit]

Go to History of Latin § Phonological influence from Etruscan if you know of a source that discusses Etruscan's influence on Latin, or on the possibility that Latin developed vowel reduction by language contact with Etruscan. — Eru·tuon 05:05, 11 February 2015 (UTC)

You mean talk:History of Latin § Phonological influence from Etruscan, of course. — Sebastian 02:33, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
Oops. Quite right. Thanks. — Eru·tuon 02:43, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

Table of orthography[edit]

I've proposed splitting Help:IPA for Latin into two articles, one on Classical and one on Ecclesiastical pronunciation. To allow the split, we need a table of orthography here. I'll create the table below. — Eru·tuon 20:48, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

Letter Environment International Phonetic Alphabet Examples English approximation
Class. Eccl.
b in most cases b
before s or t p
c in most cases k
before e, ae, oe k
d d
I believe you might have swapped the Classical en Ecclesiastic pronunciation. The reason I think this is that to the best of my knowledge the c still was k everywhere in Classical Latin, and the shift to tʃ in certain positions occurred in Vulgar Latin and Romance, and I thought the Ecclesiastic Latin pronunciation derived from Romance, particularly Italian. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:05, 17 July 2015 (UTC)
You're quite right. I fixed it. — Eru·tuon 17:55, 19 July 2015 (UTC)

Close and mid vowel qualities[edit]

In Classical Latin as described by Allen, short i and u had a similar quality to long ē and ō. As CodeCat mentions, this vowel system probably reflects the Latin of Rome or of the western portion of the Empire, not all the forms of Latin across the Empire, given the developments of long and short e, i, o, u in the various Romance languages. We could postulate that Latin across the Empire had long and short vowel qualities similar to the ones reflected in Romance vowel developments, meaning that in some Latin dialects the long versions of e, i, o, u were similar to the short ones, and in some dialects they had height differences like the ones described by Allen for Classical Latin, but I'm not sure if this is reflected in sources or if it's just WP:OR. — Eru·tuon 22:50, 29 March 2015 (UTC)

The point of the table is to show phonemic distinctions. The height distinctions between short and long vowels were not phonemic, so they don't belong in the table. They only became phonemic once the length distinctions began to disappear, but this is post-classical Latin and by this point you can no longer speak of one "Latin" and therefore neither is there one single Latin phonology. CodeCat (talk) 23:43, 29 March 2015 (UTC)
I'm not sure what sources say about phonemicity, but it's well established that Latin vowels were distinguished by both length and height, whether phonetically or phonemically, even in the Classical period. The table originally displayed only vowel length, but I added height differences between long and short vowels because Allen displays them in his diagram. It's misleading not to present height differences, since it suggests that /ɛ eː/ and /ɪ iː/ were closer phonetically than /ɪ eː/, which is not the case. However, I should have posted here before changing the table. You can change it back if you want, until we reach an agreement.
I'm just speculating here, but merger is good evidence for height as a distinctive feature, at least before the merger. First two vowels are distinguished by both height and length, then they merge. The fact that /ɪ iː/ and /ɛ eː/ merged in Sardinian, but /ɪ eː/ merged in Italian, suggests that Sardinian and Italian had different phonological features for these vowels immediately before the merger, differences in the features of vowel quality. Perhaps the same was true of Classical Latin, the great-aunt of Italian Vulgar Latin, and arguably this is suggested by confusion between short i and long e: this suggests that phonologically long e was actually the long version of short i, rather than the long version of short e. But this is just speculation. Do you know of any sources that discuss whether height was a phonemic feature in Classical Latin? — Eru·tuon 02:40, 30 March 2015 (UTC)
In User talk:Benwing#Sicilian vowel system, Benwing remarks: "Early Latin apparently pronounced its short and long vowels with the same quality (this is noted in Ringe's newest book). Only later did quality differences appear, and quite likely simply never spread to Sardinia and North Africa." and "In the Harris/Vincent "Romance languages" it's claimed that Sardinian may have split off as early as the 1st century BC." However, this seems to mean that in the 1st century BC, which is the Classical (not Early) Latin period, and when Sardinian had already split (or was beginning to split) off, the quality differences could already have appeared. In this case, the spoken forms underlying Classical Latin in (Central) Italy could be thought of as already on the branch that led to Western Romance and Italo-Romance (Italo-Western Romance), and Sardinian is irrelevant, because it reflects the pre-Classical, Early Latin lack of quality distinctions. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 11:56, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
What you seem to be implying is that Sardinians didn't speak Latin as this page defines it. Which seems kind of nonsensical; even if they didn't participate in the earliest sound changes of the Romance languages, that doesn't mean they weren't still part of the Latin dialect continuum. Hence, if this page is to cover "Latin" and not "non-Sardinian Latin", we have to use a vowel notation that covers all the dialects. Using /e/, /i/ etc seems like the most obvious solution. CodeCat (talk) 13:49, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
Thinking about it more, there also seems to be a non sequitur going on here. The differentiation of the quality of short and long vowels does not necessarily have to lead inevitably to the merger of, say, short [ɪ] and long [eː]. So the fact that they didn't merge in Sardinian is no evidence that there was no quality distinction. They could have simply continued to exist as they were, and at some later date the short vowels merged into the long vowels. CodeCat (talk) 13:52, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
The Sardinians certainly did not speak Classical Latin, which is an artificially standardised language and does not reflect any spoken variety. Just as an example: There is no reason to think that /h/ was ever pronounced in popular Latin after the 4th century BC (Meiser points out that anser, which contains an etymological h, is not even spelt with h, even though Classical Latin orthography preserves various outdated traits, and usually retains the letter, thus indicating that h was lost not long after the establishment of an orthographic tradition, and diribeō indicates that the loss of h preceded the rhotacism, which allows us to date the change fairly precisely). As Benwing points out on his talk page, Sardinian (like other Romance languages) contains a couple of Pre-Classical archaisms too. So yes, the Sardinians most definitely did not ever speak the language as described in this article at any point as a vernacular language. It appears that Sardinian branched off spoken Old Latin (whose written form is perhaps less divergent from the spoken varieties) in fact – making Old Latin essentially Proto-Romance; at least I interpret "Early Latin" in Benwing's comment to really refer to what is usually called Old Latin. (However, the period preceding Odusia – ca. 240 BC – is frequently designated as Archaic Latin, or the preliterary period, so "Early Latin" may be used as an umbrella term for pre-Classical Latin here.) --Florian Blaschke (talk) 15:43, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
Interestingly, I have seen the suggestion that the rise of the vowel quality distinctions and the mergers found in Mainland (Italo-Western and Balkan) Romance could be due to the Sabellic substrate. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 15:51, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
Theoretically, as far I can see, it is very much possible to reconstruct Proto-Romance with a nine-vowel system /i ɪ e ɛ a ɔ o ʊ u/ without any quantity distinctions at all (/i/ < ī and ȳ, /ɪ/ < ĭ and , /e/ < ē and oe, /ɛ/ < ĕ and ae, /a/ < ă and ā, /ɔ/ < ŏ, /o/ < ō, /ʊ/ < ŭ, /u/ < ū), and simply assume that Sardinian merged /i/ with /ɪ/, /e/ with /ɛ/ etc., but apart from the fact that that system looks at least a bit unusual typologically, the known facts about the history of Latin seem to make a system with quantity and no (or at best sub-phonemic) quality distinctions preferrable. But yeah, if we knew nothing about Latin, but only the medieval/modern Romance languages, this would be a viable solution. Anyway, it's not me who says that Early Latin didn't have any (sub-phonemic) quality distinctions (or that Sardinian proves anything either way); Ringe does. I was as surprised by it as you are, because I thought the quality distinctions were fairly natural (although my native German bias may colour my assumptions of naturalness here), and traces pointing to them attested even in Early Latin inscriptions (I thought I had read something about ĭ being occasionally found spelt as E in Wachter). --Florian Blaschke (talk) 16:04, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
Also, I'd like to remind people that Romanian (Balkan Romance) treats the back vowels the same way as Sardinian (but the front vowels like Italo-Western – this is the famous asymmetrical vowel merger of Romanian). But again, I'm not saying that this is in any way probative for the issue at hand, and I have no idea if Ringe uses that argument or what arguments he uses at all. I'm not even sure what book Benwing was referring to. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 16:27, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
Generally, however, I agree that (like in German) the most obvious and simple solution is to simply write /i/, /e/, etc., so Sardinian and North African Latin, as well as perhaps Balkan Latin and who knows what else (Corsican, Sicilian? Southern Italian? Maltese Latin? British Latin?) would in any case be covered. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 16:41, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
Whew, a lot of replies to wade through. I agree with both of you, CodeCat and Florian Blaschke, that using /a aː e eː i iː o oː u uː/ would be the simplest and would allow us to describe all Latin dialects, but I was working from W. Sidney Allen, and he only describes Classical Latin and the contemporaneous Vulgar Latin of Italy, not the Latin of other areas or times in the Empire. And he gives clear evidence showing that short i and long e, short u and long o, had basically the same qualities — evidence not from reflexes in Romance languages, but from Latin inscriptions and Roman grammarians in the Classical period — and evidence that short i and long i (and so on) did not have the same qualities. This evidence suggests to me that Classical Latin actually had seven vowel qualities, not five. These qualities could be written /a aː ɛ eː ɪ iː ɔ oː ʊ uː/ or even /a aː ɛ eː e iː ɔ oː o uː/. I like the latter system because it uses the same symbol for short i and long e, making it absolutely clear that the two have similar or identical quality. However, Allen was more of a classicist than a linguist and didn't attempt to create a phonemic notation.
I think the desire to phonemically transcribe Sardinian as well as Italian Latin is a little too ambitious. Representing both systems makes our phonemic system actually diaphonemic, like the Wikipedia IPA system for English, not truly phonemic. It's likely that Sardinian and Italian Latin had different vowel systems, with different numbers of vowel qualities, and therefore they need to be transcribed with separate systems. However, I don't know if any sources discuss this question based on the type of evidence that Allen uses (inscriptional evidence and evidence from grammarians).
Florian Blaschke, it would certainly seem to a German speaker (or even an English speaker) that it's natural for vowel length differences to be accompanied by vowel quality differences, but cross-linguistically it's by no means natural. For instance, Japanese has long and short vowels with the same quality. Probably the German and Latin pattern is more natural to a stress-timed language, while the Japanese pattern is more natural to a mora-timed language, but I'm just guessing. — Eru·tuon 17:38, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
I think you're mistaken to suggest that Classical Latin had any kind of pronunciation at all. I'm pretty sure that whenever someone read it out loud, they did so in their own dialect. CodeCat (talk) 17:57, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
Good point; excellent point, in fact. This means it would be preferrable if we made our representation of the pronunciation as abstract and high-level as possible, wouldn't it? Certainly, in the time we're talking about (1st century BC and AD), dialect differences foreshadowing the later major Romance subgroups (and some others) were at least incipient. (There would also be non-native pronunciations, of course, such as Gaulish-tinged Latin, but clearly this is not something we can reconstruct with any precision.) So, either we use a pandialectal representation, or we limit ourselves to a particular regional pronunciation of the written language (which at that point I think is actually comparable to a modern standard language in many respects), with the pronunciation of (Central) Italy being the most obvious solution. But showing /i/ and /eː/, /u/ and /oː/ as having the same quality already (which was certainly not the case in Sardinia, Africa and the Balkans) seems a bit extreme to me; [ɪ] is similar enough to [e] and [ʊ] similar enough to [o] that confusion is understandable anyway (although influence from other languages such as Sabellic may have exacerbated this). Similarly, in popular speech, /ae̯/ and /oe̯/ may already have become monophthongs by this time, but this was probably perceived as non-standard just like monophthongisation of /au/. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 18:19, 12 July 2015 (UTC)
CodeCat, you seem to be implying that Classical Latin is only a literary language and wasn't actually spoken natively by anyone. That's kind of true, but not completely. The writers of Latin works had a particular pronunciation, and some of their works were even made to be spoken, like Cicero's orations and poetic works. So, at the very least, Cicero's pronunciation and the pronunciation used by the writers of Classical Latin poetry count as Classical Latin pronunciation. More broadly, Classical Latin pronunciation could be defined as whatever pronunciation was used for the standard or high-class spoken Latin of the relevant period, the spoken Latin that followed the prescriptive conventions of written Latin. Whether readers from different places, social strata, and times happened to use another pronunciation is irrelevant. — Eru·tuon 19:11, 13 July 2015 (UTC)
But do we have any evidence that the lowering of /i/ and /u/ to almost the same or the same level as /eː/ and /oː/ was actually considered good standard and used by educated speakers of Latin, or is it equally or more likely that it was it a non-standard pronunciation that crept into inscriptions sometimes? For example, Pompeian inscriptions usually reflect popular speech habits and not educated language usage. Who made these inscriptions that show spellings such as sob for sub – were they highly educated, middle/upper-class citizens like Cicero? What do the grammarians say on this point?
For example, let's imagine that [sub] was a conservative, archaic or even obsolete pronunciation by the late 1st century BC, that [sʊb] was the pronunciation of the likes of Cicero and that [sob] was a more popular or rustic pronunciation (along with dropping of /h/, perhaps denasalisation, and monophthongisation of /ae̯/, /oe̯/ and perhaps /au/ – the diphthong /au/ is usually kept separate from /oː/ in Romance, however, and only in some individual words such as cauda and auricula merges with it). Then Cicero's would be standard, right? But can we be sure about what Cicero's pronunciation of /u/ and /i/ was like?
Modern Standard Dutch may be a close parallel for Classical Latin – the subset of traditional dialects on which the written standard is based are not very far from the standard language, but the standard does contain some striking archaisms such as the conservative pronunciation of ij, ou and ui, as rather narrow diphthongs [ɛɪ], [ʌʊ] and [œʏ], where many traditional dialects have more open diphthongs [aɪ], [aʊ] and [aʏ], which is now creeping into the standard, but was long dismissed as substandard. A Dutch person of a level of education comparable to Cicero would avoid the popular open diphthongs, and probably the devoicing of initial fricatives /v z ɣ/ too, even though it's pretty widespread now in the younger generation especially, as far as I'm aware. But I doubt that we can reconstruct Classical-era Latin sociolinguistic differences with this level of precision. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 21:34, 13 July 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I don't have Vox Graeca at the moment, but I believe Allen quoted some grammarians who wrote about the difference between long and short i and how short i was similar to long e, and the joke relating to cum nobis and conubiis was made by Cicero, if if I recall right (maybe the page should mention this). So I think this particular characteristic of the vowel system was apparently shared between the different layers of Roman society.

As to sociolinguistic differences, it's possible, given the difference in popular spelling of final vowels plus m, or medial vowels plus ns, nf, that popular pronunciation dropped nasalization completely, while the upper classes kept it, and that the upper classes continued pronouncing ae and oe as diphthongs rather than monophthongs for a longer time than the lower classes. It's likely, too, that long vowels were shortened more often among the lower classes, making long e more easily confused with short e, long o with short u.

Perhaps the fact that the upper classes knew which letter to write would suggest that they pronounced these pairs of vowels with more distinct vowel qualities, but it could also be due to better education, such that they, like better educated English speakers today, could spell better than the lower classes: they knew when a sound was supposed to be written with e and when with i, even though the two sounded similar. — Eru·tuon 16:34, 11 February 2016 (UTC)

Vowel pronunciation[edit]

The vowel pronunciation table lists two pronunciations for each vowel.

For example, for ⟨e⟩ it lists [ɛ] and [eː].

I do not dispute this, these seem to be the rules I remember, but no citations are given. So how exactly do we know (or guess) that these differences existed? And are only vowels which are long by nature pronounced [eː] or those which are long by position as well? If not, were those pronounced [ɛ] or [e]? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:56, 17 July 2015 (UTC)

What you're asking about is vowel length. Every vowel in a word was phonemically long or short. Long vowels were sometimes marked with apices in Classical Latin texts, but not always. In a text without apices, a, e, i, o, u could either represent a short or a long vowel. Latin vowel spelling is ambiguous in a similar but less extreme way than English vowel spelling is ambiguous. Whether vowels in a word were long or short is determined in various ways: from poetry, from what Roman grammarians say, from historical linguistics or etymology, and so on.
"Long by nature" and "long by position" are terms for syllables, not vowels. A syllable was either long or heavy because it had a long vowel in it ("long by nature") or because it ended in a consonant ("long by position"). Vowels themselves were just long or short, nothing more complex than that. — Eru·tuon 15:31, 19 July 2015 (UTC)
You answered a different question than I asked with a bunch of stuff I already knew. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:57, July 26, 2015‎
Please clarify your question. Are you asking how we know that short e was pronounced [ɛ] and long e pronounced [eː]? — Eru·tuon 17:40, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
Yes, that's the first half of my question, particularly the distinction between the [ɛ] sound and the [e] sound in [eː] (as opposed to e.g. [ɛː]). The second half of my question is what happens when a vowel (long or short) is part of a syllable that is long by position. A common case is the semi-vowel i. Scenario 1, short a: maius [m?jjus] Scenario 2, long a: traiectus [tr?j¹ectus] What vowel should be in the place of the two question marks? At ¹, should there be a second j? Is the syllable auc in auctor overlong in normal speech (as opposed to poetry)? Was a naturally long vowel shortened (and possibly changed in quality) when it was already long by position (to keep the syllable from becoming overlong)? Did a short vowel change length (or indeed quality) when long by position? Scenario 1, short o: montis [m?ntɪs] Scenario 2, long u: nuntius [n?ntɪus] Again, what goes in place of the question marks? And how do we know? I hope this clarifies the question, I don't really know how much more explicit I could be. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:19, 7 October 2015 (UTC)
For information on how we know there was such a thing as a long and short vowel, and how we know how they were pronounced, read Allen's Vox Latina if you can, the chapter on vowels. This article simply summarizes what he says. Perhaps it needs to go into more detail, since you still have questions.
I'm still confused about your second question. Let's get rid of the misleading terminology "syllables long by position". The modern term "closed syllables" is better. All I can say is to repeat: there was a distinction between short and long vowels in closed syllables. Long vowels existed in closed syllables. People disagree whether the first vowel of nuntius was short or long, but a better example is āc-tus and fac-tus. The first had a long ā, the second a short a. Perhaps the long ā in āctus was slightly shortened, but it was still longer than the short a in factus, despite the fact that both vowels were in closed syllables. Probably the syllable āc- was overlong in everyday pronunciation. To find out how we know these two words had different vowel lengths, read Allen's chapter called "hidden length". — Eru·tuon 01:15, 7 October 2015 (UTC)

Pronunciation of S[edit]

Pronunciation of s between vowels as /z/ doesn't match what other sites say, including:,,

You can search further on the internet but I haven't found any that say it should be /z/ between vowels, as it does here. (talk) 20:54, 29 July 2015 (UTC)

Maybe it's from English ecclesiastical Latin?
But I agree there isn't enough support for the assertion; let's remove it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:26, 13 October 2015 (UTC)
Actually, the EWTN source says s is "slightly softened" between vowels. That probably refers to voicing, though it's not phonetically precise terminology. The two other sources, however, specifically say it isn't voiced. So two out of three support unvoiced [s] between vowels.
Italian Ecclesiastical Latin would likely have [z] between vowels, because Italian does. — Eru·tuon 22:19, 13 October 2015 (UTC)
It quite does. Also, the first link that was given actually says "S is hard as in the English word sea, but is slightly softened when coming between two vowels. e.g. misericórdia" - which is a not-very-phonetically-sound way of saying "it's /z/", I'd reckon. I've readded /z/ as an alternative option to /s/ into the article, with a relevant citation from a book. I've also got another source that's awkward to cite because it involves a double negation, but look: it talks about very old Italian ecclesiastical pronunciation, and states: "The Italians, too, though they are given qualified praise for distinguishing between the sounds of s and c before e or 1, and — contrary to their practice to-day — for not giving a z sound to intervocalic s, do not escape criticism." (Latin in church: the history of its pronuniation - Page 29, by Frederick Brittain, 1955, emphasis mine). That's saying that "to-day", the Italians use /z/ for intervocalic ⟨s⟩, and that before, they were given praise for not doing so, which meant other nationalities did so. LjL (talk) 22:25, 13 October 2015 (UTC)

Vowel nasalization: recordings[edit]

Have they been made by a Portuguese speaker? "ẽ" sounds more like [eĩ] than [eɨ̃] (or whatever can be used to transcribe the diphthong that a "European nasal vowel" usually is). (talk) 16:23, 28 January 2016 (UTC)


Okay why on earth are the Classical Latin vowel phonemes being described in both terms of quality and quantity? This page isn't just about Vulgur Latin and its weird prescriptivist assertions about this run against the general evidence that the distinction was quantity and that the shift to quality was part of the change to VL and should not be included as Canon Fact here. This is decidedly not what linguists discuss in regards to Classical Latin. Ogress 18:16, 16 March 2016 (UTC)

The differences in vowel quality the article describes are referenced by Allen, which is definitely considered an WP:RS, and corroborated by errors in Classical inscriptions. What citations are you bringing forth to substantiate your vehement point of view? I'm sure both views can be described in the article, if they're equally well-sourced. LjL (talk) 18:42, 16 March 2016 (UTC)

cum nobis[edit]

"CVM NÓBꟾS [kʊn ˈnoː.biːs] was a double entendre for CÓNV́BIꟾS [koːˈnuː.bi.iːs]."

Are you sure it wasn't 'cunno bis'? --Excelsius (talk) 08:46, 23 March 2016 (UTC)

@Excelsius: No, I'm not sure. You can go ahead and insert that reading if you've got reason to suspect it's correct. Actually, it makes a little more sense. — Eru·tuon 21:00, 29 April 2016 (UTC)
Short u was confused with long o in quality, and short i with long e. But I don't think two long vowels or two short ones would have been confused with each other. After all, short vowels didn't undergo any mergers with each other in Romance, nor did any long ones. CodeCat (talk) 21:41, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

Nasalised vowels[edit]

Fellow editors, including CodeCat: respectfully, there is an entire section of this page about this feature. Ogress 17:54, 29 April 2016 (UTC)

Ah, I see I (and everyone else) was confused by the history of the edit. CodeCat is correct because the forms were reversed in a kind of weird transposition. Let me know if it looks right now? Ogress 18:03, 29 April 2016 (UTC)