Loyola University Chicago

Pronouncing Latin

(Restored Classical Pronunciation, In a Nutshell)

It's a lot like English, only much more consistent.

Try: (sentences from Andrew Keller and Stephanie Russell, Learn to Read Latin, 2nd edn. [Yale University Press 2015])

rēgīna est fīlia deae. reh-GIHN-a est FIH-li-a DE-ai.
īnsulam vidēre possum. IHN-ssu-lam wi-DEH-re POSS-ssum.
dominō est liber. DO-mi-noh est LI-ber.

Consonants: just like English, with very few exceptions:

c always hard, like k cat cēdō KEH-doh
ch hard k sound plus an h-like little puff of air back-hoe pulcher PUL-k+her
g always hard g get ager A-ger
"consonantal" a.k.a. "semivocalic" i before a(nother) vowel, mostly only at the start of a word, y (occasionally in other syllables) young iubeō YU-be-oh
ph regular p sound plus an h-like little puff of air tap-hammer philosophia p+hi-lo-SSO-p+hi-a
q always followed by "semivocalic" u (see below); together, they sound like kw queen quidem KWI-dem
s always unvoiced s hiss causa KOW-ssa
th regular t sound plus an h-like little puff of air hot-head thēsaurus t+heh-SSOW-russ
"consonantal" a.k.a. "semivocalic" u
(also printed with a pointy bottom, v)
before a(nother) vowel, anywhere in a word, w win videō
z a rare consonant in Latin (in Greek names and loan-words); voiced sibillant with maybe a little voiced dental in front of it, z or dz tzatziki Zephyrus DZE-phy-russ

Vowels: come in short or long (printed texts, when they mark long vowels, typically use a straight line over the vowel, called a macron, Greek for "long", since ancient Romans modeled their grammatical theory after ideas Greek scholars had worked out)
short the basic sound of the vowel as in Latin example long the same vowel-sound, for twice the time as in Latin example
a between English hard short a and momentary conversational uh alike ager ā thoughtful ah father fāma
e English hard short e get bellum ē long interrogative eh, close to American long a they poēta
i English hard short i sit agricola ī close to English long e machine rēgīna
o English short o hot oppidum ō English long o home cōnsilium
u English short oo put īnsula ū English long oo; never any initial y-sound super cūra
y a rare vowel in Latin (in Greek names and loan-words); combines English long oo and ih, as in French u or German ü tu (Fr.); über (Ger.) Polyphēmus ŷ likewise rare; still combining English long oo and ih, for a longer time tu (Fr.); über (Ger.), with emphasis Pŷthia

Diphthongs: two vowels sounded together; Latin uses fewer than English
ae ah-eh, compressed, yields the sound of English long i aisle laetus LAI-tuss
au ah-oo, compressed, is one of the sounds English makes with ou or ow out audiō OW-di-oh
ei eh-ih, compressed, yields the sound of English long a reign, hey Pompeius pom-PEY-uss
eu eh-oo, compressed, yields the sound made in some parts of Canada for ou; American doesn't use this sound much house (hewse) heu HEOO
oe oh-ih, compressed, yields the sound of English or Yiddish oy boil poena POY-na
ui oo-i, compressed, yields a drawn-out semivowel, as if for emphasis, plus short i, wwi I *quit*! huic HWWIK

a single consonant is sounded with the vowel that follows it, unless it's the last sound of the word and there's no other place for it
h, as a breath-sound in Latin, not a consonant, does not interfere
a double consonant splits to sound one with the following vowel, one with the previous vowel ("closing" the preceding syllable); x functions as a one-letter double consonant, effectively k+s bel-lum
auxi-li-um (auk-ssi-li-um)
the combination of "mute" (consonant for which the vocal tract is stopped, blocking all air-flow: c, g; p, b; t, d) FOLLOWED BY "liquid" (l or r) MAY or MAY NOT "close" the syllable as a double consonant ag-ri-co-la or a-gri-co-la

Word-accent: the Rule of the Penult
"penult" means the second-to-last syllable of a word (because it is "almost-the-ultimate" syllable, from Latin paene, "almost," + ultima, "the last")
if the penult is "short", as a syllable (see further below), the word-accent goes on the syllable before it, the "antepenult" (literally, "before the second-to-last" syllable) oppidum OP-pi-dum
if the penult is "long", as a syllable (see further below), the word-accent goes on the penult rēgīna reh-GIH-na
a syllable is "long" if: it contains a long vowel rēgīna reh-GIH-na
it contains a dipthong: dipthongs, as double vowels, are naturally sounded a longer time Athēnaeus a-t+heh-NAI-uss
it contains a short vowel but is "closed" by having two (or more) consonants or the double-consonant x (=ks) follow the vowel pu-el-la pu-EL-la
a syllable is "short" if: it contains a short vowel and is "open" (not "closed"; the breath-sound h does not make enough of a sound to close syllables) philosophia p+hi-lo-SSO-p+hi-a


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Revised 10 January 2020 by jlong1@luc.edu