Latin course for the Virtual School of Languages
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There is no "correct" pronunciation of Latin. Nobody knows for a fact how the Romans spoke, because obviously
they didn't leave behind any recordings. Also, since Latin was used throughout many centuries and all around the
Mediterranean sea, the pronunciation must have changed more than just a bit throughout the time and depending
on the region. Most of what is said about the pronunciation of Latin nowadays is based on the similarities of
words borrowed from Latin in modern languages or on Latin poetry, that allows some educated guesses on e. g.
There are basically 3 systems of pronuncing Latin, all used by different people for different purposes:
1) the "classical" pronunciation: this pronunciation is most often used by scholars. You can recognise it by paying
attention to pronunciation of g: it's always pronounced as in "garden".
2) the "ecclesiastic" pronunciation: this pronunciation is most often used in church settings. Latin is pronounced
like Italian, which involves lots of changes in the pronunciation on consonants, e. g. the g in "gaudet" is like the
one in "garden", but the g in "gens" sounds like the one in "German".
3) the "scientific" pronunciation: this pronunciation is most often used by those who only use Latin in names
(of flowers, animals, materials) or expressions (in law or just to appear more educated). Latin is pronounced
like English or whatever language you're speaking.
I usually use the "classical" pronunciation, which appears to be the most authentic one. It's also the one used by
Nuntii Latini (news in Latin) and most other sites where you can hear Latin.
Introduction to the "classical" pronunciation of Latin
Latin has long and short vowels, just like English and also German, but unlike in German, it can't mark long
vowels. When it's important to know the vowel length, I put a circumflex accent (^) over a vowel, for example
in order to distinguish the E-Conjugation (-êre) from the Consonantic Conjugation (-ere), after lesson 20.
There are the following vowels in Latin:
Simple vowels: a, e, i, o, u, (y)
Double vowels: au, ei, eu, ui, (ae), (oe)
Vowel pronunciation guide:
Double vowels are always long. Short vowels are pronounced as open vowels and long vowels are pronounced
as closed ones.
A as in "father"
E as in "bed"
I like ee in "meet"
O as in "long"
U like oo in "mood"
The vowel Y only appears in words borrowed from Greek, for example "Syrus". Its sound doesn't exist in
English, but it does in lots of other languages: German ü, French u, Dutch uu, Turkish ü. Its IPA representation
is [y]. For those who don't know it yet: try to say "ee" through fairly closely rounded lips.
The double vowels are usually pronounced like two separate vowels, with the exception of AE and OE (if you
learn Latin at an American school, you'll be taught to even pronounce AE and OE like two separate vowels,
which is inaccurate for the classical period).
AE is pronounced like ai in "fair", but long, like German ä.
OE is pronounced like French "eu", like German ö. The sound doesn't exist in English, but it can be acquired
by saying "e" (as in "bed") through closely rounded lips.
The consonants are mostly the same as in English, with the exception that J, K, W and Z don't exist, except
for foreign words. Also note that there was no different writing for V and U until Middle Ages, however, like
most people who publish Latin texts, I do use V and U in order to facilitate reading and pronunciation.
Consonant pronunciation guide:
Pronounce all consonants as in English, but take note of the following.
CH, PH and TH, which appear mostly in Greek words, are pronounced in an aspirated way.
QU is pronounced kv (k in kick, v in vast)
GU is pronounced gv (g in garden, v in vast)
SU is pronounced sv (s in sun, v in vast)
There are two factions for the pronunciation of C:
- Some pronounce it always as in "card"
- Some pronounce it as in "card" before A, AU, O and U;
and pronounce it like cz in "Czar" before AE, E, I, OU and Y.
- In any event it should never be pronounced like in "chair", that would be the ecclesiastic pronounciation.
Words are either stressed on the second-to-last or third-to-last syllable. It depends on the second-to-last syllable.
Words with two syllables are always stressed on the second-to-last syllable, that means their first syllable is always
For words with three or more syllables, there's the following rule:
If the second-to-last syllable is long, it's stressed. For example: "natúra", "fenéstra"
If it's short, the third-to-last syllable is stressed. For example: "ártibus", "muliéribus", "homínibus".
If the particle "-que" or "-ne" is added to a word, the syllable before that is always stressed. For example: "pater