1. John Silva says:

    As a lifelong Latin student and occasional user, I’ve never been totally sure of how classical Latin really sounded. This is a helpful synopsis.

    1. Hi John, I am so glad the post was helpful. Good luck with your Latin studies!

      1. Aron Abrahamsson says:

        Excellent. Optime! (A small typo: I think it should be “roll” instead of “role”)

        1. Hi Aron, thanks for pointing this out! I have corrected the typo 🙂

  2. Peter Duke says:

    I would like a clarification please regarding how you and most classicists say M at the end of a word. When you say in your blog, “do not pronounce the nasal vowels”, do you mean “do not pronounce the vowels nasalized”? I presume that you say the vowel un-nasalized with no following M. Is that correct? If so, is the vowel short or long? In English a word or syllable never ends with a short vowel.
    I was also reminded of French vowels, which I think are nasalized before M or N and the M or N is not sounded, but if the M or N is followed by a vowel in the next syllable or word, the vowel and consonant are pronounced normally. Any parallels?

    1. Hi Peter, yes, I do mean that we don’t usually pronounce the vowels nasalized! Instead, we pronounce the vowel (short) AND the M. Vowels automatically shorten before M at the end of a word.

      I’m not an expert on French, but I believe you are right about the rules of nasalization. In Latin the combination of vowel + M is only nasalized at the END of a word. So, for example, in the words *memoria* and *semper* the Ms are pronounced normally, without nasalization. I suspect that French inherited some of its nasalization process from Latin.

      With regard to Latin words ending with short vowels: it is possible – and common- for the vowels A and E to be short at the end of a word. I, O, and U will always be long at the end of a word, and Y can’t appear in word-final position.

      I hope this helps! 🙂

  3. Mike Kearney says:

    Hello Livia,
    As I mentioned before, I’m a big fan of your web site and lessons. But I think that using “pot” as an example of a short “o” in Latin is not so good. For example, in my case, I pronounce the “o” in pot the same as the “a” in “father”. Looking in an old textbook, I see that “wholly” is used as and example of a short “o” in Latin. For me, that would be a correct example of a Latin short “o”. I think that the short “o” in Latin is a little difficult for many American English speakers. Although it is, in fact, a vowel which is used by such speakers, I think that there is a tendency to not distinguish it from the sound of a long “o”, as in “old”. I imagine, if they were asked to pronounce the word “order” as clearly as possible, they might pronounce the word with a long “o”. But, in a dictionary, a different symbol is used to represent the “o” in “old”(long “o”), and the “o” in “order”(short “o”). And of course that is correct.

    1. Hi Mike, this is a good point, and I remember struggling with deciding how to represent short O. A lot of Americans pronounce *cot* and *caught* the same way, and then I personally don’t distinguish between the O in *wholly* and the O in *drove*. I’m planning on adding some audio to this post soon and I will try to clarify the short O situation when I make the update.

  4. Hi Rebecca, thank you for this lesson! I read quite a few websites claiming to explain this, and yours was the most comprehensive easiest to follow without in-depth knowledge of phonology.
    I think “save” and “drove” are not the best examples to illustrate the long E and O sounds, because in those 2 words, the vowels in question are actually diphthongs. I know you explain that below, but if somebody was to just look at the table, they’d be left with the wrong idea. I suggest using the words “berth” and “born” respectively, perhaps with a little note to your American readers clarifying that this refers to the English pronunciation. My understanding is that the way we pronounce “berth” and “born” in the UK is actually pretty close to the long E and O sounds that you’re writing about.

    1. Hi Alex, thanks for your comment! You make some good points. I am planning to update this post with audio once I get the chance, and at that point I will also revisit my sample words.

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