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.

      1. There would be no problem in northern English pronunciation of the short ‘o’. It is as you say. We are not fond of diphthongs for single vowels here!

  5. John Hall says:

    Livia, I found your site yesterday, just before going to the Musée de Cluny yesterday. You reminded m3 that the final ‘m’ nasalisedthe vowel. Then I saw an inscription to Louis VI, who died in 1137: rex francoru Phillipi Regis filius. That is, the ‘m’ in Francorum was omitted. I was intrigued. This is not of course a classical Latin inscription, and perhaps the mason was tired and emotional and forgot the ‘m’. But could it be that the ‘m’ was omitted because the writer was nasalising such words and could not see the point of the final consonant?

    1. Hi John, I don’t know about pronunciation in this specific time period and location, but lots of spelling “mistakes” on inscriptions are actually phonetic renderings of spoken language. So it is entirely possible that this writer just didn’t pronounce the final M! Another possibility is that this is an abbreviation rather like the abbreviations we find in medieval manuscripts, where M or even ORUM is often omitted. But when this happens, usually the abbreviation is signaled by some sort of squiggly line.

  6. Stephen John Horsfall says:

    Fascinating. I wish I’d learned Latin when I was younger. I am of course familiar with names such as Cicero and Julius Caesar, but it’s a shock to discover that they should be pronounced “Kickero” and “Yulius Kysar”!

    1. Yes, it is quite shocking! These names trip my Latin students up all the time. They will be reading a Latin passage with a perfect Roman accent and then suddenly the English pronunciation of Caesar pops up . . .

  7. Hello Livia,

    you are stating that the letter ‘c’ was always pronounced as ‘k’.
    I wonder then how the latin word ‘ecce’ is supposed to have sounded…

    1. Every single consonant in Latin is pronounced, even if you have two of the same consonant in a row. This means that the word ecce has two K sounds with a slight gap in between. You pronounce it the same way that you do the two Ks in the English word bookkeeper. I hope this helps!

  8. Guy Nishimoto says:

    I have a question about a t and i combination.

    How should traditio be pronounced?

    One one website, it sounded like trah-dee-tsee-oh.
    On another trah-dee-tee-oh.

    So on one website, oratio sounded like oh-rah-tsee-oh.
    On another or-rah-tee-oh.

    1. Hi Guy, the first website is using ecclesiastical (church) pronunciation. The second website is using reconstructed Classical Latin pronunciation. I personally pronounce TI as “tee” because I primarily read classical Latin texts. Either pronunciation can be correct based on the context!

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