How to Pronounce Latin

Ever wonder how to say those impossible little quotes in Latin? Whether you're a scholar or a botanist, knowing how to pronounce Latin can be quite useful. Once you master the basic sounds, you'll be speaking Latin like a Classics major.

Steps

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    Understand that Latin does not have the letter 'J' or 'W'. In names such as Julius, the 'J' is pronounced like the consonant Y: "Yule-ee-us". This is also interchangeable with the letter I, so Julius becomes Iulius.
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    Know that most of the consonants are said like in English with a few exceptions:
    • 'C's "hard" like 'k'-cat, kill, crud, crest.
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    • 'I' before a vowel is a consonant, pronounced like 'Y'-yam, yuck, you.
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    • 'B' before 't' or 's' is 'P'-purple, pink, prissy.
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    • 'R' is rolled, like Spanish-RRRush.
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    • 'V' is said like the English 'w'-water, wink, wade.
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    • 'S' is never 'z', it is always 's'-sing, suck, slick.
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    • 'G' is "hard" like-greg, great, gregarious.
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    Combined consonants came from the influence of Greek letters:
    • 'CH' from the Greek chi makes a 'k' sound and never 'ch' like in church.
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    • 'PH' from the Greek phi is "hard" like 'ph' uphill. Never 'f' like in philosophy.
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    • 'TH' from the Greek theta is a "hard" and separate 'th'- hot house, never soft like thin or the.
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    Double consonants such as double r 'RR' or double t 'TT', are always pronounced as two separate letters.
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    Pronounce vowels like this:
    • A-Alike
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    • E-Let
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    • I-Lick
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    • O-More
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    • U-Foot
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    Know that some Latin vowels are long, represented by a macron over the vowel:
    • Ā-Father
    • Ē-Mate
    • Ī-Beep
    • Ō-Only
    • Ū-Boot
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    Know your diphthongs.
    • The diphthong 'ae' is pronounced like the word eye.
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    • The diphthong 'au' is pronounced like the word ow.
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    • The diphthong 'ei' is pronounced like the word aye.
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    Remember this rule -- All vowels are pronounced unless there is a diphthong.

Tips

  • Have fun with the language; it is beautiful.
  • Some people have different ideas about how Latin should be spoken. These differences arise from the time periods on which they base their Latin pronunciation and sources which give varying rules. The pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar of Latin has changed enormously over its time as a living language (~900BC to the 1600sAD), and there were many regional variations. The above rules are "classical" pronunciation, which is the way Latin was probably spoken prior to the third century. In non-religious settings, this is the most commonly taught pronunciation of Latin.
  • Make sure to perfectly pronounce those "t's" for a more eloquent sound.
  • Remember. Latin was once a language spoken by Roman humans. Try not to make it sound robotic.
  • Practice your words over and over until your pronunciation becomes fluid.

Warnings

  • Don't insist on pronouncing every word with Latin origins according to the rules above; when a word has been adopted into everyday usage, standard English pronunciations are appropriate.

Article Info

Categories: Latin