The Roman Pronunciation of Latin
Frances E. Lord
Produced by David Starner, Ted Garvin
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE ROMAN PRONUNCIATION OF LATIN WHY WE USE IT AND HOW TO USE IT BY
FRANCES E. LORD PROFESSOR OF LATIN IN WELLESLEY COLLEGE BOSTON, U.S.A.
The argument brought against the 'Roman pronunciation' of Latin is
twofold: the impossibility of perfect theoretical knowledge, and the
difficulty of practical attainment.
If to know the main features of the classic pronunciation of Latin were
impossible, then our obvious course would be to refuse the attempt; to
regard the language as in reality dead, and to make no pretence of
reading it. This is in fact what the English scholars generally do. But
if we may know substantially the sounds of the tongue in which Cicero
spoke and Horace sung, shall we give up the delights of the melody and
the rhythm and content ourselves with the thought form? Poetry
especially does not exist apart from sound; sense alone will not
constitute it, nor even sense and form without sound.
But if it is true that the task of practical acquisition is, if not
impossible, extremely difficult, 'the work of a lifetime,' as the
objectors say, do the results justify the expenditure of time and labor?
The position of the English-speaking peoples is not the same in this as
that of Europeans. Europeans have not the same necessity to urge them to
the 'Roman pronunciation.' Their own languages represent the Latin more
or less adequately, in vowel sounds, in accent, and even, to some
extent, in quantity; so that with them, all is not lost if they
translate the sounds into their own tongues; while with us, nothing is
left--sound, accent, quantity, all is gone; none of these is reproduced,
or even suggested, in English.
We believe a great part of our difficulty, in this country, lies in the
fact that so few of those who study and teach Latin really know what the
'Roman pronunciation' is, or how to use it. Inquiries are constantly
being made by teachers, Why is this so? What authority is there for
this? What reason for that?
In the hope of giving help to those who desire to know the Why and the
How this little compendium is made; in the interest of time-and-labor-
saving uniformity, and in the belief that what cannot be fully known or
perfectly acquired does still not prevent our perceiving, and showing in
some worthy manner and to some satisfactory degree, how, as well as
what, the honey-tongued orators and divine poets of Rome spoke or sung.
In the following pages free use has been made of the highest English
authorities, of Oxford and Cambridge. Quotations will be found from
Prof. H. A. J. Munro's pamphlet on "Pronunciation of Latin," and from
Prof. A. J. Ellis' book on "Quantitative Pronunciation of Latin"; also
from the pamphlet issued by the Cambridge (Eng.) Philological Society,
on the "Pronunciation of Latin in the Augustan Period."
In the present compendium the chief points of divergence from the
general American understanding of the 'Roman' method are in respect of
the diphthong AE and the consonantal U. In these cases the pronunciation
herein recommended for the AE is that favored by Roby, Munro, and Ellis,
and adopted by the Cambridge Philological Society; for the V, or U
consonant, that advocated by Corssen, A. J. Ellis, and Robinson Ellis.
WHY WE USE IT.
In general, the greater part of our knowledge of the pronunciation of
Latin comes from the Latin grammarians, whose authority varies greatly
in value; or through incidental statements and expressions of the
classic writers themselves; or from monumental inscriptions. Of these
three, the first is inferior to the other two in quality, but they in
turn are comparatively meagre in quantity.
In the first place, we know (a most important piece of knowledge) that,
as a rule, Latin was pronounced as written. This is evident from the
fact, among others, that the same exceptions recur, and are mentioned
over and over again, in the grammarians, and that so much is made of
comparatively, and confessedly, insignificant points. Such, we may be
sure, would not have been the case had exceptions been numerous. Then we
have the authority of Quintilian--than whom is no higher. He speaks of
the subtleties of the grammarians:
[Quint. I. iv. 6.] Interiora velut sacri hujus adeuntibus apparebit
multa rerum subtilitas, quae non modo acuere ingenia puerilia sed
exercere altissimam quoque eruditionem ac scientiam possit.
[Id, ib. iv. 7.] An cujuslibet auris est exigere litterarum sonos?
But after citing some of those idiosyncrasies which appear on the pages
of all the grammarians, he finally sums up the matter in the following
[Id. ib. vii. 30, 31.] Indicium autem suum grammaticus interponat his
omnibus; nam hoc valere plurimum debet. Ego (note the _ego_) nisi quod
consuetudo obtinuerit sic scribendum quidque judico, quomodo sonat. Hic
enim est usus litterarum, ut custodiant voces et velut depositum reddant
legentibus, itaque id exprimere debent quod dicturi sumus.
This is still a characteristic of the Italian language, so that one may
by books, getting the rules from the grammarians, learn to pronounce the
language with a good degree of correctness.
On this point Professor Munro says:
"We see in the first volume of the Corpus Inscr. Latin. a map, as it
were, of the language spread open before us, and feel sure that change
of spelling meant systematical change of pronunciation: _coira, coera,
cura; aiquos, aequos, aecus; queicumque, quicumque, etc., etc."
"We know exactly how Cicero or Quintilian did or could spell; we know
the syllable on which they placed the accent of almost every word; and
in almost every case we already follow them in this. I have the
conviction that in their best days philological people took vast pains
to make the writing exactly reproduce the sounding; and that if
Quintilian or Tacitus spelt a word differently from Cicero or Livy, he
also spoke it so far differently."
Three chief factors are essential to the Latin language, and each of
these must be known with some good degree of certainty, if we would lay
claim to an understanding of Roman pronunciation.
(1) Sounds of the letters (vowels, diphthongs, consonants);
SOUNDS OF THE LETTERS.
The vowels are five: A, E, I, O, U.
These when uttered alone are always long.
[Pompei. _Comm. ad Donat._ Keil. v. V. p. 101 et al.] Vocales autem
quinque sunt: A, E, I, O, U. Istae quinque, quando solae proferuntur,
longae sunt semper: quando solas litteras dicis, longae sunt. A sola
longa est; E sola longa est.
A is uttered with the mouth widely opened, the tongue suspended and not
touching the teeth:
[Ars Gram. Mar. Vict. de orthographia et de metrica ratione, I. vi. 6.]
A littera rictu patulo, suspensa neque impressa dentibus lingua,
E is uttered with the mouth less widely open, and the lips drawn back
[Id. ib. vi. 7.] E quae sequitur, de represso modice rictu oris,
reductisque introrsum labiis, effertur.
I will voice itself with the mouth half closed and the teeth gently
pressed by the tongue:
[Id. ib. vi. 8.] I semicluso ore, impressisque sensim lingua dentibus,
O (long) will give the "tragic sound" through rounded opening, with lips
protruded, the tongue pendulous in the roof of the mouth:
[Id. ib. vi. 9.] O longum autem, protrusis labiis rictu tereti, lingua
arcu oris pendula, sonum tragicum dabit.
U is uttered with the lips protruding and approaching each other, like
the Greek ou:
[Id. ib. vi. 10.] U litteram quotiens enuntiamus, productis et
coeuntibus labris efferemus... quam nisi per ou conjunctam Graeci
scribere ac pronuntiare non possunt.
Of these five vowels the grammarians say that three (A, I, U) do not
change their quality with their quantity:
[Pompei. _Comm. ad Donat._ Keil. v. V. p. 101.] De istis quinque
litteris tres sunt, quae sive breves sive longae ejusdemmodi sunt, A, I,
U: similiter habent sive longae sive breves.
But two (E, O) change their quality:
[Id. ib.] O vero et E non sonant breves. E aliter longa aliter brevis
sonat. Dicit ita Terentianus (hoc dixit) 'Quotienscumque E longam
volumus proferri, vicina sit ad I (i with macron to show length)
litteram.' Ipse sonus sic debet sonare, quomodo sonat I (i without
macron to show short) littera. Quando dicis _evitat_, vicina debet esse,
sic pressa, sic angusta, ut vicina sit ad I litteram. Quando vis dicere
brevem e simpliciter sonat. O longa sit an brevis. Si longa est, debet
sonus ipse intra palatum sonare, ut si dices _orator_, quasi intra
sonat, intra palatum. Si brevis est debet primis labris sonare, quasi
extremis labris, ut puta sic dices _obit_. Habes istam regulam expressam
in Terentiano. Quando vis exprimere quia brevis est, primis labris
sonat; quando exprimis longam, intra palatum sonat.
[Ars Gram. Mar. Vict. de Orthog. et de Metr. Rat., I. vi. 9.] O qui
correptum enuntiat, nec magno hiatu labra reserabit, et retrorsum actam
It would thus seem that the long E of the Latin in its prolongation
draws into the I sound, somewhat as if I were subjoined, as in the
English _vein_ or Italian _fedele._
The grammarians speak of the obscure sound of I and U, short and
unaccented in the middle of a word; so that in a number of words I and U
were written indifferently, even by classic writers, as _optimus_ or
_optumus, maximus_ or _maxumus_. This is but a simple and natural thing.
The same obscurity occurs often in English, as, for instance, in words
ending in _able_ or _ible_. How easy, for instance, to confuse the sound
and spelling in such words as _detestable_ and _digestible_.
[Serg. Explan. Art. Donat. Keil. v. II. p. 475.] Hae etiam duae I et U
... interdum expressum suum sonum non habent: I, ut _vir_; U, ut
_optumus_. Non enim possumus dicere _vir_ producta I, nec _optumus_
producta U; unde etiam mediae dicuntur. Et hoc in commune patiuntur
inter se, et bene dixit Donatus has litteras in quibusdam dictionibus
expressum suum sonum non habere. Hae etiam mediae dicuntur, quia
quibusdam dictionibus expressum sonum non habent,... ut _maxume_ pro
_maxime_.... In quibusdam nominibus non certum exprimunt sonum; I, ut
_vir_ modo I (with macron) opprimitur; U ut _optumus_ modo U perdit
[Keil. v. II. p. 465.] Cur per VI scribitur (virum)? Quia omnia nomina a
VI syllaba incipientia per VI scribuntur exceptis _bitumine_ et _bile_,
quando _fel_ significat, et illis quae a _bis_ adverbio componuntur, ut
_biceps, bipatens, bivium_. Cur sonum videtur habere in hac dictione I
vocalis U litterae Graecae? Quia omnis dictio a VI syllaba brevi
incipiens, D vel T vel M vel R vel X sequentibus, hoc sono pronuntiatur,
ut _video, videbam, videbo_: quia in his temporibus VI corripitur,
mutavit sonum in U: in praeterito autem perfecto, et in aliis in quibus
producitur, naturalem servavit sonum, ut _vidi, videram, vidissem,
videro_. Similiter _vitium_ mutat sonum, quia corripitur; _vita_ autem
non mutat, quia producitur. Similiter _vim_ mutat quia corripitur,
_vimen_ autem non mutat quia producitur. Similiter _vir_ et _virgo_
mutant, quia corripiuntur: _virus_ autem et _vires_ non mutant, quia
producuntur. _Vix_ mutant, quia corripitur: _vixi_ non mutant, quia
producitur. Hoc idem plerique solent etiam in illis dictionibus facere,
in quibus a FI brevi incipiunt syllabae sequentibus supra dictis
consonantibus, ut _fides, perfidus, confiteor, infimus, firmus_. Sunt
autem qui non adeo hoc observant, cum de VI nemo fere dubitat.
From this it would seem that in the positions above mentioned VI short--
and with some speakers FI short--had an obscure, somewhat thickened,
sound, not unlike that heard in the English words _virgin, firm_, a not
unnatural obscuration. As Donatus says of it:
[Keil. v. IV. p. 367.] Pingue nescio quid pro naturali sono usurpamus.
Sometimes, apparently, this tendency ran into excess, and the long I was
also obscured; while sometimes the short I was pronounced too
distinctly. This vice is commented on by the grammarians, under the name
[Pompei. _Comm. ad Donat_. Keil. v. V. p. 394.] _Iotacismum_ dicunt
vitium quod per I litteram vel pinguius vel exilius prolatam fit. Galli
pinguius hanc utuntur, ut cum dicunt _ite_, non expresse ipsam
proferentes, sed inter E et I pinguiorem sonum nescio quem ponentes.
Graeci exilius hanc proferunt, adeo expressioni ejus tenui studentes, ut
si dicant _jus_, aliquantulum de priori littera sic proferant, ut videas
dissyllabam esse factam. Romanae linguae in hoc erit moderatio, ut
exilis ejus sonus sit, ubi ab ea verbum incipit, ut _ite_, aut pinguior,
ubi in ea desinit verbum, ut _habui_, _tenui_; medium quendam sonum
inter E et I habet, ubi in medio sermone est, ut _hominem_. Mihi tamen
videtur, quando producta est, plenior vel acutior esse; quando autem
brevis est medium sonum exhibere debet, sicut eadem exempla quae posita
sunt possunt declarare.
The grammarians also note the peculiar relation of U to Q, as in the
[Serg. Explan. Art. Donat. Keil. v. IV. p. 475.] U vero hoc accidit
proprium, ut interdum nec vocalis nec consonans sit, hoc est ut non sit
littera, cum inter Q et aliquam vocalem ponitur. Nam consonans non
potest esse, quia ante se habet alteram consonantem, id est Q; vocalis
esse non potest, quia sequitur illam vocalis, ut _quare, quomodo_.
In Marius Victorinus we find diphthongs thus defined:
[Mar. Vict. Gaisford, I. v. 54.] Duae inter se vocales jugatae ac sub
unius vocis enuntiatione prolatae syllabam faciunt natura longam, quam
Graeci _diphthongon_ vocant, veluti geminae vocis unum sonum, ut AE, OE,
And more fully in the following paragraph:
[Mar. Vict. Gaisford, I. v. 6.] Sunt longae naturaliter syllabae, cum
duae vocales junguntur, quas syllabas Graeci _diphthongos_ vocant; ut
AE, OE, AU, EU, EI: nam illae diphthongi non sunt quae fiunt per vocales
loco consonantium positas; ut IA, IE, II, IO, IU, VA, VE, VI, VO, VU.
Of these diphthongs EU occurs,--except in Greek words, --only in _heus,
heu, eheu_; in _seu, ceu, neu_. In _neuter_ and _neutiquam_ the E is
Diphthongs ending in I, viz., EI, OI, UI, occur only in a few
interjections and in cases of contraction.
While in pronouncing the diphthong the sound of both vowels was to some
extent preserved, there are many indications that (in accordance with
the custom of making a vowel before another vowel short) the first vowel
of the diphthong was hastened over and the second received the stress.
As in modern Greek we find all diphthongs that end in _iota_ pronounced
as simple I, so in Latin there are numerous instances, before and during
the classic period, of the use of E for AE or OE, and it is to be noted
that in the latest spelling E generally prevails.
"In Lucilius's time the rustics said _Cecilius pretor_ for _Caecilius
praetor_; in two Samothracian inscriptions older than B.C. 1OO (the
sound of AI by that time verging to an open E), we find _muste piei_
and _muste_: in similar inscriptions [Greek: transliterated]*_mystai_
_piei_, and _mystae_: _Paeligni_ is reproduced in Strabo by
[Greek:transliterated]_Pelignoi_: Cicero, Virgil, Festus, and Servius
all alike give _caestos_ for [Greek:transliterated]_kestos_: by the
first century, perhaps sooner, E was very frequently put for AE in words
like _taeter_: we often find _teter_, _erumna_, _mestus_, _presto_ and
the like: soon inscriptions and MSS. began pertinaciously to offer AE
for E*: _praetum_, _praeces_, _quaerella_, _aegestas_ and the like, the
AE representing a short and very open E: sometimes it stands for a long
E, as often in _plaenus_, the liquid before and after making perhaps the
E more open ([Greek:transliteration]_skaenae_ is always _scaena_): and
it is from this form _plaenus_ that in Italian, contrary to the usual
law of long Latin E, we have _pieno_ with open E. With such pedigree
then, and with the genuine Latin AE _always_ represented in Italian by
open E, can we hesitate to pronounce the AE with this open E sound?"
The argument sometimes used, for pronouncing AE like AI, that in the
poets we occasionally find AI in the genitive singular of the first
declension, appears to have little weight in view of the following
[Mar. Vict. de Orthog. et de Metr. Rat., I. iii. 38.] AE Syllabam quidam
more Graecorum per AI scribunt, nec illud quidem custodient, quia omnes
fere, qui de orthographia aliquid scriptum reliquerunt, praecipiunt,
nomina femina casu nominativo A finita, numero plurali in AE exire, ut
_Aeliae_: eadem per A et I scripta numerum singularem ostendere, ut
hujus _Aeliai_: inducti a poetis, qui _pictai vestis_ scripserunt: et
quia Graeci per I potissimum hanc syllabam scribunt propter exilitatem
litterae, [Greek:transliteration]_ae_ autem propter naturalem
productionem jungere vocali alteri non possunt: _iota_ vero, quae est
brevis eademque longa, aptior ad hanc structuram visa est: quam
potestatem apud nos habet et I, quae est longa et brevis. Vos igitur
sine controversia ambiguitatis, et pluralem nominativum, et singularem
genitivum per AE scribite: nam qui non potest dignoscere supra
scriptarum vocum numeros et casum, valde est hebes.
Of OE Munro says:
"When hateful barbarisms like _coelum_, _coena_, _moestus_, are
eliminated, OE occurs very rarely in Latin: _coepi_, _poena_, _moenia_,
_coetus_, _proelia_, besides archaisms _coera_, _moerus_, etc., where
OE, coming from OI, passed into U. If we must have a simple sound, I
should take the open E sound which I have given to AE: but I should
prefer one like the German O. Their rarity, however, makes the sound of
OE, EU, UI, of less importance."
Of AU Munro says:
"Here, too, AU has a curious analogy with AE: The Latin AU becomes in
Italian open O: _oro ode_: I would pronounce thus in Latin: _plostrum_,
_Clodius_, _corus_. Perhaps, too, the fact that _gloria_, _vittoria_ and
the common termination--_orio_, have in Italian the open O, might show
that the corresponding *O in Latin was open by coming between two
liquids, or before one: compare _plenus_ above." "I should prefer," he
says, (to represent the Latin AU,) "the Italian AU, which gives more of
the U than our _owl_, _cow_."
B has, in general, the same sound as in English
[Mar. Vict. Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] E quibus B et P litterae ... dispari
inter se oris officio exprimuntur. Nam prima exploso e mediis labiis
sono, sequens compresso ore velut introrsum attracto vocis ictu
B before S or T is sharpened to P: thus _urbs_ is pronounced _urps_;
_obtinuit_, _optinuit_. Some words, indeed, are written either way; as
_obses_, or _opses_; _obsonium_, or _opsonium_; _obtingo_, or _optingo_;
and Quintilian says it is a question whether the change should be
indicated in writing or not:
[Quint. I. vii. 7.] Quaeri solet, in scribendo praepositiones, sonum
quem junctae efficiunt an quem separatae, observare conveniat: ut cum
dico _obtinuit_, secundam enim B litteram ratio poscit, aures magis
This change, however, is both so slight and so natural that attention
need scarcely be called to it. Indeed if quantity is properly observed,
one can hardly go wrong. If, for instance, you attempt, in saying
_obtinuit_, to give its normal sound to B, you can scarcely avoid making
a false quantity (the first syllable too long), while if you observe the
quantity (first syllable short) your B will change itself to P.
C appears to have but one sound, the hard, as in _sceptic_:
[Mar. vict. Keil, v. VI. p. 32.] C etiam et ... G sono proximae, oris
molimine nisuque dissentiunt. Nam C reducta introrsum lingua hinc atque
hinc molares urgens haerentem intra os sonum vocis excludit: G vim
prioris pari linguae habitu palato suggerens lenius reddit.
Not only do we find no hint in the grammarians of any sound akin to the
soft C in English, as in _sceptre_, but they all speak of C and K and Q
as identical, or substantially so, in sound; and Quintilian expressly
states that the sound of C is always the same. Speaking of K as
superfluous, he says:
[Quint, I. vii. io.] Nam K quidem in nullis verbis utendum puto, nisi
quae significat, etiam ut sola ponatur. Hoc eo non omisi, quod quidam
earn quotiens A sequatur necessariam credunt, cum sit C littera, quae ad
omnes vocales vim suam perferat.
And Priscian declares:
[Keil. v. II. p. 13.] Quamvis in varia figura et vario nomine sint k et
q et c, tamen quia unam vim habent tarn in metre quam in sono, pro una
littera accipi debent.
Without the best of evidence we should hardly believe that words written
indifferently with ae or e after C would be so differently pronounced by
those using the diphthong and those using, the simple vowel, that, to
take the instance already given, in the time of Lucilius, the rustic
said _Sesilius_ for _Kaekilius_. Nor does it seem probable that in
different cases the same word would vary so greatly, or that in the
numerous compounds where after c the a weakens to i the sound of the c
was also changed from k to s, as "kapio," "insipio"; "kado" "insido."
Quintilian, noting the changes of fashion in the sounding of the h,
enumerates, among other instances of excessive use of the aspirate, the
words _choronae_ (for _coronae), _chenturiones_ (for _centuriones_),
_praechones_ (for _praecones_), as if the three words were alike in
their initial sound.
Alluding to inscriptions (first volume), where we have _pulcher and
_pulcer_, _Gracchis_ and _Grams_, Mr. Munro says: "I do not well see how
the aspirate could have been attached to the c, if c had not a k sound,
or how in this case C before e or i could have differed from c before a,
Professor Munro also cites an inscription (844 of the "Corpus Inscr.,"
vol. I.) bearing on the case in another way. In this inscription we have
the word _dekembres_. "This," says Mr. Munro, "is one of nearly two
hundred short, plebeian, often half-barbarous, very old inscriptions on
a collection of ollae. The k before e, or any letter except a, is
solecistic, just as in no. 831 is the c, instead of k, for calendas.
From this I would infer that, as in the latter the writer saw no
difference between C and K, so to the writer of the former K was the
same as C before E."
Again he says:
"And finally, what is to me most convincing of all, I do not well
understand how in a people of grammarians, when for seven hundred years,
from Ennius to Priscian, the most distinguished writers were also the
most minute philologers, not one, so far as we know, should have hinted
at any difference, if such existed."
As to the peculiar effect of C final in certain particles to "lengthen"
the vowel before it, this C is doubtless the remnant of the intensive
enclitic CE, and the so-called 'length' is not in the vowel, but in the
more forcible utterance of the C. It is true that Priscian says:
[Keil. v. II. p. 34.] Notandum, quod ante hanc solam mutam finalem
inveniuntur longae vocales, ut _hoc_, _hac_, _sic_, _hic_ adverbium.
And Probus speaks of C as often prolonging the vowel before it. But
Victorinus, more philosophically, attributes the length to the "double"
sound of the consonant:
[Mar. Vict. I. v. 46.] Consideranda ergo est in his duntaxat
pronominibus natura C litterae, quae crassum quodammodo et quasi geminum
sonum reddat, _hic_ et _hoc_.
And he adds that you do not get that more emphatic sound in, for
instance, the conjunction _nec_.
Si autem _nec_ conjunctionem aspiciamus, licet eadem littera finitam,
diversum tamen sonabit.
Ut dixi, in pronominibus C littera sonum efficit crassiorem.
Pompeius, commenting upon certain vices of speech, says that some
persons bring out the final C in certain words too heavily, pronouncing
_sic ludit_ as _sic cludit_; while others, on the contrary, touch it so
lightly that when the following word begins with C you hear but a single
[Keil. v. V. p. 394.] Item litteram C quidam in quibusdam dictionibus
non latine ecferunt, sed ita crasse, ut non discernas quid dicant: ut
puta siquis dicat _sic ludit_, ita hoc loquitur ut putes eum in secunda
parte orationis _cludere_ dixisse, non _ludere_: et item si contra dicat
illud contrarium putabis. Alii contra ita subtiliter hoc ecferunt, ut
cum duo C habeant, desinentis prioris partis orationis et incipientis
alterius, sic loquantur quasi uno C utrumque explicent, ut dicunt multi
D, in general, is pronounced as in English, except that the tongue
should touch the teeth rather than the palate.
[Pompei. _Comm. ad Donat_. Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] D autem et T quibus, ut
ita dixerim, vocis vicinitas quaedam est, linguae sublatione ac
positione distinguuntur. Nam cum summos atque imos conjunctim dentes
suprema sui parte pulsaverit D litteram exprimit. Quotiens autem
sublimata partem, qua superis dentibus est origo, contigerit T sonare
But when certain words in common use ending in D were followed by words
beginning with a consonant, the sound of the D was sharpened to T; and
indeed the word was often, especially by the earlier writers, written
with T, as, for instance, _set_, _haut_, _aput_:
[Mar. Vict. I. iii. 50.] D tamen litteram conservat si sequens verbum
incipiat a vocali; ut _haud aliter muros_; et _haud equidem_. At cum
verbum a consonante incipit, D perdit, ut _haut dudum_, et _haut
multum_, et _haut placitura refert_, et inducit T.
F is pronounced as in English except that it should be brought out more
forcibly, with more breath.
[Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] F litteram imum labium superis imprimentibus
dentibus, reflexa ad palati fastigium lingua, leni spiramine proferemus.
Marius Victorinus says that F was used in Latin words as PH in foreign.
Diomedes (of the fourth century) says the same:
[Diom. Keil. v. I. p. 427.] Id hoc scire debemus quod F littera tum
scribitur cum Latina dictio scribitur, ut _felix_. Nam si peregrina
fuerit, P et H scribimus, ut _Phoebus_, _Phaethon_.
And Priscian makes a similar statement:
[Prise. Keil. v. I. p. 35.] F multis modis muta magis ostenditur, cum
pro P et aspiratione, quae similiter muta est, accipitur.
From the following words of Quintilian we may judge the breathing to
have been quite pronounced:
[Quint. XII. x. 29.] Nam et illa quae est sexta nostrarum, paene non
humana voce, vel omnino non voce, potius inter discrimina dentium
efflanda est, quae etiam cum vocalem proxima accipit quassa quodammodo,
utique quotiens aliquam consonantem frangit, ut in hoc ipso _frangit_,
multo fit horridior.
G, no less than C, appears to have had but one sound, the hard; as in
the English word _get_.
[Mar. Vict. Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] C etiam et G, ut supra scriptae, sono
proximae, oris molimine nisuque dissentiunt. Nam C reducta introrsum
lingua, hinc atque hinc molares urgens, haerentem intra os sonum vocis
excludit: G vim prioris, pari linguae habitu palato suggerens, lenius
Diomedes speaks of G as a new consonant, whose place had earlier been
filled by C:
[Keil. v. I. p. 423.] G nova est consonans, in cujus locum C solebat
adponi, sicut hodieque cum Gaium notamus Caesarem, scribimus C. C.,
ideoque etiam post B litteram, id est tertio loco, digesta est, ut apud
Graecos [Greek:transliterated] _g_ posita reperitur in eo loco.
Victorinus thus refers to the old custom still in use of writing C and
CN, as initials, in certain names, even where the names were pronounced
as with G.
[Mar. Vict. I. iii. 98.] C autem et nomen habuisse G et usum
praestitisse, quod nunc _Caius_ per C, et _Cneius_ per CN, quamvis
utrimque syllabae sonus G exprimat, scribuntur.
H has the same sound as in English. The grammarians never regarded it as
a consonant,--at least in more than name,--but merely as representing
the rough breathing of the Greeks.
Victorinus thus speaks of its nature:
[Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] H quoque inter litteras obviam grammatici
tradiderunt, eamque adspirationis notam cunctis vocalibus praefici; ipsi
autem consonantes tantum quattuor praeponi, quotiens graecis nominibus
latina forma est, persuaserunt, id est C, P, R, T; ut _chori_,
_Phyllis_, _rhombos_, _thymos_; quae profundo spiritu, anhelis faucibus,
exploso ore, fundetur.
By the best authorities H was looked upon as a mere mark of aspiration.
Victorinus says that Nigidius Figulus so regarded it:
[Mar. Vict. I. iv. 5.] Idem (N. F.) H non esse litteram, sed notam
There appears to have been the same difference of opinion and usage
among the Romans as with us in the matter of sounding the H.
Quintilian says that the fashion changed with the age:
[Quint. I. v. l9,20,21.] Cujus quidem ratio mutata cum temporibus est
saepius. Parcissime ea veteres usi etiam in vocalibus, cum _oedus
vicos_que dicebant, diu deinde servatum ne consonantibus aspirarent, ut
in _Graecis_ et in _triumpis_; erupit brevi tempore nimius usus, ut
_choronae_, _chenturiones_, _praechones_, adhuc quibusdam
inscriptionibus maneant, qua de re Catulli nobile epigramma est. Inde
durat ad nos usque _vehementer_, et _comprehendere_, et _mihi_, nam
_mehe_ quoque pro me apud antiques tragoediarum praecipue scriptores in
veteribus libris invenimus.
In the epigram above referred to Catullus thus satirizes the excessive
use of the aspirate:
Chommoda dicebat, si quando commoda vellet Dicere, et hinsidias Arrius
insidias: Et tum mirifice sperabat se esse locutum, Cum quantum poterat
dixerat hinsidias. Credo sic mater, sic Liber avunculus ejus, Sic
maternus avus dixerat, atque avia. Hoc misso in Syriam requierunt
omnibus aures; Audibant eadem haec leniter et leviter. Nec sibi post
ilia metuebant talia verba, Cum subito adfertur nuntius horribilis,
Ionios fluctus postquam illuc Arrius isset Jam non Ionios esse, sed
On the other hand Quintilian seems disposed to smile at the excess of
'culture' which drops its H's, to class this with other affected
'niceties' of speech, and to regard the whole matter as of slight
[Quint. I. vi. 21, 22.] Multum enim litteratus, qui sine aspiratione et
producta secunda syllaba salutarit (_avere_ est enim), et _calefacere_
dixerit potius quam quod dicimus, et _conservavisse_; his adjiciat
_face_ et _dice_ et similia. Recta est haec via, quis negat? sed adjacet
mollior et magis trita.
Cicero confesses that he himself changed his practice in regard to the
aspirate. He had been accustomed to sound it only with vowels, and to
follow the fathers, who never used it with a consonant; but at length,
yielding to the importunity of his ear, he conceded the right of usage
to the people, and 'kept his learning to himself.'
[Cic. Or. XLVIII. 160.] Quin ego ipse, cum scirem ita majores locutos
esse ut nusquam nisi in vocali aspiratione uterentur, loquebar sic, ut
_pulcros_, _cetegus_, _triumpos_, _Kartaginem_, dicerem; aliquando,
idque sero, convicio aurium cum extorta mihi veritas, usum loquendi
populo concessi, scientiam mihi reservavi.
Gellius speaks of the ancients as having employed the H merely to add a
certain force and life to the word, in imitation of the Attic tongue,
and enumerates some of these words. Thus, he says, they said
_lachrymas_; thus, _sepulchrum_, _aheneum_, _vehement_, _inchoare_,
_helvari_, _hallucinari_, _honera_, _honustum_.
[Gellius II. iii.] In his enim verbis omnibus litterae, seu spiritus
istius nulla ratio visa est, nisi ut firmitas et vigor vocis, quasi
quibusdam nervis additis, intenderetur.
And he tells an interesting anecdote about a manuscript of Vergil:
Sed quoniam _aheni_ quoque exemplo usi sumus, venit nobis in memoriam,
fidum optatumque, multi nominis Romae, grammaticum ostendisse mihi
librum Aeneidos secundum mirandae vetustatis, emptum in Sigillariis XX.
aureis, quem ipsius Vergilii fuisse credebat; in quo duo isti versus cum
ita scripti forent:
"Vestibulum ante ipsum, primoque in limine, Pyrrhus: Exultat telis, et
luce coruscus aena."
Additam supra vidimus H litteram, et _ahera_ factum. Sic in illo quoque
Vergilii versu in optimis libris scriptum invenimus:
"Aut foliis undam tepidi dispumat aheni."
I consonant has the sound of I in the English word _onion_. The
grammarians all express themselves in nearly the same terms as to its
[Serg. Explan. in Art. Donat. Keil. v. IV. p. 520.] I et U varias habent
potestates: nam sunt aliquando vocales, aliquando consonantes, aliquando
mediae, aliquando nihil, aliquando digammae, aliquando duplices. Vocales
sunt quando aut singulae positae syllabam faciunt aut aliis
consonantibus sociantur, ut _Iris_ et _unus_ et _Isis_ et _urna_.
Consonantes autem sunt, cum aliis vocalibus in una syllaba praeponuntur,
aut cum ipsae inter se in una syllaba conjunguntur. Nisi enim et prior
sit et in una syllaba secum habeat conjunctam vocalem, non erit
consonans I vel U. Nam _Iulhis_ et _Iarbas_ cum dicis, I consonans non
est, licet praecedat, quia in una syllaba secum non habet conjunctam
vocalem, sed in altera consequentem.
The grammarians speak of I consonant as different in sound and effect
from the vowel I; and, as they do not say how it differs, we naturally
infer the variation to be that which follows in the nature of things
from its position and office, as in the kindred Romance languages.
[Keil. v. II. p. 13.] Sic I et U, quamvis unum nomen et unam habeant
figuram tam vocales quam consonantes, tamen, quia diversum sonum et
diversam vim habent in metris et in pronuntiatione syllabarum, non sunt
in eisdem meo judicio elementis accipiendae, quamvis et Censorino,
doctissimo artis grammaticae, idem placuit.
It would seem to be by reason of this twofold nature (vowel and
consonant) that I has its 'lengthening' power. Probus explains the
[Keil. v. IV. p. 220.] Praeterea vim naturamque I litterae vocalis
plenissime debemus cognoscere, quod duarum interdum loco consonantium
ponatur. Hanc enim ex suo numero vocales duplicem litteram mittunt, ut
cetera elementa litterarum singulas duplices mittunt, de quibus suo
disputavimus loco. Illa ergo ratione I littera duplicem sonum designat,
una quamvis figura sit, si undique fuerit cincta vocalibus, ut
_acerrimus Aiax_, et
"Aio te, Eacida, Romanes vincere posse."
Again in the commentaries on Donatus we find:
[Keil. v. IV. p. 421.] Plane sciendum est quod I inter duas posita
vocales in una parte orationis pro duabus est consonantibus, ut
Priscian tells us that earlier it was, as we know, the custom to write
[Keil. v. III. p. 467.] Antiqui solebant duas II scribere, et alteram
priori subjungere, alteram praeponere sequenti, ut _Troiia_, _Maiia_,
And Quintilian says:
[Quint. I. iv. 11.] Sciat etiam Ciceroni placuisse _aiio Maiiam_ que
geminata I scribere.
This doubling of the sound of I, natural, even unavoidable, between
vowels, gives us the consonant effect (as vowel, uniting with the
preceding, as consonant, introducing the following, vowel).
K has the same sound as in English.
The grammarians generally agree that K is a superfluous, or at least
unnecessary, letter, its place being filled by C. Diomedes says:
[Keil. v. I. pp. 423, 424.] Ex his quibusdam supervacuae videntur K et
Q, quod C littera harum locum possit implere.
K consonans muta supervacua, qua utimur quando A correpta sequitur, ut
_Kalendae_, _caput_, _calumniae_.
Its only use is as an initial and sign of certain words, and it is
followed by short A only.
[I. iii. 23.] K autem dicitur monophonos, quia nulli vocali jungitur
nisi soli A brevi: et hoc ita ut ab ea pars orationis incipit, aliter
autem non recte scribitur.
[Keil. v. II. p. 36.] K supervacua est, ut supra diximus: quae quamvis
scribetur nullam aliam vim habet quam C.
And Quintilian speaks of it. as a mere sign, but says some think it
should be used when A follows, as initial:
[Quint. I. iv. 9.] Et K, quae et ipsa quorundam nominum nota est.
[Quint. I. vii. 10.] Nam K quidem in nullis verbis utendum puto nisi
quae significat etiam ut sola ponatur. Hoc eo non omisi quod quidam eam
quotiens A sequatur necessariam credunt, cum sit C littera, quae ad
omnes vocales vim suam perferat.
This use of K, as an initial, and in certain words, was regarded
somewhat in the light of a literary 'fancy.' Priscian says of it:
[Keil. v. II. p. 12.] Et K quidem penitus supervacua est; nulla enim
videtur ratio cur A sequente haec scribi debeat: _Carthago_ enim et
_caput_ sive per C sive per K scribantur nullam faciunt nec in sono nec
in potestate ejusdem consonantis differentiam.
L is pronounced as in English, only more distinctly and with the tongue
more nearly approaching the teeth. The sound is thus given by
[Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] Sequetur L, quae validum nescio quid partem palati
qua primordium dentibus superis est lingua trudente, diducto ore
But it varies according to its position in the force and distinctness
with which it is uttered. Pliny and others recognize three degrees of
[Keil. v. II. p. 29.] L triplicem, ut Plinius videtur, sonum habet:
exilem, quando geminatur secundo loco posita, ut _ille_, _Metellus_;
plenum, quando finit nomina vel syllabas, et quando aliquam habet ante
se in eadem syllaba consonantem, ut _sol_, _silva_, _flavus_, _clarus_;
medium in aliis, ut _lectum_, _lectus_.
Pompeius, in his commentaries on Donatus, makes nearly the same
statement, when treating of '_labdacism_':
[Keil. v. V. p. 394.] _Labdacismum_ vitium in eo esse dicunt quod eadem
littera vel subtilius, a quibusdam, vel pinguius, ecfertur. Et re vera
alterutrum vitium quibusdam gentibus est. Nam ecce Graeci subtiliter
hunc sonum ecferunt. Ubi enim dicunt _ille mihi dixit_ sic sonat duae
_ll_ primae syllabae quasi per unum _l_ sermo ipse consistet. Contra
alii sic pronuntiant _ille meum comitatus iter_, et _illum ego per
flammas eripui_ ut aliquid illic soni etiam consonantis ammiscere
videantur, quod pinguissimae prolationis est. Romana lingua
emendationem habet in hoc quoque distinctione. Nam alicubi pinguius,
alicubi debet exilius, proferri: pinguius cum vel _b_ sequitur, ut in
_albo_; vel _c_, ut in _pulchro_; vel _f_, ut in _adelfis_; vel _g_, ut
in _alga_; vel _m_, ut in _pulmone_; vel _p_, ut in _scalpro_: exilius
autem proferenda est ubicumque ab ea verbum incipit; ut in _lepore_,
_lana_, _lupo_; vel ubi in eodem verbo et prior syllaba in hac finitur,
et sequens ab ea incipit, ut _ille_ et _Allia_.
In another place he speaks of the Africans as 'abounding' in this vice,
and of their pronouncing _Metellus_ and _Catullus_; _Metelus_,
[Keil. v. v. p. 287.] In his etiam agnoscimus gentium vitia;
_labdacismis_ scatent Afri, raro est ut aliquis dicat _l_: per geminum
_l_ sic loquuntur Romani, omnes Latini sic loquuntur, _Catullus_,
_M_ is pronounced as in English, except before _q_, where it has a nasal
sound, and when final.
[Mar. Vict. Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] _M_ impressis invicem labiis mugitum
quendam intra oris specum attractis naribus dabit.
But this 'mooing' sound, in which so many of their words ended, was not
altogether pleasing to the Roman ear. Quintilian exclaims against it:
[Quint, XII. x. 31.] Quid quod pleraque nos illa quasi mugiente littera
cludimus _m_, qua nullum Graece verbum cadit.
The offensive sound was therefore gotten rid of, as far as possible, by
obscuring the M at the end of a word. Priscian. speaks of three sounds
of M,--at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of a word:
[Prisc. Keil. v. II. p. 29.] M obscurum in extremitate dictionum sonat,
ut _templum_, apertum in principio, ut _magnus_; mediocre in mediis, ut
This 'obscuring' led in verse to the cutting off of the final syllable
in M when the following word began with a vowel,--as Priscian remarks in
the same connection:
Finales dictionis subtrahitur M in metro plerumque, si a vocali incipit
sequens dictio, ut:
"Illum expirantem transfixo pectore flammas."
Yet, he adds, the ancients did not always withdraw the sound:
Vetustissimi tamen non semper eam subtrahebant, Ennius in X Annalium:
"Insigneita fere tum milia militum octo Duxit delectos bellum tolerare
The M was not, however, entirely ignored. Thus Quintilian says:
[Quint, IX. iv. 40.] Atqui eadem illa littera, quotiens ultima est et
vocalem verbi sequentis ita contingit ut in eam transire possit,
etiamsi scribitur tamen parum exprimitur, ut _multum ille_ et _quantum
erat_; adeo ut paene cujusdam novae litterae sonum reddat. Neque enim
eximitur, sed obscuratur, et tantum aliqua inter duas vocales velut
nota est, ne ipsae coeant.
It is a significant fact in this connection that M is the only one of
the liquids (semivowels) that does not allow a long vowel before it.
Priscian, mentioning several peculiarities of this semivowel, thus
speaks of this one:
[Priscian. Keil. v. II. p. 23.] Nunquam tamen eadem M ante se natura
longam (vocalem) patitur in eadem syllaba esse, ut _illam_, _artem_,
_puppim_, _illum_, _rem_, _spem_, _diem_, cum aliae omnes semivocales
hoc habent, ut _Maecenas_, _Paean_, _sol_, _pax_, _par_.
That the M was really sounded we may infer from Pompeius (on Donatus)
where, treating of _myotacism_, he calls it the careless pronunciation
of M between two vowels (at the end of one word and the beginning of
another), the running of the words together in such a way that M seems
to begin the second, rather than to end the first:
[Keil. v. V. p. 287.] Ut si dices _hominem amicum_, _oratorem optimum_.
Non enim videris dicere _hominem amicum_, sed _homine mamicum_, quod est
incongruum et inconsonans. Similiter _oratorem optimum_ videris _oratore
He also warns against the vice of dropping the M altogether. One must
neither say _homine mamicum_, nor _homine amicum_:
Plerumque enim aut suspensione pronuntiatur aut exclusione.... Nos quid
sequi debemus? Quid? per suspensionem tantum modo. Qua ratione? Quia si
dixeris per suspensionem _homimem amicum_, et haec vitium vitabis,
_myotacismum_, et non cades in aliud vitium, id est in hiatum.
From such passages it would seem that the final syllable ending in M is
to be lightly and rapidly pronounced, the M not to be run over upon the
Some hint of the sound may perhaps be got from the Englishman's
pronunciation of such words as Birmingham (Birminghm), Sydenham
(Sydenhm), Blenheim (Blenhm).
N, except when followed by F or S, is pronounced as in English, only
that it is more dental.
[Mar. Vict. Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] N vero, sub convexo palati lingua
inhaerente, gemino naris et oris spiritu explicabitur.
Naturally, as with us, it is more emphatic at the beginning and end of
words than in the middle (as, _Do not give the tendrils the wrong turn.
Is not the sin condemned?_)
[Keil. v. II. p. 29.] N quoque plenior in primis sonat, et in ultimis,
partibus syllabarum, ut _nomen_, _stamen_; exilior in mediis, ut
As in English, before a guttural (C, G, Q, X), N is so affected as to
leave its proper sound incomplete (the tongue not touching the roof of
the mouth) while it draws the guttural, so to speak, into itself, as in
the English words _concord_, _anger_, _sinker_, _relinquish_, _anxious_.
[Nigidius apud Gell. XIX. xiv. 7.] Inter litteram N et G est alia vis,
ut in nomine _anguis_ et _angaria_ et _anchorae_ et _increpat_ et
_incurrit_ et _ingenuus_. In omnibus enim his non verum N sed
adulterinum ponitur. Nam N non esse lingua indicio est. Nam si ea
littera esset lingua palatum tangeret.
Not only the Greeks, but some of the early Romans, wrote G, instead of
N, in this position, and gave to the letter so used a new name, _agma_.
[Keil. v. II. p. 29.] Sequente G vel C, pro ea (N) G scribunt Graeci et
quidam tamen vetustissimi auctores Romani euphoniae causa bene hoc
facientes, ut _Agchises_, _agceps_, _aggulus_, _aggens_, quod ostendit
Varro in _Primo de Origine Linguae Latinae_ his verbis: Ut Ion scribit,
quinquavicesima est littera, quam vocant "_agma_," cujus forma nulla
est et vox communis est Graecis et Latinis, ut his verbis: _aggulus_,
_aggens_, _agguilla_, _iggerunt_. In ejusmodi Graeci et Accius noster
bina G scribunt, alii N et G, quod in hoc veritatem videre facile non
This custom did not, however, prevail among the Romans, and Marius
Victorinus gives it as his opinion that it is better to use N than G, as
more correct to the ear, and avoiding ambiguity (the GG being then left
for the natural expression of double G).
[Mar. Vict. I. iii. 70.] Familiarior est auribus nostris N potius quam
G, ut _anceps_ et _ancilla_ et _anguia_ et _angustum_ et _anquirit_ et
_ancora_, et similia, per N potius quam per G scribite: sicut per duo G
quotiens duorum G sonum aures exigent, ut _aggerem_, _suggillat_,
_suggerendum_, _suggestion_, et similia.
N before F or S seems to have become a mere nasal, lengthening the
Cicero speaks of this as justified by the ear and by custom, rather than
[Cic. Or. XLVIII.] Quid vero hoc elegantius, quod non fit natura, sed
quodam instituto? _indoctus_ dicimus brevi prima littera, _insanis_
producta: _inhumanus_ brevi, _infelix_ longa: et, ne multis, quibus in
verbis eae primae litterae sunt quae in _sapiente_ atque _felice_,
producte dicitur; in ceteris omnibus breviter: itemque _composuit_,
_consuevit_, _concrepit_, _confecit_. Consule veritatem, reprehendet;
refer ad aures, probabunt. Quaere, cur? Ita se dicent juvari. Voluptati
autem aurium morigerari debet oratio.
In Donatus we have the same fact stated, with the same reason:
[Keil. v. IV. p. 442.] Quod magis aurium indicio quam artis ratione
Thus we find numeral abverbs and others ending either in _iens_ or
_ies_, as _centiens_ or _centies_, _decies_ or _deciens_, _millies_ or
_milliens_, _quotiens_ or _quoties_, _totiens_ or _toties_. Other words,
in like manner, participles and nouns, are written either with or
without the N before S, as _contunsum_ or _contusum_, _obtunsus_ or
_obtusus_, _thesaurus_ or _thensaurus_ (the _ens_ is regularly
represented in Greek by [Greek transliteration: aes]); _infans_ or
_infas_, _frons_ or _fros_. In late Latin the N was frequently dropped
in participle endings. Donatus says that this nasal sound of N should be
[Keil. v. IV. p. 442.] Illud vehementissime observare debemus, ut _con_
et _in_ quotiensque post se habent S vel F litteram, videamus
quemadmodum pronuntientur. Plerumque enim non observantes in
GN in the terminations _gnus_, _gna_, _gnum_, has, according to
Priscian, the power to lengthen the penultimate vowel.
[Prisc. I.] _Gnus_ quoque, vel _gna_, vel _gnum_, terminantia, longam
habent vocalem penultimam; ut a _regno_, _regnum_; a _sto_, _stagnum_;
a _bene_, _benignus_; a _male_, _malignus_; ab _abiete_, _abiegnus_;
(Perhaps the liquid sound, as in canon.)
P is pronounced as in English.
[Mar. Vict. Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] E quibus B et P litterae ... dispari
inter se oris officio exprimuntur. Nam prima exploso e mediis labiis
sono; sequens, compresso ore, velut introrsum attracto vocis ictu,
Q has the sound of English Q in the words _quire_, _quick_. Priscian
[Keil. v. II. p. 12.] K enim et Q, quamvis figura et nomine videantur
aliquam habere differentiam, cum C tamen eandem, tam in sono vocum, quam
in metro, potestatem continent.
[id. ib. p. 36.] De Q quoque sufficienter supra tractatum est, quae
nisi eandem vim haberet quam C.
Marius Victorinus says:
[Keil. v. VI. p. 5.] Item superfluas quasdam videntur retinere, X et K
et Q... Pro K et Q, C littera facillime haberetur; X autem per C et S.
[Id. ib. p. 32.] K et Q supervacue numero litterarum inseri doctorum
plerique contendunt, scilicet quod C littera harum officium possit
The grammarians tell us that K and Q are always found at the beginning
of a syllable:
[Prisc. Keil. v. III. p. 111.] Q et K semper initio syllabarum
They say also that the use of Q was more free among the earlier Romans,
who placed it as initial wherever U followed, --as they placed K
wherever A* followed,--but that in the later, established, usage, its
presence was conditioned upon a vowel after the U in the same syllable:
[Donat. Keil. v. IV. p. 442.] Namque illi Q praeponebant quotiens U
sequebatur, ut _quum_; nos vero non possumus Q praeponere nisi ut U
sequatur et post ipsam alia vocalis, ut _quoniam_.
[Keil. v. I. p. 425.] Q consonans muta, ex C et U litteris composita,
supervacua, qua utimur quando U et altera vocalis in una syllaba
junguntur, ut _Quirinus_.
R is trilled, as in Italian or French:
[Mar. Vict. Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] Sequetur R, quae, vibratione vocis in
palato linguae fastigio, fragorem tremulis ictibus reddit.
(This proper trilling of the R is most important.)
S seems to have had, almost, if not quite, invariably the sharp sound of
the English S in _sing_, _hiss_.
In Greek words written also with Z, as _Smyrna_ (also written _Zmyrna_),
it probably had the Z sound, and possibly in a few Latin words, as
_rosa_, _miser_, but this is not certain. Marius Victorinus thus sets
forth the difference between S and X (CS):
[Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] Dehinc duae supremae, S et X, jure junguntur. Nam
vicino inter se sonore attracto sibilant rictu, ita tamen si prioris
ictus pone dentes excitatus ad medium lenis agitetur, sequentis autem
crasso spiritu hispidum sonet, quia per conjunctionem C et S, quarum et
locum implet et vim exprimit, ut sensu aurium ducemur, efficitur.
Donatus, according to Pompeius, complains of the Greeks as sounding the
S too feebly:
[Keil. v. V. p. 394.] Item S litteram Graeci exiliter ecferunt adeo ut
cum dicunt _jussit_ per unum S dicere existimas.
This would indicate that the Romans pronounced the sibilant distinctly,-
-yet not too emphatically, for Quintilian says, 'the master of his art
(of speaking) will not fondly prolong or dally with his S':
[Quint. I. xi. 6.] Ne illas quidem circa S litteram delicias hic
T is pronounced like the English T pure, except that the tongue should
approach the teeth more nearly.
[Pompei. _Comm. ad Donat._ Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] D autem et T, quibus,
ut ita dixerim, vocis vicinitas quaedam est, linguae sublatione ac
positione distinguuntur. Nam cum summos atque imos conjunctim dentes
suprema sua parte pulsaverit D litteram exprimit. Quotiens autem
sublimata partem qua superis dentibus est _origo_ contigerit, T sonore
From the same writer we learn that some pronounced the T too heavily,
giving it a 'thick sound':
[Keil. v. V. p. 394.] Ecce in littera T aliqui ita pingue nescio quid
sonant, ut cum dicunt _etiam_ nihil de media syllaba infringant.
By which we understand that the T was wrongly uttered with a kind of
effort, such as prevented its gliding on to the I.
TH nearly as in _then_, not as in _thin_.
U (consonant) or V.
That the letter U performed the office of both vowel and consonant all
the grammarians agree, and state the fact in nearly the same terms.
Priscian says that they (I and U) seem quite other letters when used as
consonants, and that it makes a great difference in which of these ways
they are used:
[Keil. v. II. p. 13.] Videntur tamen I et U cum in consonantes transeunt
quantum ad potestatem, quod maximum est in elementis, aliae litterae
esse praeter supra dictis; multum enim interest utrum vocales sint an
The grammarians also state that this consonant U was represented by the
Greek digamma, which the Romans called _vau_ also.
Marius Victorinus says:
[I. iii. 44.] Nam littera U vocalis est, sicut A, E, I, O, sed eadem
vicem obtinet consonantis: cujus potestatis notam Graeci habent [Greek
letter: digamma], nostri _vau_ vocant, et alii _digamma_; ea per se
scripta non facit syllabam, anteposita autem vocali facit, ut [Greek in
which w = digamma:* wamaxa, wekaebolos] et [Greek, w = digamma:*
welenae]. Nos vero, qui non habemus hujus vocis nomen aut notam, in
ejus locum quotiens una vocalis pluresve junctae unam syllabam faciunt,
substituimus U litteram.
Now it is contended by some that this _digamma_, or _vau_, was merely
taken as a symbol, somewhat arbitrarily perhaps, and that it did not
indicate a particular sound, but might stand for anything which the
Romans chose to represent by it; and that therefore it gives us no
certain indication of what the Latin U consonant was. But we are
expressly told that it had the force and sound of the Greek _digamma_.
In Marius Victorinus we find:
[Keil. v. VI. p. 23.] F autem apud Aeolis dumtaxat idem valere quod apud
nos _vau_ cum pro consonante scribitur, vocarique [Greek
transliteration: bau] et _digamma_.
Priscian explains more fully:
[Keil. v. II. p. 15.] U vero loco consonantis posita eandem prorsus in
omnibus vim habuit apud Latinos quam apud Aeolis _digamma_. Unde a
plerisque ei nomen hoc datur quod apud Aeolis habuit olim [Greek
letter: digamma] _digamma_, id est _vau_, ab ipsius voce profectum
teste Varrone et Didymo, qui id ei nomen esse ostendunt. Pro quo Caesar
hanc [Greek letter: digamma rotated 90 degress] figuram scribi voluit,
quod quamvis illi recte visum est tamen consuetude antiqua superavit.
Adeo autem hoc verum est quod pro Aeolico _digamma_ [Greek letter:
digamma] U ponitur.
What then was the sound of this Aeolic _digamma_ or [Greek
transliteration: bau]? Priscian says:
[Keil. v. II. p. 11.] [Greek letter: digamma] Aeolicum _digamma_, quod
apud antiquissimos Latinorum eandem vim quam apud Aeolis habuit. Eum
autem prope sonum quem nunc habet significabat P cum aspiratione, sicut
etiam apud veteres Graecos pro [Greek letter: ph] [Greek letter: p] et
[Greek letter: eta]; unde nunc quoque in Graecis nominibus antiquam
scripturam servamus, pro [Greek: ph] P et H ponentes, ut _Orpheus_,
_Phaethon_ Postea vero in Latinis verbis placuit pro P et H, F scribi,
ut _fama_, _filiu_, _facio_, loco autem _digamma_ U pro consonante,
quod cognatione soni videbatur affinis esse _digamma_ ea littera.
The Latin U consonant is here distinctly stated to be akin to the Greek
_digamma_ ([Greek letter: digamma]) in sound.
Now the office of the Greek _digamma_ was apparently manifold. It stood
for [Greek letter: s, b] (Eng. V), [Greek letter: g, ch, ph], and for
the breathings 'rough' and 'smooth.' Sometimes the sound of the
_digamma_ is given, we are told, where the character itself is not
written. It is said that in the neighborhood of Olympia it is to-day
pronounced, though not written, between two vowels as [Greek letter: b]
(Eng. V). Which of these various sounds should be given the digamma
appears to have been determined by the law of euphony. It was sometimes
written but not sounded (like our H).
The question then is, which of these various sounds of the digamma is
represented by the Latin U consonant, or does it represent all, or none,
Speaking of F, Priscian says:
[Keil. v. II. p. 35.] Antiqui Romanorum Aeolis sequentes loco
aspirationis earn (F) ponebant, effugientes ipsi quoque aspirationem,
et maxime cum consonante recusabant eam proferre in Latino sermone.
Habebat autem haec F littera hunc sonum quem nunc habet U loco
consonantis posita, unde antiqui AF pro AB scribere solebant; sed quia
non potest _vau_, id est _digamma_, in fine syllabae inveniri, ideo
mutata in B. _Sifilum_ quoque pro _sibilum_ teste Nonio Marcello _de
Doctorum Indagine_ dicebant.
[Prisc. Keil. v. II. p. 15.] In B etiam solet apud Aeolis transire
[Greek letter: digamma] _digamma_ quotiens ab [Greek: r] incipit dictio
quae solet aspirari, ut [Greek transliteration: raetor], [Greek
transliteration: braetor] dicunt, quod _digamma_ nisi vocali praeponi
et in principio syllabae non potest. Ideo autem locum transmutavit,
quia B vel _digamma_ post [Greek letter: r] in eadem syllaba
pronuntiari non potest. Apud nos quoque est invenire quod pro U
consonante B ponitur, ut _caelebs_, caelestium vitam ducens, per B
scribitur, quod U consonans ante consonantem poni non potest. Sed etiam
_Bruges_ et _Belena_ antiquissimi dicebant, teste Quintiliano, qui hoc
ostendit in primo _institutionum oratoriarum_: nec mirum, cum B quoque
in U euphoniae causa converti invenimus; ut _aufero_.
[Quint, I. v. 69.] Frequenter autem praepositiones quoque copulatio
ista corrumpit; inde _abstulit_, _aufugit_, _amisit_, cum praepositio
sit ab sola.
It is significant here that Cicero speaks of the change from DU to B as
a contraction. He says:
[Cic. Or. LXV.] Quid vero licentius quam quod hominum etiam nomina
contrahebant, quo essent aptiora? Nam ut _duellum_, _bellum_; et _duis_,
_bis_; sic _Duellium_ eum qui Poenos classe devicit _Bellium_
nominaverunt, cum superiores appellati essent semper _Duellii_.
One cannot but feel in reading the numerous passages in the grammarians
that treat of the sound of U consonant, that if its sound had been no
other than the natural sound of U with consonantal force, they never
would have spent so much time and labor in explaining and elucidating
it. Why did they not turn it off with the simple explanation which they
give to the consonantal I--that of double I? What more natural than to
speak of consonant U as "double U" (as we English do W). But on the
contrary they expressly declare it to have a sound distinct and
peculiar. Quintilian says that even if the form of the Aeolic _digamma_
is rejected by the Romans, yet its force pursues them:
[Quint. XII. x. 29.] Aeolicae quoque litterae qua _servum cervum_que
dicimus, etiamsi forma a nobis repudiata est, vis tamen nos ipsa
He gives it as his opinion that it would have been well to have adopted
the _vau_, and says that neither by the old way of writing (by UO), nor
by the modern way (by servus_ et _cervus_) ea ratione quam reddidi:
neutro sane modo vox quam sentimus efficitur. Nec inutiliter Claudius
Aeolicam illam ad hos usus litteram adjecerat.
And again still more distinctly:
[Id. ib. iv. 7, 8.] At grammatici saltern omnes in hanc descendent
rerum tenuitatem, desintne aliquae nobis necessariae literarum, non cum
Graeca scribimus (tum enim ab iisdem duas mutuamur) sed propriae, in
Latinis, ut in his _seruus_ et _uulgus_ Aeolicum digammon desideratur.
This need of a new symbol, recognized by authorities like Cicero and
Quintilian, is not an insignificant point in the argument.
Marius Victorinus says that Cicero adds U (consonant) to the other five
consonants that are understood to assimilate certain other consonants
coming before them:
[Mar. Vict. I. iv. 64.] Sed propriae sunt cognatae (consonantes) quae
simili figuratione oris dicuntur, ut est B, F, R, M, P, quibus Cicero
adjicit U, non eam quae accipitur pro vocali, sed eam quae consonantis
obtinet vicem, et interposita vocali fit ut aliac quoque consonantes.
He proceeds to illustrate with the proposition OB:
[Id. ib. 67.] OB autem mutatur in cognatas easdem, ut _offert, officit_;
et _ommovet, ommutescit_; et _oppandit, opperitur; ovvertit, ovvius_.
Let any one, keeping in mind the distinctness with which the Romans
uttered doubled consonants, attempt to pronounce _ovvius_ on the theory
of consonant U like English (W) (!).
By the advocates of the W sound of the V much stress is laid upon the
fact that the poets occasionally change the consonant into the vowel U,
and _vice versa_; as Horace, Epode VIII. 2:
"Nivesque deducunt Jovem, nunc mare nunc siluae;"
Or Lucretius, in II. 232:
"Propterea quia corpus aquae naturaque tenvis."
Such single instances suggest, indeed, a common origin in the U and V,
and a poet's license, archaistic perhaps; but no more determine the
ordinary value of the letter than, say, in the English poets the rhyming
of wind with mind, or the making a distinct syllable of the _ed_ in
Another argument used in support of the W sound is taken from the words
of Nigidius Figulus.
He was contending, we are told, that words and names come into being not
by chance, or arbitrarily, but by nature; and he takes, among other
examples, the words _vos_ and _nos_, _tu_ and _ego_, _tibi_ and _mihi_:
[Aul. Gell. X. iv. 4.] _Vos_, inquit, cum dicimus motu quodam oris
conveniente cum ipsius verbi demonstratione utimur, et labias sensim
primores emovemus, ac spiritum atque animam porro versum et ad eos
quibuscum sermonicamur intendimus. At contra cum dicimus _nos_ neque
profuso intentoque flatu vocis, neque projectis labiis pronunciamus; sed
et spiritum et labias quasi intra nosmetipsos coercemus. Hoc idem fit
et in eo quod dicimus _tu_ et _ego_; et _tibi_ et _mihi_. Nam sicuti
cum adnuimus et abnuimus, motus quidem ille vel capitis vel oculorum a
natura rei quam significabat non abhorret; ita in his vocibus, quasi
gestus quidam oris et spiritus naturalis est.
But a little careful examination will show that this passage favors the
other side rather.
The first part of the description: "labias sensim primores emovemus,"
will apply to either sound, _vos_ or _wos_, although better, as will
appear upon consulting the mirror, to _vos_ than to _wos_; but the
second: "ac spiritum atque animam porro versum et ad eos quibuscum
sermonicamur intendimus," will certainly apply far better to _vos_ than
to _wos_. In _wos_ we get the "projectis labiis" to some extent,
although not so marked as in _vos_; but we do not get anything like the
same "profuso intentoque flatu vocis" as in _vos_.
The same may be said of the argument drawn from the anecdote related by
Cicero in his _de Divinatione_:
[Cic. de Div. XL. 84.] Cum M. Crassus exercitum Brundisii imponeret,
quidam in portu caricas Cauno advectas vendens "Cauneas!" clamitabat.
Dicamus, si placet, monitum ab eo Crassum _caveret ne iret_, non fuisse
periturum si omini paruisset.
Now when we remember that Caunos, whence these particular figs came, was
a Greek town; that the fig-seller was very likely a Greek himself
(Brundisium being a Greek port so to speak), but at any rate probably
pronounced the name as it was doubtless always heard; and that U in such
a connection is at present pronounced like our F or V, and we know of no
time when it was pronounced like our U, it is difficult to avoid the
conclusion that the fig-seller was crying "Cafneas!"--a sound far more
suggestive of _Cave-ne-eas_! than "_Cauneas!_" of _Cawe ne eas_!
But beyond the testimony, direct and indirect, of grammarians and
classic writers, an argument against the W sound appears in the fact
that this sound is not found in Greek (from which the _vau_ is
borrowed), nor in Italian or kindred Romance languages.
The initial U in Italian represents not Latin U consonant, but some
other letter, as H, in _uomo_ (for _homo_). On the other hand we find
the V sound, as _vedova_ (from _vidua_),--notice the two V sounds,--or
the U sometimes changed to B, as _serbare_ from _servare_; _bibita_ and
_bevanda_, both from _bibo_.
In French we find the Latin U consonant passing into F, as _ovum_ into
_oeuf_; _novem_ into _neuf_.
It seems not improbable that in Cicero's time and later the consonant U
represented some variation of sound, that its value varied in the
direction of B or F, and possibly, in some Greek words especially, it
was more vocalized, as in _vae!_ (Greek [Greek transliteration: ouai]).
Yet here it is worthy of note that the corresponding words in Italian
are not written with U but with _gu_, as _guai!_
In considering the sound of Latin U consonant we must always keep in
mind that the question is one of time,--not, was U ever pronounced as
English W; but, was it so pronounced in the time of Cicero and Virgil.
Professor Ellis well says: "Any one who wishes to arrive at a conclusion
respecting the Latin consonantal U must learn to pronounce and
distinguish readily the four series of sounds: UA
UE UI UO, WA WE WI WO WU, V'A V'E
V'I V'O V'U, VA VE VI VO VU."
Now the question is: At what point along this line do we find the U
consonant of the golden age? Roby, though not agreeing with Ellis in
rejecting the English W sound, as the representative of that period,
declares himself "quite content to think that a labial V was
provincially contemporary and in the end generally superseded it."
But 'provincialisms' do not seem sufficient to account for the use of
*[Greek letter: b]} for U consonant in inscriptions and in writers of
the first century. For instance, _Nerva_ and _Severus_ in contemporary
inscriptions are written both with *[Greek: ou] and with [Greek letter:
b]: [Greek transliteration: Neroua, Nerba; Seouaeros, Sebaeros]. And in
Plutarch we find numerous instances of [Greek letter: b] taking the
place of [Greek transliteration: ou].
It is true that the instances in which we find [Greek letter: b] taking
the place of [Greek trasnliteration: ou] in the first century, and
earlier, are decidedly in the minority, but when we recollect that
[Greek trasnliteration: ou] was the original and natural representative
of the Latin U, the fact that a change was made at all is of great
weight, and one instance of [Greek letter: b] for U would outweigh a
dozen instances of the old form, OU. That the letter should be changed
in the Greek, even when it had not been in the Latin, seems to make it
certain that the 'Greek ear,' at least, had detected a real variation of
sound from the original U, and one that approached, at least, their
[Greek letter: b] (Eng. V).
Nor, in this connection, should we fail to notice the words in Latin
where U consonant is represented by B, such as _bubile_ from _bovile_,
_defervi_ and _deferbui_ from _deferveo_.
In concluding the argument for the labial V sound of consonantal U, it
may be proper to suggest a fact which should have no weight against a
conclusive argument on the other side, but which might, perhaps, be
allowed to turn the scale nicely balanced. The W sound is not only
unfamiliar but nearly, if not quite, impossible, to the lips of any
European people except the English, and would therefore of necessity
have to be left out of any universally adopted scheme of Latin
pronunciation. Professor Ellis pertinently says: "As a matter of
practical convenience English speakers should abstain from W in Latin,
because no Continental nation can adopt a sound they cannot pronounce."
X has the same sound as in English.
Marius Victorinus says:
[Keil. v. VI. p. 32.] Dehinc duae supremae S et X jure jungentur, nam
vicino inter se sonore attracto sibilant rictu, ita tamen si prioris
ictus pone dentes excitatus ad medium lenis agitetur; sequentis autem
crasso spiritu hispidum sonet qui per conjunctionem C et S, quarum et
locum implet et vim exprimit, ut sensu aurium ducamur efficitur.
[Id. ib. p. 5.] X autem per C et S possemus scribere.
Posteaquam a Graecis [Greek: x], et a nobis x, recepta est, abiit et
illorum et nostra perplexa ratio, et in primis observatio Nigidii, qui
in libris suis x littera non est usus, antiquitatem sequens.
X suffers a long vowel before it, being composed of the c (the only mute
that allows a long vowel before it) and the S.
Z probably had a sound akin to ds in English. After giving the sound of
X as cs, Marius Victorinus goes on to speak of Z thus:
[Keil. v. VI. p. 5.] Sic et z, si modo latino sermoni necessaria esset,
per d et s litteras faceremus.
A syllable in Latin may consist of from one to six letters, as _a_,
_ab_, _ars_, _Mars_, _stans_, _stirps_.
In dividing into syllables, a consonant between two vowels belongs to
the vowel following it. When there are two consonants, the first goes
with the vowel before, the second with the vowel after, unless the
consonants form such a combination as may stand at the beginning of a
word (Latin or Greek), that is, as maybe uttered with a single impulse,
as one letter; in which case they go, as one, with the vowel following.
An apparent exception is made in the case of compound words. These are
divided into their component parts when these parts remain intact.
On these points Priscian says:
Si antecedens syllaba terminal in consonantem necesse est et sequentem a
consonante incipere; ut _artus_, _ille_, _arduus_; nisi fit compositum:
ut _abeo_, _adeo_, _pereo_. Nam in simplicibus dictionibus necesse est s
et c ejusdem esse syllabae, ut _pascua_, _luscus_. M quoque, vel p, vel
t, in simplicibus dictionibus, si antecedats, ejusdem est syllabae, ut
_cosmos_, _perspirare_, _testis_.
In semivocalibus similiter sunt praepositivae aliis semivocalibus in
eadem syllaba; ut m sequente n, ut _Mnesteus_, _amnis_.
Each letter has its 'time,' or 'times.' Thus a short vowel has the time
of one beat (_mora_); a long vowel, of two beats; a single consonant, of
a half beat; a double consonant, of one beat. Theoretically, therefore,
a syllable may have as many as three, or even four, _tempora_; but
practically only two are recognized. All over two are disregarded and
each syllable is simply counted 'short' (one beat) or 'long' (two
[Keil. v. II. p. 52.] In longis natura vel positione duo sunt tempora,
ut _do_, _ars_; duo semis, quando post vocalem natura longam una
sequitur consonans, ut _sol_; tria, quando post vocalem natura longam
duae consonantes sequuntur, vel una duplex, ut _mons_, _rex_. Tamen in
metro necesse est unamquamque syllabam vel unius vel duorum accipi
The grammarians tell us that every syllable has three dimensions,
length, breadth and height, or _tenor_, _spiritus_, _tempus_:
[Keil. Supp. p. XVIII.] Habet etiam unaquaeque syllaba altitudinem,
latitudinem et longitudinem; altitudinem in tenore; crassitudinem vel
latitudinem, in spiritu; longitudinem in tempore.
[Keil. v. I. p. 430.] Accentus est dictus ab accinendo, quod sit quasi
quidam cujusque syllabae cantus.
[Cic. Or. XVIII.] Ipsa enim natura, quasi modularetur hominem orationem,
in omni verbo posuit acutam vocem, nec una plus, nec a postrema syllaba
The grammarians recognize three accents; but practically we need take
account of but two, inasmuch as the third is merely negative. The
syllable having the grave accent is, as we should say, unaccented.
[Diom. Keil. v. I. p. 430.] Sunt vero tres, acutus, gravis, et qui ex
duobus constat circumflexus. Ex his, acutus in correptis semper,
interdum productis syllabis versatur; inflexus (or 'circumflexus'), in
his quae producuntur; gravis autem per se nunquam consistere in ullo
verbo potest, sed in his in quibus inflexus est, aut acutus ceteras
The same writer thus gives the place of each accent:
[Keil. v. I. p. 431.] (Acutus) apud Latinos duo tantum loca tenent,
paenultimum et antepaenultimum; circumflexus autem, quotlibet
syllabarum sit dictio, non tenebit nisi paenultimum locum. Omnis igitur
pars orationis hanc rationem pronuntiationis detinet. Omnis vox
monosyllaba aliquid significans, si brevis est, acuetur, ut _ab, mel,
fel;_ et, si positione longa fuerit, acutum similiter tenorem habebit,
ut _ars, pars, pix, nix, fax_. Sin autem longa natura fuerit,
flectetur, ut _lux, spes, flos, sol, mons, fons, lis_.
Omnis vox dissyllaba priorem syllabam aut acuit aut flectit. Acuit, vel
cum brevis est utraque, ut _deus, citus, datur, arat;_ vel cum positione
longa est utraque, ut _sollers;_ vel alterutra positione longa dum ne
natura longa sit, prior, ut _pontus;_ posterior, ut _cohors_. Si vero
prior syllaba natura longa et sequens brevis fuerit, flectitur prior,
ut _luna, Roma_.
In trisyllabis autem et tetrasyllabis et deinceps, secunda ab ultima
semper observanda est. Haec, si natura longa fuerit, inflectitur, ut
_Romanus, Cethegus, marinus, Crispinus, amicus, Sabinus, Quirinus,
lectica_. Si vero eadem paenultima positione longa fuerit, acuetur, ut
_Metellus, Catullus, Marcellus_; ita tamen si positione longa non ex
muta et liquida fuerit. Nam mutabit accentum, ut _latebrae, tenebrae_.
Et si novissima natura longa itemque paenultima, sive natura sive
positione longa fuerit, paenultima tantum acuetur, non inflectetur;
sic, natura, ut _Fidenae_,
_Athenae_, _Thebae_, _Cymae_; positione, ut _tabellae_, _fenestrae_.
Sin autem media et novissima breves fuerint, prima servabit acutum
tenorem, ut _Sergius_, _Mallius_, _ascia_, _fuscina_, _Julius_,
_Claudius_. Si omnes tres syllabae longae fuerint, media acuetur, ut
_Romani_, _legati_, _praetores_, _praedones_.
Priscian thus defines the accents:
[Keil. v. III. p. 519.] Acutus namque accentus ideo inventus est quod
acuat sive elevet syllabam; gravis vero eo quod deprimat aut deponat;
circumflexus ideo quod deprimat et acuat.
Then after giving the place of the accent he notes some disturbing
influences, which cause exceptions to the general rule:
[Keil. v. III. pp. 519-521.] Tres quidem res accentuum regulas
conturbant; distinguendi ratio; pronuntiandi ambiguitas; atque
Ratio namque distinguendi legem accentuum saepe conturbat. Siquis
pronuntians dicat _pone_ et _ergo_, quod apud Latinos in ultima syllaba
nisi discretionis causa accentus poni non potest: ex hoc est quod
diximus _pone_ et _ergo_. Ideo _pone_ dicimus ne putetur verbum esse
imperativi modi, hoc est _pone_; _ergo_ ideo dicimus ne putetur
conjunctio rationalis, quod est _ergo_.
Ambiguitas vero pronuntiandi legem accentuum saepe conturbat. Siquis
dicat _interealoci_, qui nescit, alteram partem dicat _interea_,
alteram _loci_, quod non separatim sed sub uno accentu pronuntiandum
est, ne ambiguitatem in sermone faciat.
Necessitas pronuntiationis regulam corrumpit, ut puta siquis dicat in
primis _doctus_, addat _que_ conjunctionem, dicatque _doctusque_, ecce
in pronuntiatione accentum mutavit, cum non in secunda syllaba, sed in
prima, accentum habere debuit.
He also states the law that determines the kind of accent to be used:
[Id. ib. p. 521.] Syllaba quae correptam vocalem habet acuto accentu
pronuntiatur, ut _pax_, _fax_, _pix_, _nix_, _dux_, _nux_, quae etiam
tali accentu pronuntianda est, quamvis sit longa positione, quia
naturaliter brevis est. Quae vero naturaliter producta est circumflexo
accentu exprimenda est ut, _res_, _dos_, _spes_. Dissyllabae vero quae
priorem productam habent et posteriorem correptam, priorem syllabam
circumflectunt, ut _meta_, _Creta_. Illae vero quae sunt ambae longae
vel prior brevis et ulterior longa acuto accento pronuntiandae sunt, ut
_nepos_, _leges_, _reges_. Hae vero quae sunt ambae breves similiter
acuto accentu proferuntur, ut _bonus_, _melos_. Sed notandum quod si
prior sit longa positione non circumflexo, sed acuto, accentu
pronuntianda est, ut _arma_, _arcus_, quae, quamvis sit longa
positione, tamen exprimenda est tali accentu quia non est naturalis.
Trisyllabae namque et tetrasyllabae sive deinceps, si paenultimam
correptam habuerint, antepaenultimam acuto accentu proferunt, ut
_Tullius_, _Hostilius_. Nam paenultima, si positione longa fuerit,
acuetur, antepaenultima vero gravabitur, ut _Catullus_, _Metellus_. Si
vero ex muta et liquida longa in versu esse constat, in oratione quoque
accentum mutat, ut _latebrae_, _tenebrae_. Syllaba vero ultima, si
brevis sit et paenultimam naturaliter longam habuerit ipsam paenultimam
circumflectit, ut _Cethegus_, _perosus_. Ultima quoque, si naturaliter
longa fuerit, paenultimam acuet, ut _Athenae_, _Mycenae_. Ad hanc autem
rem arsis et thesis necessariae. Nam in unaquaque parte oratione arsis
et thesis sunt, non in ordine syllabarum, sed in pronuntiatione: velut
in hac parte _natura_, ut quando dico _natu_ elevatur vox, et est arsis
intus; quando vero sequitur _ra_ vox deponitur, et est thesis deforis.
Quantum, autem suspenditur vox per arsin tantum deprimitur per thesin.
Sed ipsa vox quae per dictiones formatur donee accentus perficiatur in
arsin deputatur, quae autem post accentum sequitur in thesin.
In the matter of exceptions to the rule that accent does not fall on the
ultimate, we find a somewhat wide divergence of opinion among the
grammarians. Some of them give numerous exceptions, particularly in the
distinguishing of parts of speech, as, for instance, between the same
word used as adverb or preposition, as _ante_ and _ante_; or between the
same form as occurring in nouns and verbs, as _reges_ and _reges_; and
in final syllables contracted or curtailed, as _finit_ (for _finivit_).
But since on this point the grammarians do not agree among themselves,
either as to number or class of exceptions, or even as to the manner of
making them, we may treat this matter as of no great importance (as in
English, we please ourselves in saying _perfect_ or _perfect_). And here
it may be said that due attention to the quantity will of itself often
regulate the accent in doubtful cases; as when we say _doce_, if we duly
shorten the o and lengthen the e the effect will be correct, whether the
ear of the grammarian detect accent on the final syllable, or not. For
as Quintilian well says:
Nam ut color oculorum indicio, sapor palati, odor narium dinoscitur, ita
sonus aurium arbitrio subjectus est.
But besides the length of the syllable, and the place and quality of the
accent, another matter claims attention.
In English all that is required is to know the place of the accent,
which is simply distinguished by greater stress of voice. This
peculiarity of our language makes it more difficult for us than for
other peoples to get the Latin accent, which is one of pitch.
In Latin the acute accent means that on the syllable thus accented you
raise the pitch; the grave indicates merely the lower tone; the
circumflex, that the voice is first raised, then depressed, on the same
syllable. To quote again the passage from Priscian:
[Keil. v. in. p. 519.] Acutus namque accentus ideo inventus est quod
acuat sive elevet syllabam; gravis vero eo quod deprimat aut deponet;
circumflexus ideo quod deprimat et acuat.
In conclusion of this part of the work the following anecdotes from
Aulus Gellius are given, as serving to show that to the rules of classic
Roman pronunciation there were exceptions, apparently more or less
arbitrary, some--perhaps many--of which we may not now hope to discover;
and as serving still more usefully to show, by the stress laid upon
points of comparative insignificance, that exceptions were rare, such as
even scholars could afford to disagree upon, and not such as to affect
the general tenor of the language. So that we are encouraged to believe
that, as the English language may be well and even elegantly spoken by
those whose speech still includes scores, if not hundreds, of variations
in pronunciation, in sounds of letters or in accent, so we may hope to
pronounce the Latin with some good degree of satisfaction, whether, for
instance, we say _quiesco_ or _qui'esco_, _actito_ or _actito_:
[Aul. Cell. VI. xv.] Amicus noster, homo multi studii atque in bonarum
disciplinarum opere frequens, verbum _quiescit_ usitate e littera
correpta dixit. Alter item amicus homo in doctrinis, quasi in
praestigiis, mirificus, communiumque vocum respuens nimis et
fastidiens, barbare eum dixisse opinatus est; quoniam producere
debuisset, non corripere. Nam _quiescit_ ita oportere dici praedicavit,
ut _calescit_, _nitescit_, _stupescit_, atque alia hujuscemodi multa.
Id etiam addebat, quod _quies_ e producto, non brevi, diceretur. Noster
autem, qua est omnium rerum verecunda mediocritate, ne si Aelii quidem
Cincii et Santrae dicendum ita censuissent obsecuturum sese fuisse ait,
contra perpetuam Latinae linguae consuetudinem. Neque se tam insignite
locuturum, absona aut inaudita ut diceret. Litteras autem super hac re
fecit, item inter haec exercitia quaedam ludicra; et _quiesco_ non esse
his simile quae supra posui, nee a _quiete_ dictum, sed ab eo
_quietem_; Graecaeque vocis [Greek: eschon kai eskon], lonice a verbo
[Greek: escho ischo] et modum et originem verbum illud habere
demonstravit. Rationibusque haud sane frigidis docuit _quiesco_ e
littera longa dici non convenire.
[Aul. Gell. IX. vi.] Ab eo, quod est _ago_ et _egi_, verba sunt quae
appellant grammatici frequentativa, _actito_ et _actitavi_. Haec quosdam
non sane indoctos viros audio ita pronuntiare ut primam in his litteram
corripiant; rationemque dicant, quoniam in verbo principali, quod est
_ago_, prima littera breviter pronuntiatur. Cur igitur ab eo quod est
_edo_ et _ungo_, in quibus verbis prima littera breviter dicitur,
_esito_ et _unctito_, quae sunt eorum frequentativa prima littera longa
promimus? et contra, _dictito_, ab eo verbo quod est _dico_, correpte
dicimus? Num ergo potius _actito_ et _actitavi_ producenda sunt?
quoniam frequentativa ferme omnia eodem modo in prima syllaba dicuntur,
quo participia praeteriti temporis ex iis verbis unde ea profecta sunt
in eadem syllaba pronuntiantur; sicut _lego_, _lectus_, _lectito_
facit; _ungo_, _unctus_, _unctito_; _scribo_, _scriptus_, _scriptito_;
_moneo_, _monitus_, _monito_; _pendeo_, _pensus_, _pensito_; _edo_,
_esus_, _esito_; _dico_, autem, _dictus_, _dictito_ facit; _gero_,
_gestus_, _gestito_; _veho_, _vectus_, _vectito_; _rapio_, _raptus_,
_raptito_; _capio_, _captus_, _captito_; _facio_, _factus_, _factito_.
Sic igitur _actito_ producte in prima syllaba pronuntiandum, quoniam ex
eo fit quod est _ago_ et _actus_.
HOW TO USE IT.
The directions now to be given may be fittingly introduced by a few
paragraphs from Professor Munro's pamphlet on the pronunciation of
Latin, already more than once quoted from. He says--and part of this has
been cited before:
"We know exactly how Cicero, or Quintilian did or could spell; we know
the syllable on which they placed the accent of almost every word; and
in almost every case we already follow them in this. I have the
conviction that in their best days philological people took vast pains
to make the writing exactly reproduce the sounding; and that if
Quintilian or Tacitus spelt a word differently from Cicero or Livy, he
also spoke it so far differently. With the same amount of evidence,
direct and indirect, we have for Latin, it would not, I think, be worth
anybody's while to try to recover the pronunciation of French or
English; it might, I think, be worth his while to try to recover that of
German or Italian, in which sound and spelling accord more nearly, and
accent obeys more determinable laws."
"I am convinced," he says in another place, "that the mainstay of an
efficient reform is the adoption essentially of the Italian vowel
system: it combines beauty, firmness and precision in a degree not
equalled by any other system of which I have any knowledge. The little
ragged boys in the streets of Rome and Florence enunciate their vowels
in a style of which princes might be proud."
"I do not propose that every one should learn Italian in order to learn
Latin. What I would suggest is, that those who know Italian should make
use of their knowledge and should in many points take Italian sounds for
the model to be followed; that those who do not know it should try to
learn from others the sounds required, or such an approxi-mation to them
as may be possible in each case."
We may then sum up the results at which we have arrived in the following
First of all pay particular attention to the vowel sounds, to make them
full and distinct, taking the Italian model, if you know Italian, and
always observing strictly the quantity.
[long a] as in Italian _fato_ or as final a in aha!
a as in Italian _fatto_; or as initial a in aha! or as in fast (not as
[long e] as second e in Italian _fedele_; or as in fete (not fate); or
as in vein.
e as in Italian _fetta_; or as in very.
[long i] as first i in Italian _timide_; or as in caprice,
i as second i in Italian _timide_; or as in capricious.
i or u, where the spelling varies between the two (e.g. _maximus_,
_maxumus_), as in German Muller.
[long o] as first o in Italian _orlo_; or as in more.
o as first o in Italian _rotto_; or as in wholly (not as in holly).
[long u] as in Italian _rumore_; or as in rural.
u as in Italian _ruppe_; or as in puss (not as in fuss).
Let i in vi before d, t, m, r or x, in the first syllable of a word, be
pronounced quite obscurely, somewhat as first i in virgin.
In the matter of diphthongs, be sure to take always the correct
spelling, to begin with, and thus avoid what Munro justly terms "hateful
barbarisms like _coelum_, _coena_, _moestus_." Much time is wasted by
students and bad habits are acquired in not finding, at the outset, the
right spelling of each word and holding to it. This each student must do
for himself, consulting a good dictionary, as editors and editions are
not always to be depended on. Here it is the diphthongs that present the
chief difficulty and call for the greatest care.
In pronouncing diphthongs sound both vowels, but glide so rapidly from
the first to the second as to offer to the ear but a single sound. In
the publication of the Cambridge (Eng.) Philological Society on
"Pronunciation of Latin in the Augustan Period," the following
directions are given:
"The pronunciation of these diphthongs, of which the last three are
extremely rare, is best learnt by first sounding each vowel separately
and then running them together, AE as ah-eh, AU as ah-oo, OE as o-eh, EI
as eh-ee, EU as eh-oo, and UI as oo-ee."
AE (ah-eh) as in German _naher_; or as EA in pear; or AY in aye (ever);
(not like a* in fate nor like AI in aisle).
AI (ah-ee) as in aye (yes).
AU (ah-oo) as in German _Haus_, with more of the U sound than OU in
EI (eh-ee) nearly as in veil. (In _dein_, _deinde_, the EI is not a
diphthong, but the E, when not forming a distinct syllable, is elided.)
EU (eh-oo) as in Italian _Europa_. (In _neuter_ and _neutiquam_ elide
OE (o-eh) nearly like German o in _Goethe_.
OI is not found in the classical period. (In _proin_, _proinde_, the O
is either elided or forms a distinct syllable. OU in _prout_ is not a
diphthong; the U is either elided or forms a distinct syllable.)
UI (oo-ee) as in cuirass.
In the pronunciation of consonants certain points claim special
attention. And first among these is the sounding of the doubled
consonants. Whoever has heard Italian spoken recognizes one of its
greatest beauties to be the distinctness, yet smoothness, with which its
ll and rr and cc--in short, all its doubled consonants--are pronounced.
No feature of the language is more charming. And one who attempts the
same in Latin and perseveres, with whatever difficulty and pains, will
be amply rewarded in the music of the language.
A good working rule for pronouncing doubled consonants is to hold the
first until ready to pronounce the second: as in the words _we'll lie
till late_, not to be pronounced as _we lie till eight_.
Next in importance, and, in New England at least, first in difficulty,
is the trilling of the r. There can be no approximation to a
satisfactory pronunciation of Latin until this r is acquired; but the
satisfaction in the result when accomplished is well worth all the pains
Another point to be observed is that the dentals t, d, n, l, require
that the tongue touch the teeth, rather than the palate. Munro says: "d
and t we treat with our usual slovenliness, and force them up to the
roof of our mouth: we should make them real dentals, as no doubt the
Romans made them, and then we shall see how readily _ad at_, _apud
aput_, _illud illut_ and the like interchange." This requires care, but
amply repays the effort.
It is necessary also to remember that n before a guttural is pronounced
as in the same position in English, e.g., in _ancora_ as in anchor; in
_anxius_ as in anxious; in _relinquo_ as in relinquish.
Remember to make n before f or s a mere nasal, having as little
prominence otherwise as possible, and to carefully lengthen the
Studiously observe the length of the vowel before the terminations
_gnus_, _gna_, _gnum_.
Remember that the final syllable in m, when not elided, is to be
pronounced as lightly and rapidly as possible, the more lightly and
indistinctly the better.
Remember that s must not be pronounced as z, except where it represents
z in Greek words, as Smyrna (Zmyrna), Smaragdus (Zmaragdus), otherwise
always pronounce as in sis.
Remember in pronouncing v to direct the lower lip toward the upper lip,
avoiding the upper teeth.
In general, in pronouncing the consonants conform to the following
b as in blab.
b before s or t, sharpened to p, as _urbs_==_urps_; _obtinuit_==
c as sceptic (never as in sceptre).
ch as in chemist (never as in cheer or chivalry).
d as in did, but made more dental than in English.
d final, before a word beginning with a consonant, in particles
especially, often sharpened to t as in tid-bit (tit-bit).
f as in fief, but with more breath than in English.
g as in gig (never as in gin).
gn in terminations _gnus_, _gna_, _gnum_, makes preceding vowel long.
h as in hah!
i (consonant) as in onion.
k as in kink.
l initial and final, as in lull.
l medial, as in lullaby, always more dental than in English.
m initial and medial, as in membrane.
m before q, nasalized.
m final, when not elided, touched lightly and obscurely, somewhat as in
tandem (tandm); or as in the Englishman's pronunciation of Blenheim
(Blenhm), Birmingham (Birminghm).
n initial and final, as in nine.
n medial, as in damnable, always more dental than in English.
n before c, g, q, x, as in concord, anger, sinker, relinquish, anxious,
the tongue not touching the roof of the mouth.
n before f or s, nasal, lengthening the preceding vowel, as in
p as in pup.
q as in quick.
r as in roar, but trilled, as in Italian or French. (This is most
s as in sis (never as in his).
t as in tot, but more dental than in English (never as in motion).
th nearly as in then (never as in thin).
v (u consonant) nearly as in verve, but labial, rather than labio-
dental; like the German w (not like the English w). Make English v as
nearly as may be done without touch-* the lower lip to the upper teeth.
x as in six.
z nearly as dz in adze.
Doubled consonants to be pronounced each distinctly, by holding the
first until ready to pronounce the second.
As Professor Ellis well puts it: "No relaxation of the organs, no puff
of wind or grunt of voice should intervene between the two parts of a
doubled consonant, which should more resemble separated parts of one
articulation than two separate articulations."
"Duplication of consonants is consequently regarded simply as the
energetic utterance of a single consonant."
Professor Ellis believes that the m was always omitted in speaking and
the following consonant pronounced as if doubled (_quorum pars_ as
_quoruppars_). Final m at the end of a sentence he thinks was not heard
at all. Where a vowel followed he thinks that the m was not heard, the
vowel before being slurred on to the initial vowel of the following
The Cambridge (Eng.) Philological Society, however, takes the view that
"final vowels (or diphthongs) when followed by vowels (or diphthongs)
were not cut off, but lightly run on to the following word, as in
Italian. But if the vowel was the same the effect was that of a single
Professor Munro says:
"In respect of elision I would only say that, by comparing Plautus with
Ovid, we may see how much the elaborate cultivation of the language had
tended to a more distinct sounding of final syllables; and that but for
Virgil's powerful influence the elision of long vowels would have almost
ceased. Clearly we must not altogether pass over the elided vowel or
syllable in m, except perhaps in the case of e* in common words, _que_,
_neque_, and the like."
This view, held by the Cambridge Philological Society and by Professor
Munro, is the one generally accepted; the practice recommended by them
is the one generally in use, and that which seems safe and suitable to
follow. That is: Do not altogether pass over the elided vowel or
syllable in m, except in cases of very close connection, in compound
words or phrases, or when the final and initial vowel are the same, or
in the case of e* final in common words, as _que_, _neque_, and the
like; but let the final vowel run lightly on to the following vowel as
in Italian, and touch lightly and obscurely the final syllable in m. The
o or e of _proin_, _proinde_, _prout_, _dein_, _deinde_, _neuter_,
_neutiquam_, when not forming a distinct syllable, are to be treated as
cases of elision between two words.
In the pronunciation of Latin the observance of quantity and of pitch
are the two most difficult points of attainment; and they are the
crucial test of good reading.
The observance of quantity is no less important in prose than in verse.
A little reflection will convince the dullest mind that the Romans did
not pronounce a word one way in prose and another in verse, that we have
not in poetry and prose two languages. Cicero and Quintilian both enjoin
a due admixture of long and short syllables in prose as well as verse;
and any one who takes delight in reading Latin will heartily agree with
Professor Munro when he says: "For myself, by observing quantity, I seem
to feel more keenly the beauty of Cicero's style and Livy's, as well as
Virgil's and Horace's."
Therefore until one feels at home with the quantities, let him observe
the rule of beating time in reading, to make sure that the long
syllables get twice the time of the short ones. In this way he will soon
have the pronunciation of each word correctly fixed in mind, and will
not be obliged to think of his quantities in verse more than in prose. A
long step has been taken in the enjoyment of Latin poetry when the
reader does not have to be thinking of the 'feet.'
Young students particularly should be especially careful in the final
syllable of the verse. Since, so far as the measure is concerned, there
is no difference there between the long and the short syllable, the
reader is apt to be careless as to the length of the syllable itself,
and to make all final syllables long, even to the mispronouncing of the
word, thereby both making a false quantity and otherwise injuring the
effect of the verse, by importing into it a monotony foreign to the
original. Does not Cicero himself say that a short syllable at the end
of the verse is as if you ' stood (came to a stand), but a long one as
if you ' sat down'?
It is, in fact, in the pronouncing of final syllables everywhere that
the most serious and persistent faults are found, bus for bus being one
of the worst and most common cases. How much of the teacher's time might
be spared, for better things, if he did not have to correct bus into
The disposition to neglect the double and doubled consonants is another
serious fault, as well as the slovenly pronunciation of two consonants,
where the reader fails to give the time necessary to speak each
distinctly, making false quantity and mispronunciation at the same time.
In general, if two symbols are written we are to infer that two sounds
were intended. The only exception to this is in the case of a few words
where the spelling varies, as casso or caso. In such cases we may
suppose that the doubled consonant was only designed to indicate length.
Another, apparent, exception is in the case of a mute followed by a
liquid; but the mute and liquid are regularly sounded as one, and
therefore do not affect the length of the preceding vowel. Sometimes,
however, for the sake of time, the verse requires them to be pronounced
separately. In this case each is to be given distinctly; the mute and
liquid must not coalesce. For it must not be forgotten that, as a rule,
the vowel before a mute followed by a liquid is short, in which case it
must on no account be lengthened. Thus, ordinarily, we say pa-tris, but
the verse may require pat-ris.
Although the vowel before two consonants is generally--short, we find,
in some instances, a long vowel in this position. For example, it would
appear that the vowel of the supine and cognate parts of the verb is
long if the vowel of the present indicative, though short, is followed
by a medial (b, g, d, z), as actus, lectus, from ago, lego.
Let it be remembered in the matter of i consonant between two vowels,
that we have really the force of two ii's, as originally written, one,
vowel, making a diphthong with the preceding, the other, consonant,
introducing the new syllable; and that the same is true of the compounds
of _jacio_, which should be written with a single i but pronounced as
with two, as _obicit (objicit)_.
The question of accent presents little difficulty as to place, but some
as to quality, and much as to kind. As to quality, it must be remembered
that while the acute accent is found on syllables either short or long
(by nature or position), and on either the penult or the antepenult, the
circumflex is found only on long vowels, and (in words of more than one
syllable) only on the penult, and then only in case the ultima is short.
Thus, _spes_, but _dux_; _luna_, but _lun[long a]_; _legatus_, but
_legati_. In these examples the length of the syllable is the same and
of course remains the same in inflection, but the quality of the accent
changes. In the one case the voice is both raised and depressed on the
same syllable, in the other it is only raised. As Professor Ellis puts
it: "If the last syllable but one is long, it is spoken with a raised
pitch, which is maintained throughout if its vowel is short, as:
_vent[long o]s_, or if the last syllable is long, as: _f[long a]m[long
a]e_; but sinks immediately if its own vowel is long, and at the same
time the vowel of the last syllable is short, as _fama_, to be
distinguished from _f[long a]m[long a]_."
But when we come to the question of the _kind_ of accent, we come upon
the most serious matter practically in the pronunciation of Latin, and
this because of a difficulty peculiar to the English speaking peoples.
The English accent is one of _stress_, whereas the Roman is one of
No one will disagree with Professor Ellis when he "assumes," in his
Quantitative Pronunciation of Latin, "that the Augustan Romans had _no_
force accent, that is, that they did not, as we do, distinguish one
syllable in every word _invariably_ by pronouncing it with greater
force, that is, with greater loudness, than the others, but that the
force varied according to the feeling of the moment, or the beat of the
timekeeper in singing, and was used for purposes of expression; just as
with us, musical pitch is free, that is, just as we may pronounce the
same word with different musical pitches for its different syllables,
and in fact are obliged to vary the musical pitch in interrogations and
replies. The fixity of musical pitch and freedom of degrees of force in
Latin, and the freedom of musical pitch and fixity of degrees of force
in English sharply distinguish the two pronunciations even irrespective
But this pitch accent, while alien to us, is not impossible of
acquisition, and it is essential to any adequate rendering of any Latin
writer, whether of prose or verse. Nor will the attainment be a work of
indefinite time if one pursues with constancy some such course as the
following, recommended by Professor Ellis:
"The place of raised pitch," he says, "must be strictly observed, and
for this purpose the verses had better be first read in a kind of sing-
song, the high pitched syllables being all of one pitch and the low
pitched syllables being all of one pitch also, but about a musical
'fifth' lower than the other, as if the latter were sung to the lowest
note of the fourth string of a violin, and the former were sung to the
lowest note of its third string."
In the foregoing pages an effort has been made to bring together
compactly and to set forth concisely the nature of the 'Roman method' of
pronouncing Latin; the reasons for adopting, and the simplest means of
acquiring it. No attempt has been made at a philosophical or exhaustive
treatment of the subject; but at the same time it is hoped that nothing
unphilosophical has crept in, or anything been omitted, which might have
been given, to render the subject intelligible and enable the
intelligent reader to understand the points and be able to give a reason
for each usage herein recommended.
The main object in view in preparing this little book has been to help
the teachers of Latin in the secondary schools, to furnish them
something not too voluminous, yet as satisfactory as the nature of the
case allows, upon a subject which the present diversity of opinion and
practice has rendered unnecessarily obscure.
To these teachers, then, a word from Professor Ellis may be fitly spoken
"To teach a person to read prose _well_, even in his own language, is
difficult, partly because he has seldom heard prose well read, though he
is constantly hearing prose around him, intonated, but unrhythmical. In
the case of a dead language, like the Latin, which the pupil never hears
spoken, and seldom hears read, except by himself or his equally ignorant
and hobbling fellow-scholars, this difficulty is inordinately increased.
Let me once more impress on every teacher of Latin the _duty_ of himself
learning to read Latin readily according to accent and quantity; the
_duty_ of his reading out to his pupils, of his setting them a
_pattern_, of his hearing that they follow it, of his correcting their
mistakes, of his _leading_ them into right habits. If the quantitative
pronunciation be adopted, no one will be fit to become a classical
teacher who cannot read a simple Latin sentence decently, with a strict
observance of that quantity by which alone the greatest of Latin orators
regulated his own rhythms."
"All pronunciation is acquired by imitation, and it is not rill after
hearing a sound many times that we are able to grasp it sufficiently
well to imitate. It is a mistake constantly made by teachers of language
to suppose that a pupil knows by once hearing unfamiliar sounds, or even
unfamiliar combinations of familiar sounds. When pupils are made to
imitate too soon, they acquire an erroneous pronunciation, which they
afterward hear constantly from themselves actually or mentally, and
believe that they hear from the teacher during the small fraction of a
second that each sound lasts, and hence the habits of these organs
The following direction is of the utmost importance (Curwen's "Standard
Course," p. 3): "The teacher never sings (speaks) _with_ his pupils, but
sings (utters, reads, dictates) to them a brief and soft _pattern_. The
first art of the pupil is to _listen well_ to the pattern, and then to
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