Other Guides to the Pronunciation of Classical LatinFor speakers of American English, some of the descriptions Allen uses to distinguish one way of pronouncing a sound from another are hard to understand because we don't have the same regional dialects. Basic pronunciation guides in Wheelock and other Latin grammars should help.
PDF of Michael A. Covington's Program in Linguistics provides various tips, including the fact that there are 4 ways to pronounce Latin:
- the reconstructed ancient Roman,
- the northern Continental European,
- Church Latin and
- the "English Method."
He provides the following chart of how to pronounce Latin (Julius Caesar) according to each:
- YOO-lee-us KYE-sahr (reconstructed ancient Roman)
- YOO-lee-us (T)SAY-sahr (northern Continental Europe)
- YOO-lee-us CHAY-sahr ("Church Latin" in Italy)
- JOO-lee-us SEE-zer ("English method")
The northern continental is particularly recommended for scientific terms. Covington notes that it is the pronunciation scientific greats, like Copernicus and Kepler, used. The English method is used for names from mythology and history; however, it is the least like the way the Romans would have pronounced their language.
Some Pronunciation Guidelines
Basically, Classical Latin is pronounced the way it is written, with a few exceptions -- to our ears: consonantal v is pronounced as a w, i is sometimes pronounced as a y. As distinct from Church Latin (or modern Italian), g is always pronounced like the g in gap; and, like g, c is also hard and always sounds like the c in cap.
A terminal m nasalizes the preceding vowel. The consonant itself is scarcely pronounced.
An s is not the buzzing consonant of the verb "use" but is the sound of the s in the noun "use."
The Latin letters y and z are used in Greek borrowings. The y represents the Greek upsilon. The z is like the "s" in the verb "use." [Source: A Short Historical Latin Grammar, by Wallace Martin Lindsay.]
The first vowel sound in "Caesar," ae is a diphthong pronounced like "eye"; au, a diphthong pronounced like the exclamation "Ow!"; oe, a diphthong pronounced like the English diphthong oi, as in "hoity-toity".
There is some debate over the pronunciation of vowels. Vowels may simply be pronounced as shorter and longer in duration or there may be some difference in sound. Assuming a difference in sound, the vowel i (long) is pronounced like the letter e (not the sound [e]), the vowel e (long) is pronounced like the ay in hay, a long u is pronounced like the double o in moon. Short
- e, and
- bet, and
The differences between the a and o when long and short are more subtle. A short, unaccented a may be pronounced like a schwa (as if you;re hesitatingly saying "uh") and a short o like what is called an "open o," although simply shortening and remembering not to stress the a and o should work, too.
Also see Accentuation for basics on which syllable to stress in a Latin word.
Each of doubled consonants is pronounced. R may be trilled. Vowels before the letters m and n may be nasal. You can hear these subtleties if you listen to Robert Sonkowsky reading from the beginning of Vergil's Aeneid using the reconstructed ancient Roman method of Latin pronunciation.
Links: More on the Pronunciation of Latin including more audio files of people reading Latin poetry.