The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice


by F. R. Dale

 (pro tem  a circumflex accent is used here instead of a macron to mark long syllables.)

Of the advantages of the reformed pronunciation of Latin let it be stated briefly :—

1. That confusion is avoided by the distinct sound of each letter ;

2. That the learning of the sounds causes no serious delay or difficulty in learning the language ;

3. That in attempting the right sounds and the right relations between sounds we make some approach to the beauty of good verse or prose ; otherwise " colour " must be lost, and the music of words ruined;

4. That there is some satisfaction in being as correct as possible, and some advantage in being in the right relation to ecclesiastical Latin, to good continental practice, and to Italian and other languages.

Much the same is true of Greek ; and it is important to establish a sensible relation between the two ancient languages.


The Vowels

The distinction between the long and the short vowels can be taught in the first lesson and should never be forgotten :—

a and a as in the English aha.

e and e as in get and gate.

i and i as in quinine.

o and o as in cot and coat.

vl and u as in pull and pool.

y and y like the French u in plume ; i with the lips well rounded.

These are working approximations.

The Southern English short a, as in cat, is a modified a; pronounce as in the North, or in Wales. Keep the quality carefully in final a.

Long e and long o should each be less of a diphthong than in standard English ; protract a "close" e and o, avoiding e-i, o-u.

Never introduce the y-sound before u, as in the English 'acute'.

Short e may cause some trouble when final or before r. Practise saying re-ge-re, regere, without varying the sound of the e.

The Diphthongs

ae as in try.

au as in cow.

eu never as you : run the two sounds together, rather Iike a Cockney 'how'.

The Consonants

b as in English; but as p before s and t — apsens, optineo.

c as k.

g as in get.

h as in English—possibly a " lighter aspiration."

i may be consonantal as y — coniunx.

m generally as in English ; but final m, as elision shows, was very light (it appears merely to have nazalised the vowel before it).

r should always be pronounced—" trilled " if possible even when final. (Keep vowel sounds before r, as in pergo, virgo, surgo, clear and distinct—never blur the vowel into an indeterminate).

s must never be z. This may require practice, especially after e; practise saying has res, amas mones without varying the sound;

after n ; make the final syllable of amans like the English 'dance';

with words used in English or related to English words: causa, rosa, Musa, Caesar ;

v as w (it is the consonantal u).

x as cs, never as gs (exemplum differs thus from example).

z as in English.

ch, ph, th not as in English. Pronounce c, p, t followed by the aspirate ; shifting the syllable-division, we may practise saying for-khandle, stra-phanger, gif-thorse.

The Double Consonant

Pronounce distinctly as in Italian, or in the English hop-pole, pen-nib — Appius, Cannae (mutes repeated, sonants protracted). This is essential for quantity and the shape of words.


What counts for verse or the rhythm of prose is the length of the syllable.

Syllables containing a long vowel or diphthong are long— clau-do.

Syllables ending in a short vowel are short—re-ge-re.

Syllables ending in a consonant, whenever that consonant is the first of two or more, are long—con-scen-dunt. Count the words within a verse or a prose clause as undivided, making a short syllable only where a short vowel is followed by a single consonant sound or by another vowel—

" Dividimus muros et moenia pandimus urbis."

The mutes c, g, p, b, t, d, and the letter f combine so closely with a following l or r as normally to make a single consonant sound, a-gros, re-fluus ; but poets sometimes count them as separate, so lengthening the preceding syllable—ag-ros, pat-ris.

Hidden Quantity

In a syllable long "by position," which must be long because a consonant after the vowel is included, the contained vowel may be long or short. This does not affect scansion — only correctness.

Vowels are long before -ns and -nf — dêns, cônfer ; and a long vowel is not surprising in scrîpsi, lãpsus, etc. (The length of such vowels is marked in "Kennedy").


The vowel or diphthong with which a word ends is elided, and does not count as a syllable, when the following word begins with a vowel. It may be pronounced lightly or "slurred" as in

" await alike the inevitable hour."

Some good opinion favours complete elision, in which such a final syllable is not pronounced at all.

A final syllable where the letter m follows a vowel is also elided.


The " penultima law " prevails.

In disyllables the first syllable is lightly stressed—ámo, célo.

In longer words, stress the last syllable but one if it is long, otherwise the last but two — amámus stressed on the second syllable, régimus on the first.

Exceptions are often due to an abbreviation, where the accent of the full word is retained : addúc [addúce), ingéni (ingénii).

Accent must not affect quantity, or a word will lose shape.

Volûptas, volûptátis, not voluptatis ; shape the word like the English 'a good story'.

Words with English derivates, like magístratus, want watching: not magistrátus. The long first syllable in words shaped like percípiunt, impávidus must not be shortened.

These accents must not be displaced by metrical stress in verse. Read the hexameter

Múlta v íri v írtus ánimo, multúsque recúrsat

and by no means

Múlta virí virtús animó, multúsque recúrsat.

So with Horatian rhythms

Impávidum férient ruínae

and by no means

Impavidúm feriént ruínae.

Otherwise the life and variety of the Latin lines, if not indeed sense, is lost.

N.B. Pronounce hic, hoc (Nom. and Acc.) as long syllables with a short vowel- hicc, hocc from hicce hocce. Long vowel in hoc (AbL).

For cui make more of the u than in qui - rather like coo-ee, but still a monosyllable.