Traditional pronunciation vs. restitutional pronunciation

Which Latin pronunciation is recommended: "traditional" (for example: 'ph' is /f/, 'ae' is /e/, 'ce' is /tse/) or "restitutional" ('c' is always /k/ and generally you read as you write and you write as you read)?

September 2, 2019


Look, if you operate not within a institutional framework, I believe you can choose whatever you like better. I'd argue that it's maybe best not to be anachronistic, since for some works like songs or poems the right pronunciation is maybe of importance. For obvious reasons. If you feel that matters to you, I'd recommend to chose the contemporary pronunciation of the author. To be honest, for most works it doesn't matter too much, for some students pronunciation doesn't matter at all, since they just want to read Latin. That's OK, I guess?

PS: there's maybe some people that will tell you that you use the wrong terms or give a false representation of the pronunciation system in your introductory post. But who cares? If pronunciation matters to you, over time, you'll find out everything there's to know. And if you can't reproduce some sounds, just approximate them and know the limitations of this approach.

September 2, 2019

Good point, of course you should try to approximate the pronounciation of the time, if you are going to recite/sing or whatever. Distinguish between Classical/Ecclesiastical at least.

September 2, 2019

I agree with the other posters, choose which you prefer. Some medievalists prefer ecclesiastical. Catholics tend to veer towards ecclesiastical. People who like Neo-latin and the Rennaisance, I'm not sure.

For me the key point is that we should avoid being prisoners of our own accents and try to speak as well as we can. Not everyone is going to see this as a priority but I think it helps to understand and feel any language by starting with the sounds it creates. The internal onomatopoeia, resonances, the implications created by certain kinds of sounds, how words and language might have felt and been perceived, these can only be appreciated if you try to pronounce it well. I would say that is as true of Latin as any other language.

Here's a couple of examples:

trīstis: sad, sounds much sadder with a long ī than something flippantly tristis

Bellātor, Bellātōrēs,, warrior, warriors, sounds much more aggressive with long ā and / or ō than a prissy bellator.

Imperātor: sounds much more imperious with a long ā than a pen pushing Imperator

Key takeaway: take the trouble to learn Latin with the long and short vowels. It sounds much better and conveys rather more, I think.

PS: you can find a good online guide to both pronunciation systems here:

September 2, 2019

Since the a in Bellātor is in a stressed open syllable, I would think that everyone here would have pronounced it long. The same goes for the o in Bellātōrēs.
A different example would have been clearer. (I think you should use less subjective arguments, too. "sounds more aggressive" for example is something I highly doubt.)

September 3, 2019

Doesn't really matter which pronunciation style you go with. Classical and ecclesiastical are the two most common, though there are others. I personally prefer the sound of ecclesiastical, so I use it.

What's truly important is learning long versus short vowels. While the speakers in the Duolingo course are using the classical pronunciation, they don't differentiate between long and short vowels - it sounds to me like they stress syllables similarly to Spanish. Honestly, I'd suggest turning off the audio if you use the course, I think all it will do is help to instill bad habits.

Check out the YouTube channels 'polyMathy' and 'ScorpioMartianus' for videos on vowel length and meter, as well as explanations of the many different pronunciation styles, and perfect demonstrations of the classical pronunciation.

September 2, 2019

Restored Classical pronounciation is aimed at in this course, and is the obvious choice when studying Classical Latin, since that is approximately how it actually sounded.

They pronounce 'ph' as f in the course though, but that's not a very big deal.

September 2, 2019

They only use half of the vowels of Classical Latin, though, which is a much bigger deal.

September 3, 2019

Yes, I've understood that. I actually cut the sound after the first lesson, because the quality was so bad. I just noticed that it was Classical, and that there was the 'ph' issue, but I never paid attention to vowel length or quality. Agree that that is something that should really be cleaned up.

September 3, 2019
September 4, 2019
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