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Question: pronunciation of the rhotic

The pronunciation of "r" in many of the sentences sounds velar to my ears. I was under the impression that classical Latin r was pronounced dentally. Do others share my impression, or is it just me? And am I right about the "proper" pronunciation?

September 14, 2019




In Classical Latin, the rhotic /r/ was most likely an alveolar trill [r]. Gaius Lucilius likens it to the sound of a dog, and later writers describe it as being produced by vibration. In Old Latin, intervocalic /z/ developed into /r/ (rhotacism), suggesting an approximant like the English [ɹ], and /d/ was sometimes written as /r/, suggesting a tap [ɾ] like Spanish single r.[21]

Allen, William Sidney (1978) [1965]. Vox Latina—a Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Latin (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37936-9.


From what I've learned thus far, the R was a light roll or a flip, not over excessively trilled like representations of medieval English aristocrats. 2-3 strikes of the tongue on the R should be sufficient.


Thanks. I am not personally acquainted with any mediaeval English aristocrats, but I get your drift.


That doesn't answer the question. At least not explicitly.


As I understand it, no one is absolutely certain how classical Latin was actually pronounced, so what you're getting is "conventional" pronunciation - which has varied over the years in different countries.

I think the general view of linguists is that the pronunciation should be somewhere between modern Italian and Castillian Spanish - but "should be" is itself open to question. No doubt the pronunciation changed considerably between the founding of Rome (traditionally said to be 753 BC) and the fall of Rome in 476 AD when the last Roman Emperor was defeated.


No need to invoke the passage of centuries. I have no doubt the good people from Quirinal laughed at the way the yokels from around Aventine pronounced their Latin, and vice versa.

I am asking about "conventional classical", of course, if there be such a beast.


Last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, but not the last Roman emperor!

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