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A peculiar question about pronunciation and grammar that I came across.

Since we know that reconstructed classical pronunciation uses the letter "v" for something like an English "w"-sound, does it count as a consonant or a vowel? I wanted to form the ablative of "vis"(strength, force, violence), but was and still am unsure whether "e vi"(if counted as a consonant) or "ex vi"(if counted as a vowel) applies. Thanks already for your answers!

October 11, 2019



In this course V counts as a consonant and U counts as a vowel (obviously). In classical times it was both, w/ V being used w/ capital letters (supposedly to avoid having to curve the u when carving in stone) and U w/ lower case. That changed over time. Here is what Allen and Greenough's grammar says; don't overlook the ref. to § 5 . I bet you can find some decent discussions of this online.

VladaFu's objection is good. I guess my reply really boils down to: it varies. Which is not really helpful to you, is it?

If you have a specific instance in mind, as you do, you can look in a dictionary, such as Lewis and Short's, which says in the entry for "ex": "ex always before vowels, and elsewh. more freq. than e . . but no rule can be given for the usage." The course developers prefer the Oxford Latin Dictionary (which is newer), which says, "ex used before vowels and consonants, e before consonants only," but the OLD is not available online, and L&S should do fine for questions like this. Grammars, too, generally have something to say about this. I'll check those that I have later, when I have a chance, but that I've ever seen the results will be what these two dictionaries say.


Well graphically of course V or U, no matter which one, stood either for what we now denote as V or what we now denote U when we distinguish it consistently. My understanding of the original question is, however, was what we now denote with V, and what certainly is a consonant to us, especially at the start of the word and in front of a vowel, considered a vowel or a consonant for the propose of choosing a certain form of certain prepositions?

The grammar you link does not address this at all. Consider "ex uero" - 13 matches in https://latin.packhum.org and "e uero" - 6 matches.


The grammar you link does not address this at all.

Yes it does. See the ref. § 5 I pointed out. So, FWIW, I'd write and pronounce e vero. . . . But usage varies, and you have to go by how a combination sounds. For instance, not "e parte" or "e post facto," but "ex parte" or "ex post facto". A/ab are the same way: you will see instances of either before a given word starting with a consonant.

. . . So it's good you questioned my reference (thanks), as it definitely wasn't complete. And I still can't say more than "you should go by how it sounds," which doesn't help much for somebody like OP, who hasn't heard a lot of Latin.


Thanks for the great update.


That will be better answered by someone who actually knows Latin,but until then... I did a quick search in a corpus and while there are only hits for "ex vi" and no for "e vi" there are hits for other words like "e verbo". It will be great to hear some explanation.

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