But before that, I’ll give you a rundown of correct Latin pronunciation in case you would like to practice through chanting (which is the best way to practice). And if you were wondering, yes there is enough evidence for a standard in pronunciation despite Latin being a dead language. If you would like specifics on this evidence, I’ve cited my both my Latin textbook and its primary source for a pronunciation guide*
For the most part, Latin has the same pronunciation of letters that English does with a few exceptions. For example, J and W are not a part of the Latin alphabet.
The letter I is used as both a consonant and a vowel. I think I may have mentioned that in a previous blog because I found the concept of the consonantal vowel fascinating. The reason J and j look so similar to I and i has to do with J being a modified I to better differentiate between the distinctive vowel and consonant sounds. V, likewise is used as both a consonant and a vowel. But anyway…
Back to pronunciation exceptions:
B is the same as in English, but ‘bs’ is pronounced as ‘ps’ in ‘taps’ and ‘bt’ as ‘pt’ in ‘apt’.
C is always hard (has a K sound) as in ‘cart’
G is also always hard as in ‘get’
H is never silent
I, as a consonant, has the y sound as in ‘yawn'
R was probably rolled
S always has the sound as in ‘serpent’ and never makes a z sound
V, as a consonant, always makes a w sound as in ‘wet’
X counts as a double consonant and makes a ‘ks’ sound as in ‘axe’
Z is also a double consonant, making a ‘dz’ sound as in ‘gadzooks’ ßyes that example came straight from the book.
ch is pronounced as in ‘character’
ph as in ‘people’
th as in ‘tea’ (note: Mark Antony vs. Mark Anthony)
oy, now the vowels.
Vowels can be short or long. Beginning Latin students generally put a macron (little line) above vowels with long sounds, but I’m too lazy to do that on the computer plus real Latin doesn’t have so you won’t either. :)
A (short): as in the first ‘a’ in ‘await’ or the ‘u’ in ‘cup’
(long): as in ‘father’
E (short): as in ‘pet’
(long): as in ‘a’ of ‘fate’
I (short): as in ‘fit’
(long): as in the ‘ee’ of ‘feet’
O (short): as in the ‘o’ of ‘soft’ or the ‘au’ of ‘caught’
(long): as in ‘hope’
U (short): as in ‘put’
(long): as in ‘fool’
Ok, one last section then we can move on to real words: Dipthongs. Latin has six.
ae - as in the ‘i’ of ‘high’
oe - as in the ‘oy’ of ‘toy’
ei - as in the ‘ay’ of ‘day’
ui - as in the ‘wi’ of ‘twin’
au - as in the ‘ow’ of ‘how’
eu - as a combination of e + u
Noun time! (cuz I’m totally skipping stress accents)
Latin nouns are characterized by 3 properties: Number (singular, plural), Gender (feminine, masculine, neuter), and Case.
And Case is where all the fun happens. There are six cases and each case adds a certain ending to the noun stem to give it a certain meaning. Here are the six cases and their uses:
Nominative – indicates the noun is the subject or predicate nominative of the sentence
Genitive – used to qualify or limit another noun in various ways
Aka: adds the word ‘of’ to the noun
Example: The Latin noun nauta means sailor. If you were to put it in the genitive case, it would change to nautae and translate to “of the sailor”
Dative – translates to using “to” or “for” with the noun
For example: “to the sailors” or “for the sailors”
Accusative – indicates the noun is a direct object
Ablative – when translated to English, uses the words “from”, “with”, “by”, “in”, “on”
Vocative – used when directly addressing the noun
Want to learn some words now? Too bad. I have one more thing to tell you about. (I kinda sound like Stephen, lol. “Just one more thing, guys. Ok, another thing. Only one more I promise”)
There are five families of nouns, called declensions, that dictate how a noun will change within each case and number. Every Latin noun belongs to only one of these declensions and each group has a distinctive set of case endings. You can tell the different cases apart by looking at the genitive singular form of each noun. We’ll start off just using 1st declension nouns, which are mostly feminine and are identified by the genitive singular ending of –ae.
And here are the case endings of 1st declension nouns
: Singular : Plural :
Nominative : -a : -ae
Genitive : -ae : -arum
Dative : -ae : -is
Accusative : -am : -as
Ablative : -a : -is
Vocative : -a : -is
Important note: the ablative singular, dative plural, accusative plural, and ablative plural all have long vowel sounds. The ‘a’ in –arum is also long.
So, you’ll notice several of the endings are the same. How do you tell them apart? Context with in the sentence. It’s basically been the go-to answer in my class recently. It’ll only become more prevalent as you get into the other declensions and into verbs. English is a very word heavy language. Latin on the other hand is very concise.
Want to know some actual words now?
The following set up gives you the nominative singular followed by the genitive singular and then the English translation. All of the following are 1st declension nouns and are classified as feminine with the exception of ‘agricola’, ‘nauta’, and ‘poeta’ which are 1st declension masculine. There are no neuter 1st declension nouns. You don’t really need to know about the use of a noun’s gender just yet, but it comes in handy later on.
Anima, animae: breath, life force, sou
Dea, deae: goddess
Fama, famae: report, rumor, reputation, fame
Femina, feminae: woman, wife
Filia, filiae: daughter
Insula, insulae: island
Italia, Italiae: Italy
Patria, patriae: country, homeland
Puella, puellae: girl
Regina, reginae: queen
Pecunia, pecuniae: money
Ira, irae: anger, wrath
Sapientia, sapientiae: wisdom
Vita, vitae: life
Via, viae: way, road, street, path
Agricola, agricolae: farmer
Nauta, nautae: sailor
Poeta, poetae: poet
Now let’s decline one of these bad boys. To decline a noun (aka give it a case ending), you find the stem which you locate by looking at the genitive singular and taking off the genitive ending. This same rule holds up for all the declensions. So the stem of poeta is poetae – ae = poet
And one handy-dandy chart later:
: Singular : Plural :
Nominative : poeta : poetae
Genitive : poetae : poetarum
Dative : poetae : poetis
Accusative : poetam : poetas
Ablative : poeta : poetis
Vocative : poeta : poetis
And you can follow the same set up for all the other nouns I’ve given you.
One more other random thing before I end this Latin session: you can decline names! It makes things harder but it’s kinda cool. Like Julia can be declined to be Julia, Juliam, Juliis, Julias, etc
It’s kinda nifty. And from this I finally get to understand something that I’ve been curious about for awhile.
You know the famous line “Et tu, Brute?”
I’ve known that it means “and you, Brutus?” but I never knew why it was Brute and not Brutus. It’s because you decline names. The vocative singular form (if you remember, vocative is direct address) of Brutus is Brute. So because he was talking directly to Brutus, “Brute” was used. I found that pretty interesting.
Your homework is to take one of the above nouns, decline it, and give the approximate English translations.
Poeta – nominative singular: "Poet"
--vocative singular: "Poet!" (direct address)
-- ablative singular: from the poet, with the poet, by the poet, in the poet, on the poet
Poetarum – genitive plural: "of the poets"
No, you can't use Poeta)
Okay lesson over now. I’m curious if any of that was understandable from just reading. Let me know if you all are somehow interested in another lesson (or you can get out the torches and pitchforks and scream “NEVER AGAIN!!!”) You know, whatever ;P
I thought about writing more about my week, but seeing as this blog is a little late already, I’ll just end it here. Sorry if you don’t like Latin. This post must have been extremely boring to you. Or it may have been boring even if you like Latin, I don’t know.
But I will leave you with some awesome YouTube videos. Contiki, a travel company for 20-30 year olds, has been sponsoring this awesome European roadtrip through Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and England over that past week or so featuring some of my favorite YouTubers. They’ve also been producing a short show every day until the trip ends. I’ve put the first one below, but check out the other ones because the activities get more exciting (I particularly like the one in Austria with whitewater rafting). On the trip are Charlie Mcdonnell (charlieissocoollike), Bryarly Bishop, Michael Aranda, Corey Vidal and his ApprenticeA team, Kathleen Elliot (Katersoneseven), Charles and Alli Trippy (Ctfxc), Jack Douglass (Jacksfilms), Jesse and Jeana (PrankvsPrank), Jimmy Wong, Meghan Camarena (strawberry17), Nadine Sykora (heynadine), Tim Deegan, and some awesome Contiki staff (who are Australian :D). It’s been awesome watching all their traveling, competitions, and interactions. It makes me REALLY want to see Europe now, too – not that I didn’t already want to travel there. If you want more to watch, well, there's a ton more footage on everyone's respective channels. Ctfxc, Katersoneseven, ApprentiveEh all do daily vlogs. I think prankvsprank may too. Michael Aranda and Jacksfilms have second channels with some short clips as well. Well, most everyone has or will have videos and vlogs of their adventure, so if you're interested, there's plenty to see. Not to bombard you with links or anything…….
* Learn to Read Latin. (2004) Andrew Keller and Stephanie Russell
Vox Latina. (1965) W.S. Allen
(why yes, that is my own made up citation style. Thanks for noticing my refusal to correctly cite things)
Day 1 Contiki Video:
And ApprentiveA/Eh's announcement of the trip, just cuz.