I learned Latin in a US public school. Although pronunciation was admittedly never emphasized in the course, classical Latin pronunciation was always the ideal. I've met Latin students from across the country, and classical-style pronunciation seems to be by far the most commonly taught in the US, based on my own limited experience. (You can of course correct me if I'm wrong about this.)

My question is: In current teaching practice, what style of Latin pronunciation is most commonly taught in schools the UK, France, Germany, and other European countries? Classical? Ecclesiastical? A traditional local pronunciation?

I understand that practices are sure to vary widely between countries and even within countries, so I can hardly expect a general answer for all of "Europe". Thus, even if you can only attest to the pronunciation in a particular country or region, I warmly welcome your answer. However, please be wary of speculation or over-generalization.

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    Welcome! Good question. So that you and others are aware, though, answers to a broad question like this should at least attempt to answer the entire question ("all of Europe"), not just one country per answer. Jul 11 '16 at 10:59
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    In Italy, some 25 years ago, I was taught "gn" as a single, sweet sound, like in Italian and unlike "gh-n". And "C" was K or CH like in Caesar and Cicero. I don't know how do you call this pronunciation. (Please be kind and don't say "wrong "! :-) )
    – Francesco
    Jul 13 '16 at 6:01
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    @Francesco You're basically pronouncing Latin like Italian, then.
    – Nic
    Jul 23 '16 at 4:25
  • @Qpaystaxes that is a way to put it. Basically, living in Rome, one is probably biased to feel a continuity which maybe is not actually present.
    – Francesco
    Jul 23 '16 at 12:33

This answer covers only Finland, but covers it completely.

Latin pronunciation is very uniform throughout Finland. Rather than describing the pronunciation in words, let me give you a sample: Nuntii Latini is a Latin news broadcast from Finland, and the podcast is freely available online. For example, my own pronunciation is (to reasonable accuracy) exactly like the one in the news. This pronunciation is taught throughout Finland, with one exception.

In Turku 'ae' and 'oe' or pronounced as the diphthongs /ɑi/ and /oi/ whereas elsewhere they are both the long /e:/. I have previously asked about the origin of this difference, and I still crave to understand it.

My understanding is that the general Finnish pronunciation is very close the pronunciation of early imperial era, whereas the one in Turku is more late republic. Both fall in the category "classical" in the classification of your question.

Quick summary of the Finnish pronunciation (let me know if I forgot to address something important):

  • NG and GN are pronounced /ŋ:/ and /ŋn/, respectively.
  • C and G are otherwise always /k/ and /g/.
  • AE and OE are both /e:/ (or /ɑi/ and /oi/, see above).
  • Vowel length is always clearly indicated.
  • Word-final M is always a full consonant, not mere nasalization.

After almost two years without an answer for all of Europe, I'll venture a guess. I'll go from what I'm most certain to what I just think is most likely.

If you have better informed knowledge about a specific country, feel free to comment or edit it in. If enough contributions arrive (or if I happen to be horribly wrong), I'll happily make this a community wiki.

  1. Before the XX century, most languages (and in Europe that is correlated to countries) had their own rules to pronounce Latin which in some cases reflected their own sound changes.

    During the XX century, two systems of pronunciation acquired momentum, namely Reconstructed and Ecclesiastical

    Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation is mostly based in the former Italian system, was recommended by Pope St. Pius X and became a de facto (or maybe de Iure?) standard in the Catholic world. It includes special rules like c and g having a different sound in front of e and i, which has a common pattern with most Romance languages. While it likely gathers features of actual Latin sounds at different points in history, it is not necessarily representative of native Latin as spoken by any individual or time.

    Reconstructed pronunciation is a lot more regular ("simple" so to say). It is a scholarly attempt to tell what cultured Classical Latin sounded like, based in evidence both written in Latin and of loanwords to/from other languages.

  2. There was a number (bigger than today) of countries where more than 90% of the population and institutions considered themselves Catholic (many European Countries had in fact Catholicism as their State Religion by the beginning of the XX century, including Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc.)

    Unsourced Wikipedia text argues that:

    • Latin still in use today is more often pronounced according to context, rather than geography
    • Ecclesiastical Latin [is] the official pronunciation of the Catholic Church [and] the default of many singers and choirs.
    • In Western university classics departments the reconstructed classical pronunciation has been general since around 1945, [citation needed]
    • In the Anglo-American legal professions the older style of academic Latin (i.e., the former English system) survives to this day.
  3. My educated guess (based in some experience but not unlikely to be biased) is that while the Wikipedia statement on context rather than geography is generally true, there is also a geopolitical divide, where the countries prone to a more Catholic or Romance tradition tend to prefer Ecclesiastical, while those more historically close to Protestantism and Germanic languages are closer to the Reconstructed. These groups don't have any particular reason to prefer the Ecclesiastical pronunciation, so the reconstructed, with an arguable more systematic approach and most likely to better resemble Classical Latin, seems like a better choice for them.

    Of course, this is nothing but a rule of thumb. I'm leaving out languages out of those two language families (Finnish!), an important part of Eastern Europe which is historically Orthodox. I'm also leaving in ambiguity regions like Bavaria, that have reasons to belong to both of my categories.


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