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Does anybody know how normal Latin dialog sounded — not the oratory or ecclesiastical versions? Are there any audio files that you recommend?

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    Let me check that I understand: Are you asking for a recorded piece of conversation based on our knowledge of the kind of Latin spoken in the Roman Republic and Empire? To a large extent this sounds like "What is the most credible reconstruction of colloquial classical Latin?", which is interesting. Welcome to the site!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 14, 2016 at 21:42
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    Welcome to the site. There are a lot of resources about Latin pronunciation in other places; I'm sure you've seen some. Can you explain in more detail what you want that those resources do not cover? You might be interested in the answers to the following question: How do we know how the Romans pronounced Latin?
    – Asteroides
    Jul 14, 2016 at 22:46
  • @sumelic Whoah, it's a question of mine. That's freaky.
    – anon
    Jul 15, 2016 at 0:52
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    I just want to hear it, to get the feeling of it. Is just a curiosity.
    – Valugi
    Jul 16, 2016 at 0:01
  • I would hypothesize that normal Latin dialog sounded then just like like it does now...
    – Jay
    Jul 16, 2016 at 7:16

5 Answers 5

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I don't know of any recordings. But we can make a good guess:

  • The high-class, "proper" pronunciation is documented in books on oratory and rhetoric; Allen's Vox Latina summarizes and explains it thoroughly
  • We know how the common/vulgar pronunciation differed from this standard
  • Common features of prosody like stress and elision are known through poetry (and through descendants in Romance languages)

However:

From this, it should be possible to imitate a passable Vulgar Latin conversation. But it would be a reconstruction by non-native speakers, with all the drawbacks that entails.

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Does anybody know how normal Latin dialog sounded

We don't know enough about the historical pronunciation of Latin to make an audio file that we could confidently say would have the same feeling as listening to the normal speech of a Latin speaker during the time of the Roman Republic or Roman Empire.

We know with a high degree of certainty the basic sound system (phonology) of Latin in classical times. We also have a pretty good idea of certain special phonetic aspects of pronunciation—for example, the use of a "light" and "dark" allophone of L.

But for any language, there are many phonetic details about how it sounds that cannot all be deduced from the kind of written and circumstantial evidence that we have about pre-modern Latin pronunciation. When people learn a second language, they often have an accent based on their first language(s), even after being able to listen extensively to native speakers of their second language. No one living today has the option to listen to even one example of a native speaker of pre-modern Latin, so it's pretty ambitious to think that somebody could perfectly acquire the accent of a pre-modern Latin speaker.

Are there any audio files that you recommend

No, but I haven't looked for any. An audio file would give you the speaker's best effort at producing the pronunciation that the speaker thinks was used historically. So the value of the audio file as a source of information will be based on the speaker's knowledge of evidence about how Latin was historically pronounced, the speaker's evaluation of that evidence, the speaker's skill at producing language sounds accurately, and your skill at perceiving language sounds accurately.

Also, a single audio file would not be able to represent the range of normal pronunciation. No language has uniform pronunciation, so we can probably say that there was more than one "Latin accent" (even if we can't say exactly how the accents differed, or how they were distributed or changed over time).

Latin audio files definitely can be helpful in some ways–for example, I think that it's been found that listening helps people become more fluent in a foreign language. And listening to audio files might help you learn to avoid some pronunciation habits from your native language that we don't think existed in Latin. (For example, English speakers tend to automatically reduce vowels in unstressed syllables to a schwa sound, but we don't think that this was a feature of Latin pronunciation in classical times.) But I think it's unlikely that you'll be able to get an accurate impression of what a "normal" Latin accent in ancient times would have sounded like by listening to an audio file.

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This is a video that should help you:

NativeLang, "What Latin Sounded Like - and how we know"

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There aren't any classical Latin dialog audio files that I recommend listening to so far, however, there are audio files and more by individual classical Latin speakers that that I recommend listening to!

Thomas Bervoets, whom got me into classical Latin in the first place! Thomas Bervoets doesn't do classical Latin dialog but is excellent at doing different voices! I recommend listening to him the most!

https://www.stilus.nl/horatius/index.htm#6

https://www.stilus.nl/ce-geluid/index.htm

https://www.stilus.nl/catilina/index.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmn69Xga7Mg&t=309s

The Finnish female Classical Latin news announcer of the Finnish Nuntii Latini!

https://areena.yle.fi/audio/1-1931339

And the lady in the YouTube video of hers called Classical Latin VS Vulgar Latin- What's the difference? saying the Classical Latin sentence Marcus patrī librum dat!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdQawsU2RFg&t=309s

As far as Vulgar Latin dialog audio files goes, unfortunately I haven't come across any Vulgar Latin dialog audio files and the same goes with any Vulgar Latin dialog audio files! Hopefully there will be classical Latin dialog audio files and Vulgar Latin dialog audio files by classical Latin speakers and Vulgar Latin that speak classical Latin and Vulgar Latin as perfect as Thomas Bervoets speaks classical Latin!

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The world's best expert on Latin pronunciation is Alex Foreman. Listen to these:

https://blogicarian.blogspot.com/2019/06/readings-of-latin-verse.html?fbclid=IwAR0zA4_GH5ce8Vw22HyO9Emud09Ovi7fYJsEZfDrayfN33QEWH8ux3Lf6o4

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    "The world's best expert on Latin pronunciation is Alex Foreman." Citation needed? Jun 12, 2019 at 2:12
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    I second @Kingshorsey. I very much doubt the world's best expert on (Classical) Latin pronunciation is "self-taught in many of the languages he translates, with a bachelors degree in linguistics from the University of Chicago, and a masters degree in Arabic from the University of Maryland". That is, I would expect their About Me section to be either more Latin-specific or richer than that. Jun 12, 2019 at 11:08
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    @fdb So you're basing your statement on those recordings? Jun 12, 2019 at 11:29
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    His pronunciation is good, apart from the nasalisation which is typically growly and unpleasant, like that of most other American speakers (Stephen Daitz comes to mind). This must have something to do with the default nasality of many American accents, I suppose, leading to an exaggeration of it. In Foreman's case it's very surprising though, given how amazing his accent is in every single other language. Jun 12, 2019 at 11:31
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    Much as I appreciate the vote of confidence, I can promise you, I am not the world's best expert on anything except maybe how to still eat the whole damn bag of potato chips when I swore I'd just take one. I've got that down to a science. Feb 23, 2021 at 23:44

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