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 '16 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 '16 at 22:46
  • @sumelic Whoah, it's a question of mine. That's freaky.
    – Nic
    Jul 15 '16 at 0:52
  • I just want to hear it, to get the feeling of it. Is just a curiosity.
    – Valugi
    Jul 16 '16 at 0:01
  • I would hypothesize that normal Latin dialog sounded then just like like it does now...
    – Jay
    Jul 16 '16 at 7:16

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)


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.

  • "I don't know of any recordings." - do you mean that sarcastically, given that recordings of genuine Roman Latin speakers cannot exist in principle, or do you mena that you have literally never encountered recordings of the reconstructed pronunciation of Latin? O.o Jun 12 '19 at 12:17
  • @Unbrutal_Russian Sorry, that genuine recordings can't exist in principle, given the lack of native Latin speakers.
    – Draconis
    Jun 12 '19 at 15:23

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.

  • yourself might consider speaking to Unbrutal_Russian; and, or, read the comments below.
    – tony
    Jul 15 '19 at 11:03

This is a video that should help you:

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


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


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    "The world's best expert on Latin pronunciation is Alex Foreman." Citation needed? Jun 12 '19 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 '19 at 11:08
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    @fdb So you're basing your statement on those recordings? Jun 12 '19 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 '19 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 at 23:44

Am guessing that the Romans spoke with Italian accents--what else? Given the close relationship between Latin and its evolutionary descendant--contemporary Italian--many words are the same ("agricola", just one of 1000s off-top-of-head). Latin would have sounded like Italian people, having a "chinwag".

Latin/ Russian: have looked at this: both evolved from proto Indo-European tongues. So Russian was evolving before the 9th C. Also this would account for the similarities between the two sets of grammar. Having conceived the alphabet, it seems illogical that the monks would have stopped dead; did they not work to develop the language?

Given that contemporary Italian evolved from Latin, do not understand: "...Italian, an arbitrarily picked language...", nothing arbitrary about it: the one begot the other, generating phonetic closeness, of sorts, perhaps.

What about the sound? The OP asked about sound. The accent. Contemporary recordings are spoken in which accent? Is it the correct one? How would anybody know? Researching ancient accents--how would you approach that?

Here, in the UK, as in other countries, there are strong regional accents. Certain cities are renowned for unique accents, to be heard there (Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow). Visitors, to these, understand the English, when not peppered with dialect, but the English sounds completely different, from place-to-place.

After four-years of study, in Liverpool, was advised that I was speaking in a "scouse" accent; something of which, had been blissfully unaware. Conclusion: Latin sounded like the accent, from the place of origin, of that particular Roman/ Italian--coloured, possibly, by x-years of service in this-or-that posting.

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    "The monks who conceived the Cyrilic alphabet, in the 9thC, based the grammar on Latin grammar" - this is nonsense.
    – fdb
    Jun 11 '19 at 22:08
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    I have no idea why anyone would think of writing this reply, or think of writing any reply on a linguistic forum while not being able to tell the difference between grammar and alphabet. If you don't know how Latin sounded like, you should be asking, not answering. Jun 12 '19 at 11:22
  • @Unbrutal_Russian: Suspect that the OP was inviting speculation over something which cannot be proven. Therefore, your: "If-you-don't-know-how-Latin-sounded-like [sic]…", is as bizarre as it is rude. If Latin did not sound like Italian, it might not have done, perhaps you could advise--were you there?
    – tony
    Jun 12 '19 at 15:46
  • The OP asked if someone knew how it sounded or had any recordings that would demonstrate it. They didn't invite any speculation, let alone of the type which is based on lack of knowledge. "Were you there" is not a valid argument - it's a strawman posed by those who have notion of how science arrives at conclusions. I can make true or false statements about Japan, the Moon or Ancient Rome, and the fact that I've never been there has no bearing on whether what I say is true or false. Jun 12 '19 at 17:39
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    What I said was not intended to be rude, but to point you to the fact that this website is intended for informed answers, not idle speculation. There are a great wealth of resources, with plenty of proof, on how Latin was pronounced. You should not feel ashamed that you're unfamiliar with them - everyone was in your position until they decided to change it, like the OP. What you should feel ashamed for is refusing to change it and going straight to denying that anyone is able to know the answer, and to a type of speculation that anyone could come up with had they not known better. Jun 12 '19 at 17:46

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