Latin pronunciation varies between times and locations, and to some extent individuals. If I want learn a new kind of pronunciation, make sure I have properly switched to a new pronunciation, or want to figure out how exactly someone pronounces Latin, a good example sentence would be great. It would also help demonstrate to students and others how Latin is pronounced.

It should be a sentence or or other short passage containing many features that are pronounced differently in different styles. Prose is better than poetry for this purpose to avoid distortion due to scansion. What would be a good sentence?

This would be similar to the phrase "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" that contains all the letters of the alphabet for the sake of comparing fonts. Note that for the purposes of pronunciation having every letter of the alphabet is neither sufficient nor necessary, as the goal is very different.

Here is a list of features that would be nice to have (differences in parentheses):

  • It should contain vowels in different quantities. Ideally, all vowels in both quantities would be nice. (Not everyone makes quantity distinction.)
  • It should contain ae, possibly also oe. (Some pronounce these as ē, some as diphthongs.)
  • It should contain the consonantal v. Perhaps both consonantal and vocalic v and I would be nice? (Some pronounce v as /w/, some as /v/.)
  • It should contain ti+vowel and ci+vowel. (Pronunciations differ.)
  • It should contain all of these before e or i: c, g, sc, xc. (Similar to the previous one. I am not sure whether it matters whether the e or i is followed by a vowel.)
  • It should preferably contain ph, th, and ch. (Some ignore the H, some pronounce these as aspirates, some as fricatives.)
  • It should contain words ending in -m. (Some realize it as nasalization, some as a consonant.)
  • It should contain words starting with h-. (Some pronounce it, some do not.)
  • It should contain gn in both intervocalic and initial positions. (The two pronunciations are sometimes different, so better track both.)
  • It should contain ns and nf. (Suggested by Vincenzo Oliva in the comments; I'm not sure what the difference would be.)
  • It should contain an intervocalic s. (Voicing varies.)
  • It could contain a sonus medius. (See this question. This vowel sound is spelled variously with i or u.)
  • It should contain au. (Some pronounce it as ō.)
  • It should contain a y. (Pronunciation might or might not coincide with that of i.)

This is not a strict requirement, but supposed to give you an idea of what I am after. I am also open to suggestions regarding the list.

A simple list of words would also be an option, but I feel the pronunciation of individual words is not quite the same as a whole sentence. Finding a short quote from Cicero with all these features is a tall order, so all nice passages you find from literature or write yourselves are appreciated!

  • 2
    I would include the following (I might be forgetting something): intervocalic s; xc, sc and g before E/I; gn at the start (because it remains roughly the same) and in the middle of a word (because it varies); -ns-, and -nf-; sonus medius. – Vincenzo Oliva Apr 25 at 19:19
  • @VincenzoOliva Thanks! I updated the question. – Joonas Ilmavirta Apr 25 at 21:05
  • Actually, sorry, on second thought Ecclesiastical gn sounds [ɲ] initially ([ɲɲ] medially), differently from Classical initial gn, likely [n]. – Vincenzo Oliva Apr 25 at 21:24

Here is an attempt:

Vĭr Phoebŭm măgĭs ămāns ĕt Gnaeŭm ĕxcĭtāns scĭĕntĭae thĕsĭsquĕ causā ŏptĭmē hīc cōnfĭcĭō măgnŭm aedĭfĭcĭŭm.

Being a man who loves Phoebus more and wakes Gnaeus up because of knowledge and proposition, I complete a large building here very well.

The content makes little sense, but that should be no issue. It seems to match at least most of the requirements and is pretty short.

I put a macron or a breve over every consonant not in ae or oe or au. See this question for why I put măgnŭm instead of māgnŭm.

I am sure there are better ones, either artificial or from literature. Feel free to take this as a starting point for another answer.

| improve this answer | |
  • You should include a 'y' to see whether it's pronounced like 'i' or like an upsilon. – C Monsour Apr 25 at 23:48
  • @CMonsour I added that to the list in the question. I can't think of a neat way to include y in this one, but I'd be happy to see a version with it. – Joonas Ilmavirta Apr 25 at 23:57

I've tried coming up with a meaningful sentence, which makes it perhaps a bit long. Hopefully it's still worthwhile, having all the desired features plus -ng-. I have included all the spelling variants of (classical) adnuntiant among the different dialects.

Măthēmătĭcă ĕst rēgīnă coelī scĭĕntĭārŭm măxĭmēquĕ ĭngĕnĭŭm ăcŭĭt, sĕd ŭt mŭndī māchĭnă gnōscātŭr, cōnfĭrmātā aetātĕ phĭlŏsŏphīs ēxcĕllēns vĭdētŭr mĕtăphўsĭcă ĕt măgnā cŭm laudĕ hoc ănnūncĭănt/ădnūncĭănt/ănnūntĭănt/ădnūntĭănt.

Mathematics is the queen of the scientific firmament and sharpens the intellect so much, but to get a knowledge of the fabric of the world, mature philosophers think metaphysics is preeminent and proclaim it with great praise.

| improve this answer | |
  • In the last line of the translation "it" rather than "this" would be more usual English phrasing. – C Monsour Apr 28 at 17:27
  • I like the choice of topic! This looks very promising. A couple of points: Shouldn't acuit have short I, sed a short E (with long its the accusative reflexive), confirmata a long final A (assuming it's ablative), meta- a short E, and laude a short E? I also think the classical spelling is exclusively pronuntiare with T instead of C. – Joonas Ilmavirta Apr 28 at 17:27
  • 1
    The word hoc is nice to have in. If my memory serves me well, the O is actually short but the syllable is always heavy/long, so it's more like hocc. Some sources use a macron to indicate the length of the syllable. – Joonas Ilmavirta Apr 28 at 17:31
  • @CMonsour: Edited, thanks! – Vincenzo Oliva Apr 28 at 18:02
  • 1
    @JoonasIlmavirta: Maybe you're right about the classical pronunciation, however my point is that there are regional differences within Ecclesiastical Latin - even though the standard is the Italian pronunciation - so people can read -cia- as /tʃia/, /tsia/, /sia/ or /θia/. – Vincenzo Oliva Apr 28 at 20:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.