You can't determine from metrical feet if the 'i' in 'cuius' was pronounced as 'j' or if it formed a diphthong with 'u'. Diphthongs always form long syllables so it could be the 'u' was long and the 'i' was pronounced as 'j' or it could be that 'ui' formed a diphthong. Do we have any other way of knowing this information? Further, most modern dictionaries assert that it should be pronounced as 'cujus', well, why do they believe this?

Also, there are the few times when Latin got transliterated into Greek. Does anyone know if 'cuius' or other such words were ever inscribed in stone in Greek?


2 Answers 2


The i in cuius was pronounced as /j/. We can arrive at this conclusion several ways:

Firstly is the history of spelling variations: the standard spelling of cuius was not always cuius, and was previously quoius until the early empire. The quo became cu (like cum from earlier quom), meaning u stood in for a vowel. Other spellings I think are also attested, such as cuiius, where the double ii is very probably an attempt to represent a geminate /jj/. That being said, I do not know when or by who these spellings occured.

As for the usual orthography of Latin that we're used to, cu is used when u is a vowel, and qu when u is a consonant. That's why Romans could distinguish between qui (/kʷiː/) and cui (/kui̯/).

Etymology is another note: cuius comes either from Proto-Indo-European *kʷosyo (gen. sg. of the relative pronoun) or *kʷo-s-yo-s (an adjective derived from the same pronoun). Either way, the /s/ assimilated to the /j/, giving us a geminate /jj/, which explains the spellings that reflect that.

  • As far as the double 'ii', when and where did this happen? Ennius used to write double vowels to indicate long vowels but I think there was one vowel that was never written double, maybe it was the 'o' or the 'i'. The process died off around 80BC I think. Is it possible that the 'ii' was a double vowel? Further, if 'qu' is used to indicate kw and cu is used to indicate ku, then that does not tell us that the u in ku is long or short or forms a diphthong with i.
    – bobsmith76
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 21:57
  • I cannot actually find a lot of examples in any corpora of cuiius, so I may have to search for more conformation on that. As for ku, k is never used in front of u. k is only used in front of a in Latin except for a few cases like Koppa, the name of the Greek letter from which the letter Q came.
    – NanoEta
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 22:56
  • @bobsmith76 My recollection is it was the O, because it was based on Oscan precedent and Oscan had no O. I'll see if I can find where I read that.
    – Draconis
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 1:24
  • I think it was in the John Rolfes 1922 paper.
    – bobsmith76
    Commented Aug 4, 2021 at 5:57

Cuius is typically thought to have been pronounced as /kuj.jus/ with short /u/ (which was possibly realized phonetically as [ʊ]) followed by geminate (i.e. long, or doubled) /j.j/.

The phonetic difference between [j] and non-syllabic [i] is practically negligible, and the phonological difference between /j/ and non-syllabic /i/ is often questionable as well. There are analyses of modern English that treat words like “eye” and “toy” as ending in /j/, although the usual analysis is that these words contain diphthongs.

As NanoEta mentions, cuius comes from quoius; however, I think quoius had a short o, not a long one.

As I say in my answer to the question "What is the etymology of 'cuius' and is it different from 'quis'?", I've read a 1902 paper by Charles Exon which supposes that huius and cuius developed long /uː/ from coalescence of an oi diphthong followed by j (he describes the development as "hoi-jus" to "hū-jus"); however, I know of no modern source that takes this view.

  • I neglected terminology in my answer accidentally—thank you for pointing that out. The o might have been short; I primarily meant to differentiate between u as a vowel and u as a consonant when I said "long u".
    – NanoEta
    Commented Aug 3, 2021 at 22:59

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