Sometimes people with little or no knowledge of Latin end up having or wanting to use it. I am typically willing to help and I have learned how to do it effectively with Finns. But how should I instruct native speakers of English? It might be in the context of singing a song or that of giving a speech. The goal is not to teach Latin pronunciation in general, but to give sufficient guidance to survive a performance in Latin.

For example, here is a random sample of Latin text and possible instructions that I would give to a Finn. You may use it or some other example.

Pompeius maritimos praedones consectando mare tutum fecit.
1) Pompeijus maritimoos preedoonees koonsektandoo mare tuutum feekit.
2) Pompéijus marítimoos preedóonees koonsektándoo máre túutum féekit.
3) Pom-pei-jus ma-ri-ti-moos pree-doo-nees koon-sek-tan-doo ma-re tuu-tum fee-kit.
4) Pompeius maritimōs praedōnēs cōnsectandō mare tūtum fēcit.

Option 1 is a simple one that is typically easy to read for most Finns. Latin words look to alien to many, and hyphenating all into syllables (3) is sometimes needed. For more advanced pronunciation (2), I would give the stresses and hyphenate for clarity when adjacent vowels are in different syllables (to make sure suus and sūs are different). People who have studied Latin and remember how to pronounce it typically only require macrons and possible diereses (4). In the case of poetry I would of course take care of elision, and for a song I would not indicate prose stress but the one needed for the song's rhythm. I doubt these would be particularly useful formats for British or American pronouncers.

When giving an answer, please tell if you have actually used the method and what your experience of it is. I am mainly looking for ideas that are known to work. Educated guesses are welcome but should be marked as such.

  • 1
    Advise the Anglophones to learn IPA, and then transcribe the Latin into IPA? – NNOX Apps Oct 12 '16 at 18:51
  • @Timere, that would be good, but it is often unreasonable to assume people know IPA. Especially if it's a Latin song for a choir, I cannot expect everyone to be even remotely willing to learn IPA. I often have to give quick instructions that are easy to absorb, as much as I'd like a more systematic approach. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 12 '16 at 19:31

Your Answer

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

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.