In terms of stress, what should I do with a long segment anterior to the stressed syllable of a long word?

An example would be:


--where I have emboldened the stressed syllable as I understand it.

The 'anterior long segment' would be:


One thing I can imagine doing is to reapply the regular rules, giving myself:


Putting them back together I would get:


Something of this sort would tell me what to do when I try to pronounce a long word, and I find that consistent pronunciation really helps with retention.

If the answer depends on it, I am interested in learning classical Latin for the present.

I want to add that I don't need the 'right' answer necessarily. Any consistent system to get me started would be much better than what I do currently, which is to go, 'Oh no, a long one again. Com - pe - ri - eeeee - baaaa - tur?'

  • 1
    To be honest, I think your current "system" is pretty much what most everyone does: emphasize the primary stressed syllable, pronounce long vowels as long (though many people even neglect that!), and basically not worry about the rest. Which may be the best we can do -- it seems plausible that Latin had rules for secondary stress placement, but if so, I'm not sure there's any basis for guessing at what they were.
    – TKR
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 2:27
  • @TKR. Thanks for telling me there is nothing more definite. That is valuable information. | I have a mental metronome going and try to see 'poēma' and 'πρᾶγμα' as four things rather than three, or three instead of two.
    – Catomic
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 3:22

1 Answer 1


There are various practical systems of pronunciation — in the UK we find the versions of Oxford, of Westminster School, the Roman Catholic Church and so on. As far as I know, none is really considered a reliable guide to that used in ancient Rome. Various scholarly books written on the subject (as well as others more fanciful and speculative), even where they rely on remarks by the ancient authorities, have led to no general agreement on pronunciation, only to a number of conventional rules.

A clue to this conundrum may well lie in classical prosody, where syllable quantities — that is, the lengths as they are heard when spoken — take the place of the stressed sounds that are more familiar to a modern European ear. It was, presumably, just as easy at Rome 2,000 years ago to recognize and distinguish Latin poetical metres as it is difficult for us now, when we do not specially develop the appropriate listening habit.

Unfortunately, this doesn't give a specific answer to your question, but it may, I hope, illustrate the kind of thing that confronts anyone beginning classical Latin. Don't let the initial difficulty put you off — and remember the pleasure that everyone here gets from our mutual interest!

  • +1 for "a number of conventional rules" - it's very important to remember that those are just conventions, not physical laws.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 18:52
  • Thank you. Could you however extend your answer by applying one system of pronunciation (stress placement), the one you use perhaps, to 'comperiēbātur'? I need a rough and ready guide to get started.
    – Catomic
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 1:43
  • My instinct is to stress the syllable which follows the prefix in a compound verb like comperio . It then seems to need a further natural stress on the a of the ending -batur. I find that others tend to follow their instinct, too. Other differences in pronunciation are idiosyncratic, for instance in the ways in which the letters c and g are hardened or softened, rather as in modern Italian. As TKR implies in his comment on your question, we mainly muddle along comfortably, and in the end it doesn't seem to matter too much.
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 12:53

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