When pronouncing a word in classical Latin, should the heavy syllable and all other long vowels be lengthened, or just the heavy syllable?

For example: fació, is it pronounced [fa:kio:] or [fa:kio] ? (in) Európá [ɛʊ̯roːpa] or [ɛʊ̯ro:pa:]?

  • 2
    Well, to answer such a question we would need native speakers of Latin, record them, analyze their speech samples with Praat etc. So we can only hypothesize whether there was allophonic accentual lengthening or not.
    – Alex B.
    May 7, 2017 at 17:28

2 Answers 2


You are starting your question from an incorrect presupposition: in Latin, a stressed syllable is not lengthened. In facio, the pronunciation of stressed a is very similar to unstressed a in, for example, faciebat. Similarly, unstressed syllables are not shortened.

The nature of the Latin word accent has been the subject of many a discussion among philologists, but because of the metrical evidence in poetry there has never been a serious suggestion to lengthen a vowel in a stressed syllable. There are many more ways that one can use to stress a syllable, by modulating e.g. pitch and volume. Compare to the first e in these two English words: example and level. While there is clearly stress on the e in the second word, the length of the vowel is not a differentiating factor.


Length and stress, as they have said above, are different things in Latin. Whether to lengthen long syllables is really a choice of the speaker, but you should keep in mind we can hardly know how length was originally applied in oral Latin. We do understand stressed syllables, because we have them in English, and those should follow the rules we know.

To answer your question: pronounce it /'fakio/ and pay no mind to length.

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