Do the Latin stress rules (antepenultimate if penultimate is light, penultimate if heavy) have any known exceptions?

If so, what are the exceptions, and what evidence is there in the grammatical canon or in literature or poetry for them?

(Following a consensus on Latin Meta.SE, I'm reposting this question from Linguistics.SE here, as I believe the classics community may be better able to support their answer with quotations and historical context.)

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    Welcome! It may not be feasible for answers here to provide a complete list of such exceptions, if there are many of them. If so, hopefully an overview of them would suffice for you. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 21:18
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    Yeah, I'm definitely not after an exhaustive list. What I was looking for when I originally posted on Linguistics.SE was an answer that would be a starting point for learners and people studying Latin linguistics. I only got a cursory list and a set of Russian-language references, an effort which I believe could be improved upon here.
    – jogloran
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 21:21
  • May I suggest adding a note to the question at linguistics pointing to this question here?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 22:17
  • Sounds reasonable to me. Done.
    – jogloran
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 22:17
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    Do exceptions apply to proclitics/ inhibeo stressed on 2nd 'i' ; but inhibet? and per- compounds: 'mora percoquit uvas.' =delay ripens the grapes
    – Hugh
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:43

3 Answers 3


Yes, there are exceptions, but fortunately not very many. Allen & Greenough has a short summary at §12.a, which I'll discuss here.

The first common exception you'll come across is a word with an enclitic (-que, -ve, -ne). With these, the accent always falls on the penult of the new word, so, using an example from Allen and Greenough, the accent for itaque "and so" falls on the 'a' itắque, though the a is still short. We can contrast that with the homograph itaque, where the accent falls on the antepenult: ítăque, though the 'i' is short, too.

While the ancient grammarians state this, some modern scholars, notably R. Whitney Tucker in the 1965 article "Accentuation before Enclitics in Latin" (TAPA 96: 449–461), dispute this by metrical analysis of Seneca's (and others') lines, since there is a coincidence of stress and length in the third foot. I quote:

[In] iambic trimeter lines (senarii), in the third foot, the long syllable of the iambus is the accented syllable of a word; or, if it is resolved into two short syllables, the first of these is the accented syllable of a word...This rule is observed also by Horace and Phaedrus, but not by Plautus and Terence.

The next exception comprises 2nd declension genitive and vocative singular nouns ending in -ius, which "retain the accent of the nominative." So, again from their examples, the name Vergilius in the genitive and vocative is Vergílī, despite the fact that the accented 'i' is short. This also applies to the genitive of neuter nouns ending in -ium.

Final-syllable-syncopated words like satin (a colloquial form of satisne or produc (the imperative of producere) that lost a terminal short 'e' are still accented as if the 'e' were never lost. So for the above examples, we get prōdū́c (older *prōdū́ce) and satín (from satísne).

Thanks to TKR below for the fuller account.

Finally, the facere compounds (e.g. benefacere, calefacere) ignore the first root and are accented as if it were only the verb. Allen & Greenough explain this by pointing out that that they are not properly compounds at all, but phrases (bene facere) which were so frequently used that the adverb lost its accent.

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    I think I remember reading the stress of words with -que was controversial; do you know what the evidence is for this pattern (and what evidence there might be against a stress shift)?
    – Asteroides
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 23:56
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    @sumelic Allen, Vox Latina 87-88, discusses the -que question briefly. Apparently the ancient grammarians do state that the accent of -que words was always penultimate, but some modern scholars have questioned that this really applied in the case of a short penult based on analysis of metrical evidence.
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 0:25
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    It's not just the loss of final short -e that results in stress exceptions; final-syllable syncope (i.e. non-final vowel loss in a final syllable) gives the same result. Allen again (p. 87): "In some words, originally accented on the penultimate, the vowel of the final syllable has been lost; and the accent then remains on what is now the final syllable. Thus, for example, nostras, illic, adhuc, adduc, tanton (from nostratis, illice, adhuce, adduce, tantone). The same applies to contracted perfect forms in -at, -it, from -auit, -iuit."
    – TKR
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 0:30

Imho the most comprehensive treatment of Latin accent (beautifully defined as "anima vocis" by some Roman grammarians) is Leumann, Hofmann, and Szantyr 1977, Lateinische Grammatik. Band I. Lateinische Laut- und Formenlehre. (para 235-246, Betonung und Akzent). Caveat: It is in German.

There is some evidence that even the Roman grammarians admitted struggling with Latin accentology, e.g. Probus wrote this (taken from Belov 2005):

enter image description here

Since there is a significant number of exceptions (all of them are rara), I will focus on oxytones for now. The following is my summary of the relevant parts in Leumann, Hofmann, and Szantyr 1977, Tronskii 1960, and Weiss 2009/2011.

Oxytone (final syllable accented) as a result of an apocope (of the final vowel) or a syncope of the Inlaut syllable:

a) in some proper nouns or adjectives (containing the suffix *ati or *iti): Arpinas (from Arpinatis), Suffenas, Maecenas, (Valerius) Antias, Samnis (from Samnitis); nostras (from nostratis);

b) in some pronominal adverbs: illic, istic; illuc, adhuc; illinc; illac, posthac etc.;

c) in some cases with the interrogative enclitic particle ne: viden (from vides-ne), tanton (from tantone);

d) the short forms of the Perfect: audit (from audivit), intritat (from intritavit), disturbat (from disturbavit), sepeli (from sepelivi), petit, cupit, fumat;

NB: Tronskii 1960 argues such forms were rare.

e) 2SG imperative of duc and dic compounds: educ (from educe), addic (from addice)

NB: Weiss 2009 writes that such forms derived from dico are not attested in Classical Latin (p. 422, footnote 22).

Other exceptions:

f) Also, the ancient grammarians insisted on the oxytone stress in some conjunctions: pone (after), sine, ergo, verum (but), in some cases arguably to distinguish those from the other homophones. Mancini 1997, however, seems to dispute this.

g) in some adverbs: falso, una, alias;

h) in some interjections: attat, papae (Tronskii 1960, p. 62).

If you read in Russian, I strongly recommend Belov 2005, especially Part III, where he analyzes the relevant data from the ancient grammarians.

  • Alex B: Thanks for elaborating on the question here. To be clear, are there works arguing that the words in group a) carry oxytone stress? If so, what are the reconstructed full words without the apocope?
    – jogloran
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 4:14
  • @jogloran I accidentally misplaced the first group, please re-read.
    – Alex B.
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 4:26
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    I see why compounds and contractions are oxytonic, but not why 'pone', 'sine', or 'falso' might be. I posted a question directly about 'pone' here. Could we maybe get some excerpts of the "ancient grammarians" to see what they say, and where they got their ideas?
    – Coemgenus
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 4:50

I'll just add one class to what cmw says in his excellent answer, which is shortened fourth-conjugation first-person singular perfects. Dormiī, audiī, veniī, and the like are all stressed on a short penultimate syllable, even though it's short. Like some of the other exceptions, this stress was regular before a letter disappeared; they come from dormīvī, audīvī, venīvī, and so on, which are regularly stressed.

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