32 votes
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How do we know how the Romans pronounced Latin?

A standard work in this area is Vox Latina, by W. Sidney Allen. The author answers your question in his foreword, identifying 6 types of evidence: specific statements of Latin grammarians and ...
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31 votes
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What effect should a macron have on the sound of a letter and its word?

In most modern texts, the whole purpose of using macrons is to clearly indicate pronunciation, so they're usually pretty straightforward. (Macrons were not used classically, although there were some ...
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27 votes
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Why "ex nihilo" instead of "e nihilo"?

That's actually not a rule. ab and ex can lose their consonant, but in fact it's far more common for them not to. Check out Lewis and Short's entries on them: ex/e ex always before vowels, and ...
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  • 38.9k
25 votes
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What are the classical names of the letters of the Latin alphabet?

I'll briefly summarize the analysis of W. Sydney Allen in Vox Latina, 111ff., which is itself a summary of A. E. Gordon's The Letter Names of the Latin Alphabet. First, the vowels. These have the ...
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24 votes
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How do we know how gn was pronounced in Classical Latin?

We don't know for sure how -gn- was pronounced in Classical Latin. There are a few arguments for reconstructing the pronunciation of -⁠gn- as [ŋn], or more specifically [ŋ.n], with a syllable break ...
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21 votes
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Why is 'r' often rolled in modern classical Latin?

This paper talks about several primary sources (i.e. Roman texts) that describe rolling Rs: Terentianus Maurus writes in De litteris that vibrat tremulis ictibus aridum sonorem the R vibrates ...
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  • 2,472
19 votes
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When is an I not an I?

Dictionaries often explicitly mark long and short vowels, with a macron and breve accent, respectively. In such a dictionary, you will recognize a consonantic i from not having either accent: māiŭs¹. ...
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19 votes

When is an I not an I?

Here are a few "rules of thumb" I use. I can't guarantee these will work in all cases. If you're an English speaker, look at a related English word from Latin. If it's spelled with "j,&...
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  • 20.8k
18 votes
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When did 'ph' start to be pronounced like 'f'?

It's impossible to pinpoint an exact date, but there is evidence. As usual, Vox Graeca or Sihler's New Comparative Grammar is where to look. The earliest inscription we have of a Greek phi ...
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  • 38.9k
17 votes
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When did the consonant U (i.e., V) begin to be pronounced as the fricative [v] instead of [w]?

There is indeed evidence for the u-consonant being pronounced as a voiced fricative during the Classical period, even as early as the middle of the 1st century. A wax tablet dated to AD 39 records a ...
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17 votes

How do we know how the Romans pronounced Latin?

An important source of information is comparison to other languages. For example, Cicero was spelled as Κικέρων1 in Greek. If we believe that the Greek kappa was pronounced as /k/ rather than /s/ or /...
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17 votes
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When did “c” before “e” or “i” start to be pronounced as [ts] (in contrast to classical [k])?

This pronunciation change was underway by the fifth century, but perhaps not finalized until the sixth or seventh. Paul M. Lloyd, in From Latin to Spanish, writes: There is no inscriptional ...
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16 votes

What are the arguments for Classical pronunciations vs. Ecclesiastical pronunciation?

Just like in English, there are many ways to pronounce Latin. Would you say that British pronunciation is correct and American is wrong? Any valid pronunciation will do, but the best choice depends on ...
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16 votes
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Were 'th' and 'ch' aspirated in classical Latin?

W. Sydney Allen, not unexpectedly, has the answer in Vox Latina, 26–27: The digraphs ph, th, ch represented aspirated voiceless plosives—not unlike the initial sounds of pot, top, cot ...
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16 votes
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Evidence about pronunciation of ευ and αυ in Homeric Greek?

I would go further than Draconis's answer and say that we can be pretty certain that these diphthongs were indeed diphthongs in Homer's time. Here are some additional arguments: The Homeric poems ...
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15 votes
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Was the final "-m" a "full-featured" consonant?

The pronunciation of the letter m at the end of words isn't completely uniform in Classical Latin. W. Sydney Allen, in Vox Latina 30–31, lays out the evidence for several different ways the letter ...
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15 votes

Are there exceptions to the Latin stress rules?

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 ...
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15 votes
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The pronunciation of Greek "γ"

The letter gamma was pronounced like the g in get in Ancient Greek, a voiced velar stop. But before another gamma, before kappa, chi, or xi, the gamma was pronounced like ng, as in boring. It's also ...
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14 votes
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Were voiceless stops (p, t, c, qu) aspirated in Classical Latin?

W. Sydney Allen, Vox Latina, 12–13, contends that the voiceless plosives in Latin were, compared to English, "relatively unaspirated," but that some aspiration may have been tolerated. First, ...
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14 votes
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How do we know the quantity of vowels followed by several consonants?

The length of vowels with “hidden quantity” can often be discovered from one of the following sources of information: Explicit descriptions of vowel length in ancient texts “Lachmann’s law” is a well-...
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  • 20.8k
14 votes

How to read mathematics out loud?

For basic mathematics, I’ve found some answers in the Institutiones Physicæ by Floriani Dalham, published in 1752: 1+2 = 3 would be read unus plus duo sunt tres Additio est duorum, vel plurium ...
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  • 2,212
14 votes
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Why does "ῤάρος" have a smooth breathing?

I wasn't able to find out why this word, or name, has a smooth breathing. As you may have seen already, LSJ actually has separate entries for "Raros", a name, and "raros", the "embryo" word that TKR'...
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  • 20.8k
14 votes
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"Ae" pronunciation

There isn't just a single pronunciation of Latin in use, there are many. You can say /ˈgrae̯kae̯/, but whether you "should" is a matter of opinion. The transcription [ae̯] is one way of representing ...
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14 votes
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Was avē truly pronounced with an "unspelled /h/"?

That's what Quintilian implicitly said in his Institutio Oratoria (in the 1st century CE), and there's no real reason to doubt him in this case: the fact that the earliest attested plural form (in ...
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  • 6,160
13 votes

Are there exceptions to the Latin stress rules?

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 ...
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13 votes
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What is an overview of the differences between Classical and Ecclesiastical Latin?

Henry Preston Vaughan Nunn, in his Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin, is helpful in this regard. He sets the stage for the distinctions between Classical and Ecclesiastical Latin by briefly ...
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13 votes

When did “c” before “e” or “i” start to be pronounced as [ts] (in contrast to classical [k])?

Sturtevant, The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin, says of the change in pronunciation of C before front vowels (p. 167): "The epigraphical evidence of this change is not abundant enough to inspire ...
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  • 27.9k
13 votes

Why is the "u" in "nuntius" and "nuntiare" long by exception?

For my answer, I will use Bennett's New Latin Grammar as a reference. There are two important rules which come together to make a long ū in nūntius. As you noted, a vowel followed by nt or nd is ...
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  • 36.5k
13 votes
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Why is Antirrhinum written with two 'r'?

In Greek compounds, if a stem that begins with rho is preceded by an element that ends in a simple vowel (not a diphthong), the rho is doubled. Likewise, in inflected forms where a simple vowel is ...
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  • 17.7k
13 votes

How did Caesar pronounce Latin overlined vowels?

Q1: my first question is whether overlining is the same as "stress"? Not really. The overline indicates vowel length—how long you sustain the vowel sound—which is a component of stress in ...
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