Is This a Good Latin Pronunciation Book?

I was at a local library and decided to crack open a book I’d ignored before called “Latin Pronunciation According to Roman Usage” edited by William D. Hall (I had ignored it because the title, to me, suggested classical Latin rather than church Latin) - it turns out it’s a small book originally published in the 30’s by the St. Gregory Guild to help church choirs pronounce Latin words correctly. All of the Choirs parts of the ordinary of mass are included with the Latin/Greek on one side and a phonetic spelling on the other, making it look like:

Kyrie Eleison--------------------KEE-ree-eh eh-LEH-ee-sawn
Gloria in excelsis Deo-------GLAW-ree-ah EEN eck-SHELL-sees DEH-aw

There’s also a section in back with the Requiem and benediction and Marian hymns. It seems like a wonderful book, but I was wondering if anyone else had encountered it and had any thoughts on it.

I don’t think the pronunciation is right. I think the beginning of the Gloria should be pronounced like this -

Glory-uh in eck-chell-sees dey-oh


I’m not sure either yours or the books are correct. The O at the end of Deo is more “closed” than the book seems to say it is- but vowels are pronounced differently across the US. Where I am from, the “aw” in paw is pronounced the same as the “a” in father. That is why I prefer books that use the International Phonetic Alphabet for the pronunciation guide.

A (ah, as in father)
E (eh, as in egg- or a long A sound, as in cake)
I (ee, as in, we)
O (O as in boy)
U (oo as in a Minnesota oo)

C (unless followed by an E or an I, a K sound- otherwise, a CH)
G (soft G, unless followed by an A, O, or U)
J (a Y sound)
R (flipped, like a British R in the middle of a word)
X (KS)

To the OP: The book is probably “correct” for choir singing. Does it also tell you that H is silent, except in *mihi *and nihil, when it sounds as a germanic, guttural CH sound?

I’m not sure your examples are correct either. (O as in boy? There’s a OO in Minnesota!?)

C is soft (CH) before *AE *and *OE *as well.


Yeah, it directs that the “H” be silent (“Aw-SAH-nnah EEN eck-SHELL-sees” is given for “Hosanna in excelsis”).

I always thought “excelsis” was pronounced “eck-chell-sees” too, which is part of the reason why I was wondering if others had encountered this book before. Perhaps the writer only wanted an “sh” sound instead of “ch” for when the Latin was sung. I’ve sometimes heard that choirs will be instructed to purposely mispronounce words to make then sound correct to the listeners sitting from a distance (like singing “Meddy Christmas” instead of “Merry Christmas”).

Yes, I’ve heard that too. Another reason is to avoid plosives (as I suspect the CH sound in *ex-cel-sis *would make in choral unison).

PS: Inspired by your question, I have added a couple of pronunciation articles to the [post=2589753]Latin Resources[/post] thread.


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