Latin pronunciation

I was just curious…how do people know that Church latin pronunciation is incorrect? i.e.: that the v was pronounced as a “w” and that the c was pronounced like an “s”? I mean, who has preserved the original language? Wasn’t it the Church? Why are teachers nowadays telling us that the Church pronounces it wrong?

I would go with the Church,.

On another note, in my 3 years of Latin classes, taugh by a lady who was toatally fluent- it was scarey, she taught us conversational as well as norm translate- was exactly as you describe, plus it was in a totally secular highschool, Catholics are a HUGE minority where I grew up…so not all of them are.

I was taught that the difference between “Church” Latin, with its “soft s” sound for c, and “secular” Latin, with its “kkk” sound for c, was due to the influence on medieval Latin by the vernacular Italian language, especially in musical settings.

Since we rarely speak “secular” Latin nowadays, but often sing or speak Latin in settings of the Mass, or of sacred hymnody, it seems rather silly for someone to object that “church” Latin has a “wrong” pronunciation.

BTW, Jack, which “teachers” say the pronunciation is wrong, anyway, and in what context?

If you’re taking Latin in high school, certainly you should use the more classical, i.e., “secular” pronunciation in the classroom, but if you then went to your neighborhood “Latin Mass” and attempted that pronunciation in the church, you’d be at the least disruptive.

But to hear “wrong” as opposed to say, “inappropriate for the setting”. . .that smacks to me of some sort of bias on the teacher’s part. Funny how some can bleat “wrong pronunciation” for the “Catholic” in the class, yet would most likely be tremendously offended if they went to church, used their “secular” Latin, and heard, “well, that pronunciation is wrong here”. As though only ONE pronunciation of Latin were INVARIABLY correct in any and all settings. . .which of course is emphatically not the case.

I’m in my 4th year of latin and I have heard of these differences. Church Latin is not “wrong” anymore than Modern English is “wrong” in its pronuciation as opposed to Middle or Old English, just different developements. Church Latin is just a further developement of the language from the ancient Romans. Even in “secular” (if that is even a good word for it) latin has variations. Even at the time of Cicero there were things in the language archaic and no longer in use. All languages develope, it isn’t necessarily “wrong”.

To rephrase the original question in order to provide the meagrest of answers:

Q. How do classicists claim to know how Classical* Latin was pronounced?

A. They make pretty good guesses based on the spelling and pronunciation of those Greek words which were borrowed by the Romans. (And I think they make pretty good guesses about how Classical Greek was pronounced from the poetry they left behind and the poets’ own descriptions thereof)

(* Which is the usual adjective to name the Latin that is not Church/Ecclesiastical/Vulgar Latin)

“Umph – a lot of nonsence, in my opinion. Making boys say ‘Kickero’ at school when – umph – for the rest of their lives they’ll say ‘Cicero’ – if they ever – umph – say it at all. And instead of ‘vicissim’ – God bless my soul – you’d make them say, 'We kiss ‘im’! Umph – umph!”
[RIGHT]Goodbye, Mr. Chips
James Hilton
[/RIGHT]

tee

Hi JackP,

Latin has been spoken for at least 3000 years and written for about 2500 years. The experience with other languages (including English) and simple common sense tell you that it is not possible for pronunciation to have remained the same throughout all that time.

Generally in schools today, they teach the so-called “classical pronunciation”, that is the pronunciation supposedly used in the “classical period” (Caesar, Cicero, Virgil etc).

This pronunciaition has been arrived at by studying various elements, such as transliteration to and from other languages, notably Greek.

But that pronunciation, supposing it to be correct, evolved from earlier pronunciations, and itself later evolved into something else. Already in the 2nd C. inscriptions have been found with “ae” being spelled “e” which means that the “I” pronunciation was already changing, at least in some circles, to the “e” of “get”, as in the Church pronunciation today.l

Latin has never stopped being spoken in Rome and the Church uses the pronunciation of Latin as extent in Rome today. It is practically identical to that of Italian, but it is just as authentic and orthodox as any other pronunciation.

Since no pronunciation can apply to all of Latinity, then any pronunciation is good. Pius X ordered that the Church use the pronunciation more romano (Roman style), meaning the pronunciation used at Rome in his time, which is the Church pronunciation still today.

Verbum

[quote=jackpuffin]I was just curious…how do people know that Church latin pronunciation is incorrect? i.e.: that the v was pronounced as a “w” and that the c was pronounced like an “s”?
[/quote]

NOt an “s,” a “k.”

I mean, who has preserved the original language? Wasn’t it the Church? Why are teachers nowadays telling us that the Church pronounces it wrong?

Are they? Another great example of people not being relativists when they need to be. It isn’t “right” vs. wrong. The classicists probably have it right WRT how people pronounced it in ancient times (though it’s hard to believe that anyone ever submitted to be called “Kickero,” especially such a pompous prig as He who is more ecclesiastically and euphoniously named Cheechero). But the living tradition of Europe developed in a different direction. Archaeology or living tradition? It’s a bigger issue than just pronunciation.

Edwin

It seems to me that Latin - and I have not studied the language - would have the vowel pronunciations of Castillan Spanish. Since Castillan Spanish does not use the letter “k” it would be necessary to know the word to know what pronunciation would be used. Italian - and Latin - have the “ch” sound for certain words that only have the letter “c” as well. For example “coeli” is pronounced “chaley” - at least that is the way I was taught. Another would be “arrivederci”.

Kickero? Nah.

Dominus vobiscum y buenas noches. It’s bedtime.

Some people say “finer”, some say “finuh”.
[left]Some people say “letter”, others say “lettuh”

You say “tomaytoe”, I say "tomahtoe"etc.
Who is to say which pronouncation is correct?

But I would go with the Church’s pronouncation, since Latin has been its language for 2000+ years.

Besides, whats the point of arguing? Will there ever be a case where one will be put in such a situation that we must speak Latin like the natives in order to blend in?
I say go with what you are more confortable with as long as you understand the meaning of the words.

[/left]

I have read this thread with interest. The line that said why teach the pronounciation of “church” as “kurch” when they will say in the neighborhood the word as “church”?

This reminds me of the word “chlorine”. I am a retired Chemistry Teacher having attended four major universities and studied Chemistry at all of them. The University Profs all said, “Clo-rin” while my untutoted students would say," Clo- reene". Accent on “reene”. When I heard ,“Clo-reene” I would scratch my fingernails on the blackboard.

Today, some years later, I still hear, “Clo-reene” on the radio and T.V. Was it worth correcting these students. If you walked in my room and said,“Clo-reene” to me I’d not approve of it. It sounds to me to be a “Hill-Billy” pronounciation. Let’s suppose the meaning outweighs the way we say it.:slight_smile:

[quote=Exporter]I have read this thread with interest. The line that said why teach the pronounciation of “church” as “kurch” when they will say in the neighborhood the word as “church”?

This reminds me of the word “chlorine”. I am a retired Chemistry Teacher having attended four major universities and studied Chemistry at all of them. The University Profs all said, “Clo-rin” while my untutoted students would say," Clo- reene". Accent on “reene”. When I heard ,“Clo-reene” I would scratch my fingernails on the blackboard.

Today, some years later, I still hear, “Clo-reene” on the radio and T.V. Was it worth correcting these students. If you walked in my room and said,“Clo-reene” to me I’d not approve of it. It sounds to me to be a “Hill-Billy” pronounciation. Let’s suppose the meaning outweighs the way we say it.:slight_smile:
[/quote]

Sorry to hijack the thread, but this reminds me of when I learned that the correct pronunciation of Philistine was not fill’ is tine or fill’ is teen, but fi lis’ tin…

[quote=mtr01]Sorry to hijack the thread, but this reminds me of when I learned that the correct pronunciation of Philistine was not fill’ is tine or fill’ is teen, but fi lis’ tin…
[/quote]

Or to similarly hijack: Years ago, when we took prepared child-birth classes, it took the looooongest time to figure out that when the OB/GYN nurse-instructors were saying “sahn’meters” they really meant what the rest of the English-speaking world refers to as “centimeters” – They were all just inexplicably using French pronunciation.

(Don’t ask what they were measuring – You Don’t Want To Know :eek: )

tee

[quote=Tantum ergo]I was taught that the difference between “Church” Latin, with its “soft s” sound for c, and “secular” Latin, with its “kkk” sound for c, was due to the influence on medieval Latin by the vernacular Italian language, especially in musical settings.

Since we rarely speak “secular” Latin nowadays, but often sing or speak Latin in settings of the Mass, or of sacred hymnody, it seems rather silly for someone to object that “church” Latin has a “wrong” pronunciation.
[/quote]

I recall that Cardinal Newman said that when people began to make a fuss over the pronunciation of what was no longer a vernacular tonque, then that is when Latin began to die as a common currency of European scholars.

Yeah, who is to say who’s right? Besides, doesn’t the Church use a strain (?) called “Ecclesiastical” Latin, which is known to be different from Classical/Civil/Secular Latin?

i’d like to further the idea that there might not be a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ pronunciation. it could be that the argument is similar to asking if you should pronounce the word ‘player’ or ‘playuh’ or ‘plie-uh’. english speakers in america, england, and australia pronounce this word differently (not to mention the ‘ebonic’ pronunciation) today. without even considering how latin probably changed over the 1000 years of the roman empire’s existence, there was obviously a shift in pronunciation over the course of time in various regions - hence french, spanish, italian, romanian, portuguese…

so the only question really is which pronunciation do we prefer? i like the sound of ‘vaynee veedee veechee’ alot better than ‘waynee weedee weekee’. who knows how it was originally said?

on the philistine issue, i submit the following:

Phil·is·tine cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/JPG/pron.jpg ( P ) Pronunciation Key (fhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.giflhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/prime.gifhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gif-sthttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/emacr.gifnhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/lprime.gif, fhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gif-lhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gifshttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/prime.gifthttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gifn, -thttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/emacr.gifnhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/lprime.gif)

from dictionary.com. FIL-i-steen is the primary pronunciation.

and i submit the following:

chlo·rine cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/JPG/pron.jpg ( P ) Pronunciation Key (klôrhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/prime.gifhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/emacr.gifnhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/lprime.gif, -http://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gifn, klhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/omacr.gifrhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/prime.gif-)

regarding chlorine. ‘KLOR-een’ is the primary pronunciation. i believe the distinction was being made between the first and last syllable - but the spelling of the ‘correct’ pronunciation in the previous post made it look as though the second syllable was ‘in’ rather than ‘een’. just wanted to point out that it’s ‘een’.

[quote=jeffreedy789]on the philistine issue, i submit the following:

Phil·is·tine cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/JPG/pron.jpg ( P ) Pronunciation Key (fhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.giflhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/prime.gifhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gif-sthttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/emacr.gifnhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/lprime.gif, fhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gif-lhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gifshttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/prime.gifthttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gifn, -thttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/emacr.gifnhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/lprime.gif)

from dictionary.com. FIL-i-steen is the primary pronunciation.
[/quote]

Hijack continued…

Yes, that’s the way I always thought it was pronounced. However, that is a recent development, reflecting the current definition as “an uncultured person, etc”. I submit, however, it would not be the correct way to pronounce the term describing an inhabitant of Philistia:

Phi·lis·ti·a cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/JPG/pron.jpg ( P ) Pronunciation Key (fhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gif-lhttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/ibreve.gifshttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/prime.gifthttp://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/emacr.gif-http://cache.lexico.com/dictionary/graphics/AHD4/GIF/schwa.gif)

I only brought up this distinction as it affected me while reading the Scriptures.

Hi, Porthos,

Besides, doesn’t the Church use a strain (?) called “Ecclesiastical” Latin

There is no such thing as “ecclesiastical Latin”, although some textbooks that concentrate on religious and liturgical texts, might call themselves that.

Latin, as we know, was current among the common people, up to about the 8th Century. After that, we see bishops telling their priests to use the “vulgar tongue”, so people can understand their sermons. We then have the beginnings of the modern Latin languages.

But Latin kept on as the language of the learned people. It was the only language in schools right into the sixteenth century. During all that time, Latin certainly changed in grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. But it was used in every day life, not only in Church. Ecclesiastical texts used the Latin of their day, not any special Latin called ecclesiastical.

When modern languages came into their own, it happened to be at approximately the same time as scholars “rediscovered” the works of the “classical” Latin writers – Cicero, Caesar, Virgil etc. Classical Latin started being taught in schools, but Latin stopped being used in daily life even by the learned élite. Thus, the Church remained as the principal user of Latin. As no one spoke Latin on a daily basis, they fell back on the “classical’” Latin they had learned in school, and this is the form of Latin widely used in Church documents right up to the present day. The encyclicals of Pope John Paul II are written in the purest classical Latin.

Nothing “ecclesiastical” about it!

Verbum

Verbum…the difference between Ecclesiastical Latin and Classical Latin is in pronunciation. You would not be able to tell them apart on paper.

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