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iolo

Pronouncing Latin

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When we learn Latin in the UK nowadays we often find that some older people's pronunciation is what we might perhaps call 'traditional public school' and very unlike what we are taught now. It is also very unlike RC Church Latin, suggesting that the 'English' pronunciation changed a lot from what must have been pretty much standard during the days of Papal control. Does anyone know when this difference developed? At the Reformation? In the Tudor grammar schools? When?

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I certainly can't answer your question, Iolo. I've never had an eduction in Latin. But I'll await an answer from one of the cognoscenti with bated breath. I've been trying to pick up a little Latin via inscriptions, the internet, etc., and pronunciation is the main issue when you're only reading.

 

Needless to say, none of my colleagues or family are Latin speakers. Curse my comprehensive eductation.

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The funny part is that I have been sitting on this question...mostly because in the US there have been really 2 schools of teaching Latin: the philologist/linguist school (which teaches the pronunciation of Classical Latin as faithfully as we know) and the Church Latin school (which bases its pronunciation on the Medieval Church Latin system). And the textbooks that are most often used (Wheelock's and Oxford) are of the philologist/linguistic variety...and this is what I know.

 

In the UK? I have no idea what system has been used over the years.

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I was active in a symphony chorus for about 15 years. During that time, we performed works in Latin by a variety of composers, including Berlioz (French), Orff (German), and an English composer whose name unfortunately escapes me. Plus the usual Bach and Beethoven and other great choral works!

 

Each composer's Latin pronunciation, according to our chorus director, needed to be tailored to the way the composer would have expected to hear the Latin. This meant that, as choral singers, we ended up being responsible for knowing how to sing several styles of "Latin" pronunciation. I've selected a term that appears in most sacred texts:

 

--Italian, or what Americans think of as Church Latin (example: caelis "heaven" = chay-lees)

--German (caelis "heaven" = tsö-lees)

--French (caelis "heaven" = say-lee)

--English (caelis "heaven" = kigh-liss)

 

Of course, when we performed the Carmina Burana (Orff), we had Medieval Latin and Middle High German both! :D

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