Traditional English Pronunciation of Latin

The traditional English pronunciation of Latin, and Classical Greek words borrowed through Latin, is the way the Latin language was traditionally pronounced by speakers of English until the early 20th century.

Since the Middle Ages, speakers of English (from Middle English onward) have pronounced Latin not as the Romans did, but according to a traditional scheme borrowed from France. This traditional pronunciation became closely linked to the pronunciation of English, and as the pronunciation of English changed with time, the English pronunciation of Latin changed as well.

At the end of the 19th century, this Anglo-Latin pronunciation began to be superseded in Latin instruction by a reconstructed Classical pronunciation, closer to an earlier Roman pronunciation, and with a more transparent relationship between spelling and pronunciation. By the mid-20th century, classroom use of the traditional pronunciation had all but ceased. The traditional pronunciation, however, survives in academic English vocabulary:

  • In general academic vocabulary: campus, syllabus, curriculum, diploma, alumnus
  • In specialized anatomical vocabulary: aorta, biceps, cranium, patella, sinus, vertebra, etc.
  • In astronomical nomenclature, including the names of planets, moons, asteroids, stars and constellations, such as Mars, Io, Ceres, Sirius, Ursa Major, nova, nebula
  • In a number of historical terms and names, particularly those associated with Roman culture and politics: augur, bacchanal, consul, fibula, lictor, prætor, toga, Augustus, Cæsar, Cicero, etc.
  • In legal terminology and phrases: alibi, alias, de jure, obiter dictum, sub judice, subpœna etc. In many cases Classical pronunciation is used, however.
  • In the specialized terminology of literary studies: codex, colophon, epitome, index, periphrasis, parenthesis, etc.
  • In some mathematical terms: calculus, parabola, hyperbola, isosceles, rhombus, vector, etc.
  • In medical terminology describing diseases, symptoms and treatments: anæsthesia, bacterium, coma, diarrhœa, lumbago, mucus, nausea, ophthalmia, rabies, tetanus, virus, rigor mortis etc.
  • In words and names from classical mythology: Achilles, Argus, Calliope, Gorgon, Myrmidon, Sphinx, etc.
  • In some religious terms: angelus, basilica, Magi, martyr, presbyter, etc.
  • In certain sporting terms: gymnasium, stadium, discus, pentathlon
  • In the taxonomic nomenclature of botany and zoology: phylum, genus, species, chrysanthemum, hibiscus, rhododendron, fœtus, larva, ovum, pupa, chamæleon, lemur, platypus
  • In a very large body of words used every day: album, apex, area, asylum, axis, basis, bonus, camera, census, circus, dilemma, error, focus, genius, icon, insignia, junior, major, medium, murmur, onus, panacea, podium, sector, stamina, terminus, trivia; as well as such common phrases as et cetera, non sequitur, quid pro quo, status quo, vice versa, etc.

Read more about Traditional English Pronunciation Of Latin:  Overview, Alphabet, Syllables, Semivowel, Endings, Sample Text, History, Other Languages, See Also, Resources

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Traditional English Pronunciation Of Latin - Resources
... Grammar of the Latin Language for the Use of Schools and Colleges ... This popular Latin grammar printed toward the end of the period when Anglo-Latin pronunciation was still commonly taught in schools, devotes a section to the rules ... somewhat scattershot in its approach, it reveals several otherwise inaccessible details of the traditional pronunciation ...

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