Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Latin Lesson III
Before we get into the rest of the consonants in Church Latin, we will talk about two other matters. One is the fact that some of the readers of this column may have had some Latin in school. If so, then you will have to relearn some of the sounds. Classical Latin, that is, what Caesar supposedly spoke, has different rules than Church Latin. For example, a “v” in classical Latin is pronounced like a “w,” while it retains the “v” sound in Church pronunciation.
A more common source of confusion, though, is that there are approximately four major ways Church Latin is pronounced around the world. The differences between them are few, but our next consonant is likely the most problematic.
If we use the Italian Church method, then the “h” is silent. However, some orders, such as the Franciscans, that may have a heavy presence in Northern Europe, will pronounce the “h.” We will not pronounce it, for the purposes of this instruction. Thus, “hoc” is pronounced “ohk.” If you remember that one rule, you will have the letter “h” covered for the future.
“J” (or as some would insist, an “I” used as a consonant) is pronounced as if it were the consonant “y” in English. So the word “jam” – or “iam” (meaning “now”) is said as if it were spelled phonetically “yahm.”
As previously mentioned, there is no “k” in Latin. The letters, m, n, and p sound as they do in English, and “ph” is pronounced like “f,” as English does. The letter “q” is always followed by “u” and sounds like “kw,” just as in English.
The letter “r” when used in Church Latin of the Italian school – as we are doing here – is rolled. Before some letters, such as most vowels, this is easy to do; when it occurs before others, such as “t” or “n,” it is more difficult to roll the “r”. Generally, just do what you can where it occurs and you will eventually find it automatic.
The consonant “s” is what phonics terminology calls “voiceless” – i.e., it always sounds like the “s” in “sing,” never like the “s” in “raise.” Combining “s” with other consonants is more complex: e.g., “sc” before “a,” “o,” “u” or a consonant always sounds like the “sc” in the English word “scope”. Before an “e” or an “i,” “sc” is pronounced like “sh” in “shall.”
The letter “t” has some variations as well. When followed by “h,” the sound is as a hard “t,” as in “ten.” When the combination “ti” is followed by a vowel or preceded by any letter EXCEPT “s”, “t”, or “x”, the “t” sounds like “tsee.” This is one of the hardest sounds to remember, but we will give some practice with the combination in Latin words in the next lesson.
The consonant “x” sounds like “ks” in most cases, but in words beginning with “ex” and followed by a vowel, an “h”, or an “s,” the “x” sounds like “gs.”
That has taken us through the alphabet for Latin sounds. Next week we will use common vocabulary words in the prayer of the Church to illustrate the pronunciation given in the first three lessons.
Latin lessons I and II are on the "Latin" page.