Pronunciation in the Latin course

I had a look at the Latin course to brush up and I have noticed that the pronunciation is completely different from what I had been taught for many years. I was trying to see if there was a way to get in touch with whoever prepared the course, but I’ll just ask here, is there a particular pronunciation that you are following? I’ve never heard volo pronounced “wollo”…

As I understand it, there is a stark difference between classic (church) latin and vulgar latin. I would imagine that, as a spoken course, the SSiLatin will be the vulgar variety, but I would rather not be quoted on that.

The Latin project sputtered to a halt after the two lessons, and don;t thing that we are still in touch with the person who produced it, which is a real pity. I’d love to speak a bit more Latin!

So beyond that, I’m afraid I’m not able to help,. However, someone else who knows a bit more may be along soon - that’s the beauty of this forum.


Hi folks,

Long, long ago, shortly after the fall of the Roman Empire, when I learnt Latin at school (or more accurately, a succession of ever more weary Latin masters tried to teach me!) this ‘wollo’ stuff was a new fangled thing creeping in to the teaching! As I recall, the idea was that since Latin was used as a written medium for centuries after it stopped being used much outside of the church and legal professions, nobody really knew how it was pronounced so we went with a phonetic anglicised version (=schoolboy Latin).

The ‘wollo’ thing was an attempt to make it more like it might have really sounded in the days of Caesar by basing it on more modern Italian sounds for the letters/ words. That’s what I was told anyway (or at least as I remember what I was told) so Julius Ceasar’s famous “Veni, vidi, vinci” is either (english phonetic) ‘Vay-knee, Vee-dee, Vink-ee’ or ‘Way-knee, Weedy, Winkie’, depending on your point of view. Personally I like the idea of the big, butch Roman Emperor going with “weedy, winkie” - but then I thought Life of Brian’s lisping Pintious Pilate (yes, very non-PC, I know) was pretty funny too!

As an aside, I wish I could let those poor Latin masters of my youth know that it was not all in vain; I have twice used Latin (very badly, I’m sure) to communicate having tried all other attempts to find a common language - once to buy a T-shirt in Slovenia (with an Italian speaker) and once to a Pole in the north east of Scotland! It worked well enough in both cases for us to understand each other, however poorly I conjugated my verbs!

Vale! (= bye/hwyl)


I was told the same, but the problem is that if you are actually basing it in on modern latin languages there is no way that V would have pronounced W! That’s sort of my point, it’s not just about the Latin spoken in the Church.

We have the choice of either basing pronunciation on a language that is Latin based or non Latin based - what would be more logical??

Also, if this was a conversational English course, we would still teach “standard/BBC” English pronunciation, not Cockney.

Anyway, as I like the idea of having a Latin spoken course, if the course was to be carried forward, it might be a good idea to have both versions.


Sorry, when I read

I took it to mean you hadn’t because you were not aware of the new/old pronounciation thing - so apologies for the lengthy diatribe on something you seem to have known all the time!

Agreed about the conversational aspect - I guess we’ll just have to wait for one of those old B-movie type plots were a Centurion from the missing 9th Legion drops back through the rift in space time and teaches us how Latin was really spoken.

Anyone got a vortex manipulator?


ahahah :laughing:

Every time a Latin word with “v” in was taken into Welsh (and there are more than a fair few!), it is taken in with the “v” as a “w” sound. I know next to nothing of Latin or any modern languages derived from Latin, so just my ignorant pennyworth! That at least implies (to me, meaning little!) though, that Latin was spoken in Britain at the time using a “w” sound for “v”.


That is fascinating, owainlurch, I had no idea that was the case. Maybe the lack of ‘u’ or ‘w’ in the old Latin alphabet plays in there somehow too…

Thanks for providing my new interesting fact of the day!


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We will be back in touch with our Latin course builder in the not-too-distant future, now that our new course building tool seems to be shaping up pretty well - but having multiple versions of things (such as, er, southern and northern Welsh!) has turned out to bring a fair share of headaches with it - so we might go for a more lo-fi solution like a warning at the start, perhaps… :sunny:

I’m not sure if the “new tool” completely replaces the “old tools” :smirk: but, if not, i’d be happy to process Miles’ work again. It was fun.

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So far, the online recording tool is holding up well - we’ve got lots more we can do in terms of fine tuning, but the Manx sessions we’re about to publish went directly, automatically from online recording to finished sessions - which we’re hoping is going to make it possible for us to publish a lot more new material in the coming months… :sunny:

It was the pronunciation of the other end of the word that worried me. The O on the end of velo was rounded rather than pure. If the rest of the Latin is spoken in an RP accent, won’t that make it difficult for non English speakers to understand your spoken Latin?

I know extraordinarily little about Latin, but I’ve never met an example where a long ‘o’ at the end of a word in Welsh (where they need to be short) could possibly confuse meaning… :sunny:

In the long run, it would be nice to have a range of speakers/accents that the learners can choose from (if they don’t require different vocab) - but that means some extra coding (as well as a lot of extra recording) so it’s not at the top of the list right now - we will get there, eventually, probably… :sunny:

True, but surely Welsh speakers would be more used to the “anglicised” pronunciation of 'long ’ “o” than other people? Though, of course, the anglicised pronunciation will be familiar to most people on the face of the earth!

The pronunciation of the vowels did grate on my ears a little, but I still thought it was a good resource.

I do remember my two different Latin teachers having very different ideas of how to pronounce Latin!

The vowels, though, they both taught as- well, different to what I heard on the lessons. But we are just talking about “o” level Latin here, many years ago! (With an interest which has continued, very very slightly!) [I believe the person speaking on the lessons has a far, far higher level of Latin!]

I’m sure other people’s opinions will differ!

I haven’t been doing the Latin course, but this discussion just reminded me of my last high school, an Anglican girls’ school in Melbourne, Australia, which had the Latin motto “Quærite Primo Regnum Dei” — meaning “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”. It was included in our school song, so we all had to know it, even though (while I was there at least) the school didn’t teach Latin at all otherwise.

Some years later, I met a lady who it turned out had been to the same school in probably about the 1960s, whereas I was there in the late 1990s. Just for fun, we went into a rendition of the school song and were soon both surprised to find that while I sang the Latin motto as “Qua-re-tay Pree-mo Reg-num Day-ee” (approximately), she sang it as something like “Qua-rye-tee Pry-mo Reg-num Dee-eye”. :astonished:

No idea when or why the change happened, but it was obviously instituted at an “official” level — i.e. the students must have all been told how they were now going to pronounce it — as we sang that school song quite regularly, everyone together from Prep to Year 12 (several hundred students). I guess it may have been about the same time that the “new” pronunciation of Latin came into schools in general. Who knows? It was a good school, anyway.

Good idea :grin: Maybe The Doctor could help — mind you, when the Ood sang to him in Latin a few years ago, they definitely pronounced “vale” with a v sound, not a w…

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One thing I don’t like about the fancy “new” way of pronouncing Latin is that it completely ruins my best Latin joke …, (ok, my only Latin joke):

“Veni, Vidi, Visa!”

“I came; I saw; I did a little shopping…”

It also makes people sound a bit like Sam Weller, in “The Pickwick Papers”:

e.g. “It’s a wery great pleasure to see you sir…”

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There are a lot of videos on Youtube from this gentleman on Latin, including its pronunciation: ○○○ “Pater Noster” (“Our Father”). ○○○ Basic conversation ○○○ General comments about pronunciation ○○○ His videos

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the fancy “new” way of pronouncing Latin

Hardly “new”. I only became aware of “other” pronunciations after 6 years of rigorous but enjoyable Latin lessons at my school in Aberdeen (ergo 1962).
“weni, widi, wici” and “Caesar” (kye zar) still sound normal and natural to me.

When I first had the pleasure of singing in Bach’s Mass in B Minor and heard my fellow choristers singing “Pleni sunt Chaylee” instead of Pleni sunt coeli (to rhyme closely with “coyly”), I thought they were “avin’ a laugh”. I soon concluded that I had to learn another version (which I still call church Latin). My revered Latin master, “Hoot” Gibson, would be turning in his grave.

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Sort of similar here: learnt the K for Caesar pronunciation in high school, but sang Ch for coeli in church in Sunday high mass

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To be fair, the c being a hard c would explain how the German word kaiser derived from it - had the Latin speaking locals been pronouncing the emperor’s name “sea zar” then the German word would have surely reflected this…