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The Latin Vowels

When a vowel is pronounced, the air stream flows from lung to the oral cavity and is not significantly blocked by speech organs.

The Latin vowels have the differences of long and short, the short vowel is usually marked by a "˘" , and the long vowel is marked by a "ˉ". The short vowel mark is generally omitted, if not marked, a vowel is usually short. However, modern Latin text also omits the long vowel mark, this may cause problems for beginners. In such case, you're suggested to look up the dictionary.

When reading Latin, take care to distinguish long and short vowels. There're decided differences in sound between long and short vowels, it's not only a matter of quantity but also quality except the case of "a". The vowels of the Italian language may be not unlike that of Latin and maybe a good start to get the "Roman tongue".

Another mark "'" is used to mark the accent. Note that this mark shows that the syllable before it should acquaint accent, not the one after it. For example, amā're means the syllable is accented. More details will be discussed in the chapter Syllables .

One more mark can be seen in some words (especially those brought from Greek) such as Aloë , the mark above the letter e simply means that "oe" is no longer treated as diphthong and should be pronounced distinctively. This will be covered in the chapter, diphthongs.

Long vowels

There're 5 long vowels in Latin: ā, ē, ī, ō, ū , they're pronounced the same in both classical and ecclesiastical method.

Classical Method

As in English father, IPA [a:]. Never as [æ] in fat, or [ə] in apart. eg. amāre, to love.
As in English they , or French été, or Italian méno , but longer. IPA [e:]. Distinguish it from [ei] as "ey" in they, never pronouced as [ə] in apart, or [i:] in ecology. eg. cēna, dinner.
As in English sheep , IPA [i:]. Never pronounce it as [ai] no matter where "i" is present in a word. eg. cotīdiē, daily.
As Italian ó in amore, IPA [o:]. It is more close than the short ō. Though more close, it's not the same as [əu] in English no .
eg. cōpia, plenty.
As in English root , IPA [u:]. Never as [ju:] you, or French "u", German "ü". eg. dū , I lead.

Ecclesiastical Method

The same as classical method, but sometimes long and short vowels are distinguished mainly by quality instead of quantity.

Short vowels

Corresponding to the long vowels, there're 5 short vowels: ă, ě, ĭ, ŏ, ŭ.

Classical Method

As the long correspondence, but shorter. IPA [a], as in English aha! . English speakers should take care not to pronounce it as [æ], especially "at" in the last syllable!
eg. ămăt, he loves. clamat (Incorrect pronunciation, Correct)
As in English met, or Italian bèllo. IPA [ɛ]. It's more open than its long correspondence.
ěgo, I.
As in English bit , IPA [i]. Never pronounce it as [ai] no matter where "i" is present in a word.
eg. Gallĭcus,the gaul.
As in English holy, or Italian ò in còpia, IPA [ɔ]. It is more open than the long ŏ. Never as [əu] in English no .
eg. mŏdŏ , just now.
As in English full or foot, IPA [u]. Never as [ju:] you, or [y] in French "u", German "ü", or [ʌ] in English bus .
eg. legātŭs, lieutenant.

Ecclesiastical Method

The same as classical method.

Semi-vowels i,u and y

The i and y are two special vowels.

"u" is another semi-vowel, it was diverged from "V". It's usually used with "q" and acts as a semi-vowel, thus "qu" is pronounced as [qw].

Classical Method

In classical times, "i" acted as both vowel and consonant "J". For instance: Julia was spelled as Iulia, major as maior. When acts as a consonant, it's pronounced as [j] as in English York.

"Y" was first brought from Greek, educated people at that time pronounced y as [y] in French "u" or German "ü", thus, Aegyptus was pronounced as [ai'gyptus]. This sound may also have long and short quantities. This sound has become lost in the later time.

"U" and "V" were not distinguished in classical times.

Ecclesiastical Method

As Latin evolved, y gradually became the same as "i", thus in Neo-Latin, y is actually playing more or less the same part as that of the ancient "i", while the modern i only acts as a vowel, and j acts as a consonant.

Thus in neolatin, you can think of y as the old "i", and is pronounced in the same way of ancient i. Therefore, the same word Aegyptus is pronounced as [e:'ʤiptus] in the Ecclesiastical method.

"u" is used as a vowel when it follows a cosonant in a syllable, when another vowel come after it, it acts as "w" or "v".