|Ecclesiastical Latin refers to the pronunciation
and usages of Latin by the Catholic Church. In some respects, such as pronunciation,
it differs from the Latin spoken by Caesar, Seneca and Cicero, called
Classical Latin. Classical Latin is what classics departments in major
universities teach, and is also the Latin taught on language tapes, unless
Ecclesiastical Latin is specified. A characteristic difference would be
the pronunciation of regina coeli. In Classical Latin the
"g" is hard and the "c" sounds like "k". In Ecclesiastical
Latin, which is defined as Latin spoken as Italian would be pronounced in
Rome, the "g" is soft and the c has a "ch" sound.
The following pronunciation table is adapted from the Liber Usalis, one
of the former chant books for Mass and Office. Its introduction to
Gregorian Chant is also invaluable.
||A is pronounced as in the word Father,
never as in the word can. We must be careful to get this
open, warm sound, especially when A is followed by M
or N as in Sanctus, Nam, etc.
||E is pronounced as in Red, men,
met; never with the suspicion of a second sound as in Ray.
||I is pronounced as ee in Feet,
never as i in milk or tin.
||O is pronounced as in For, never as in
||U is pronounced as oo in Moon,
never as in custom.
||Y is pronounced and treated as the Latin I.
||The pronunciation given for i, o, u,
gives the approximate quality of the sounds, which may be long or
short; care must be taken to bring out the accent of the word.
e.g. mártyr = márteer.
||As a general rule when two vowels come together each keeps
its own sound and constitutes a separate syllable.
e.g. diéi is di-é-i ; fílii
is fíl-i-i ; eórum
|The rule of each keeping its own sound applies to OU
e.g. prout is pro-oot ; coutúntur
= co-oo-toón-toor ; áit is ah-eet.
|However, AE and OE are pronounced as
one sound, like E above.
|The two vowels form one
syllable but both vowels must be distinctly heard. The principle emphasis
and interest belongs to the first which must be sounded purely. If on such
a syllable several notes are sung, the vocalization is entirely on the
first vowel, the second being heard only on the last note at the moment of
passing to the following syllable.
EI is similarly treated only when it occurs in the
Hei = Hei , otherwise, Mei = mé-i,
|U preceded by Q or NG and followed by
another vowel as in words like qui and sanguis, keeps its
normal sound and is uttered as one syllable with the vowel which follows :
qui, quae, quod, quam, sanguis. But notice
that cui forms two syllables, and is pronounced as koo-ee.
In certain hymns, on account of the metre, this word can be treated as one
||C coming before e, ae, oe, i,
y is pronounced like ch in Church
e.g. caelum = che-loom ; Cecília
|CC before the same vowels is pronounced T-ch.
e.g. ecce =
et-che ; síccitas
|SC before the same vowels is pronounced like Sh
e.g. descendit =
|Except for these cases C is always pronounced like the
e.g. cáritas = káh-ree-tas
|CH is always like K (even before E
e.g. Cham = Kam, máchina
||G before e, ae, i, y, is soft
as in generous
, génitor , Regína
|GN has the softened sound given to those letters in
French and Italian.
e.g. (French) agneau
, signor , monsignor
The nearest English equivalent would be N followed by y.
e.g. Regnum = Reh-nyoom
; Magnificat = Mah-nyeé-fee-caht
||H is pronounced K in the two words nihil (nee-keel)
and mihi (mee-kee)
and their compounds. In ancient books these words are often
nichil and michi. In all other cases H is
||J, often written as I (e.g. juris or iurus),
is treated as Y, forming one sound with the vowel which follows
e.g. jam, iam = yam
; alleluia = allelóoya ; major
||When with another consonant, care must be taken not to omit this
sound. It must be slightly rolled on the tongue (carnis).
Care must be taken not to modify the quality of the vowel in the
syllable preceding the R.
e.g. Kyrie: Say Kée-ree-e
sapere: Say sáh-pe-re
diligere: Say dee-lée-ge-re
||S is hard as in the English word sea, but is
slightly softened when coming between two vowels. e.g. misericórdia
||T is like the English T, except as below.
|TI standing before a vowel and following any letter
(except S, X, T) is pronounced tsee.
gratia = grá-tsee-a
constitutio = con-stee-tú-tsee-o
laetitia = lae-tée-tsee-a
|TH is always simply T. e.g. Thomas, catholicam
||X is pronounced ks, slightly softened when coming
|XC before e, ae, oe, i, y
|Before other vowels XC has the ordinary
hard sound of the letters composing it.
||A Latin vowel, pronounced like I.
||Z is pronounced dz. zizánia.
|B, D, F, K, L, M, N, P, Q and V: Pronounced
as in English
|Double consonants must be clearly
sounded. bello = bel-lo ; terra =