Ecclesiastical Latin/Vowels

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Vowels in Latin are very easy to learn. There are only five of them. This does not mean that there are only five vowel letters, but rather that there are only five vowel sounds.

This point is difficult for English speakers because English has 18 vowel sounds and has employed many spelling rules to differentiate their various sounds or silence.

This kind of spelling convention only exists in English. In Latin there are FIVE vowel sounds, only. Also, there are a total of ZERO silent letters in Latin. If you see the letter, it means you say the letter. If the letter is not said, it is not written.

The Latin vowels are as follows;

A E I O U Y

They can be learned effectively in two groups. Here is group one.

  • A sounds like the O in the English word not.
  • O sounds like the O in the English word note.
  • U sounds like the OO in the English word boot.

These letters never make a different sound than what is above. They may at times sound for a short time or for a long time, with stress or without stress but the actual SOUND of the letter will never change.

Here is group two.

  • E sounds like the E in the English word net.
  • I sounds like the EE in the English word need.
  • Y always sounds like Latin I. It is only used in borrowed words and may be accidently written as the letter I.

Again, it must be pointed out that these vowels will never change the sound they make. Not today, not tomorrow, not next week, not if there is a an E at the end of the word, never.

Latin vowels may be long or short but the idea of long and short in Latin is not the same as that in English. In English we say a vowel is long or short to say that it changes sound. The English letter A will sound with as many as five different sounds depending on the other letters around it or more importantly the word it is used it is just memorized to have a certain sound. The normal way that English speakers think of their vowels is as follows.

A will sound as either short as in Cat, a sound that does not exist in Latin, or as Kate, a sound that sounds to a Latin as EI.

E will sound short as in set, but long as in seat, a sound that is represented by the Latin letter I.

I will sound short as in hill, a sound that does not exist in Latin, or long as in Kite, a sound that sounds to a Latin as AI.

O will sound short as in hot, which sounds to a Latin as A, and long as in Hope, which sounds just as a Latin expects O to sound but with no need for the E as the end of the word.

U will sound short as in cup, but this sound does not exist in Latin, and long as in cute, but this sound will sound like IU or JU in Latin.


Latin words are spelled exactly as they are spoken, so if the vowel sound changes, then the vowel letter will change.

You can practice making sure you are using the correct vowel sounds by saying this;

Ah

Eh

EE

Oh

OOh

which of course in Latin looks like;


A

E

I

O

U