Ecclesiastical Latin/Consonants

Most consonants in Latin sound just like their English counterparts.

  • B sounds like B.
  • D sounds like D.
  • F sounds like F.
  • L sounds like L.
  • M sounds like M.
  • N sounds like N.
  • P sounds like P.
  • Q sounds like Q.
  • S sounds like S.
  • T sounds like T.
  • V sounds like V or W.
  • X sounds like X.

That is most of the Alphabet. Now for the letters that are a little funny.

C and G are pronounced differently depending on the following vowel. If it is a back vowel (i.e., A, O, or U) then they will be pronounced "hard," as in cot and got, respectively. If they are followed by a front vowel (E, I, Y, AE or OE) then the C will be softened to the CH sound heard in English words like church (never to an S sound as in English!), and the G will be softened to a J sound.

If the C or G are not to change sound before a front vowel, an H will be inserted between consonant and the vowel to indicate this fact:

Ci = Chee

Chi = Kee

The H sound in Latin is very weak. It is in fact often silent. Some choirs learn to pronounce it as a K sound in words like Mihi, or Nihil, but we will not be learning that in this book.

J does not make anything close to the sound that English J makes. The J sound in English words like Jump would be written as G in Latin. Giamp. In Latin J makes the same sound as the consonant English Y. In English you write "yes" but in Latin we write "jes". This point is of special importance as the name of Jesus in Latin is spelled the same as in English but pronounced differently. We must also keep in mind that some people will not use the letter J at all and will revert to the letter I. This is ok. It still makes the same sound if we put the hook at the bottom or not. Jesus in Latin is pronounced as Yehsoos.

R in Latin is rolled and is not a semi-vowel. Many writers misspelled it as L, as they were so close in sound. The Latin R is somewhere between the letter D and the letter L in sound. If you can get a copy of the old Batman TV show, find an episode where Earth Kitt was playing Catwoman. She has the perfect R sound. If you can sound like her then you are saying your Latin R Perrrrrrfectly, but be careful, Adam West may come out of the bushes looking for his lost love.