Latin/Pronunciation Stress

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This is the last bit of general guidance before you get stuck in. Once you know the short and long vowels, dipthongs, it's quite easy.

Don't worry about getting this absolutely right at the start though. You can revisit it as you go on.

Basic rules[edit]

In Latin, the stress on a word is placed on only one of two syllables: the one before the last syllable (the penultimate syllable, or penult), or the one before that (the antepenultimate syllable, or antepenult).

Rule One: stress the penult if the syllable is long.

  • If the vowel in the penult is long or a diphthong, the syllable is long, so the stress goes on the penult.
  • The penult syllable is long, if it is made long by consonants.
    • If the vowel is followed by x, z, (ks and dz) or any other two consonants,
    • Double consonants like 'cc' or 'nn' count in this rule
  • However, stop consonants (b, c, d, g, p, t) followed by a liquid consonant (l, r) belong to the next syllable, so don't make the penult long. These are sounds like -tro, -tri or -cle See the examples below.

Rule two: if the penult is short, stress the antepenultimate syllable, the one before the penult.

Here are some examples. We will mark the stressed syllable with bold type!

pa•pa Eu••pa
fi••ra per••na
pan•thē•ra hal•lū•ci••tus
me•mo•ri•a si•mi•lis
pa•ra•dox•us fun•dā•men•tum
ū•ni•cor•nis cal•ci•trō

How to stress[edit]

Stress does not change the length of the vowel. Stress the vowel either by giving it more force (ie, making it a bit 'louder') or by raising the pitch of your voice slightly (use a 'higher' note) – this practice might account for Latin's 'musicality' mentioned by Classical authors.

More about syllables[edit]

You may want to revisit this topic later to understand how syllables break in Latin, which will make it clearer how and when syllables are stressed.

Other guides[edit]