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Vox Latina: A Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Latin [Paperback]

W. Sidney Allen
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 25 1989 0521379369 978-0521379366 2
This is a reissue in paperback of the second edition of Professor Allen's highly successful book on the pronunciation of Latin in Rome in the Golden Age. In the second edition the text of the first edition is reprinted virtually unchanged but is followed by a section of supplementary notes that deal with subsequent developments in the subject. The author also added an appendix on the names of the letters of the Latin alphabet and a select bibliography.

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"This book is a model of clarity and succinctness. Professor Allen picks his way through a maze of converging and diverging evidence, and presents an intelligible and credible account of what classical Latin sounded like." Phonetica

"It is a reference that all Latin teachers should own." The Modern Language Journal

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5.0 out of 5 stars Legit and Underused Feb. 1 2004
Format:Paperback
Most Latin courses don't involve one word of spoken Latin. I suspect this is because the real field of linguistics is so new that we new next to nothing about how to pronounce it when our professors went to school. Now we know pretty well, and for those of you who have no idea how this is possible, it is possible. Vox Latina is a great description of every letter and sound in the Latin language, although it is incredibly dry, and should be marketed exclusively as a reference book. Still, if you're in any way a professional in Latin, or feel you have a legitimate reason to pronounce things correctly (law/medicine/academia), this book is well worth it. I'll say that in my opinion, most of my fellow Latin teachers and/or my professors in school weren't very familiar with Latin pronunciation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent though often technical discussion Dec 12 2001
Format:Paperback
Ever wonder how they know how Latin was pronounced in Roman times? This book is for you. Though technical at times, it appears to be self-contained. The author respectfully discusses views that differ from his own. The classical pronunciation taught in classrooms differs in small but perhaps significant ways from the pronunciation reconstructed in this book. At least it will no longer be a mystery why Vergil and other poets "elide" the final syllables of words ending in "m" when the following word begins with a vowel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars i like Aug. 20 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
PROPER pronunciation of latin is important since ecleseastical latin is mispronounced from its predisesor
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent though often technical discussion Dec 12 2001
By Daniel L Pratt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ever wonder how they know how Latin was pronounced in Roman times? This book is for you. Though technical at times, it appears to be self-contained. The author respectfully discusses views that differ from his own. The classical pronunciation taught in classrooms differs in small but perhaps significant ways from the pronunciation reconstructed in this book. At least it will no longer be a mystery why Vergil and other poets "elide" the final syllables of words ending in "m" when the following word begins with a vowel.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 40 years later still the resource for the reconstructed pronunciation of Latin Sept. 9 2005
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
VOX LATINA is W. Sidney Allen's reconstruction of the pronunciation of Latin in the classical period using a variety of ancient sources. It is a companion to his VOX GRAECA reconstruction of Attic Greek pronunciation and, like the Greek work, *the* work on the subject.

VOX LATINA presupposes no knowledge of general linguistics and is accessible by any undergraduate studying Latin. It includes a ten-page introduction to phonetics to get the reader up to speed. The reconstruction pronunciation is divided into six areas, these being consonants, vowels, vowel length, vowel junction, accent, and quantity. A series of appendices contains selected quotations from Latin grammarians and a chronology of these sources, a history of Latin pronunciation in England, and the names of the letters of the alphabet in Latin.

My only real complaints are the same as those I have against VOX GRAECA, namely that Sidney Allen uses "y" to transcribe one of the semivowels instead of "j" as the IPA would have it. And though the IPA (with Allen's idiosyncracies) is used through most of the book, the quick-reference "Summary of Recommended Pronunciations" at the end gives examples with analogies to undependable Received Pronunciation English, French or German sounds ("o as German 'Bott'", "short u as in English 'put'").

If you are a Latin student interested in broader themes of historical linguistics, VOX LATINA is an essential purchase, as is its companion VOX GRAECA. A secure knowledge of the reconstructed pronunciation will be of enormous help in drawing comparisons with other Indo-European languages and memorising Proto-Indo-European roots.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pronouncing Latin (even Marius' way!) Sept. 1 2006
By Marius the Wanderer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The best serious attempt to reconstruct Latin pronunciation has got to be _Vox Latina_ by W. Sidney Allen. This book is surprisingly slender and a pleasure to read even if one is not a hard-core phoneticist. And it is the one reference on the subject cited by nearly all the others.

Professor Allen first discusses the many ways Latin has been pronounced, including Church Latin, proto-Romance (iirc), and some of the gods-awful constructs heard in British boys' academies and similar settings. He then pieces together, as much as one can from ancient grammarians and other primary sources, just what sound elements most likely *did* make up Classical Latin. His schematic makes room for the development of Latin after its "Golden Age" (which is where Marius gets off with his Spanish V's; Cicero would've been appalled, but they were trending that direction by Quintilian's time).

There are no final answers here, only best guesses--and as with so much else in Roman civilization, the "right" thing really depends on what year it was and which neck of the woods you were in. Find it used; it's worth the search!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legit and Underused Jan. 31 2004
By Colin Jensen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Most Latin courses don't involve one word of spoken Latin. I suspect this is because the real field of linguistics is so new that we new next to nothing about how to pronounce it when our professors went to school. Now we know pretty well, and for those of you who have no idea how this is possible, it is possible. Vox Latina is a great description of every letter and sound in the Latin language, although it is incredibly dry, and should be marketed exclusively as a reference book. Still, if you're in any way a professional in Latin, or feel you have a legitimate reason to pronounce things correctly (law/medicine/academia), this book is well worth it. I'll say that in my opinion, most of my fellow Latin teachers and/or my professors in school weren't very familiar with Latin pronunciation.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but missing a few details Oct. 31 2009
By A. Z. F. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book, by an enviably trained phonetician with an enviable classical background to boot, is the most recent, complete and accurate description available of what classical Latin sounded like. Though I imagine a reader not trained in phonetics and phonology might have a hard time following it, this obstacle is mitigated by the inclusion of a glossary explaining technical terminology.

I do take issues with certain things though.

It seems a shame to me that the loss of distinction between T and D in word-final position was not mentioned. (c.f. Quintilian "ut 'ad' cum esset præpositio, 'd' litteram, cum autem coniuctio, 't' acciperet.")

On the issue of short I after QV, Allen leaves the reader with a somewhat confusing impression. On the one hand, he relies on grammarians such as Priscian to show that the I in such words as "quis" and "vir" had a more rounded quality. On the other, he quotes Priscian to the effect that the QV before front vowels (like "I") had a fronted secondary articulation. One is left wondering whether to front the labial consonant, round the front vowel, or both in words like "quis." Some commentary on this point would have been in order.

On two points, Allen makes some assumptions which, to me, seem unjustified:

In a section on the voiceless plosives P, T, K on pages 12-13, Allen is quite correct in advising that English-speakers not attempt to replace their aspirated stops with unaspirated ones. But to assume that Latin voiceless stops may have had aspirated allophones is quite another matter. It is, naturally, impossible to deny that they did, but all available evidence indicates that they did not (at least, not in the mouth of a native speaker) until the second century (where they were marked with the familiar digraphs ch, th, ph already known from greek borrowings.) Allen's historical evidence (based largely on the voicing of early borrowings such as "Burrus" for greek "Pyrrhus") is not sufficient to indicate otherwise. Most of the borrowings mentioned are not in fact Greek borrowings but non-indo-european words borrowed independently into Greek and Latin from a third source. This third source may have had voiced and voiceless stops in different dialects, which is a much more plausible explanation.

In the section on word-final M on pages 30-31, Allen mentions the assumed phenomenon of nasalization. However, the fact that word-final M is not counted in scansion does have *other* plausible explanations, most notably the theory that it represented a voiceless bilabial approximant. The lack of word-final F coupled with the metrical behavior of H makes this theory, at the very least, worth mentioning.

Other than the above shortcomings, it is a beautifully researched book written in a kind of lucid prose which, ironically enough, is rare among modern linguists.
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