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THE LETTERS AND SOUNDS.
1. The Latin Alphabet in the year 100 B.C. consisted of twenty-one letters; these were a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u (v), x. Words from the Greek brought in y and z. There was no j and no w.
2. The Latin vowels were a, e, i, o, u.
The mark placed over a vowel denotes that the vowel is long.
The mark placed over a vowel denotes that the vowel is short.
a long, like the a in father: as māter, mother.
a short, like the a in arise: as păter, father.
e long, like the
e short, like the
i long, like the
i short, like the
o long, like the
a in fame as femina, woman.
e in egg: as ĕgo, I.
i in marine: as finis, end.
o in rode: as dōnum, gift.
o short, like the o in modest: as modus, manner.
u long, like the oo in rood: as lumen, light.
3. When two vowels come together in a word, and we attempt to pronounce the second before we have completed the sound required to pronounce the first, the resulting sound is called a diphthong.
Thus in pronouncing the word laity we sound the a and i separately and distinctly, but in pronouncing the word fair we attempt to sound the i before the sound of the a is completed, and the result is a diphthong.
The most common diphthongs in Latin words are—
ae, pronounced like ai in fair: as aestas, summer.
4. If we put the vowel a before each of the consonants in order, thus ab, ac, ad, and pronounce the resulting syllables, we find(1.) That in some cases the consonant checks the sound produced.
Such are ab, ac, ad, ag, ak, ap, aq, at.
Hence b, c, d, g, k, p, q, t are called Checks or Mutes. The Mutes are divided into three classes, named after the organs of speech used in sounding them, thus:
Gutturals, or throat-letters, c, g, k, q.
Dentals, or teeth-letters, d, t.
Labials, or lip-letters, b, p.
Again, of consonants uttered by the same organ, some require a greater effort to pronounce them, and they produce a harsher sound than others; hence
c is called a hard guttural, and g a soft guttural,
t is called a hard dental, and d a soft dental,
p is called a hard labial, and b a soft labial.
k, always followed by a, occurs in a few words, as kalendae. q is always followed by u, as quartus.