A TEI Project

Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar

Classification of Sounds

5. The vowels i and u serve as consonants when pronounced rapidly before a vowel so as to stand in the same syllable. 1 Consonant i has the sound of English consonant y; consonant u (v) that of English consonant w.

Consonant i and u (v) are sometimes called Semivowels.

Note 1— The Latin alphabet did not distinguish between the vowel and consonant sounds of i and u , but used each letter (I and V) with a double value. In modern books i and u are often used for the vowel sounds, j and v for the consonant sounds; but in printing in capitals J and U are avoided:—IVLIVS (Iūlius). The characters J and U are only slight modifications of the characters I and V . The ordinary English sounds of j and v did not exist in classical Latin, but consonant u perhaps approached English v in the pronunciation of some persons.

Note 2— In the combinations qu, gu, and sometimes su, u seems to be the consonant (w). Thus, aqua, anguis, cōnsuētus (compare English quart, anguish, suave ). In these combinations, however, u is reckoned neither as a vowel nor as a consonant.2

XML File

Compare the English word Indian as pronounced in two syllables or in three.
In such words it is possible that the preceding consonant was labialized and that no distinct and separate consonant u was heard.