Latin syllables are numbered according to the separate vowels and diphthongs within a word.
a-ci-ē (3), fī-li-us (3), etc.
A consonant is generally contained within the unit of a following vowel, except where there is a double consonant, since paired consonants are always separated, or where a consonant ends a word.
pa-ter (2), in-iū-ri-a (4), mit-tō (2)
(Not that iū is a semi-consonantal glide pairing, where the i is sounded as the English y.)
This rule becomes trickier with double consonants: what do we do with dixit? (dix-it or di-xit?)
- A&G prefer dix-it, but acknowledge there is no hard and fast rule. Like the corresponding Greek ξ, this word would have been sounded as dic-sit, so it’s really a matter of preference where you put the double consonant.
- Luckily, the double consonants, sd and ps, are much rarer in Latin
Note the distinction between a
- Any syllable founding with a vowel or diphthong is open.
- Any syllable ending with a consonant is closed.
In compounds, the rules are modified a little to mark the separation of compounded parts.
du-plex (2) instead of dup-lex (2) [it’s not clear to me whether this is a matter of A&G convention, or broader Latin phonological patterns of pronunciation.]
The Essential AG: 7, 7a-b