The Latin Syllabe

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 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

Latin ‘I’ in Compounds of Iaciō

I found a bit more on the letter I (long /i/, short /ɪ/, consonant /y/ before vowels = long feet, short tittle, consonant yes).

In compounds of iaciō, where the post-i ‘a’ is transformed into an ‘i’ [con-iaciō -> con-iiciō -> con-iciō], although the second i is no longer written within Latin script, it was apparently still pronounced within Latin speech. Thus, is is /kɔnyɪkyo/ and not /kɔnɪkyo/ (for those not-versed in IPA – it’s ‘con-yicki-o’ not ‘con-icki-o’).

This has been deduced by analysis of verse poetry, since the ‘o’ in con-iiciō would be scanned long if the first ‘i’ operates as a consonant, but scanned short if the speaker were merely voicing con-iciō.

The Essential AG: 6d, 11e

The Latin ‘I’

Semi-consonant. Glide. Approximant.

These are all terms befitting the Latin i, which operates as both a consonant (Iūlius) and a vowel (iter) within the language. The precise rule is this:

The Latin i is a vowel (pronounced long /i/ as in the English feet /fit/ or short as in the English tittle /ɪ/), yet operates as a glide as in the English yes /y/ when placed before another vowel (so with iacet, Iūlius, and Io! Io!).

Recall that Latin didn’t differentiate between these variants within its written script. They are both I.

The Essential AG: 5 and 5n1

(also, for those curious, a ‘tittle’ is the dot over an i)