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Books on language pronunciation

Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 18:08:25 EDT
Subject: Middle English and There is No Rose

Dear Listers,
Pardon to all for responding to the entire list, but I thought some of you
might be interested in this info, and others might be able to add to it. A
post was made recently regarding the Middle English pronunciation of "There Is
No Rose", specifically the pronunciation of "Jesu" and "Virtue." I'm afraid
I've misplaced the address of the person who made the post, but I would like
to recommend a book I found last summer entitled "A Book of Middle English" by
J.A. Burrow and Thorlac Turnville-Petere, published by Blackwell Publishers.
As far as vowels are concerned, the book provides the following examples:

The a vowel in "save" and in "case" would sound as the a in "Father." (ah).
The e vowel in "lene", "heeth" and "death" would sound as the e in "there."
The e vowel in "nede", and "sweete" would sound as the ay in "say." (ay)
The i vowel in "fine" and "shyne" would sound as the ee in "See." (ee)
The o vowel in " holy" and "oon" would sound as the oa in "broad."
The o vowel in "foot" and "mone" would sound as the o in "go." (oh)
The o vowel in " hous" and "lowde" would sound as the o in "do." (oo)

(Pardon the lack of IPA but I am unfamiliar with the commands to make that
happen on my computer at this point.) I would welcome differing opinions as I
am currently very interested in the "correct" manner of pronunciation for
Middle English texts. I also realize that this may be more of a topic for
choral talk, but I thought some of our Middle English Scholars out there may
be able to compile an authoritative pronunciation guide and post it for the
rest of us.


Date: Fri, 4 Nov 1994 19:18:26 -0700

This is tremendously complicated by variations in dialect and
orthography in the 14th century. The southern English dialect around
London was not a "standard," in the sense that BBC English may be today.
My main source is F. N. Robinson's monumental _The Works of Geoffrey
Chaucer_, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1961).

By the way, you can find pronunciation help to Anglo-Saxon texts in
James R. Hulbert (ed.), _Bright's Anglo-Saxon Reader_ (New York:
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966).


From: David Klausner
Subject: Re: old languages
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 1994 09:49:26 -0500 (EST)

I think it is likely that the book which Candace Smith refers is (as
Jeffrey Kite-Powell suspects) the one which Tim McGee, George Rigg,
and I have been putting together and which is now at press from
Indiana. Several of the chapters, especially my chapter on English
and Scots, have been circulating in typescript for several years, so
rumours about the book's existence have been common.

The book includes chapters on English/Scots, French/Provencal/Occitan,
Spanish, Italian, Flemish, German and a series of chapters on national
pronunciations of Latin. These last are largely by Harold Copeman, in
which he's reorganized the material of _Singing in Latin_ in a more
user-friendly way. David Klausner (

Date: Fri, 30 Aug 1996 13:24:17 -0500 (EST)
From: "Jan D. Harrington"
To: choralist@lists.Colorado.EDU
Cc: choralacademe@lists.Colorado.EDU
Subject: a new pronunciation guide

In reference to Tim Hendrickson and others requests for pronunciation
information: a new book has been published by the Indiana University Press:

Timothy McGee (ed.) with AG Rigg and David Klausner, SINGING EARLY
MUSIC: The Pronunciation of European Languages in the Late Middle Ages
and Renaissance, Indiana University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-253-32961-2

Included are guides for Britain (English, Scotland, Anglo Latin), France
(Old French, French Latin, Occitan), Iberian Peninsula (Catalan,
Castilian, Spanish Latin, Galician-Portugues, Spanish and Portuguese
Latin), Italian (Italian and Itialian Latin), Germany and the Low
Countries (Middle High Ferman, Latemedieval and Early New High German,
German Latin, Flemish and Netherlands Latin. The Latin Chapters are by
Harold Copeman with the exception of the English Latin Chapters. A CD is
included with sample texts read.


Jan Harrington
Indiana University School of Music


Date: Sun, 20 Nov 1994 18:07:48 -0700
Subject: Re: Latin Pronunciation

For those that may not be aware the most comprehensive guide to Latin
Pronunciation is Harold Copeman's Singing in Latin. There are two versions:
The complete text and The Pocket Singing in Latin. Both are published by
the author. ISBN numbers 0 9515798 2 7 and 0 9515798 1 9.

Date: Thu, 7 Mar 1996 11:05:14 -0600 (CST)
From: Gibbons Henry
Cc: choralist@lists.Colorado.EDU
Subject: Re: Latin Pronounciation

This might be of interest to the entire membership, so I am posting directly:

Singing in Latin or Pronvnciation Explor'd
by Harold Copeman c. 1990

Published at Oxford By the Author

Available from the author at 22 Tawney Street, Oxford OX4 INJ, Great Britain

Date: Sun, 10 Mar 1996 13:44:10 -0800
From: Hurty
Cc: choralist@lists.Colorado.EDU
Subject: Copeman, Singing in Latin wrote:

> >From those of you who recommended the Copeland text published by
Oxford U
> Press. Is it available in the U.S., or must we contact the author directly?
> Does anyone know the price (in dollars and/or pounds)?
Steve and those who want info re Copeman's "Singing in Latin",

I recently ordered this book directly from the author. Although I
haven't had much time to use it yet, it appears to include quite an
exhaustive treatment of the subject of pronunciation of Latin for a
number of countries as well as various time periods.

The author sent the book with a note that it is better to send it to the
United States by airmail, for which he charged $4.00. Contrary to the
info in the earlier posting about this book, it is not published by
Oxford University Press but rather published at Oxford by the author.

The address and cost info is as follows:

Harold A. Copeman
22 Tawney Street
Oxford OX4 1NJ

Telephone: (0865) 243830

Cost of the Book: $27.00
Normal post/hand: $6.00
Airmail fee: $4.00

Total cost in U.S.: $37.00

I just sent him a U.S. check and a request for the book and it came
about three weeks later. Hope this helps.

Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997 09:00:40 +0200
From: Hans Lundgren
Subject: Latin pronunciation

Latin pronunciation

>From time to time the question about how to pronounce Latin is on Choral
List. It surprises me that people seem to believe that there is only
*one* way to do this.

Latin was spoken in ancient Rome.
It was also spoken and written long after the falling of Rome throughout
the Middle Ages among educated people all around Europe. It was used as
an international language between scientists and people of the upper
classes with international contacts. It was also used in the Roman
Catholic Church on to the Reformation.
The people who used Latin as their second language pronounced Latin in
the same way as they pronounced their mother tongue.

If you sing a Latin text from the classical era (Homer etc.) pronounce
it the way they did in Rome at that time.
If you sing a Latin text from the Middle Ages, which is the most common,
use the pronunciation you have reason to believe that the composer would
have used. German - French - Italian etc.
The Italian way to pronounce Latin is beyond all comparison the most
used one and a good choice if you are uncertain of which one to choose.

I will not try to give advice or examples since I am not familiar with
phonetic writing in English, but I guess there are a lot of books on
this subject available also in the US.

So before you ask questions about how to pronounce Latin - you must
first decide in which language you are going to pronounce it!

One of my Swedish colleagues used to say: "As a choral director only two
things causes you trouble: To decide how to pronounce Latin and to
decide what to wear at concerts!"

Hans L
Director musices
Musicum, Link