Thursday, March 08, 2007

Latin chant pronunciation

I had an interesting chat after attending a local secular choir rehearsal yesterday night. They rehearsed some secular songs as well as a sacred polyphonic piece. Excellent singing I would say. However occasionally I would hear some Latin words pronounced in such a way that I just had to blog about this topic => PRONUNCIATION.

As far as Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony being sung in the context of the Sacred Liturgy, there ought to be no other options of pronunciation other than to use ecclesiastical (church) Latin. Classical Latin just won't do the pieces justice. The reason is pretty simple and straightforward actually. The Italians are the modern day descendants of the Romans. With Rome being the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, the Italian way of pronunciation ought to be used in the Roman Rite everywhere. In 1903, Pope St. Pius X decreed Italian pronunciation to be the norm in liturgical settings, so if any of you wants to pick a fight over this, go ask Pope St. Pius X himself! :P

Some recurring items to point out:

  1. The letter 'J' should always be pronounced like the letter 'Y', e.g. judicare (yoo-dee-ka-reh), jejunio (yeh-yoo-nee-oh).
  2. The letter 'H' is ALWAYS SILENT except for cases such as mihi (meek-kee) and nihil (neek-il). Thus hominibus is oh-mee-nee-boos while hosanna is oh-san-na NOT hoh-san-na.
  3. Virgine is pronounced as veer-jee-nay. Note the veer does not sound like 'vir' virtue but like the 'd' in 'deer' replaced by a 'v'.
  4. Excelsis is pronounced as ex - chair-el - sis.
  5. Amen is always a-men NOT aye-man.
  6. Ecclesia is eck-clair-see-ah NOT eh-curl-see-ah.
  7. Words with -gn, e.g. magnus is pronounced as mah-nyoos, agnus pronounced as ah-nyoos. Subsequently magnificat is pronounced as mah-nyee-fee-cart.
Additions might be added to the list from time to time. In the meantime you may search on Google for resources on ecclesiastical pronunciation. Comments welcome.


Anonymous said...

We have been facing a problem in our parish in Brasília (Brazil) with the priest's latin pronunciation during the Gregorian Mass celebration.

We have already told him that the Holy Church has already decreeded the use of the ecclesiastical pronunciation.

Now we need to show him the document.

So, I would like to know if you could possibly inform to us the name, author and date of this document and - wonders of the wonders - where we can find it.

Thank you very much

Mater Misericordiae, spes nostra, ora pro nobis

Mr. Paulo Péret

The Hymn Selector said...

Hello, there are no decrees that I know of, other than pronunciation guides like those found in the Liber Usualis, which of course is the official chant book of the Church. ;)