Classical Pronunciation of Prima Facie

By JFWR, in 'Pronunciation, Spelling and Listen to Latin', May 27, 2017.

  1. JFWR New Member

    Dear everyone,

    Hello! I am so happy to be able to find a forum dedicated to the Latin language. I also so happen to be a philosophy professor, and during many of my courses I cover W.D. Ross' system of prima facie ethics, which has led me to a curiousity as to how it would be pronounced after the classical fashion.

    In English, prima facie is variously rendered as:

    1. Pry-ma fay-cha.

    2. Pree-ma fay-cha.

    3. Pree-ma fay-she.

    4. Pry-ma fay-she.

    By my understanding of classical pronunciation, wouldn't it be pronounced:

    Pree-ma fah-key-eh?

    If I am not mistaken, -ie is not a diphthong in classical latin, correct?

    I feel somewhat silly telling them how to pronounce it without knowing for certain whether I am pronouncing everything myself. I tend to like to give them classical pronunciation alongside more common pronunciations (as with Descartes' cogito).
  2. Aurifex Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    Location:
    England
    That's nearly it. Just reverse the vowel quantities you've indicated for -ma and fah-.
  3. JFWR New Member

    Thanks, I should've used the same for each, as I meant pretty much the same sound.

    ma (m sound with soft a) and fa (f sound with soft a).

    What I was mainly concerned with is: It would be fa-key-eh, right? So it would be a trisyllabic word? My students laugh as it sounds close enough to "fucky, eh?" that people get a giggle out of it (even if it is an 'ah' not an 'uh' sound).
  4. Dantius Homo Sapiens

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    in orbe lacteo
    There is a difference between the "a" in prima and the "a" in facie, though. They're not quite the same sound.
  5. JFWR New Member

    Really? How much of a difference are we speaking about? Do you know of any good examples?
  6. Etaoin Shrdlu Imminent wormfood

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Ruritania
    The OED, and probably other dictionaries, only recognise the anglicised pronunciations. At least they avoid causing giggles.
  7. Aurifex Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    Location:
    England
    What Dantius and I are trying to tell you is that the a in prima is long and the a in facie is short, just as the a in father is long and the a in cat short, for me and quite a few others, at any rate.
  8. JFWR New Member


    That is precisely why I had to come here. I could not find any place that discussed it from a classical Latin pronunciation style. I like to give both the Anglicized and Classical version of any phrase that is commonly known in English as derivative of Latin.

    Huh. So...are we speaking of a harder A sound? So it should be: fa(t) key eh? When I was learning to pronounce Latin as a student, I was always told that Latin only uses the 'ah' form of 'a'.

    Here, I uploaded a file onto my google drive. Could you please tell me which one is closer to the pronunciation you are speaking of? 1 or 2?

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw1J9lmpEf9nRGo3QUw3OEZQYTA/view?usp=sharing
  9. Aurifex Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    Location:
    England
  10. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    Godmy is the expert at Latin pronunciation, but here is my attempt.

    Attached Files:

  11. JFWR New Member


    Your pronunciation is what I would expect. Thanks.

    Here's my file reuploaded to see if this is what Aurifex was speaking about. I converted it to mp3.

    Pronunciation #1 is what I took to mean a harder a sound, indicative of the English cat/fat, whereas the second is the one I thought was intended, with the softer a sound (like in yours, Cinefactus) of father.

    Attached Files:

  12. Iáson Cívis Illústris

    • Civis Illustris
    On the first one I heard príma facié.
    On the second one I heard príma fácié.
    The correct one should be prímá facié.

    So essentially the distinction of the vowels on the second one is better, but the wrong way round. Aurifex meant you to pronounce the a of prímá long, not the a of facié.
  13. metrodorus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Londinium
    The difference is pretty much that between the long and short a in the expression Aha! (according to the Cambridge Philological Society Guidelines circa 1880)
  14. Iáson Cívis Illústris

    • Civis Illustris
    Actually, I recently re-read Vox Latina, and Allen states that:
    Unfortunately when I say 'Aha!' I hear [æhæ], neither of which vowels correspond to Latin sounds.
  15. metrodorus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Londinium
    However, this is presented by the CPS as an example of vowel length differention, not vowel quality. A -HAA. The first a is short, the second a is markedly longer.
  16. Iáson Cívis Illústris

    • Civis Illustris
    I've never heard it pronounced like that, only with both vowels short. Maybe its pronunciation varies regionally or something.
  17. Etaoin Shrdlu Imminent wormfood

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Ruritania
    I don't think I've ever heard it with both vowels short. It seems impossible.
  18. metrodorus Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Londinium
    I have an Irish friend, who when prompted to pronounce 'Aha!', did so with both vowels short.

    The southern English way of doing it has a short and long vowel. I suppose this is yet another example of the difficulty engendered by using analogous examples to teach pronunciation.
  19. Etaoin Shrdlu Imminent wormfood

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Ruritania
    Perhaps Terry S. would like to pretend to have a revelation for test purposes. I still can't see a way of using short identical vowels that wouldn't sound like an indication of agreement rather than epiphany.
  20. Terry S. flamen

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Hibernia
    I have heard it with both vowels short, but not so much in the context of discovery as "uncovery" e.g. catching someone out in a lie, or up to no good.

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