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What are the correct English pronunciations of (Roman emperor) names such as Theodosius, Anastasius, Decius, Leontius, Gratian, Marcian...

I am having difficulties with -tiu vs. -siu, -tia vs. -cia. Should those be pronounced as [ʃə], [tɪə] or [sɪə]?

I was unable to find anything online. "tchrist"'s Wikipedia link on traditional English pronunciation of Latin does not provide an answer. My question is pretty specific about the pronunciation of proper Latin names containing -tiu, -siu, -tia and -cia. No such information is to be found anywhere on that webpage.

  • It depends whether you are aiming at Classical (t is /t/, c is /k/), Traditional English (more /s/ and /ʃ/ in your examples) or Catholic (more [ts] and [tʃ]) – Henry Jun 9 '13 at 8:24
  • @Henry Thanks for you comment. I know the Latin pronunciations (classic or medieval). I am more interested in a detailed description of the common English ones. – Just Jun 9 '13 at 8:31
  • The issue is that you have specified that the names refer to Roman Emperors. If you had simply asked how you might reasonably pronounce a name you encountered, say Leontius Fortescue-O'Connell, with some other similar examples, it would be relatively easy for the community to answer based on their own regional dialect. – Andrew Leach Jun 9 '13 at 9:09
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    See this article on the traditional English pronunciation of Latin. – tchrist Jun 9 '13 at 10:57
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    @rhetorician Do not use any Latin term until His Worship has done so first, and then (mis)pronounce it in exactly the same way that he does. It is a tried and true method that has served (non-pedantic) advocates for centuries. – Fortiter Jun 10 '13 at 2:41
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The short answer is that we pronounce them as though they were English, so for the most part all of those get [ʃ] there. Marcian sounds like a little green Martian.

The values of the vowels are of course different, too, so you get things like Gratian becoming [ˈgreɪʃən]. And you have Cicero becoming [sɪsɨɹoʊ] instead of [ˈkɪkɛɹo] — well, or Tully, which is decidedly odd.

A longer explanation can be found in the Wikipedia article on the traditional English pronunciation of Latin.

  • So Theodosius is pronounced [θɪədoʊʃəs] and not [θɪədoʊsɪəs]? – Just Jun 10 '13 at 2:12
  • @Just Probably. – tchrist Jun 10 '13 at 2:36
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"Correct pronunciation" isn't a definite single thing. The pronunciation of -ci-, -si-, -ti- before a final unstressed syllable in such names is fairly variable. The following pronunciation variants are all within the norm.

The spelling -ci- can correspond to /si/, /ʃi/ or /ʃ/.

The spelling -si- can correspond to /si/, /ʃi/, /ʃ/, /zi/, /ʒi/ or /ʒ/.

  • The pronunciations /zi/, /ʒi/ or /ʒ/ are only possible after a vowel, or for American English speakers, after /r/.

The spelling -ti- can correspond to /ʃi/, /ʃ/, /ti/.

  • /ti/ is not very common, and many names seem to lack variant pronunciations with /ti/. But some pronunciation guides, e.g. The elements of Latin grammar, Richard Hiley (1849), suggest that /ti/ is to be expected in Greek words/names. That would favor the use of /ti/ in "Leontius" (Greek Λεόντιος).

  • After "s", "ti" cannot be pronounced as /ʃi/ or /ʃ/. Instead, the possible pronunciations are /ti/, /tʃi/ and /tʃ/.

  • There is supposed to be a rule (mentioned by Hiley) that "tti" is pronounced /ti/.

After "n", some speakers have no distinction between /ʃ/ and /tʃ/, so they might use /tʃ/ instead of /ʃ/ in words spelled with -nci-, nsi- or -nti-.

Other pronunciations of these spelling patterns exist, but it's probably safe to classify them as irregular/exceptional. E.g. -ti- is exceptionally pronounced as /ʒ/ by many speakers in the word equation, and as /si/ by some speakers in the word negotiation.

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