Seeing information on Latin, there are many diphtongs, and less consonants, or at least less letters for them.

Nowadays among Romance languages, only Portuguese has a bit complex vowel system (like bacana sounding like /ba.ˈkɐ.nɐ/, 2 very different vowels). Italian and Spanish have just plain vowels, and diphtongs simply have /w/ in them (es:puerta, it:uomo).

I leave French (phonetics of which, as a commenter pointed out, underwent long and complex transformations) and Romanian (which I'm not competent in).

Did Latin have a relatively rich vowel system? Are these languages now having richer consonant assortment?

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    Some varieties of Italian distinguish open and close "e" and "o," which gives 7 distinct vowels in stressed syllables. And I think some Itallian "dialects" (other Romance languages of Italy) may also have more than 5 vowels. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 18:19
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    There aren't "vowel varieties" and "consonant varieties" of languages. The Latin vowel system was pretty ordinary as languages go; some of the Romance languages have simpler systems, others (e.g. French) arguably more complex ones. Some languages have also acquired a new consonant or two (e.g. Spanish [x]), but they're not substantially richer in consonants.
    – TKR
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


Latin had a pretty standard vowel set:

  • two high vowels - front /i/ and back /u/
  • two mid vowels - front /e/ and back /o/
  • one low vowel - central /a/

Each vowel had a long and short version. Long vowels tended to have been articulated slighty higher, long /i/ was higher than short /i/ and so on. (Such a tendency is deduced from orthography. In epigraphy we find confusion in spelling concerning short /i/ and long /e/ or short /u/ and long /o/.)

All in all it gives 10 vowel phonemes.

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