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?

  • 2
    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. Aug 21, 2016 at 18:19
  • 3
    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
    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.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.