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The Latin word “quattuor”

Quattuor means ‘four’. I set it in a motet recently: et quattuor animalium (and the four living creatures- Revelation 7:11).
My friend is a Latin lecturer and says that in this case uo is a diphthong, different from the uo in tuorum, where the u and o are in different parts of the word (tu = you, orum = genitive plural ending). So it may be like au or eu in this guide to pronounciation from the Liber Usualis:
Guide to vowels from Liber Usualis
Does anyone knows of a musical setting of the word quattuor? Should I give it two or three notes? The antiphon using this verse in the Liber Usualis (p. 1729) unhelpfully skips mentioning the elders and living creatures.
Replies (13): Threaded | Chronological
on December 31, 2014 5:55am
According to my Latin dictionary, the 'uo' is not a dipthong. The '-u' is part of the root, as seen in forms like 'quadru-' and the '-or' is a suffix. So, three notes.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 31, 2014 6:00am
Hi Vaughan, according to classical Latin quattuor is divided in  quat-tu-or
on December 31, 2014 6:30am
I see only one mention of this on - Vidi turbam magnam by Palestrina:
It is given three notes in this setting (see p 6 of the pdf).
Hope that helps.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on December 31, 2014 7:33am
I agree with the the other respondents: the word is three syllables. Lewis and Short's dictionary puts a short marking over the u (ŭ), which they wouldn't do if it were part of a diphthong. One of their references is to a verse from Virgil's Eclogues:
sis bonus o felixque tuis! en quattuor aras (Ec. 5. 65)
I think your lecturer friend will agree that two short syllables (-u-or) are much more likely than a long syllable in this position.
on December 31, 2014 8:19am
Hi Vaughan,
you need to give it three notes. Further, there are no diphthongs in Latin, like today there are no diphthongs in Italian or Spanish. The problem with Latin teachers often is that they have all their wisdom from books. Latin is not a living language anymore. But Italian and Spanish are. The ae in Caesar is not a diphthong either. Perhaps your friend knows what that is ;-)
Best wishes,
on January 1, 2014 5:15am
Martin - Have to disagree on the assertion that "Latin is not a living language."  Please don't tell the Roman Church - they are developing words to describe or account for modern means of communication, etc., and all official documents of the Church are written in Latin.  Yes, if by "living" you mean used in daily speech, then granted, it's not "living" - but it ain't dead, yet!  I do recall a Latin teacher of mine in high school who argued that Petrarch effectively "killed" Latin by insisting on Ciceronian forms and patterns, etc.  But the surprising persistence of Latin as a language even today (please note this discussion!) argues for a state of, if not "life," then certainly not "death."  Were it dead, NO one would use it at all.  Just a thought....
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 1, 2014 3:12pm
hello vaughan,
as most people have confirmed, quattuor is sounded with three syllables. some vowels and consonants have changed their pronunciation in the 2000+ years that Latin has been spoken/sung; one may readily compare the transformations with the variety that English enjoys, depending upon era and geography.
as for martin's comments, in the cordial spirit that exists on ChoralNet, i'm going to assume they were just made 'lingua in bucca,' or 'tongue in cheek,' as they are wide of the mark. dipththongs certainly do exist in Latin, as an understanding of the metrical structure of Latin verse proves. '-uo-' is not a Latin dipththong, however. when you encounter it in words like 'quod', the 'u' is attached to the 'q', not the 'u'. no such requirement exists for 't' - hence, 'qua-ttu-or'.
doubtless this gives you more information than you needed, but i gained so much wisdom from books that i was driven to pass some of it on. occupational hazard, i suppose.
happy new year for 2014, or MMXIV, as some of us like to say ...
philip barnes
st. louis (mo)
on February 10, 2014 6:31pm
Thanks everyone! This was my first ChoralNet post and I didn’t realise I could subscribe to the thread, so I forgot about it.
Thanks especially to Matthew Norwood for the Palestrina motet. With all his time in the Sistine Chapel, I think Palestrina is an excellent authority on Latin. I’ll use eighth-eighth-quarter rhythm for it.
I still write sacred music in Latin, so it it’s not completely dead ;-) I’ll use English if the words are crucial, or the style is less ‘high’. Though both Latin & English are universal languages in their way, perhaps Latin is more enjoyable and easier to sing in for choirs whose native language is not English.
on February 10, 2014 8:38pm
Hello everyone,
I feel I should briefly add a little greeting to this thread – I am the 'Latin teaching friend' in question, whose assistance Vaughan sought about pronunciation.
I just wanted, first, to confirm the consensus already arrived at – that the word 'quattuor' indeed does have three syllables (and it syllabifies quat-tu-or, as per Pietro's reply: the final t on the first syllable is important and would have been pronounced independently in classical Latin, so rendering that syllable 'long' despite containing a 'short' vowel, as the example that Stephen quotes from the Eclogues makes clear).
But I also wanted to add that the discussion as a whole has resulted from a small confusion of the oldest sort. Vaughan had actually asked me about the vowels 'ou', in the context of the Liber's discussion of diphthongs. I had explained that -ou- might be treated as a diphthong in contexts other than those cited in the LU (where the u is the final vowel of a prefix in pro-ut and co-utor, and so on).  Yet alas! This question turned out to be based on a text with a typo in it, and the vowels at issue were really 'uo' – as in quattuor – which is (as you have all pointed out – mostly quite politely) not treated as a diphthong is Latin. 
But it's really wonderful to see a vibrant discussion of Latin vocab! And I have now subscribed to ChoralNet. And if only my students would show such interest ... ;)
all the very best to you all –
(I feel I should also agree with Philip that Martin is mistaken to claim that Latin has no diphthongs. Latin poetry simply wouldn't work without them: it's a little piece of wisdom I picked up in a book)
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 11, 2014 3:30am
Vaughan - And THAT is a whole 'nuther thread!  The "regularity" of Latin (and Latin-based languages in general, if I dare argue so) does make it easier, once you figure out the general rules of pronunciation, to teach to someone phonetically.  English, however, "mongrel" tongue that it is (pace, pace friends - I'm kidding here) - borrowing as it does so vigorously and so interestingly - makes it a difficult language to find rules for (WHY, e.g., are "strait" and "straight" pronounced the same?  WHY are there two "r's" in "arrive?"  WHY are "their" "there" and "they're" pronounced exactly the same way?  Do we wonder why people whose first language isn't English struggle to learn this thing?) both in terms of pronunciation AND in terms of writing music for a lyric set in English.  Let's admit it:  even those of us for whom English IS the first language (it isn't in my case, but I learned it so early that there is no difficulty) find questions of singing the darned thing sometimes a real challenge (diphthongs, anyone?).  So please, all you composers out there:  if you periodically write something for the "dead" language of Latin, those of us who like to use such things in church are deeply appreciative of the approach to the language not unlike that of Christ towards Lazarus:  "Arise; come forth!"  "And the people said (in Hebrew):  'Amen!'"
on February 13, 2014 3:57am

First of all I must apologise for my English, because I'm not very experienced and I have to use a translator, for what I do not understand!

 I would like to respond to the post Martin Broun: assertions about the Italian language and the Latin language are incorrect: the Latin language has seven diphthongs; the Italian language has over diphthongs, triphthongs!! Diphthongs are pronounced with only one issue of voice, as well as the triphthongs. Instead in "hiatus" each vowel constitutes a syllable by itself.

I'm a Chorister for almost 39 years, I am Italian. I studied at the "Liceo Classico" (which is the address of studies in Italy where you learn the languages of classical antiquity, ancient Greek and Latin) when I was young and still currently attend Latin lessons for my personal passion always at "Liceo Classico-Giuseppe Mazzatinti" from my city, studying with " metodo natura", i.e. studying how Latin was still a language spoken in everyday  . ~~I hope I have been helpful. Have a nice day!. Paola


Prima di tutto devo scusarmi per il mio Inglese, perchè non sono molto esperta  e devo usare un traduttore, per quello che non capisco! ~~Vorrei rispondere al post di Martin Broun: le affermazioni riguardo la lingua italiana e la lingua latina  non sono corrette: La lingua latina ha sette dittonghi; la lingua italiana ha oltre I dittonghi, anche I trittonghi! I dittonghi sono pronunciati con una sola emissione di voce, così come I trittonghi. Invece nello " iato" ogni vocale costituisce una sillaba a sé.

Io sono una corista da quasi 39 anni, sono Italiana. Io ho studiato al " Liceo Classico"  (che è " l'indirizzo di studi" in Italia dove si apprendono le lingue della classicità , Greco antico e latino) quando ero giovane e  ancora attualmente frequento lezioni di latino per mia passione personale sempre al "Liceo Classico -Giuseppe Mazzatinti" della mia Città, studiando col "metodo Natura", cioè studiando il latino come fosse ancora una lingua parlata nella vita quotidiana.~~ Spero di essere stata utile! Buona Giornata!



on February 14, 2014 7:04am
Just one somewhat related note: a better translation of "quattuor" is "quartet" as in "four things appearing a s a group." In French, "quattuor" is the actual word for a musical quartet of any kind (i.e. string quartet).
on November 10, 2014 2:32pm
Hi Vaughan.
Don't know about Italian, but here in Spain we have plenty of diphthongs: cuesta, muestra, causa, tiesa, Cairo,... I probably could write a few hundreds...or more. :)
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