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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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“I have, on the other hand, retained several more or less traditional tunes, absolutely valueless and without merit from a musical point of view, but which seem to have become a necessity if a book is to appeal—as I hope this one will—to the varied needs of various churches.”
— A. Edmonds Tozer (1905)

How To Hyphenate Latin Words
published 13 February 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski
“Where the best authorities differ so widely it would be absurd to pretend to offer a final solution.” — Fr. Adrian Fortescue (The Mass, 1912)

984 Puer Natus Est N THE ORDINARY FORM, there are Spoken Propers (for Masses without music) and Sung Propers. Sometimes they’re identical, sometimes not, and the same holds true for Latin hyphenation. There is “spoken” hyphenation (a.k.a. “written”) and “sung” hyphenation … and they’re not always the same.

Professor John F. Collins gives basic rules of syllabification in his Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin (CUA), but these are intended for “written” Latin. Even there, leeway exists, because ancient manuscripts divide words depending on spacing issues. Of course, going back even further, the words were all written together without any spaces!

For the Edmund Campion project (website), we spent hours studying hyphenation issues. I share some of our findings below. Fr. Xavier Lasance (†1946) is not always consistent. For instance, he sometimes writes FRU—CTÍFERA but in other places writes FRUC—TÍFERA. The following document explains what a “true error” is:

      * *  Notes about the Translations for the Campion Missal

LET US CONSIDER the Latin word omni. Latin grammarians say it should be broken as OM – NI. However, in 99% the Solesmes books, it is divided as O – MNI for “sung” Latin. Any time Solesmes has “OMN” they divide it this way, e.g. O – MNIS. Perhaps they do this to help singers pronounce it correctly. It doesn’t appear to be a “French thing” since the 1953 German Graduale follows suit, e.g. O – MNI – BUS. However, for “written” Latin, the Solesmes Liber Usualis uses OM – NES.

Moving on, let’s consider how words like “SANCTE” are broken:

Official 1962 Missale Romanum:   SAN – CTE   •   SANC – TAM

Fr. Xavier Lasance:   SANC – TA

1975 Missale Romanum of Paul VI:   SANC – TAM

Solesmes Liber Usualis:   SAN – CTUÁRIUM   •   SAN – CTUM   •   SAN – CTO

Pothier’s Liber Gradualis (1884):   SAN – CTUS

You can see that each publisher follows his own policy. The most important thing is to be consistent. (You’ll notice the official 1962 Missal is not.) It would be fascinating to go through all the old books at the St. Jean de Lalande Library and see what different publishers did over the years. Feel free to add hyphenations from books you own in the combox. Here are some notable ones I found:

Fr. Lasance:   COG – NÓSCO   •   Solesmes:   CO – GNOVÍSTI   02   •   03

Fr. Lasance:   FAC – TUM

Fr. Lasance:   SUS – CÉPTOR

Fr. Lasance:   PROP – TER

Fr. Lasance:   ACCÉP – TAM

Solesmes 1903 Manuale:   ACCÉ – PTA

Fr. Lasance:   CHRIS – TUS

Solesmes books:   EXSPÉ – CTANT

Most “sung” versions by the monks of Solesmes have OMNÍ – POTENS, yet the 1903 Solesmes Manuale has OMNÍPO – TENS

But others do not agree with Solesmes and write OMNI – PO – TENS

Similarly, the word potéstas is broken as POT – E – STAS not PO – TESTAS

Most written versions prefer NOS-TRIS, yet the Solesmes 1903 Manuale has NO – STRUM

Solesmes:   ÉT – I – AM

Vatican Press:   DI – GNERIS   &   BAPTÍ – SMI

Here are some more examples commonly found in “sung” Latin (as opposed to “written” Latin):

RED – EM – PTOR — not re-dem-ptor
O – MNESnot om-nes
Ó – MNI – A — not om-nia
SOL – E – MNITATEMnot so- LEM – nitatem solemnitatem
SIC – UT — not si-cut
NO – STRISnot nos-tris
NO – STERnot nos-ter
NO – STRÓRUMnot NOS – trórum

806 Nostri

PROPTERnot prop-ter
A – GNOnot ag-no
SANCTOnot sanc-to
Ó – PTI – ME — not óp-time
PENTECÓ – STESnot Pentecos-tes
SE – CUSnot sec-us
Á – SPEROnot ás – pe – ro
EX – ÉR – CITUSnot e-xercitus
OB – UMBRÁBITnot o – bumbrabit
RED – EM – PTIÓNEMnot Re-demp-ti-onem
RED – ÉMITnot re-demit
yet Solesmes has RE – DEMIT and RE – DEMIT
AD – ORÉMUSa-doremus
SEMET – Í – PSUMnot seme-tip-sum
PROTE – CTÓ – REMnot protec-to-rem
RE – CTAEnot rec-tae
NO – CTÚR – NOnot noc-túr-no
TE – STA – MÉNTUMnot tes-ta-mentum
IN – I – QUITÁTESnot i-niquitates but Solesmes & NOH like I – NI – micítias
SE – PTE – NÁRIUM — not sep-tenárium
POT – ENTÁTUInot po-tentatui
CONSPÉ – CTUnot conspec-tu
SO – MNUM — not som – num
DI – GNISSIMAnot dig-nissima
CO – GNOVI — (but written is usually cog-novi)
RESPEXITnot respex-it (but one book has “e-xultavit”)
I – PSÍ – US — not ip-sius
GÉ – NITRIXnot Gen-i-trix
Í – PSEnot íp – se
CAE – LE – STISnot caeles-tis
SUSCIPEnot su-scipe — see also Suscepísti
TEMPLOnot temp-lo
VEL – UT — not ve-lut
E – STOnot es-to
E – RITnot er-it
VE – XIL – LAnot vex-il-la
PA – TERnot Pat-er
PRO – PTÉ – REAnot prop-terea
BENEDÍ – XITnot benedix-it
MANSU – E – TÚDINEMnot mansu-et-udinem
DEXTERAnot de-xtera
PERMAN – SÍ – STInot perman-sis-ti
NO – VÍS – SIMEnot nov-issime
DI – É – BUSnot di-eb-us
FE – LIXnot fel-ix
BASILI – SCUMnot ba – si – lis – cum ??
CRUCIFÍ – XUSnot crucifix-us
EX – ÉR – CITUSnot e-xer-citus
SCRI – BÉN – TISnot scribe-ntis
JU – STUMnot jus-tum
ERU – CTÁVIT — (but written is usually eruc-tavit)
RE – GNUM — (but written is usually reg-num)
DI – XITnot dix-it
ACCÉ – PTAM — (but written is usually accep-tam)
MINI – STRÓ – RUMnot minis-trorum

As you can see, sometimes numerous ways of syllabification are acceptable in Latin.

Finally, watch out for “compound” word that have actual Latin words in them, like:

IN – I – MI – CUSnot i-ni-micus

and PER – I – BUNTnot pe-ri-bunt

190 inimicus

Yet we saw how “noster” was treated …

By the way, look how “victoriam” is treated:

165 victoriam

Why do they do I – nimícis but at the same time IN – íquo :

804 eripe

NA – SCE -TUR   not   NAS – CE – TUR ——— and RE – GNUM   not   REGNUM :

805 Hyphenate


770 hyphen

SOLESMES MONASTERY is inconsistent, when you look at the word ENUTRIET :

634 enutriet 1955

635 enutriet 1926

OBLIVISCERIS is broken as obli – vi – scé -ris :

614 oblivisceri

SUSCIPE is done SUS – CI – PE not su – SCI – pe as shown by Solesmes 1957:

609 suscipe hyphenation

541 castos

474 Latin Hyphenation

This one has many remarkable hyphenations for Latin words:

460 Hyphen Latin

How would you break “obliviscáris” ?

(1) O – BLI – VI – SCARIS ?   or:   (2) OB – LI – VI – SCARIS ?

The second one is the correct one. Ob is a preposition and therefore not separated. SC always goes together, e.g. in scientia, etc. Cf. Introit for Sexagesima Sunday in Liber: ob-li-vi-sce-ris.

Look how different folks treat “vespertinum” :

244 vespertinum


371 suscipe

769 sustinebit hyphen