Vowels: Long or short by position  

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There is a final rule that often circumvents the need for memorizing vowel quantities

  • A vowel is considered long by position when directly followed by two consonants, whether in the same word or beginning the subsequent word. 
  • For instance, if the nominative nauta immediately precedes the verb scit, the final -a becomes long for the purpose of filling out the meter: nautâ scit. (The word is still nominative, of course.) 

This rule is not ironclad, as certain consonant combinationsólike -cr, -pr, and -trówill not always "make position."

Some important points.

  • The consonant -h- is not usually considered a full consonant, and will not cause a vowel to make position. For instance, in the phrase tenet haec ("she understands these things"), the syllable -et in tenet is short, not long.

  • The consonants -x- and -z- make position all by themselves, since they are actually double consonants (-ks- and -ds-, respectively).

  • The combination -qu-, which is pronounced -kw-, just as in English, is treated as a single consonant, and never makes position. Furthermore, the -u- never receives a long or short mark during scansion, as is the practice for consonants.

  • The vowel -i- is sometimes considered a consonant, usually when it begins a word and is followed by a vowel. In such cases, e.g. Iuno, the -i- is pronounced as an English -y- (which, recall, is likewise sometimes a vowel, sometimes a consonant).

    A good rule of thumb is to find a derivative from the word in question: if the -i- becomes a -j- in English (e.g. Juno > Iuno), then it is a consonant, and may help another word make position. Furthermore, the -i- in question should not receive a long or a short mark.

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