Pronunciation of scientific names

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Pronunciation of scientific names

Postby Padfield » Wed Apr 25, 2007 6:19 pm

Does anyone know an authoritative source of information on the conventions for pronouncing Latin names? I gather it often differs from 'correct' classical pronunciation, so knowing Greek and Latin doesn't always help much. For instance, I read when I was a child that the '--idae' family names should be pronounced '--idee', which is not at all classical.

For starters, here are some particular questions:

Is the 'c' in 'Lycaenidae'/'Lycaena' hard or soft?
Is the 'c' in 'Coenonympha' hard or soft?
Do you say 'hee-ah-lay' or 'high-ale' for hyale?
How do you pronounce 'Everes? (don't answer 'Cu-pee-do')?
'Ple-bee-jus' or 'Ple-bay-us' (Plebejus)?

There are more, but it will get boring if I list them all.

Any suggestions?

Guy
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Postby Martin » Wed Apr 25, 2007 7:23 pm

Any suggestions? Yep...say it with conviction, even if you're wrong, and everyone will think you're a genius because no-one really knows! :D

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Postby Pete Eeles » Wed Apr 25, 2007 9:55 pm

My input is that the classical pronunciation translates, whereas the UK does not. A case in point. The Wood White (Leptidea sinapis). The UK pronunciation is "sy-nay-piz". The classical is "sin-ap-iss". The latter works throughout Europe. The former doesn't :)

I studied Latin at school, and consider myself fortunate that I know how the pronunciation should sound. But this is a superb thread! Perhaps I should add a soundbite to each Latin name (classical and UK) for each species :)

Cheers,

- Pete
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Postby Dave McCormick » Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:00 pm

Speaking of this, i am creating someting on my website for the more trickier names such as Iphiclides podalirius - Scarce swallowtail. I have started this with family names which can be tricky a lot of the time.
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Postby Padfield » Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:11 pm

A good point, Pete, about the classical pronunciation translating. A Spanish lepidopterist visits the same campsite as me in the Val d'Aran and we often sit down and chat in broken Spanish about what to see, where. Obviously, we use the Latin names of butterflies and I always pronounce them as I know they would be pronounced in Spanish - which is quite close to Latin in many cases. French speakers here in Switzerland also produce quite recognisable sounds - but if I responded with anglicised versions I think we would lose the thread completely.

It would be great, though, if you could provide a phonetic transliteration, or even 'soundbites' on the site - you might find you became the standard to which all others referred. But I won't expect it tomorrow - I know you have your work absolutely cut out and there are more pressing issues at hand!

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Postby Dave McCormick » Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:15 pm

Well, taxinomic names were established by Swedish naturalist, Carl Von Linne in the 18th century.

The Generic name, which always comes first, groups the species with similar features together. The second, or specific name , differentes that species from other members of the genus.

I might create some wav files that help pronounce names. Thats a good idea, especially for species that don't have common names. I will add these features to my website when I finish everything else on it.

Here is a page that may help out: http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/pronunciation.htm
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Postby Padfield » Thu Apr 26, 2007 5:27 pm

Thanks for that, Dave - the web page you linked to was an interesting read.

For what it's worth, I have just spent about an hour writing down phonetic transliterations of the way I, personally, pronounce the Latin names of English butterflies, using an entirely non-standard phonetic scheme that made sense to me at the time but probably to no one else. I have posted it here: http://www.guypadfield.com/pronunciation.html.

I'm definitely not suggesting I'm right - in fact, I know I'm not, because it's all very inconsistent. But this is how I do, actually, pronounce the names when I talk to my dog. It might prompt someone who knows more than me into doing a better job...

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Postby JKT » Thu Apr 26, 2007 8:22 pm

Interesting pronounciation to say the least. Then again, mine would probably be just as exotic to you! :)
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Postby Matsukaze » Thu Apr 26, 2007 8:31 pm

Maybe there would be less confusion if we had handy pen and paper to write down the names?
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Postby JKT » Fri Apr 27, 2007 5:40 am

Either that or a deck of butterfly cards. 8)
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Postby Pete Eeles » Thu May 03, 2007 7:51 pm

I found this resource:

http://www.saltspring.com/capewest/pron.htm

Applying it is not so easy! But I'm working through these "rules" and hope to have something we can all debate shortly!

Cheers,

- Pete
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Postby Padfield » Thu May 03, 2007 9:37 pm

That is an excellent link, containing very clear advice. However, as Pete pointed out earlier, many of those anglicised pronunciations would be quite incomprehensible to non-anglophones! From a purely practical (not ideological) point of view, this is a major disadvantage. The great merit of scientific names is that they cross language barriers and it would seem a shame if we English-speakers crossed straight back again every time we opened our mouths. After all, amongst ourselves we can always use the English names.

Much as I generally hate standardisation and normalisation, I think there is a good case here for international agreement on a phonetic scheme, perhaps based on the existing international scheme for pronouncing Esperanto (which is quite Latinate).

I used to be fluent in Esperanto and read its monthly magazine (Monato) eagerly until I realised no one had anything interesting to say in it (a lot of hopelessly ideological pipe-dreams and very few good murder mysteries). But butterflies are interesting and it's definitely worth being able to communicate with fellow lepsters from all over the world.

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Postby Pete Eeles » Fri May 04, 2007 8:09 pm

Oh boy. This is really hard! I've tried applying the rules from:

http://www.saltspring.com/capewest/pron.htm

and come up with the attached (graphic). All comments welcome. Are there any scholars out there willing to help bang this into shape? :) And thanks, Guy, for the inspiration. I've stolen many of your suggestions :)

Cheers,

- Pete

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Postby Padfield » Fri May 04, 2007 9:07 pm

Good job, Pete!

Some of these will take a little time to get used to (for instance, since urticae is the genitive of urtica, it feels very strange to use a soft 'c', but that does follow the rules...).

Unfortunately, however, Columbo is on the telly, so complete analysis will have to wait.

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Postby Dave McCormick » Fri May 04, 2007 9:47 pm

Great Pete. Its like learing to speak for the very first time again. Eventually you will get the hang of it.
Cheers all,
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Postby Rogerdodge » Sat May 05, 2007 6:25 am

Pete
That is an excellent chart.
I have been about 30% right all these years!
How about including the phonetics on the species page?
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Postby Pete Eeles » Sat May 05, 2007 7:52 am

Thanks Roger - that's the idea - once we get agreement that the chart is correct!

Cheers

- Pete
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Postby Pete Eeles » Sat May 05, 2007 8:26 am

Here's an update. Shaded items are those that have changed. The last column represents alternatives - I'm not sure which is correct!

Cheers,

- Pete

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Postby Padfield » Sat May 05, 2007 8:57 am

Again, brilliant work, Pete!

One of the hardest things to get right is the position of the stress, which the site you link to says follows classical Latin (or Greek), even though the vowel length and quality follow other conventions. Sometimes this means you need to know the original word to find out where the stress should be (so I think you are right that Pontia is PON-tee-uh but Erebia is e-ruh-BEE-uh, the latter being from Greek).

I have a few queries with some of the other stresses (urticae, again, for example...), though, and will go through the list very carefully with a Latin dictionary and grammar today. I'm sure you've already done this, but it can't do any harm to have input from more people.

This is much more fun than marking schoolwork.

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Postby Pete Eeles » Sat May 05, 2007 8:59 am

Thanks Guy - I was hoping you were going to say that :)

Look forward to your findings!

Cheers,

- Pete
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