Pontificating about Proper Pronunciation
ueymi at GEMINI.OSCS.MONTANA.EDU
Mon Dec 11 16:03:34 CST 1995
The idea that the anglophones of the world are ignorant savages because
they cannot properly pronounce Latin, while the French, German, Russian,
etc. scientists do is a crock!!
On my first trip to Europe in 1984 I visited collections in France, England,
Germany, and Poland. In each country, I was told by someone claiming a
classical education that I was pronouncing the name of my group incorrectly,
and taught the "right" way. The problem was, those from each country had a
different concept of the correct Latin sounds!
Obviously if the French, Italians and Spanish knew a "correct" Latin,
there never would have been a French, Italian or Spanish, let alone
Provincial, Catalan or Romanian. I have it on good authority (from
Russian systematists in St. Petersburg who obviously know) that Ukrainian
is simply uneducated Russian spoken with a slur, while from another
colleague I learned that Russian is just degenerate Polish. This is the
same stupid line of reasoning.
English is proudly a bastard language, which works with words adopted from
many other languages. English speakers make these words their own,
adapting the sounds to those in our repertoire.
Yet, it can be difficult to understand a native English speaker from
another region. Get a rural farmer from Massachusetts together with a
delta Mississippian and a ghetto dweller from Chicago, and watch the
fun. Even Cornwall and Glasgow, or Jamaica and Sidney. Hong Kong and
Bombay. This lack of rigidity is one reason English is so popular as a
second language. Its ability to be understood while violating all
grammatical rules makes it accessible to many imperfect speakers. When an
anglophone uses a word borrowed from another language while speaking
English, the word is being used as ENGLISH and should be pronounced as it
is in ENGLISH. To do otherwise is pompous. If the accepted English
pronunciation is the same as a proper Latin pronunciation, great, if not,
tough. When we speak Latin, it is important to use Latin pronunciation.
Anyway, I cannot believe Latin was ever any different, and I am sick of
pompous pontificators of superiority making bogus claims. The phylogeny
of the language gives credence to variation in pronunciation and
grammar, which evolved into many languages and dialects. I really doubt
any of you proud and proper Latin speakers would be considered very
a good pronouncer of Latin pronouncer if you were to meet Pliny,
Julius Ceaser or Pontius Pilate on the street.
Give it up.
Michael A. Ivie
Department of Entomology
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717
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