Pontificating about Proper Pronunciation

Jorge Jimenez jjimenez at NS.OTS.AC.CR
Thu Dec 14 09:51:28 CST 1995

Manuals on taxonomy and other botanical subjects often include some
suggestions as to what the proper and correct pronunciation of Latin
should be. Of course, nobody whom I know ever heard Marcus Aurelius give
a speech in the Roman Forum nor do I recall listening to Homer reading
excerpts from his stories.. However, the classical books of Latin and Greek
authors, particularly the poetic writings where concordance,
prosopopedia, rythm etc. count a great deal, are very reasonable sources to
figure out what the speech of those times was like.  The German school of
classicists is probably closer to the authentic original sounds of Latin than
any other group, including Italians. Once a person's name has been latinized
the pronunciation should be latinized too. The option would be to retain the
pronunciation of the name in the original source language and pronounce the
Latin endings in Latin (and someone in this list has indicated the sounds
of the vowels) Any good Latin dictionary includes pronunciation rules.
Let us not forget that scientific names or latinized terms coined to describe
a character, are meant to be read rather than heard. In other words, we
write in Latin to universalize the descriptions and nothing else. That is the
essential aspect. Phonetics and peculiarities of those who read or pronounce
a latin name or term requires two attitudes 1= tolerance 2= educated ear.

On Tue, 12 Dec 1995, Valery A. Korneyev wrote:

> Re: Michael Ivie <ueymi at GEMINI.OSCS.MONTANA.EDU>
> Dear Michael,
> I am just obliged to reply your posting.
> First, I must remain my previous question:
> Are there any  VALIDATED RULES  concerning pronunciation of  forein (and
> particulary Latin) names in English?
> This means, that English, like  every  living language with  its special
> history,   has   its  own  evolution   of   different,  sometimes   very
> controversial tendencies  in   spelling, grammar, orthoepics and syntax.
> But obviously it has some general and special RULES.
> You are right, that Enlish, like Russian,  is a  great bastard language,
> extremely plastic and  expressive. But  from  time  to  time  people are
> trying to  stabilize   it.  An act of such stabilisation is  mirrored in
> documents  those  have  a  power equal to  power  of low,  at least, for
> so-called "culture people", i.e., to those who  tries to  understand the
> inner laws of the system they live  in,  and  who  tries to follow these
> rules to withstand the global chaos.
> I agree, everyone of us has received different education, and  no one of
> us can know every language equally well. And no one of us is allowed to
> force another one to act in the way we like.
> Every taxonomist   is obliged  to  care  about stability and  purity  of
> languages he/she uses. And he/she must follow the  adopted Codes and the
> rules of these languages instead of  inventing new rules. Unfortunately,
> there are a lot of us who do not care about it.
> But, I would like to remind the words of Spinosa:
>                                 ("Ethica", pars 1)
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> Valery A. Korneyev, Executive Editor
> Journal of Ukrainian Entomological Societ
> Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology, Kiev UA252030 UKRAINE
> korval at entom.freenet.kiev.ua
> """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
> At 16:07 December 12/95 -0700, Michael Ivie <ueymi at GEMINI.OSCS.MONTANA.EDU>
> wrote:
> >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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