Pronunciation of scientific names

Carmine Colacino colacino at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Jul 19 11:34:56 CDT 1996

At 10:12 AM 7/19/96, paul handford wrote:

>Another thought about this.  I also work with students in Argentina, and
>they seem to have ABSOLUTELY no problem in this area.  Now maybe they all
>learn to read with phonics (and why wouldn't you, with an obliging language
>like Spanish?), but I had always supposed that they are so used to words
>sounding like they look in their own language, that they simply transfer
>this approach to the (ususally latinate) names........ and it works.

That's true. Spanish (and Italian) are languages in which the written word,
and the spoken ones are still close enough and spelling is not much of a
problem. You can say, for instance, Machaerocereus (your example) and the
only doubt I could have is if there's a "e" or a "ae" after "ch". In
Italian also double consonants are pronounced distinctly from single ones,

The problem with English speakers is that the written word is more or less
the same as it was several centuries ago, while the spoken has varied very
You have a system that can be considered half way in between a phonetic
system and an ideographic (or semasiographic) one! That's the problem.

Carmine Colacino


         Dott. Carmine Colacino
         Dipartimento di biologia, difesa e b.a.
         Universita` della Basilicata
         85100 Potenza, Italy

         Tel.: +39 971 474172; Fax: +39 971 474256
         Internet: colacino at

         Temporary address in U.S.A.(from March '96 to Nov.'97):
         Dept. of Integrative Biology
         University of California
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         Internet: colacino at


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