pronouncing names

Ron at Ron at
Mon Jun 24 12:55:56 CDT 2002

Common names are names.  Scientific "names" are technical terms --  the
biological equivalent of H2O or Au.  We compose these terms by a process we
call Latinization (even though Greek is involved too).   These terms are
made for us - to serve us and our profession.  This is accomplished by two
simple functions.  One is technical the other communicative.  We all
(regardless of our native tongues or accents) utilize these technical terms
("names") for 1) universal identification and 2) primarily written

None of us ever have a problem in _reading_ someone else's scientific
"names" in a paper.  But when we talk verbally to that person and they say
that same word(s) we have to ask what that is.  Sometimes this difficulty
in audio communication is not because the parties are not using "proper"
Latin pronunciation, but simply their accent as it affects their oral
ability to form certain sounds.

We are biologists, taxonomists and systematists - not linguists.  That is,
our primary function is not in teaching students the proper classical
pronunciation of a dead language (as we were subjectively taught by those
who were subjectively taught by those who were subjectively taught) and
then harassing them for failing to do so when we overhear them at the
pub/club.  Do we see my point?

In writing/reading our papers we are all in harmony of understanding the
necessary, and Codes dictated, technical terms.   In everyday verbal
communication, we are "just" talking shop.   (The only exception are those
comparatively few times we present an official paper orally - and even then
the paper copy is available.)  For those of us who work with groups (e.g.
butterflies) that also have a lot of common names, we at times find
ourselves just saying the common name when the individuals we are talking
with aren't picking up on our pronunciation of the Latinized technical term

A last point is that Latinization as employed by the Code (ZN for me) is
primarily functional ( a means to the end of developing a universally
understood technical scientific term)  and not grammatical.  This tells me
that pronunciation (as a part of grammatical rules) is a secondary issue.
Though not an unimportant one.

Ron Gatrelle

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