No wrong or right way to pronounce scientific names?

AE35Unit

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I put up a list of scientific names of Tarantulas with pronunciation guide on a Tarantula forum and got told 'there is no wrong or right way to pronounce scientific names'. But surely there are 'rules' in nomenclature, for example o and e together making an ee sound as in Coelacanth (see la kanth).
Arent these rules of pronunciation set in stone, rigid?
 
There are correct and incorrect ways of pronouncing any word with such an etymology; but there are dialectical variants in speech which can make a difference without being "wrong" (although technically incorrect). For example, the British pronunciation which stood for so long when it came to Latin is often quite different from what has been determined to be the correct pronunciation of the language in its prime; yet the British pronunciation remains so accepted that many (if not all) Latin dictionaries include it as a "proper" variant.

So, while there is a certain leeway in the pronunciation of many such terms, there is nonetheless a right and a wrong way to pronounce such things... Some, of course, are completely off, while others are approximations which are acceptable. It all depends into which category a particular choice falls.
 
I'm not a scientist, but I'd have thought there was a generally accepted way of pronouncing technical words. If the point of communication is to be understod, then it is important to use pronunciations which will be understood, and while there is leeway for accents and the like, any free-for-all in how a word is pronounced and understanding goes out the window.

Was the person who told you there is no right and wrong someone whose opinion you respect? Someone who has any standing in the scientific community? If the answers are no and no, ignore him/her.
 
Most scientific terms are from Latin or ancient Greek. Simply, no-one has the faintest idea of how either language was pronounced. So we make it up as we go along.
 
Most scientific terms are from Latin or ancient Greek. Simply, no-one has the faintest idea of how either language was pronounced. So we make it up as we go along.

Erm, you might want to try again on that. While it is not "set in stone", we have some pretty darned good evidence concerning such, which has been painstakingly put together over the centuries, and refined as further information has come to light... but that's just it: it has been refined, not overturned, because it is based on such painstaking and careful research:

Latin spelling and pronunciation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Traditional English pronunciation of Latin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://www.ai.uga.edu/mc/latinpro.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_phonology

http://www.oeaw.ac.at/kal/agp/

http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/koinonia/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=15


In other words, it's a looooong way from "no one having the faintest idea how either language was pronounced"....
 
Thinking about it, the person who said there is no right and wrong, does he pronounce Tarantula as Tar-an-chu-la? Presumably so, as this is expected. How would he react if someone said Tar-an-tooo-la? I'm willing to bet he'd correct the mispronunciation...
 
Thinking about it, the person who said there is no right and wrong, does he pronounce Tarantula as Tar-an-chu-la? Presumably so, as this is expected. How would he react if someone said Tar-an-tooo-la? I'm willing to bet he'd correct the mispronunciation...

Or to rhyme with the name of the dance, the tarantella.... (Hey, at least that one would make some bizarre sort of sense....):rolleyes:
 
Personally, the last thing I'd do if bitten by a big hairy spider is start dancing, but there's no accounting for taste, I suppose.
 
Ultimately, correct pronunciation is whatever is most easily understood. Go with what the majority do.
 
Ultimately, correct pronunciation is whatever is most easily understood. Go with what the majority do.

Nope. Correct pronunciation is whatever is based on the established rules of etymology and phonology. "Nuc-u-lar" ain't correct, and never will be. The word is "nu-cle-ar" (three syllables), nor is it "nu-cleer" (two). As noted above, there is some leeway due to dialectical variants in pronunciation and, with ancient languages, lack of complete certainty (no sonic recordings, for instance, though plenty of indications from grammarians, rhetoricians, and the like, who were aware of the importance of how something sounded in its effect on the auditors); but there are completely wrong ways of doing these things, as well as some which are more correct (or less incorrect) than others.

The above idea is, I am afraid, yet another example of the creeping (pffft! rampant!) relativism which has been the result of lazy scholarship and lax educational standards of the twentieth century in such matters, rather than a genuinely defensible position. (No offense meant toward you personally, skeptical; but the position itself is simply nonsensical to its core.)
 
Well the person in question is a bit of a scholar in Theraphosid taxonomy and also taught Latin many years ago so I would expect him to say Taran choo la, as I do.
 
To j.d.

It is possible to be a pronunciation purist, but how far do you keep it going?

We have words in English that are spelt according to a long-lost pronunciation, but are currently pronounced very differently.

Think of all the words starting with 'k' which is now silent.
e.g. know, knife, knapp etc. Are you purist enough to pronounce the 'k'? After all, that was the original pronunciation.

Reality is that the way words are spoken changes over time. Purists rail about the changes, and often the verbal academic generation have to die off before the new pronunciations are accepted. However, English is a dynamic language and every generation speaks it just a little differently to the previous. We can fight the changes tooth and nail, but are doomed to fail, if only because we die.

Personally, I regard change as healthy. Anything that does not change is static, and probably already dead. Latin does not change. And which nation speaks it?
 
Don't get me started on "Nuc-u-lar", J.D. Wasn't that one of George Bush's favourite words?

I spent half my life persuading my children to pronounce words correctly only to have so called T.V. and radio 'personalities' mispronounce every single possible word they could think of.

Mind you, I think I did a pretty good job in the end. Both my kids are more critical of these people than I am now.
 
To j.d.

It is possible to be a pronunciation purist, but how far do you keep it going?

We have words in English that are spelt according to a long-lost pronunciation, but are currently pronounced very differently.

Think of all the words starting with 'k' which is now silent.
e.g. know, knife, knapp etc. Are you purist enough to pronounce the 'k'? After all, that was the original pronunciation.

Reality is that the way words are spoken changes over time. Purists rail about the changes, and often the verbal academic generation have to die off before the new pronunciations are accepted. However, English is a dynamic language and every generation speaks it just a little differently to the previous. We can fight the changes tooth and nail, but are doomed to fail, if only because we die.

Personally, I regard change as healthy. Anything that does not change is static, and probably already dead. Latin does not change. And which nation speaks it?

Granted, there is change in language (even Latin went through such changes for many centuries, as did Greek). But such is a gradual change, following fairly well recognized "rules" of phonology and dialectical interchange, and is a vastly different thing from ignoring correct pronunciation which is still very much in effect, or (worse yet) saying that correct pronunciation is a null concept. Again, that is simply nonsense, and taking the natural evolution of a language as a license for the sort of orthographic and phonetic chaos which one sees in many earlier ages following the fall of Rome. (Look at the books of the 15th to 17th centuries, for example, where spelling even by the same author often varied on the same page!)

Latin continued to change, and isn't actually a dead language (save for the purest classical forms), but engendered (with cross-pollination) all the romance languages which became many of the modern languages of today; much as some of the dinosaurs evolved to become various species of birds which are still with us.

So, again, what I object to is not the normal sort of change language goes through over time, but rather the arbitrary disregarding of those rules of pronunciation which are still very much in existence, and one of the main reasons for such objection is that that sort of thing does cut down on clear communication. Look at how bastardized modern English is in comparison to, say, what it was a century and a half ago (or even less). Compare the writing of someone like John Collier or Shirley Jackson -- both popular writers, remember, published in some of the nation's major popular magazines -- to analogous writers today. There is less precision, and therefore less nuance, subtlety, and hence a coarsening of the layers of emotional response, association, complexity and ambiguity of impression, let alone all the stylistic niceties which were so common throughout most of the history of Western literature.

So with ignoring the proper pronunciation of words which are well-established: try a subtle change in pronouncing homoousian and homoiousian, and see what sort of chaos ensues in trying to communicate!

As for the point with scientific terminology which comes from classical Greek and Latin... as these are well-established pronunciations, and as the language isn't changing, the problems with such an idea is all the more evident. Precision is the very essence of scientific communication, or, when it come to that, genuine communication of any kind....
 
Actually, JD, I disagree with you on your assessment of English. I think that the recent changes have made it more exciting, and more useful. The changes in the English language reflect the changes in society. Science, technology, social mores, economics, politics. Never in human history has there been such an exciting time with so much change going on. And the changes in the English language reflect the wider changes.

And I think you may have misunderstood when I said we do not know how Latin was pronounced. There are some rules that have survived. I actually studied Latin many decades back at High School. Two years wasted. Our Latin teacher taught us the basic rules, but emphasized that the accent and subtleties were all lost.

So, I am aware that the famous phrase by Julius Caesar : "Vini, Vidi, Vici" is actually pronounced something like Weeny, weedy, weechy. However, if the very best Latin scholar of the 20th century were transported by a time machine to ancient Rome, he would struggle like hell to understand the Romans, and they would struggle like hell to understand him. Reason - the accent. Though I am sure he would adapt quickly and learn their means of pronunciation.
 
Languages are constantly changing but Scientific Nomenclature should not. Surely that was the very reason Linnaeus chose Latin (a very peculiar man from a very peculiar family, but it was a good idea.)
 
'there is no wrong or right way to pronounce scientific names'
There may be many ways of pronouncing a word that are considered acceptable. To state that there are no wrong ways is daft. What use is there saying a word with a unique, personal pronunciation? What if one were to decide to pronounce the word, daft, as clog? Who but the speaker would have any idea what he or she had said?

Words are used for communication; rob them of any** means to determine what they are negates their purpose.


I'm assuming, by the way, that this is not what that other poster meant at all. It's a shame that communication is not their strongest suit.





** - Where dialects have very odd pronunciations, knowing that one is dealing with a dialect version of a word helps one determine what the speaker might have meant.
 
Oh I totally agree Urs! Scientific names are called scientific for a reason,there are certain mores as to how words or letter combinations should be pronounced. After all when learning a new language it is vital to get the pronunciation/diction spot on-I know this from someone teaching me russian! I just wish we'd done latin at school- love the language!
 

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