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Re: Beipiaosaurus and Caudipteryx pronunciation

Aha!  Finally, a use for that Classical Languages degree!

On Sat, 29 May 1999, Ben Creisler wrote:
> In reply to Ralph W. Miller III's 5-26-99 query,  Beipiaosaurus
> is pronounced bay-pyow-SAWR-us. In the pinyin transcription,
> Chinese bei is pronounced like "bay" and piao rhymes
> with "meow."

Right.  In standard Chinese, pinyin transcription, b actually says "p"
like in Spanish or French, with no aspiration.  P says "ph", that is,
aspirated p, with a little puff of air afterwards (this is how p is
normally pronounced at the beginning of a word in English, German, or
Norwegian).  So Beipiao is technically "pay p-h-yow", but that's getting
really nitpicky.

> The city is also spelled Pehpiao, Peipiao and Peip'iao--

Yes.  Older transcriptions used p, t, k for the voiceless, unaspirated
consonants (b, d, g in pinyin) and p', t', k' for the aspirated consonants
(p, t, k in pinyin).  Everyone thoroughly confused now?

> On the subject of pronunciations,  I was a bit startled to hear
> Phil Currie pronounce Caudipteryx kaw-dee-TAYR-iks,
> with a silent internal "p," during a recent lecture here in Seattle.
> Since he pronounced Sinosauropteryx sigh-no-saw-ROP-te-riks
> with the Latin-style stress on the third syllable from the end
> and the internal "p" intact,

This seems to be purely a matter of taste.  Under both Greek and Latin
accenting rules, the accent should fall on the i in Caudipteryx.  Then
again, if we really want to get picky about our Latin and Greek
pronunciation, it should be something like "cow-DIH-pteh-ru"ks", where u"
is a u-umlaut sound like in German.  I know of no paleontologist who
customarily pronounces this name in this manner. :-)

My guess is that the "p" was dropped because of the reluctance in English
to begin an accented syllable with "pt".

> Generic names are considered Latin words regardless of the language
> of the word roots. While English speakers don't pronounce the
> initial "p" in pterodactyl or psychology, the French and Germans do
> in the equivalent words in their languages. Fully English terms such as
> pre-Ptolemaic (with a silent p) aren't the guide to follow for scientific 
> names
> such as Archaeopteryx and Caudipteryx, which are New Latin, not English
> words.

OK, so do we have to give all the vowels their Continental values,
pronounce oe as "oy", ae as "aye", au as "ow", y as u-umlaut, and use all
hard c's and g's?  What about vowel lengths, and Greek pitch accents?

(I'm just needling.  I've been known to use more than one variant
pronunciation of a name on different occasions.  Whatever sounds good at
the moment.)

> Might as well get one more pronunciation problem off my chest--
> Achelousaurus.  This one has to be pronounced ak-e-LOH-uh-SAWR-us,
> NOT a-KEE-lo-SAWR-us, as I recall hearing.

I'm not going to touch this one.  As Ben pointed out, the name is a mess,
and I stumble over it every time I see it.  If you want to be true to the
Greek, the way the name is currently spelled, it should be
"ah-ke-LOO-saw-rus".  But truer to the original would be
"ah-ke-loh-OH-saw-rus".  Whatever.

Sorry for the non-dinosaurian ramblings.

-Nick P.