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Sinornithosaurus and Latin accent rules
From: Ben Creisler firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Sinornithosaurus and Latin accent rules
Jaime A. Headden wrote: > Heh, just a bit of speculation,
but with a very serious question behind it. Oh, to all
interested in my site, I will be revising those feathered
and colored page headers for the ovi taxa, given the more
cassowary-type dinofuzz apparent on *Sinornithosaurus*
Is this pronunciation correct? I'm unaware of any dinosaur
genus which ends in "-saurus" (from the Greek "sauros,"
lizard) wherein the suffix is pronounced as you propose.
It seems to me that there is always an accent on
the "saur" syllable, otherwise _Stegosaurus_ (STEG-uh-SORE-
us) would sound like _Stegoceros_ (ste-GOS-uh-rus), which
would be very confusing. My guess for _Sinornithosaurus
millenii_ would be (sye-NOR-ni-thuh-SORE-us mih-LEN-ee-
ie). Corrections graciously accepted. -- Ralph W. Miller
LATIN ACCENT RULES
In principle all generic names are Latin words and should
be pronounced according to Latin rules. In actual
practice, this ideal approach is hard to follow, and
modern English speakers generally apply the sounds used in
English for Latin letters. The accent, though, is
supposedly based on the old Latin rules--if the next-to-
last syllable (penult) is "long," it takes the main
accent; if the next-to-last syllable is "short," the
accent shifts one syllable forward to the before-next-to-
last syllable (antepenult), thus the contrast between
Greek-via-Latin hyena (hie-EE-nuh) and hippopotamus (hip-
ut-POT-a-muhs) in English, ditto such modern creations as
speedometer (spe-DOM-e-tuhr), accented on the antepenult
as if it came from Latin.
OK, you ask. how do you tell if a syllable is "long"
or "short"? This is the tricky point--you have to know
whether the vowel was long or short in Latin. Greek words
borrowed into Latin and Greek words latinized for New
Latin names keep the vowel length from Greek but not the
Greek accent (which is different from the Latin accent).
I could go into much gory detail about all the finer
points, but suffice it to say that all diphthongs (two
vowels pronounced together) make a syllable long. In Greek
and Latin "au" was a diphthong (pronounced "ow" as in cow)-
-pronounced according to the Traditional English method,
though, "au" comes out "aw," which is NOT a diphthong in
English phonemics. Since "saurus" in Latin had a long next-
to-last syllable, this is the syllable that should take
the main accent in the name Sinornithosaurus.
A couple of complications need to be pointed out--the
Greek diphthongs ei and ou were changed to the long
vowels "i" and "u" in Latin, thus Greek oukhos "crocodile"
is latinized as suchus and takes the main accent in a name
such as Saurosuchus, and deinos can become "dino-" with a
long "i" in English (actually pronounced as a diphthong in
English!) in Dinosauria.
There are MANY more complications about determining when a
Latin syllable is long or short. More importantly, modern
English speakers follow a number of conventions in
pronouncing Latin and Greek word roots and endings used in
New Latin generic names. If anybody is interested, I could
work up a posting explaining some of these.
The second tricky point is where the secondary accents
goes in Sinornithosaurus. In principle, the secondary
accent should be determined by reapplying the Latin rules
to the next group of syllables working forward from the
main accent. In Greek ornis, ornithos had a long "i,"
though the English convention is to pronounce the "i"
short in ornithology, Ichthyornis, etc. Thus, according to
Latin the next accent should go on "ornith" in
Sinornithosaurus, even though the "i" is pronounced short
in English. Yet another accent can be determined by moving
forward again so that the theoretical accent pattern would
be SIEN-or-NITH-o-SAWR-uhs. Since English tends to prefer
the stress on the initial syllable, a more conventional
pronunciation would be SIEN-or-nith-o-SAWR-uhs. If I've
lost anybody, please let me know.