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Re: pronunciation of saurus by a spanish speaker who also knows some greek

David Marjanovic (david.marjanovic@gmx.at) wrote:

<- When English speakers discuss on how to pronounce a scientific name, that
usually means how to pronounce it IN ENGLISH. That concept is apparently
natural to e. g. French speakers, but totally alien to e. g. German speakers.*>

  Naturally, I feel offended that, as an English speaker, any form of
pronounciation I give in person or in my head is naturally "in English" and not
in fact without any form of semi-educated Latin or Greek parsing. Okay, so I'm
not offended, but the tone of the above assumes that those of us for whom
English is our first language whould pronounce names as in English, which is
wrong as far as the generality goes. Yes, there are those who DO, and there was
a TV show in the 90's that for the longest time, taught the Jurassic Park era
that the name of the great two-fingered king is pronounced "Trannysorus".
Sexually ambiguous dinosaurs aside, that's what "English" does to names, not
"sawr-us". There has never been a for-kids type of show that attempted to teach
kids the correct way to pronounce the names, and for a few good reasons:

  1) There is little funding to bring in a language coach for a kids show.

  2) There is no "one correct way" to pronounce the names. Even in Greek, the
     word is transcribed into Roman letters and then into a descendant alphabet
     and then into another language. A lot is lost, and this loss should be
     expected. This is like expecting people to KNOW that *Boluochia*, based in
     Mandarin, has a natural unwritten "ur" sound in there, or that
     *Nqwebasaurus* has those sounds most people have only ever heard, should
     they be old enough, when watching "The Gods Must Be Crazy". But that's
     certainly not what it's spelled like, and the transcription is to allow
     speakers of other languages the ability to speak it without knowing those

<- We can be quite sure that "au" (alpha ypsilon) was never pronounced like any
sort of "o" in Greek. In modern Greek it's pronounced "av", so it seems to have
drifted in the opposite direction. In Latin, a tendence to merge "au" into "o"
seems to have started early on, as seen in spelling ambiguities like
Claudius/Clodius, but it didn't get very far -- today French pronounces "au"
the same as "o", but Spanish, Portuguese, and most kinds of Italian don't.>

  German papers describing nomenclature in German are welcome to provide keys
of their own for their own language, and the same is true for Hebrew or Slavic
or Chilean Spanish. Ease of communication allows for transcription rather than
knowledge of 2,000 year old pronounciation regimes, which for the most part we
are all guessing at (though with some VERY GOOD guesses, I am sure).

<- Consistency within a language would certainly be a good thing, but the
English orthography is an outright obstacle to this... (French has the opposite

  English has so many parent languages and loan words, dialects, and
"sublanguages" that there being ONE key would be a laughable excercise. You
cannot get two perfectly decent language speakers, one Minnesotan and one
Georgian, to be expected to say most words the same way, without any sort of
inflection, that marks them from where they are. Regions inside New York City
have dialects on par with dialects between whole states further west, and you
can tell a Bostonian from a New Havener EASILY. This is similar to the English
countryside, where different towns and rural districts have their own distinct
and cataloguable dialects. Chalk it up for one of the most diverse languages on
the planet, which doesn't seem to try too hard to stop itself from changing
every time a new loan word enters the lexicon. This becomes significant when
you hear a Spanish speaker speaking to her brother in Mexico City from here in
Oregon using English and Spanish simultaneously, switching in an English word
(not even a proper noun) for a Spanish one and vice versa.

<* That doesn't mean we get it right. But we tend to _believe_ we get the
pronunciation in the original languages right. :-} That is to say, we don't
consciously pronounce foreign words as if they were German.>

  Why not? Assimilation is the nature of change. Then again, not to let the
bull into the shop, but German culture itself seems rather adverse to
assimilation historically.


Jaime A. Headden

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)

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