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

Quoting David Marjanovic <david.marjanovic@gmx.at>:

Mike, what I think is definitively wrong is....
(silence in the tribune) "SOR-us".

A few random thoughts on the matter:

- 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.*

Well, yes, that's the upshot, but I think the truth is closer to, most English speakers are so embedded in our bizarro spelling system that they don't know any better.

There is a huge amount of indeterminacy in the translation of a Latinate orthographic string into an English phonemic representation, as is obvious from going to any English-language conference and hearing five different researchers pronounce the same term five different ways (something I've been meaning to research from a linguistic point of view one of these days). Some are a little closer to the original Classical languages, others further from them, and analogic processes (i.e., comparisons to more-or-less similar orthographic strings previously encountered) are rampant. The string <aur> is normally pronounced /or/ in English (as, for instance, in the word *laurel*). Doesn't bother me any that many (including myself) extend this to words like *Camarasaurus*.

- 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.

True, though the words in those languages that contain the string <au> and are pronounced /au/ are usually learned borrowings taken directly from Classical Latin.

The words that had <au> in Latin that have come into Spanish, Italian, etc., through "natural" historical processes have simply been respelled to match their contemporary pronunciation (e.g. Spanish and Italian *oro* 'gold', from Latin *aurum*).

-- Nick Pharris Department of Linguistics University of Michigan

"Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity."
    --Edwin H. Land