Pronunciation Help - Latin
I'm starting school this coming Monday with the intent on getting a degree in horticulture. My classes include botany and plant identification. Something I struggle with is knowing how to pronounce words with Latin roots. Not knowing how to pronounce words makes it harder to commit words to memory, which of course makes it more difficult to recall. For example the words Leguminosae / Fabaceae - I know they are legumes, but have no idea how to pronounce it. It makes reading difficult because I find myself skimming. Does anyone have any resources that can help me pronounce the words I am reading.
Learn the IPA! Wiktionary usually has the pronunciation written in IPA. Also check out Wikipedia's Latin phonology page. Especially under the examples section.
That was a dense link! I don't know if I am ready for it yet :)
That's all right! Save it for later. Algernon's advice is very good.
So... in order to learn how to read one language, the OP should first learn how to read another language...
In my opinion, that has always seemed a bit like overkill for non-linguists.
IPA isn't a language, it's an alphabet. And OP doesn't need to learn the whole alphabet, only the characters used in Latin. It's very useful in my opinion, even though your advice is good too: Latin has very regular pronunciation, just say what it reads.
I'll rephrase my previous comment: So... in order to learn how to pronounce one alphabet, the OP should first learn how to pronounce another alphabet.
No matter how I look at it, it still seems like twice as much work for the same outcome.
Okay, fair point. It's just useful in general to know the IPA (when looking foreign words up), do I got a bit overexcited:). Latin is easy enough to just go for.
While there has been quite a bit of information already provided, I think it is important to provide a different perspective here (I'm somewhat a biophysicist, and so don't use binomial nomenclature much, but am around people who do on occasion). While the pronunciations being explained here are reasonable pronunciations for Latin as a language, some of the advice being provided is likely to be unhelpful in your case, and could make you sound awkward or even outright obnoxious.
Latin is a language that has been used for a very long time, for a variety of very different uses, by a variety of very different groups. Unsurprisingly, there are thus a number of different pronunciations, which can also have significantly different phonemes. These differences are not just historical or regional, and multiple different pronunciations exist amongst different groups. There's no single pronunciation that is appropriate for all circumstances.
The pronunciation that Algernon_Asimov explains here is the standard modern reconstructed Classical Latin pronunciation. This is the pronunciation that is described toward the beginning of the Wikipedia page on Latin pronunciation, and is primarily used by modern Latin speakers, most Latin language courses, and modern scholarship.
While I prefer this pronunciation, and use it, when speaking Latin as a language, I'd also argue that it's a bad choice, and arguably inappropriate, for your usage of Latin. Using reconstructed Classical pronunciation for binomial nomenclature has several significant disadvantages. For people in biology who don't know about it, it will sound bizarre and potentially hard to understand. For people in biology who do know about it, it may also sound obnoxious and inappropriate. But perhaps most importantly, it's not the pronunciation that was used for the construction of most of the names (1), and is not the pronunciation that is commonly used in the field. Names come from a variety of sources and languages, not simply Latin and Greek, and are often not intended to be pronounced as actual Latin, or even make sense as Latin-esque words in more than a cursory way. Some names will sound reasonable in the Classical pronunciation, while others will sound awkward ("th" as a t rather than θ, hard "c", etc), and many of the names, especially more modern ones, won't fit reasonably into Classical pronunciation at all. How would one pronounce Pantholops hodgsonii? dgs does not appear anywhere in the Classical corpus that I am aware of.
I'd instead suggest not worrying much about the pronunciation, and not trying to study the pronunciation of Latin as a language: the pronunciation of species names is more related to the languages being spoken by the scientific community. Instead, just listen to your professors and colleagues, and try to copy their pronunciations: that will be the best resource, as those pronunciations will be the easiest and most comfortable for everyone around you to understand. If you're in an English-speaking community, for words in the nomenclature that actually seem like they come from Latin, it might be helpful to look at this Wikipedia page as well.
If you're interested in pronunciation more generally, I'd also suggest, as other have, looking at IPA and learning a subset of it. It is very useful in learning pronunciation in a far more consistent way: trying to learn pronunciation by comparison to other words is dependent upon the sounds existing in your language, and on you actually using the same pronunciation for those words in your language as the person writing the comparison. I found this series of posts some time ago explaining it, which were quite helpful, as were the suggestions and resources in those posts for thinking about the symbols as referring to physical movements in your mouth, and actually comparing these to videos and images, rather than trying to match the sounds.
I apologize for writing so much about this topic, and for strongly disagreeing with so many others here about how you should pronounce species names. I have a strong opinion on this topic because when I was young, knowing Latin and starting out in science, I used reconstructed pronunciation for species names, and I realize now that my doing so was quite obnoxious. The major effects of doing so are sounding less intelligible, and seeming as though you want to remind everyone that you know Latin.
(1) While I know that it is not, and I know vaguely that the reconstructed Classical pronunciation is modern, I actually don't know much about the history of its development, and would enjoy references on that history if anyone has any suggestions.
In my defence, I wrote a second comment making similar points to you.
But thanks for adding the perspective of someone with relevant experience.
At the moment, I am worried about pronunciation as a means to read words (in my head) and commit them and their spelling to memory. Algernon_Asimov gave me the framework to do that! When more of my classes are on campus, I will certainly mimic my professors whenever I can.
Your link to hollymath was super interesting, and made IPA seem much more accessible. Thank you!
Latin is a very phonetic language. In most cases, you can say the word exactly as it reads.
"C" was always pronounced as "k" in Latin. However, not all modern Latin-derived words follow this rule. For example, in English, we've anglicised the Latin "C" so it follows the English rules of being pronounced as "s" before "e" or "i".
"G" was always a hard "g" like in "golf", never a soft "g" like in "giraffe".
"U" is a long "oo" sound, like in "goo" or "food".
"ae" is pronounced like "eye" or the "i" in "sigh".
For example, the name "Caesar" should actually be pronounced "k-eye-sar". (The Germans were right with "Kaiser".)
Leguminosae would be pronounced "le-goo-mi-no-sigh".
Fabaceae would be pronouced "fa-ba-see-eye".
I think you can also rely on your teachers saying these words at some point during their classes. You'll hear them pronounce the words, and you can copy that.
Funnily enough in german Caesar is actually pronounced with C for some reason. It's the exception proving the rule I guess.
In English, "Caesar" is pronounced "see-zar". No hard-C.
No hard C in German either. Tse-zar.
But "Kaiser", which is descended from the original name-turned-title "Caesar", retains the original hard-C/K sound.
Which was the point of my original anecdote. The word which descended from Caesar uses the correct pronounciation, while the original doesn't. A neat little inconsistency in the language.
"Correct" and "incorrect" is a less than ideal way of looking at the pronunciation of Latin, which changed enormously over millennia and split into several different pronunciations.
I haven't found great sources on the modern reconstructed pronunciation, but it is modern: I've found one suggestion that it dates to the 19th century, and another that it dates to the first half of the 20th century. While it is a scholarly reconstruction of Classical pronunciation, and there are actually reasonable sources that were available in order to make such a reconstruction accurate, it is not the pronunciation anyone was using, as far as I can tell, for the significant majority of the last 2000 years.
Briefly looking at Wikipedia, for example, it appears that the /k/ for "c" in "Caesar," in French- and English-speaking regions, transitioned to /tʃ/ between the 6th and 12th centuries, and from /tʃ/ to /s/ in the 13th through 15th. No regional Latin pronunciation uses /k/ for "C" before "ae", with the exception of the reconstructed pronunciation, and I expect that the transition to /tʃ/, which persisted in most other pronunciations, took place at similar times.
I was using those terms due to brevity since I didn't have the time to write a full reply really. When it comes to pronounciation in Latin, everything is going to be a guess as we have nothing left that tells us how it was really said out loud. Considering which languages evolved primarily out of Latin (i.e Spanish, Italian and French among others), I doubt that Caesar was really pronounced with a k at the start of the word. But I don't have the expertise to disagree with anyone here, I only took Latin in school and wasn't very interested in it.
Hm. Interesting, indeed.
Oh wow, you put me on the right track with your two posts! They way you separated out the syllables, made me realize it's the diphthongs that make me stumble. (I also now know what a diphthong is!) Since Latin appears to only have six of them, maybe knowing them will at least give me a way to pronounce what I am reading.
So Gramineae would be gra-mi-nee-eye and Poaceae would be po-a-cee-eye, yes?
I decided to take the botany class online so that I only had to go to the school three days a week (it's a four hour round trip), so I won't be able to hear the words as much as I would like. I'm hoping that decision won't turn out to be a mistake.
Edit: For Poaceae Is it actually pronounced po-ay-cee-eye? If two vowels are together but are not a diphthong, are they long vowels?
I was going to start talking about diphthongs, but figured that was probably a bit too technical for what you need: to be comfortable saying these names. It's good you went off and did your own research.
It is a bit of a disadvantage learning these words online and never hearing them spoken. On a side note: I used to think there was a verb "to misle" (pronounced "my-zel") which meant "to lead someone astray", because characters kept getting misled ("my-zel'd") in books I read. I had heard people saying "miss-led", and knew it was the past participle of the verb "to mislead", but I didn't connect it with the word "misled" I was reading in books until I was in my late 20s. But you're aware of the potential problem, and you're working to avoid it.
Yes. My work here is done! :)
Not necessarily. In original Latin, the single letter A was always a short vowel, like in "cat" or even "car" (but never "cake"). They used diphthongs like "ae" and "ai" to represent the "eye" and "ay" sounds respectively. Strictly speaking, this would be what you first said: po-ah-cee-eye.
Since I enrolled in school, I've been super scared that I don't have what it takes to make it. When I posted this question, I had just opened up my botany book, and after reading the first few pages, I realized I didn't have a clue to what I had just read. None of the words looked like words, and it seemed as if my fear of failure was going to be realized. Thank you for quickly giving me a framework with which to read the text. Slowly but surely I am making headway!
I'm happy to help. :)
P.S. I've just remembered that Latin does have a few peculiarities which English speakers might not expect.
The main one is that the letter "J" represented the "y" sound as in "yuk". "Julius" was pronounced "yoo-lee-us".
However, if you see the letter "J" in a plant species name, you'll pronounce it with the soft-G sound as in "junk".
This leads me to a larger point (which I should have mentioned earlier): the Latin that you'll see in plant names is not pure Latin. It's a bastardised version. Apart from a couple of easy exceptions, you can pretty much apply English pronunciation rules to the Latinate names you'll encounter. Some of the Latin-looking names include English names & words anyway, because they were named after the person who discovered them (Banksia, after Joseph Banks) or the place they were discovered (Erythronium americanum, after America). Then there are names such as Chrysanthemum, which is Greek!
So don't stress too much. Plant names aren't Latin, as such: they're just a mongrel off-shoot of Latin hybridised with English and Greek and German and French (and whoever else got to name a plant when it was discovered).
Just remember that "ae" is "eye" and "ch" is "k", then apply English pronunciation rules to everything else, and you're 95% of the way there. Easy-peasy! :)
Thank you for the saysomethingin course. Doing the Latin course may be a bit more than I was after (spent about 20 minutes on it), but I am totally going to use it for Spanish! Forvo, however, is spot on, and I can see myself using it quite a bit.
You didn't reply to @Bishop's comment. Tagging him for you.