Hymenocallis / Ismene

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com
Mon, 05 Jul 2010 09:21:36 PDT
About the pronunciation and syllabification of the words amancaes/amancaës:


Dell wrote: “I think I remember that "amancaes" comes from a Peruvian place
name where
the plant grows.”


I assume the word amancaes is derived from one of the indigenous languages
of Peru. 


If that is true, it gets its spelling from the sound of the word: amancaes
is a phonetic spelling, a way of representing the sounds of the original in


Spanish vowels are technically divided into strong vowels (a,e, o) and weak
vowles (i, u). The general rule is that a syllable can contain only one
strong vowel. In other words, in Spanish the syllables of the word amancaes
are a-man-ca-es: it’s a four syllable word. 


When amancaes becomes part of a Latin or Latinized binomial, a problem
arises. The letter combination ae in Latin represents the sound of the
English word eye (for those who use textbook pronunciations) or the vowel
sound in the English word see (widespread usage in those who have not
studied Latin or have rejected the text book approach). . In Latin, ae is a
diphthong and both letters may occur together in the same syllable. 


In Latin (and allowed by the International Rules) the dieresis (those two
little dots placed over some letters, e.g. ë, ü.  – not to be confused with
the German umlaut) is used to indicate that two letters which typically form
a diphthong are in this case to be pronounced separately.


If one writes amancaes in Latin, that is a three syllable word. To indicate
four syllables, write amancaës. I think it is the latter which approximates
the pronunciation of the word in its source language. 


Jim McKenney


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