Pronunciation of botanical names

Jane McGary
Mon, 09 Dec 2002 18:32:26 PST
Den Wilson wrote,
>Jane's excellent posting prompts me to ask if it is wise to attempt to
>absorb (or borrow) botanical Latin names into native language - where
>pronunciation problems begin to arise and ambiguities re-emerge  - or is my
>question naive?

Well, yes, it is naive, because language progresses and changes as users
borrow and naturalize words whether it's "wise" or not. Some countries
(such as France) have language "academies" that rule (typically, quite
conservatively) on what is permissible in the written language, but humans
being what they are, the spoken language is usually way out ahead of the
written one.

You can't freeze language, and like Heraclitus's river, a language is never
the same from day to day or speaker to speaker. And, sadly, sometimes you
can't preserve one, either. The extinction of languages is progressing at a
rate similar to the extinction of plants, and just as some plants now exist
only in herbaria, some languages exist only on audio tape or written

Jane McGary
NW Oregon, USA

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