John C. MacGregor
Mon, 26 Jul 2010 14:04:55 PDT
On Jul 26, 2010, at 10:59 AM, wrote:

> As a general rule, once a botanist has bestowed appropriate  
> epithets on a
> taxon, the rules of Latin pronunciation and prosody take over. In  
> particular,
> "gatesii" would have all four vowels clearly sounded, roughly gah- 
> tea-see-eye.
> Of course, epithets based on Pinyin (romanized Chinese) present letter
> combinations unknown to the ancients, hence all bets are off. For  
> that matter,
> even such epithets as "winogradowii" and "mlokosewitschii" are  
> significantly
> non-Latinate.

Sorry, Rodger, but I would respectfully disagree.  The reason for  
naming a plant--either genus or specific epithet--after a person is  
to honor that person's botanical or horticultural achievements and to  
perpetuate that person's name for future generations.  This is done  
by adding the appropriate latinized ending to the name itself,  
according to international rules for botanical nomenclature  
established and amended by periodic International Botanical  
Congresses.  As such, only the ending is latinized.  The name should  
be pronounced as closely as possible to the way the person  
commemorated pronounced his/her name in the original language.

William T. Stern, author of Botanical Latin: History, Grammar,  
Syntax, Terminology and Vocabulary (New York: Hafner, 1966),  
discusses the ramifications of this rule at the end of his chapter on  
"The Latin Alphabet and Pronunciation."  He notes, "The main  
difficulty is that this method involves giving a German pronunciation  
to 'Heuchera', a French pronunciation to 'Choisya', a Scottish  
pronunciation to 'Menziesia', an Italian pronunciation to  
'cesiatianus', a Polish pronunciation to 'przewalskii, etc., and to  
do this is more than most botanists and gardeners can manage."  In  
this chapter, Stern also notes that "the rules [of Latin prosody]  
cannot be applied satisfactorily to all generic names and specific  
epithets commemorating persons."

Furthermore, Stern states that " about 80 per cent of generic names  
and 30 per cent of specific epithets come from languages other than  
Latin and Greek."  Some of us have wider linguistic backgrounds than  
others, but none of us can recognize the linguistic origin and proper  
pronunciation of all commemorative plant names.  Still, we should  
make the attempt to learn the original pronunciation in recognition  
of the person commemorated.  It is also fun and often enlightening to  
learn something of the biography of this person--particularly if the  
name honors the discoverer of a geophyte that interests us.

Since Gates is an English name, "gates-ee-eye" is both the easiest  
and the correct pronunciation.

John C. MacGregor
South Pasadena, CA 91030
USDA zone 9   Sunset zones 21/23

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