personal nomenclature matter pbs vol 89 issue 40

Jim McKenney
Tue, 29 Jun 2010 10:19:22 PDT
Jim Shields wrote: My favorite nomenclatural conundrums involve botanists
with Russian or other names transliterated from the Cyrillic alphabet by
German botanists.  Fortunately, I cannot think of any concrete examples at
the moment."


Lilium maximowiczii, Corydalis popovii, Tulipa vvedenskyi are some readers
of this list might recognize. 


The issue Jim Shields is alluding to is probably this: the systems of
transliterating the Cyrillic alphabet are several. The basic idea is to
produce a phonetic spelling in the target language which fairly represents
the sounds of the source language. If one is transliterating Cyrillic for a
German speaking audience (i.e. to enable speakers of German to approximate
the sounds of the Cyrillic original), then the spelling you would use is not
the same as the spelling one would use for an English speaking audience. The
reason for this is that although speakers of German and speakers of English
use more or less the same alphabet, there are numerous differences in the
sounds the letters represent in each language. 


To cite just a few examples: 

German W is English V sound

German EU is English OI sound

German V is English F sound 

German initial S is English Z sound

Voiced consonants written at the ends of German words are not voiced when
spoken (true I think in Russian also). 


If a German listening to a Russian word hears a V sound, he will transcribe
it in the Roman alphabet as W; an English speaker will transcribe it as a V
- and so on. 


The old double-flowered Hemerocallis fulva daylily variety Kwanso provides
an example of how complicated this can be. Don't hold me to the details here
because I'm pulling them off the top of my head, but I think it goes like
this. Kaempfer was the first to describe this plant in the Roman alphabet;
he was writing in Latin and so, hearing the Japanese name for it, made a
phonetic transcription as "quanso". About a century later I think it was
Regel who took the Latinized transcription and made a phonetic German
transcription of the name as kwanso. In the German tradition of teaching
Latin, the qua would have been pronounced kva; kwanso should therefore be
pronounced kvanzo to be historically accurate.  



Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone

My Virtual Maryland Garden



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