Department of Biological Sciences (BIO)
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– watch your pronunciation!

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Latin may not be a “living” language anymore, but it is actively used in scientific names and terms and “comes to life” in conference presentations, where its varied pronunciation may lead to the kind of confusion that its adoption for use in scientific nomenclature aimed to avoid!

One of BIO’s Professor emeriti, Bjørn Berland, recently wrote an interesting article entitled, Pidgin Latin, that appeared in the annual review, Uniped, published by the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions (access a .pdf of the article).

In the article Berland points out that while English is dominating as the language of science publication, it may well be that native speakers of other languages, and he cites many Continental European languages, may have Latin pronunciation that is closer to the original; that Latin pronunciation may have been better preserved on Continental Europe than in England and its former colonies!

Berland points out a similar problem in Greek pronunciation, as many Greek terms are used in science. He makes a compelling case, documented with many pertinent examples, that native English-speakers would be well-advised to read. Many people, non-native English-speakers, have to put extra effort into their science writing (in English), perhaps English-speakers could put a similar effort into their Latin and Greek pronunciation at scientific meetings!

Read Pidgin Latin, by Bjørn Berland.