Re: Pronunciation of scientific names

August 3, 1999
From: Angel Valdes

Dear Bill,

The pronunciation of scientific names is a major problem in modern systematics. Very often, nudibranch specialists from different countries are unable to understand each other when we talk about our common subject of interest. This is a very sad paradox, since the point of having scientific names is to have a universal way to communicate.
Even native speakers of Latin-based languages such as Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Romanian, do not agree in the way we pronounce certain names. In my opinion, the most correct way to pronounce scientific names should be the Italian, since that language is the most similar to Latin. In the case of Ceras, the correct Italian pronunciation should be "cheras" instead of "seras" or "keras".

The pronunciation of the consonant sounds is very similar in most languages and does not constitute the major problem. A few consonants that are pronounced differently in English are H, which is silent in Latin, and J, which is pronounced like the vowel sound "ee" in Latin. For example, Hypselodoris should be pronounced "eepsehlohdoris" and Jorunna should be pronounced "eeohrunna". The consonant C has different pronunciations, changing with the vowel that follows that letter. For example, Ceras is pronounced "cheras", but Cadlina is pronounced "kadleena".

The major problem is the pronunciation of the vowel sounds. The English language is especially problematic because of the number of different vowel sounds, which are pronounced very differently from Latin-based languages or even other Germanic languages. In Latin there are only five vowel sounds: A, pronounced "ah", E pronounced "eh", I pronounced "ee", O pronounced "oh", and U pronounced "oo". I think that if we all follow these basic rules in pronouncing the vowels, we will be able to understand each other with few problems.

Angel Valdes

Valdes, A., 1999 (Aug 3) Re: Pronunciation of scientific names. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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