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Standard English Pronunciation of Mythological Names
January 5, 2012 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Is there a set of rules one could follow to derive the standard English pronunciation of the names of characters from classical mythology?

E.g., if I looked at the name 'Calliope' for the first time, could I, knowing certain principles, figure out that it should be pronounced 'ka-LIE-ah-pee'?

Does this have to do with the Latin pronunciation used in English-speaking countries before the adoption of the current academic pronunciation system? If so, what are the principles of that older, traditional pronunciation system?

Would I need to know which vowels in the Latin are long?
posted by Paquda to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Latin pronounciation is pretty regular. Keep in mind that the pronunciation we have is a reconstructed practice, rather than a continuation of a tradition.

I'd look here.

It's worth mentioning that the example you give is actually a Greek proper noun. Don't worry: Ancient Greek is pretty regular, too!
posted by gauche at 9:30 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks gauche. I think the information on the 'English Method' in the doc you linked to is what I was looking for.
posted by Paquda at 9:37 AM on January 5, 2012


It's worth mentioning that the "reconstructed ancient pronunciation" in the table at the end is the received pronunciation among Classicists. Nothing wrong with using the English pronunciations when working in English, but if your audience is Classicists, you'll want to use the ancient instead.
posted by gauche at 9:50 AM on January 5, 2012


I do know the principles of the reconstructed ancient pronunciation, it being the system I learned from my Latin primer. I just find myself sometimes stuck when reading English literature in which proper names from classical mythology crop up, not being sure how to pronounce the names (in my head) in the standard English way.
posted by Paquda at 10:00 AM on January 5, 2012


> Would I need to know which vowels in the Latin are long?

Yes. (I myself use the traditional English pronunciations, but I Am Not a Classicist.)
posted by languagehat at 7:37 AM on January 6, 2012


I think there might be additional rules not covered in the description of the 'English Method' in the doc linked to by gauche above. Looking at 'Calliope', the Latin dictionary gives this spelling Callĭŏpē (Lewis & Short). So the 'i' is short; according to the rules for the 'English Method' it should therefore be pronounced like the 'i' in 'pit';but I know it's pronounce long like the 'i' in 'dine'. Maybe there's a rule that when a short vowel is in the accented syllable of a word it is pronounced as if it were long?
posted by Paquda at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2012


> Maybe there's a rule that when a short vowel is in the accented syllable of a word it is pronounced as if it were long?

Exactly. Although the rules are a little fuzzy, and Fowler has fun at their expense.
posted by languagehat at 11:16 AM on January 9, 2012


Thank you, languagehat. I have Fowler at home--I will look up what he says about Latin pronunciation.
posted by Paquda at 11:22 AM on January 9, 2012


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