"H. Sapiens/Erectus/Habilis" pronunciation

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by pr0xyt0xin, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. pr0xyt0xin Registered Member

    Would a biologist, when reading "H. Sapiens" pronounce the "H." as "h" or as "homo?" For instance when giving a speech, reading a passage, etc. Writing some fictional content and this information would help out a lot.

    Also, are all species designations in latin? Thanks in advance for the info
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The convention is that the first time you refer to a genus name, you spell it out in writing and/or pronounce the whole word in speech. Thereafter you abbreviate it. Also, remember that since taxonomic names are all Latin, they are written in italics just as any passage in any foreign language.

    Panthera leo, the lion, was widespread in Asia until a few centuries ago, but has been almost completely obliterated, leaving P. tigris, the tiger, as the continent's largest felid.​

    Note that although the genus name can be abbreviated, the species name is always spelled out. This would be read aloud as "P. tigris," not "Panthera tigris." And BTW, people generally pronounce these names as though they were English, not Latin... or at best the weird English-Latin hybrid pronunciation used in the Church of England. The first syllable in sapiens is pronounced "say" as in English, not "sah" as in Latin.

    The exception is a species name which is cited so often that even laymen are likely to recognize it. In these rare cases, the genus name is commonly abbreviated even in its first appearence. A typical example of this is Escherichia coli, the common intestinal bacteria, which even newspapers generally write as E. coli. This is read aloud as "E. coli." Few people even know what the E stands for; I always have to look it up.

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    The same protocol is followed orally, in speeches, lectures and presentations.

    Yes, but it's scientific Latin, a modern dialect that Caesar would have great difficulty understanding. Species names are often taken from the surname of the scientist who first discovered it, with a Latin inflection added so it obeys the grammatical rules of Latin. Even genus names are often formed this way.

    In fact, the entire taxonomy of the six kingdoms of living organisms (animals, plants, fungi, algae, bacteria and archaea) uses Latin names, or faux-Latin names that have been beaten into submission by appending Latin suffixes. For example: our species:

    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
    Infraclass: Eutheria
    Superorder: Euarchontoglires
    Order: Primates
    Family: Hominidae
    Subfamily: Hominini
    Genus: Homo
    Species: sapiens

    Note that the names are capitalized at every level except species. This is also true when a species is divided into subspecies: Canis lupus lupus, the wolf, and Canis lupus familiaris, the dog.

    BTW: "Also, are all species designations in latin?" If you're going to be a writer, you must learn to use proper punctuation. The names of languages are always capitalized: Latin, not latin. Get in the habit of following the rules in everything you write, so you won't accidentally make a mistake when it matters.
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