Syllable stress of Botanical Latin

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Syllable stress of botanical names varies with the language spoken by the person using the botanical name. In English-speaking countries, the Botanical Latin places syllable stress for botanical names derived from ancient Greek and Latin broadly according to two systems, either the Reformed academic pronunciation, or the pronunciation developed initially in some large part by British gardeners, horticulturists, naturalists, and botanists of the 19th century. The two systems of pronunciation are sometimes referred to as the "classical method" and the "ecclesiastical method".[1] The two systems differ significantly in pronunciation,α but little in syllable stress.[1]

What follow are the rules of stress of reformed academic pronunciation of Latin (intended to approximate the stress rules of ancient spoken Latin). Words of Greek origin are generally pronounced according to the same rules; native ancient Greek rules of stress are not used.

Generally in Latin each vowel or diphthong belongs to a single syllable. Classical Latin diphthongs are ae, au, and oe. Diphthongs from Greek can include oi, eu, ei, and ou, and ui also occasionally occurs in botanical Latin. Syllables end in vowels, unless there are multiple consonants, in which case the consonants are divided between the two syllables, with certain consonants being treated as pairs. In words of two syllables, the stress is on the first syllable. Words that contain three or more syllables have stresses accorded to their syllables by the quality and location of the different vowels in the words. In words of more than two syllables, the stress is on the penultimate syllable when the syllable contains a long vowel or diphthong, otherwise the stress is on the antepenultimate syllable.[2]

Whether a vowel is long or short in a classical Latin word is a function of the vowel and its relationship to the consonants that precede or follow it.[3] Modern Latin dictionaries and textbooks may contain diacritics called macrons for long vowels or breves for short vowels. Botanical Latin does not traditionally include macrons or breves, and they are prohibited (as diacritics) by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Article 60.6). Some books follow the mediaeval tradition to add an acute accent to mark the stressed syllable.[citation needed]


To determine the position of the stress of Latin terms:[citation needed]

  • Vowels followed by two consonants are generally stressed. Thus Po-ten-tíl-la, as the I is followed by a double L.
  • Diphthongs are to be stressed, too. Thus Al-tháe-a, as AE is a diphthong.

A word is normally stressed on the first syllable, unless there is a reason to put the stress somewhere else.

The "reason" is either suffixes (like -ity and -ion) or prefixes (like con-, dis-, ex- and in-).

If the suffix (ending) starts with the letters i or u, this will affect the position of stress in a word. Sample suffixes: -ion, -ual, -ial, -ient, -ious, -ior, -ic, -ity, etc. The stress comes on the syllable before the suffix. Examples: Atlantic, comic, sufficient, explanation, residual. There are only a very few exceptions to this rule.

Other suffixes do not affect the stress of a word. Sample suffixes: -al, -ous, -ly, -er, -ed, -ist, -ing, -ment Examples: permanent, permanently, develop, development

► Prefixes are not normally stressed in two-syllable words, except in some nouns or adjectives. Examples: To ex'pand, to de'fend; but an 'expert, a report. Disyllabic nouns starting with a prefix need to be learned individually.

► Prefixes are usually stressed in three-syllable nouns and adjectives, but not always stressed in verbs. Examples: 'Continent, 'incident, 'exercise; to con'sider, to en'visage but to 'indicate (All three-syllable verbs ending in -ate are stressed on the first syllable).

Rule 3 takes priority over all others,[clarification needed] notably when a "rule 3 ending" is followed by a "rule 4 ending". Examples: perpetually, deliciously, conditional, conditioner, illusionist.

See also[edit]


Significant differences between the two systems occur in pronunciation of diphthongs "ae", "eu", "oi", consonants "c", "g", "m", "s", "w", "x", and consonant groups "bs", "bt", "cc", "gg", "gn", "ph", "sc", "ti".[1]


  1. ^ a b c Traupman, J.C. (1966 (1988 printing)). The New College Latin & English Dictionary. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-27619-0.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Stearn, WT (2004). Botanical Latin. United Kingdom: Timber Press. p. 546. ISBN 0-88192-627-2. 
  3. ^ Allen, WS (August 1989). VOX Latina: A Guide to the Pronunciation of Classical Latin. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-521-37936-9.