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How to pronounce "Attila"

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Old Monday 27th February 2012, 18:52   #1
BayWren
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How to pronounce "Attila"

I wasn't quite sure where to post this query, but since it pertains to nomenclature, I thought this might be the best forum. In any case this is the first place I'll try.....

My question is simple - how does one really pronounce Attila, in reference to the bird? I know the etymology of the generic name, which is now the common name of that set of particular Neotropical flycatchers, but that alone doesn't really answer my question.

"Attila" is pronounced "uh-TIL-uh" by every single online-pronunciation guide I've come across (including a Hungarian one), and it's certainly the pronunciation I grew up hearing. Given that the bird is named after the infamous Hun, I would have thought the bird name's pronunciation would be identical.

BUT, every commercial bird sound recording I have which has tracks announced at the start (including Costa Rica, Ecuador, and the Birds of SE Arizona and Sonora, MX) pronounces it "AT-ih-luh". When I became aware of this genus of birds years ago, as a result I switched my pronunciation of the bird's name to "AT-ih-luh" until this past fall, when I encountered a bird guide who I respect greatly using the more traditional pronunciation. He justifies that by pointing out what I mentioned above, that the bird is named after the Hun, so why not say it the same way?

Does this pronunciation difference arise from how Attila is pronounced in northern Continental Latin, which I understand is the preferred accent for scientific names? I've learned some Latin pronunciation rules but how they get applied to proper names sometimes is just mystifying to me. Even if it is pronounced differently in Latin, why should that overrule its pronunciation in English, especially since Attila is the common name for this genus?

I know, this whole thing is fairly trivial, but it's driving me nuts. There's an obvious discrepancy here but I find no reference to it anywhere online or in literature. What do you guys think? How do you pronounce Attila and why?
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Old Monday 27th February 2012, 19:33   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BayWren View Post
I wasn't quite sure where to post this query, but since it pertains to nomenclature, I thought this might be the best forum. In any case this is the first place I'll try.....

My question is simple - how does one really pronounce Attila, in reference to the bird? I know the etymology of the generic name, which is now the common name of that set of particular Neotropical flycatchers, but that alone doesn't really answer my question.

"Attila" is pronounced "uh-TIL-uh" by every single online-pronunciation guide I've come across (including a Hungarian one), and it's certainly the pronunciation I grew up hearing. Given that the bird is named after the infamous Hun, I would have thought the bird name's pronunciation would be identical.

BUT, every commercial bird sound recording I have which has tracks announced at the start (including Costa Rica, Ecuador, and the Birds of SE Arizona and Sonora, MX) pronounces it "AT-ih-luh". When I became aware of this genus of birds years ago, as a result I switched my pronunciation of the bird's name to "AT-ih-luh" until this past fall, when I encountered a bird guide who I respect greatly using the more traditional pronunciation. He justifies that by pointing out what I mentioned above, that the bird is named after the Hun, so why not say it the same way?

Does this pronunciation difference arise from how Attila is pronounced in northern Continental Latin, which I understand is the preferred accent for scientific names? I've learned some Latin pronunciation rules but how they get applied to proper names sometimes is just mystifying to me. Even if it is pronounced differently in Latin, why should that overrule its pronunciation in English, especially since Attila is the common name for this genus?

I know, this whole thing is fairly trivial, but it's driving me nuts. There's an obvious discrepancy here but I find no reference to it anywhere online or in literature. What do you guys think? How do you pronounce Attila and why?
The great Hungarian ornithologist, Attila Bankovics ('Bankovics Attila' in Hungarian nomenclatural sequence), with whom I've had the privilege of being on field trips), preferred 'Ah-TEE-lah', but was happy with any pronunciation if you were offering to buy him a drink...
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Old Monday 27th February 2012, 19:59   #3
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A few years ago, a couple of letters in British Birds discussed the pronunciation of scientific names in considerable detail:
  • Ferguson-Lees 2008. Scientific names: abbreviations and pronunciation. BB 101(2): 97–99.
  • Blunt 2009. Pronunciation of scientific names. BB 102(1): 25–28.
Both argued that classical Latin pronunciation should be used, but that eponyms should be pronounced as for the original personal name - I think that this is the best approach.

Last edited by Richard Klim : Monday 27th February 2012 at 20:34.
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Old Tuesday 28th February 2012, 04:37   #4
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I was wondering why anyone would name a South American bird after Attila. Then I saw that Lesson called the bird in French "Le Tyran olive" . The olive Tyrant? Attila was a tyrant and was described as very tan. There are so many tyrant names, tyranulets and Tyrannidae etc in South American birds.

Lesson's type for the genus was A. brasiliensis. Streseman concluded that spadiceus and brasiliensis were color phases of the same bird and spadiceus had priority Gmelin 1789 versus Lesson 1830.

Last edited by mb1848 : Tuesday 28th February 2012 at 04:42.
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Old Tuesday 28th February 2012, 08:18   #5
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The olive Tyrant? Attila was a tyrant and was described as very tan.
...or he tyrannised Olive?

PS. No, that was Bluto...

Last edited by Richard Klim : Tuesday 28th February 2012 at 08:22.
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Old Tuesday 28th February 2012, 10:01   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Klim View Post
A few years ago, a couple of letters in British Birds discussed the pronunciation of scientific names in considerable detail:
  • Ferguson-Lees 2008. Scientific names: abbreviations and pronunciation. BB 101(2): 97–99.
  • Blunt 2009. Pronunciation of scientific names. BB 102(1): 25–28.
Both argued that classical Latin pronunciation should be used, but that eponyms should be pronounced as for the original personal name - I think that this is the best approach.
Richard,
There are two schools of thought (at least) on Latin pronunciation, though eg exemplified by whether 'c' is always a hard 'k' sound (as most of my German-speaking friends believe), or is more Italianate, sometimes a soft 's' sound, depending upon which vowel it follows.

Perhaps it also might be a prudent time to rationalise 'Anglican' pronunciation of terminal '-ii' from 'ee-aye' to the rather more universally used (and understood) 'ee-ee'?
Yours mischievously,
MJB
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The fuzziness of all supposedly absolute taxonomic distinctions - Stephen Jay Gould (1977) "Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History".
Species and subspecies are but a convenient fiction - Kees van Deemter (2010), "In praise of vagueness". Biology is messy

Last edited by MJB : Tuesday 28th February 2012 at 10:03. Reason: grammar/typo
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Old Tuesday 28th February 2012, 10:47   #7
Richard Klim
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Richard,
There are two schools of thought (at least) on Latin pronunciation, though eg exemplified by whether 'c' is always a hard 'k' sound (as most of my German-speaking friends believe), or is more Italianate, sometimes a soft 's' sound, depending upon which vowel it follows.
Indeed, Mike. As BayWren mentioned, northern Continental is often used, but I prefer classical (always hard 'c') - mainly because that's what we were taught in Latin at school! Both are infinitely preferable to the abomination of English Latin, where many vowel and diphthong sounds are transposed.

This is a handy summary:
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