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A Grammatical Dictionary of Botanical Latin

 
There is no word in either classical Latin or Greek with this letter. Thus, no word in Greek or Latin begins with this letter, the 23d letter of the English alphabet, and so no words occur in the Greek or Latin portions of dictionaries that begin with this letter. In Latin dictionaries word entries beginning with 'v' proceed straight to those beginning with 'x', whereas in English dictionaries, words beginning with the 'w' come between them.

The letter 'w' is freely used in Botanical Latin. Words beginning with "w" are usually in epithets honoring a person whose name begins with that letter, or a place name beginning with 'w', transliterations from the Chinese, and so on.

The 'w' is a 'double u.' In English, the letter dates back to the time when the letter 'u' and 'v' were not fully differentiated, originally being written 'uu,' later becoming 'w.' The wyn (wynn, wen) was a rune adopted into the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) alphabet (from Teutonic, or Germanic peoples) and had the phonetic value of 'w', but was replaced first by 'uu' and later by 'w.'

The shape of the letter 'w' is a double 'u' but each shaped like a 'v.'

The sound of the 'w' is a consonant when it is the first letter of a word. A vowel is an open sound due to a mouth configuration that does not allow an interruption of the breath through friction, squeezing or stopping by some part of the mouth or throat (Webster 1915). Sounds that are interrupted are consonants. W is a consonant when it occurs initially (the 'w' in 'we') but at other times (medially or terminally) is considered a vowel or part of a diphthong (two vowels together) (as the 'w' in 'few' and 'how').

In the ICBN (2006), 60.4, the letters w and y are stated to be permissible in Latin plant names, but letters in ligatures otherwise foreign to those of Latin or Greek 'are to be transcribed.'

i. In epithets, the terminal 'w' of a personal or proper noun may occasionally become a 'v', as in Bigelow becoming bigelovii (see introduction to the 'V' section):

Opuntia bigelovii Engelm.; Cereus bigelovii Engelm.; Porothamnium bigelovii (Sullivant) Fleischer in Brotherus; Senecio bigelovii A. Gray (perhaps Henry Clinton Bigelow (1865-1922); or Jacob Bigelow (1787-1879).

ii. Otherwise, it remains 'w':

Carex Bigelowii; Carex Willdenowii; Dimaria woodrowii

iii. The terminal 'u' or 'ou' may also become a 'v';

Porotrichodendron glaziovii (Paris) Wijk & Margadant, after A. F. M. Glaziou, a Brazilian collector.

iv. German w roughly corresponds to the Gallo-Latin v "of the fifth century A.D. (p. 291 Stearn 1983), "which was rendered sometimes by v, more often by gu."

Wilhelm > Villaume, Vuillerme, Guilhem, Guillaume > Italian Guglielmo > Latinized to Gulielmus.

 

A work in progress, presently with preliminary A through R, and S, and with S (in part) through Z essentially completed.
Copyright © P. M. Eckel 2010-2017

 
 
 
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