Monday, 29 April 2013

(Un)scientific English

The book you can see to the right is called Scientific English and was brought out by Zanichelli, one of Italy's most popular publishing companies, in 2007. It is essentially a guide containing tips and resources for those who want to know more about how to write scientific papers in English. It deals with abstracts, journals, words and phrases commonly used in scientific English, key medical English terms, as well as oral presentations. 

The book also claims to provide some guidelines on the pronunciation of 'technical terms', though the section devoted to this topic is reduced to a mere 10 lines. Have a look at the bottom of page 153, under "Pronuncia" (as ever, click on the picture to enlarge it):

('The purpose of this manual is to provide the reader with information concerning the correct use of Standard English in a scientific context. For this reason, we do not give any indication as to how words are pronounced. Rather, we focus our attention only on the written language since we believe that if you mispronounce a word during a presentation or public speech, your native-speaker English audience will in all probability forgive you for doing that. There are, though, two aspects of English pronunciation which you must bear in mind: 1) z is pronounced [zi:] in AmE but [zed] in BrE; and 2) in telephone numbers, 0 is pronounced like the letter o in BrE but zero or o in AmE.')

This is just absurd! How could Zanichelli have possibly published this cartload of rubbish! If the author's objective was to let the reader know that she is profoundly ignorant of (scientific/medical) English pronunciation, then I think she has achieved it.

(For more on one scientific mispronunciation by an Italian, see John Wells's blog for 15th January 2007.)

Inglese (poco) scientifico

Il libro raffigurato sopra si chiama Scientific English ed è stato prodotto dalla Zanichelli nel 2007. È essenzialmente una guida per tutti gli italiani che vogliono sapere come scrivere un articolo scientifico in inglese. Tratta di abstracts, riviste scientifiche, delle parole e frasi da utilizzare in contesti medico-scientifici, e di presentazioni orali. 

Inoltre, secondo quanto si legge su questo sito e sul retro della copertina stessa del libro, il testo fornisce anche informazioni sulle regole di pronuncia dell'inglese. Peccato, però, che queste siano trattate in sole 10 misere righe (cf. l'immagine sopra; cliccate per ingrandirla).

Trovo totalmente assurdo e pericolosamente grave quanto affermato a pagina 153. Secondo l'autrice, Paola Crucitti, gli unici aspetti da tenere a mente circa la pronuncia dell'inglese medico-scientifico sono come dire la lettera z e come pronunciare lo zero. Tutto il resto non serve.

Forse l'autrice avrebbe fatto meglio ad omettere questa parte sulla fonetica poiché, per come è stata concepita, si capisce molto bene che la Crucitti non ne sa nulla di pronuncia inglese.

Credo che non ci sia bisogno di aggiungere altro. Tuttavia vi consiglio di leggere il post di John Wells del 15 gennaio 2007 per ascoltare il parere di un esperto e madrelingua circa la pronuncia errata di termini scientifici inglesi.


  1. "your native-speaker English audience will in all probability forgive you"... provided you don't ask the admiral to show you his pinnace!

  2. This is a very great site I've found on phonetics. I'd wanted to e-mail you butr didn't get your e-mail address.

    1. Some scholars like Cruttenden have described the existence of a new English accent known as Estuary English. But Peter Roach, in the 4th edition of his English Phonetics and Phonlogy, denies that such accent exists. He says 'In reality there is no such accent, and the term should be used with care'. My question now is, do you recognize the Estuary English, and does it really exist?

    2. An author of a book on English phonetics trascribes 'key' like this /ki/, while the popular reanscription I know is /ki: Has any changes happened to the transcription and pronunciation of the long vowel /i: yet? And what's the difference between /i/ and /i:?

    1. 1)For more on Estuary English see this:

      2)There exist several ways of transcribing speech. Both the transcriptions you mention are valid.

  3. Thanks you so much for the timely answer, sir. God bless!