Latin feminine nouns taken into English -- pronunciation of plurals?

This question given rise to by material in the current “IMHO” thread “Pet Peeves Only You Have”.

I’m wondering whether there is an American / UK English difference, as follows. Posters in the above thread seem unanimous that for Latin feminine-gender nouns adopted as English words, and ending in “-a” – plural thus “-ae” – antennae, larvae, vertebrae, alumnae: the “ae” ending is pronounced “ee”: and that American teachers used to insist on this with great firmness.

I (lifelong UK citizen and resident) think (though without total certainty: pluralising of such words seems seldom to occur in conversation, in the circles in which I move !) that I was taught that “ae” endings as above, are pronounced “eye”; and that that is the normal pronunciation convention in the UK. Am wondering a little, though, whether I’m right about any of this, re the UK. Can anyone who feels that they’re on surer ground over this than I am, clarify?

I’m not in the UK, but I can tell you that some of those words take -aɪ , like /ænˈtɛnaɪ/, some take -iː like /əˈlʌmniː/ and /ˈlɑː.viː/, and some can take more of an -eɪ, like /əˈlʌmneɪ/ or /ˈvɝː.tə.bɹeɪ/

Hope that helps.

Nowadays in the U.S. if you take a Latin class, you will be taught that -ae is pronounced in Latin as /aɪ/ (the same diphthong as in the English word price). This is the reconstructed classical Latin pronunciation, the way Cicero would have pronounced the language (or we have good reasons to think so). However, before the mid-to-late 19th century scholars weren’t sure how classical Latin was pronounced. In each country of the world where Latin was taught, slightly different pronunciation rules were enforced. In the English speaking world, Latin -ae was traditionally pronounced /iː/ (the same vowel as in the English word fleece) both when speaking Latin and when pronouncing words of Latin origin that had been adopted whole into English.* Hence the English word antennae is traditionally pronounced with a final /i:/ on both sides of the Atlantic, even though the Latin word antennae is usually now pronounced with a final /aɪ/.

*The old pronunciation rules continued to be used in high school Latin classes for decades after serious scholars knew they didn’t represent the way classical Latin was pronounced. I remember my father and I used to argue about proper pronunciation. He had studied Latin in the 1930s and '40s using the old rules, and I in the 1980s with the new ones.

I have never heard antennae pronounced with a long e sound. I have heard it variously as antenneye and antennay.

I should add that that is true despite the long e sound being listed as the “correct” pronunciation by some dictionaries.

The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is my go-to reference for British pronunciation. For alumnae, antennae, and larvae it lists only the /i:/ pronunciation. For vertebrae, it lists both /i:/ and /eɪ/ (the diphthong in English face).

In my experience, the English word ‘antennae’ is traditionally pronounced with a final /æ/

Plurals like *stadium *can cause problems, but *stadiums *is now accepted as normal.

/æ/ is the a in cat. I’ve never heard that pronunciation for “antennae,” and consider that sound to be quite rare at the ends of words. Did you mean a different symbol?

All my biology professors harped on -ae as being properly pronounced as a long e sound (ee). This was back in '78-'82, at Ball State University.

Thanks, everyone. I get the picture overall, that my impression that "in the UK anyhow, it’s always ‘-eye’ ", is mistaken; and that either side of the ocean, it’s something of a complicated business !

DSYoungEsq – I’m with you that “in real life”, “antenn-ee” doesn’t happen: that one sounds to me (with all due respect to all pronouncers) over-the-top ridiculous. All others quoted, I feel that I can live with – though will henceforth be in increased doubt, as to how I should myself pronounce these words…

(My bolding) – I (and DSYoungEsq) would dispute that – I have rarely if ever, heard “antennee” spoken, including for the word-as-an-English-one; and instinctively feel that it sounds silly.

I do gather that – ballpark first-half-of-20th-century – considerable wrangling took place wherever Latin was taught (with maybe quite some detail differences from place to place) over the old and new pronunciation procedures for classical Latin. (The “old guard” made fun of such features of the new pronunciation, as that of a camp-sounding Julius Caesar – pronounced per new scheme of things, “Kye-sar”, to rhyme with “nice bar” – proclaiming “Weeny, weedy, weeky”.) In my “doing” of Latin at school, period 1959 – 63, the new way of pronouncing things held sway, for certain: “-ae” was taught as to sound like “-eye”.

I use both pronunciations. For example antenneye and vertebreye but larvee. A short last root syllable (e.g. tenn) uses eye and a long last root syllable (e.g. larv) uses ee.

That said, for a proper Latin pronunciation, I was taught the -eye version, the plural of mensa being menseye. Similarly I was taught that Caesar was pronounced with a soft C in English but a hard C in Latin.

I doubt that it was pronounced exactly like the English “long I”, or at very least, there are two different diphthongs that one might pronounced that way that start with “a”. Japanese has lots of “ai” syllables as well as a few “ae”. Japanese does not have diphthongs per se, but always pronounces each vowel individually. To an untrained English speaker, the two vowel clusters “ai” and “ae” in Japanese sound practically the same, and would never be differentiated between in English, but they are definitely different in Japanese. Why this relates to Latin is that I’m obviously writing the Japanese Romanization, which is based on Romance pronunciation of vowels (Portuguese specifically). Latin didn’t really use the “ai” vowel cluster, but “ae” occurs very frequently as an ending in the 1st declension (more than just the plural, it’s also dative and genitive singular). So we’ve ended up saying it gets pronounced “eye” because that’s what it’s closest to in English, when it’s really slightly different. As you can see by the IPA used, “ai” is generally the actual pronunciation of the English “long I”. (Except in places where the “i” is dropped entaherly).

Actually, many such terms are now losing the archaic Latin plurals entirely, and moving to the standard English rule (add ‘s’ or ‘es’ suffix for plural). We’re speaking English, after all, not Latin.

For example, a quick look online shows that Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes, Target & Wal-Mart all have sections called “TV Antennas”. None of them have a ‘TV Antennae’ section. Indeed, if you enter a search for "TV Antennae, Google corrects that to ‘TV Antennas’ for you.

Such terms are dying out, and good riddance, IMO.

Also, not all nouns in the First Declension were Feminine, even though the vast majority are. The most common were agricola, pirata, nauta, and poeta, and plenty of others that had a masculine connotation to their meaning.

If one looks at the tables of dipthongs and declensions for pre-classical Latin, one can see that “ai” was the older pronunciation, which evolved into classical “ae”. I suppose they sound rather similar.

Interesting – as mentioned, I’ve long been not totally sure as regards right pronunciation; but was seemingly on correct track, in thinking that “antenn-ee” just sounded wrong. So now I’ve got to figure out pronunciation each time, from whether the last root syllable is long or short :dubious: ? (just kidding).

For a long time, I’d kind-of thought that it was always “-eye”; but recall a comical verse by Ogden Nash, on the general theme of “don’t starve the poor clothes-moths” – final couplet being:

“My heart is mush; so come on, larvae –
My closet’s full, and I’m Fred Harvey.”

I’d imagined Ogden here as doing a bit of a stretch with a semi-rhyme, in the interests of getting a laugh: but it seems that it’s in fact a fully legit rhyme !

glowacks says that a few nouns in the First Declension are not feminine, but masculine – e.g. agricola, pirata, nauta, poeta. Brings to mind, the dismissive comment (inspired initially, by the standard example of how to decline a noun in that declension – “mensa”, table – vocative case “mensa”) made by generations of schoolkids: “Those ancient Romans must have been crazy – going around talking to tables, for heaven’s sake…”

No, I used the correct symbol. Three syllables An tenn /æ/. For most speakers there would be very little or no difference between antennae (feelers on an insect) and antenna (radio/TV aerial).

I was certainly taught the same at grammar school in the 1960s. “Eye” for “ae”, “Ee” (short) for “i” endings: but that was in Latin as Latin, trudging through Caesar’s damn Gallic Wars and all the rest of it. If adopted into English, our usual slipshodness clashes with pedantry, so you might get all sorts of variations of usage. Let’s face it, if we can put up with “panini’s”, anything goes.

At any rate, it’s clear that conventional English pronunciation is not directly influenced by Latin pronunciation. E.g., the “eye” is pre-classical, and English dictionaries report that ancillary is pronounced with an “s” and that Jesus begins with “dʒ”.