viernes, 26 de agosto de 2016

Is It Neander-TAL or Neander-THAL?

1/2. (Credit: Gianfranco Goria/Flickr)

Here’s the deal: you can write or say Neanderthal or Neandertal, but you should only write Homo neanderthalensis and say “Homo neander-TAL-ensis”.

I promise that will make sense by the end of this. 

The name comes from Neander Valley, Germany, where the first recognized Neanderthal fossil was found in 1856 (other Neanderthal bones had been discovered earlier, but people didn’t know what to make of them).

Based on this fossil, geologist William King defined the species Homo neanderthalensis in 1864, and Neanderthals became the first extinct group of humans to be granted a formal species name. At the time, thal was the region’s word for valley: Neander Thal, Neander Valley.

In the early twentieth century thal changed to tal when the government standardized spelling across Germany. But regardless of how people wrote it, thal/tal in German was always pronounced as English speakers would say “tall.” And regardless of how Germans spell the word valley, the species name remains as King established it: Homo neanderthalensis [...]