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Subject:Re: Pronouncing "gigabyte"; TAKE A STAND! From:"Charles P. Campbell" <cpc -at- PRISM -dot- NMT -dot- EDU> Date:Wed, 2 Feb 1994 15:12:23 MST
"Giant," I'd agree, is one of those originally Greek words that came
into English via Latin, and so has taken the soft G. But _gigabyte_
is of recent coinage, so we can be radical and use a Greek G.
Words that began in Greek with kappa or gamma, which went over to
Latin as C and G, respectively, underwent a pronunciation shift that
has always puzzled me. Before _e_ and _i_ they move forward from
the palate to the alveolar ridge, sounding like _s_ and _j_. So far
as I have been able to discover (without mounting an actual research
project), both retained the hard sound in ancient times, so that
"caesar" (now SEEzer) was actually pronounced more like we now
pronounce "kaiser." (The Greek diphthong _ai_ goes to the ligature
_ae_ in Latin.) I don't know of any reliable way of determining
ancient pronunciation except from the internal evidence, say, of
poetry, the same way we know "join" was pronounced "jine" in the
early 18th century because of Pope's couplet:
And expletives their feeble aid do join,
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line.
So does anybody out there know how hard G and C got to be pronounced
J and S before E and I? Any classicists/linguists lurking?