of the factors that adds to the difficulty of neuroscience terminology is
the preponderance of Latin and Greek terms. Most modern American students
have had little if any exposure to Latin or Greek. It is essential that
you make an effort to pronounce the words as you read and study.
Otherwise, your chances of recalling the terms will be nonexistent.
Pronunciation guides are provided
in the margin definitions and glossary of Discovering Biological
Here are some additional guidelines (with many thanks to
Paul Shickle, my Latin teacher at San Marino High School, and Tom
Weinschenk, Latin teacher at San Luis Obispo High School.)
Words ending with -um are singular,
and are usually made plural by dropping the -um and adding -a.
the frequently misused datum (singular) and data (plural). (It is
incorrect to say "the data shows" or "the data is." Correct usage would
be "the data show" or "the data are.")
Words ending with -a are usually made
plural by adding e to form -ae.
Example: agricola (singular) and agricolae (plural).
(Agricola means farmer and is the root of the English "agriculture.")
The "ae" is pronounced like a long "i."
Words ending with -us are made
plural by dropping the -us and adding -i.
Example: sulcus (singular) and sulci (plural),
nucleus (singular) and nuclei (plural), and colliculus (singular) and
colliculi (plural). The "i" at the end of the plurals may be
pronounced as long i (nuclei) or long e (colliculi).
In classical Latin pronunciation,
all "c's" are pronounced as "k's."
In biology, there are exceptions to this, although it remains a safe bet.
For instance, many people pronounce sulci as though the "c" were another
"s" rather than a "k."