Talk:scenarii

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search

Somewhere we need to note that this is a quite rare form, apparently restricted to technical contexts where a “scenario” means something like “set of stored parameters for a program, model or simulation”. Otherwise, we talk about “worst case scenarios” and such.

This sort of usage seems very much akin to preferring tsunami over tidal wave on the basis tidal waves are not caused by the same mechanisms as the solar / lunar tides (and therefore “harbor wave” is somehow more suitable).

Who knows where people get such ideas? It might just be hackish playfulness, but judging by the appearance in more academic contexts it might be based on a notion that “scenarii” is in some way correct. Who knows why? In Italian, the plural of “scenario” is “scenari” (one ‘i’). If I read this correctly, and keeping in mind that my command of Latin is absolutely minimal, “scenarii” might mean “belonging to a theater stage”, “at a theater” or maybe “onstage”, or perhaps “belonging to a maker of theatrical scenery”, or maybe “more than one maker of theatrical scenery”, in certain situations.

This is why we borrow from Latin in then inflect according to either plain English rules, or at most a very watered down version of the Latin. Even that based on how a word looks to us, not its actual origin. Thus one sometimes sees octopi, notwithstanding that octopus is Greek and if anything it should be octopodes. The watered-down rules take “forum” to “fora” (but more commonly “forums”) and “nucleus” to “nuclei” (consistently, since technical terms tend to get this treatment more consistently). They do this regardless of whether the word is used in a context that would match the nominative, accusative, dative, or whatever other Latin case, because (with limited exceptions) English is not inflected for those cases.

I can’t think of any other examples in English of “-o” going to “ii” in the plural. The closest I can think of is “virus” going to “virii” (but more commonly “viruses”; in particular medical usage is “viruses”). This has been criticized on its own grounds.

Not that failing to follow Latin inflection makes either “virii” or “scenarii” incorrect. If people use them and understand them consistently in a given context, they’re correct in that context. -dmh 20:48, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

English must have borrowed scenario and scenarii before Italian dropped the second ‘i’ in the terminal ‘-ii’ (see this). As it stands, scenarii is formed identically unto concerti and virtuosi; this isn’t an example of “‘-o’ → ‘-ii’”, but rather of the somewhat more familiar “‘-o’ → ‘-i’” (showing itself as “‘-io’ → ‘-ii’”). English is fairly open to absorbing little bits of grammar (such as how to form plurals) from other languages; I imagine that if it still had a case system, it would indeed take unto absorbing foreign inflexions for marking grammatical case. Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 23:56, 11 January 2007 (UTC
English absorbs lots of things, this is partly what makes it colourful in, which is a good thing of course. The problem comes when there is a clash in how to treat absorbed words i.e. how to inflect them. Early on in the borrowing phase all sorts of things can happen, later on most people come to a consensus by various means. That is in the case of scenario and other borrowed words we can have multiple plurals, the consensus would be scenarios and is formed regularly by adding -s and the alternative scenarii is not the consensus use (this can by assumed when teachers may take aversion to it in comprehension for example) and it would follow that it is formed irregularly due to the use of a foreign infelction system that is obvioulsy alien to most English speakers.--Williamsayers79 10:31, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
I see absolutely no evidence that English borrowed scenario and scenarii before Italian changed the spelling. It’s not even clear that Italian did shift from -ii to -i. As I understand it, -ii only occurs today, as one of the posters on the link you reference says, in the presence of a stressed i in the singluar (lo zio/gli zii) and particularly not in the case of -io (il gregario/i gregari). I just did a quick search through the Inferno. Several words ended in -ii, but most appeared to be verb forms. The exception was rii. On the other hand, Dante has avversari (adversaries), Tartari (Tartars). I’m pretty sure I’m looking at Dante’s actual spellings, but perhaps I’ve missed something?
Searching Project Gutenburg doesn’t turn up scenarii at all, while scenario appears in 231 books, scenarios in 69, and scenari in one (in Italian, written in 1885).
So, given that
  • scenarii doesn’t appear to be a valid Italian plural form in either modern Italian or Dante’s Italian.
  • Latin doesn’t work.
  • The English scenarii seems to be recent.
  • The English scenarii only seems to appear in a limited, technical context, not in general use.
  • The meaning English scenarii is fairly far removed from the Italian meaning scenari (which has more to do with theater than operations research and formal logic)
I’d like to propose an alternate theory: Some person or small group of people decided that, since “scenario” was Italian in origin and Italian words appear to pluralize by changing -o to -i (concerto/concerti etc.), the “proper” plural of scenario must be scenarii. These people were only interested in a particular technical sense of “scenario”, and so only used “scenarii” in those situations. No one else really cared about such fine points, so the natural “scenarios” remained in common use.
The irony here is that it’s quite possible that this example of folk etymology was born of the notion that technical writing needs to be “more correct” than ordinary discourse, and that trying to imitate the inflections of a lending language is “more correct” than just using English inflections in English prose. -dmh 15:43, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
I agree with that whole thread from you dmh; it is the impression that I mostly had. --Williamsayers79 16:50, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. I think you’ve got it right with your “English absorbs lots of things” response. -dmh 17:09, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

In Italian, of course normally the masculine singular, ending in -o goes to -i in the plural (like in cappuchino -> cappuchini; and I am aware that many English speakers don't get that one right, not to mention "pizze" as plural of "pizza"). But what if the final "o" follows an "i" of the stem? One example would be "acquario" which goes to "acquari". So I would go with "scenari". drla4 19 October 2013


By the way, how do you pronounce this puppy?[edit]

In particular, is the initial sc pronounced as in English scenario or Italian scenario? -dmh 17:06, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

The pronunciation aid given is as /sɛˈnɑːriː/. Therefore, scenarii is pronounced as per the English scenario. Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 17:56, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
In AmE, we say /sɛˈnɑːriai/. —Stephen 18:45, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Are you sure? I thought only words pluralised according unto the Latinate “‘-us’ → ‘-i’” rule (such as radii) were pronounced /-ai/, whereäs those formed according unto the Italian “‘-o’ → ‘-i’” rule (such as concerti and virtuosi) were pronounced /-i/. Surely you don’t say /kɒntʃɛɹtai/ and /vəːtjuːəʊsai/? Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 18:56, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
No, we don’t pay much heed to Latin or Italian grammar. Virtuosi is /-si/, but scenarii is /-ai/. Likewise, we don’t look to the French to pronounce voir dire, which we pronounce /'vor'dair/. And bois d'arc is /'bou.dark/. —Stephen 19:09, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
I’m probably a snob, but mispronounced French makes me cringe :-z See voir dire to ensure that the US pronunciation that I added accurately represents how you say it. Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 19:19, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Oops, it was probably there all along ... So that’s an s and not an sh? Wouldn’t the Italian pronunciation be “correct”? -dmh 20:14, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
In a sense, yes. However, I have only ever heard, and prefer to say, /sɛˈnɑːriː/; feel free to add /ʃɛˈnɑːriː/ if you want though (it should probably be labelled “Italiophone” or something). Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 02:36, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
I wouldn’t feel free to add such a thing unless I had reason to believe people actually said it. I was more trying to point out the ludicrous nature of the whole exercise. Take a perfectly good borrowed word that’s been used in English — and given an English plural form — for several decades at the least. Decide it needs to be pluralized in Italian fashion. But get it wrong. Maybe pronounce the ending more or less like the Italian, or maybe pronounce it according to the conventions for pronouncing Latin legal and medical terms, thereby diverging from actual Latin pronunciation, but at least doing so in a widely-accepted way. But don’t pronounce the beginning of the word as though it were Italian or Latin. Let’s not even get into divergences in meaning.
What a mess! Mind, it’s attested (though clearly rare) and therefore deserves an entry like anything else. What I find fascinating is that this is a mess that was clearly deliberately made. Despite appearances, I really am interested in questions like “Why would anyone do such a thing?” and “What were they thinking?”. What we have here is an interesting melange of natural processes (e.g., inertia in sticking with the familiar pronunciation of sc while doing surgery at the other end of the word) and conscious modification based on an unconscious assumption of what the proper rules would be. If you decide a word is Italian and want the Italian plural, wouldn’t you just look it up? Evidently not! -dmh 04:54, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
And don’t forget the words borrowed from Greek that are stressed as if they came from Latin! --EncycloPetey 05:09, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
We could only really pronounce scenarii as /ʃɛˈnɑːriː/ if we also pronounced scenario as /ʃɛˈnɑːriəʊ/; you were right when you said that the reason noöne says /ʃɛˈnɑːriː/ is because of the inertia in sticking with the familiar pronunciation of sc. English seems to be much more willing to alter the end of a word than it is its beginning (probably because that’s the way all our inflexions work, except, unto my limited knowledge, for the rare and archaïc a- -ing and y- -pt circumfixes). Scenarii was probably formed through a guess, in a straight application of the Italian “‘-o’ → ‘-i’” rule (not taking into account that in Italian, it’s actually the “‘-o’ → ‘-i’, except when ‘-io’, then ‘-io’ → ‘-i’”). Sure, it’s etymologically inconsistent, but at least it has a couple of other things going for it:
  • It’s formed using the somewhat familiar “‘-o’ → ‘-i’” rule, rather than by using a pluralising pattern even more alien unto English; and,
  • The terminal ‘-ii’ acts as a pronunciation guide; it’s fairly obvious that scenarii is meant to be pronounced /sɛˈnɑːriː/, whereäs if it were spelt as the Italian scenari, it would at best imply a pronunciation like /sɛˈnɑːrɪ/, but at worst imply a pronunciation like /sɛˈnɑːrɑɪ/.
Therefore, in pronunciation terms, scenarii is a far better spelling choice that scenari is.
Using an etymologically consistent plural does seem to add a certain dignity unto one’s use of a word; I know I do it a lot (without always knowing why). However, my reason for using scenarii is less because of pædantry, and more because of euphony — surely you will agree that /sɛˈnɑːriː/ sounds better than /sɛˈnɑːriəʊz/ does? Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 21:41, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Actually, this word appears to be both singular and plural[edit]

The third citation uses it both ways in the same sentence. -dmh 07:47, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

In the citation (Possible worlds are a special kind of scenarii, namely scenarii held possible by what R. Parikh calls “the community theory” or “our theory”…) — I would say that he is referring unto the “possible worlds” as the scenarii (when he should have used “scenario”, to be grammatical). I’ll replace it with a grammatical citation later. Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 08:48, 15 January 2007 (UTC)


About the etymology[edit]

Scenarii is an old Italian plurial form of scenario, not an etymologically inconsistent form as currently written in the article and as claimed on this discussion page. Some research will reveal occurences of this form in Italian as late as the 19th century. I've found: Gabriele D'Annunzio, Il Piacere, 1889, p. 16 (last word of the page), and: an Italian dictionary from 1829. —C.P. 06:36, 20 April 2013 (UTC)