Language for taxonomic names, redux

Mark Davis ☕️ mark at
Wed Feb 22 14:33:42 CET 2017

Michael is raising valid concerns about the actual application of the tag,
which is very different from the number of instances of the words to which
that tag could be applied *in theory*. To take an extreme example, one
could apply for a subtag 'astart' to apply to all sequences of Latin
letters beginning with 'a'. The number of such sequences is *unlimited* —
not just “100 million or higher” — but it doesn't mean that such a tag
would be used — or at all useful — in practice.

What would the actual benefit be of having such a tag for biological
taxonomics? You write in

                 There is convention to abbreviate second occurrences of
                 such names:
                         "Homo sapiens has a bigger brain that H.
                 and that the proposed tag (or sub-tag) will potentially
                 allow the second such occurrence to be pronounced in
                 full by speech synthesis software, as it would be in
                 normal speech:
                         "Homo sapiens has a bigger brain that Homo

Have any major developers of text-to-speech software come out in favor of
this, or is it just a hobbyist speaking? The complexity of TTS is so great
anyway, that I can't image that the software challenge of pronouncing "H.
erectus" is made any better by this tag.

Moreover, the odds that people would in fact tag for this purpose are
vanishingly small. I doubt for example the author of
would write instead «Jennifer Garner Joining Fox's 'Simon vs. the <span
xml:lang='xxx'>Homo Sapiens</span> Agenda'» or the author of
would write «<span xml:lang='xxx'>H. erectus</span> cut, chewed way through
evolution», just to take two examples off a web search.


On Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 12:18 PM, Andy Mabbett <andy at>

> On 21 February 2017 at 23:04, Michael Everson <everson at>
> wrote:
> > if a case could be made for this
> "if"?
> > So far the one thing this might argue for would be preventing automatic
> translation
> I've set out several additional use-cases previously, including:
>    * Pronunciation by aural browsers/ assistive technologies
>    * Selection for styling by CSS
> > but the thing is so very few of these names would be found in an
> ordinary dictionary in any language that I don’t know how likely it is that
> this error occurs
> The number of identified species was estimated, in or before 2011, as
> "between 1.4 and 1.8 million". The full number may be 100 million or
> higher. That's a lot of words, many of which (such as the genus
> "Circus" or the epithets "bicolor", "major" and "minor") have
> (another) meaning in one or more languages.
> >
> >
> >
> strangest-scientific-names-14139154/
> Please don't be hung up on the amusing examples given by those pages;
> they represent a small fraction of the whole set.
> --
> Andy Mabbett
> @pigsonthewing
> _______________________________________________
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> Ietf-languages at
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