Language for taxonomic names, redux

Michael Everson everson at
Wed Feb 22 15:30:39 CET 2017

On 22 Feb 2017, at 11:18, Andy Mabbett <andy at> wrote:
>> if a case could be made for this
> "if”?

Yes, “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

Ha, we can’t even get Anglicized Irish place-names to be pronounced correctly. 1.5 million But OK, this is a reasonable argument. 

>   * Selection for styling by CSS

Styling? Just italic, right? 

>> 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.

That’s not a half-dozen terms. Might there be hundreds of such words? Thousands? How would you propose to deal with variant pronunciations? I doubt that English, French, German, or Japanese users pronounce “Eurema desjardinsii” in the same way. Would you imagine prefixes like la-GB-, la-FR-, la-DE-, la-JP-? 

> Please don't be hung up on the amusing examples given by those pages;
> they represent a small fraction of the whole set.

Yes, but the point is that very very few Linnaean names would be identical to sets of ordinary words in ordinary languages, and so would be blipped over in automatic translation. 

On 22 Feb 2017, at 10:55, Andy Mabbett <andy at> wrote:
>> 1.  Variant subtags that begin with a letter (a-z, A-Z) MUST be at least five characters long.
> -taxon would satisfy that requirement, and its meaning should be clear and understandable internationally.

I would judge that to be too obscure; “taxonomy” can refer to many schemes. Some other terms for this nomenclature are “binomen”, and “binomial name”, “binomial nomenclature”, “scientific name”, “Latin name”. As I said, I think -linnaeus would be much clearer. 


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