Language for taxonomic names, redux

Andy Mabbett andy at
Fri Feb 24 02:07:10 CET 2017

On 24 February 2017 at 00:09, Michael Everson <everson at> wrote:

I have received two, slightly different, versions of your email; the
first to my personal mailbox. I am replaying to the second, longer,
version, which was sent to the mailing list.

> Well, you say you want to use a language subtag, evidently attached to the prefix “la”

Where did I say that?

> (though you didn’t seem to have responded when I asked

Asked what?

> (any more than you responded to my stated preference for “linnaeus” over “taxon"),

You stated (rather: repeated your statement of) a preference. I'd
already expressed my view, and you did not - so far as I could see -
ask a question.h

> and then you say you’re going to roll this out in lots and lots of web pages, via a template

Mark Davis claimed that "the odds that people would in fact tag for
this purpose are vanishingly small"

I refuted that by pointing out that "as soon as a tag is available, I
shall see that it is used in
literally hundreds of thousands of English-language Wikipedia articles..."

> which will have… um… some effect somehow

It will have the effect that the language of that content will be
explicitly marked.

> since you didn’t give any explicit example…

An explicit example of what?

> Oh, and then you say, no, you’re not going to parse the text of the whole
> wikipedia to tag scientific names,

I wasn't aware that we had discussed dosing so; where do you imagine
that I said any such thing?

> You want to use the subtags for text to speech.
> You want to use the subtags in spell-checking.
> You want to use the subtags in translation.

I want [something] to mark up the language of content which is a
taxonomic name. I came to this forum because that is where I was told
I would receive help and advice in achieving that.

> So far, the answer is No. You have not convinced me that what you are proposing is needed, that it is the right solution, that it would be used, and so, so far

> Please try again. Maybe you have a case to make. You’ll have to make it less abstractly.

In what way are:



>> The {{Lang}} template:

>> already exists for inline content in a different language to that declared for the body of the page, and no change in Wikipedia policy is required for its use - indeed, it's already used (often multiple times) on almost 600K pages on the English Wikipedia alone.
> And your specific plan for rolling this out on all the scientific names in the English wikipedia is to alter that?

It does not need to be altered.

> How is that going to find all the examples of scientific names and alter them?

It is not going to; in the same way that it does not find all the
examples of, say, French words and alter them.  I have never claimed
that it would do.

Why are we still discussing the internal workings of Wikipedia? If
Wikipedia makes no use of this whatsoever, there is still a need to be
able to mark up the language of taxonomic names. Wikipedia was merely
one example of a use case.

>If they are not all altered, what is the use of your scheme, if WikiProjects haven’t taken it as a useful part of their style sheets for editing?

The same use as for "fr" for French, and every other language code or tag.

>> In {{taxobox}}:

>> for one. That template alone is used on 300K articles.
> Yes, but that won’t affect text-to-speech or translation for the body text of the encyclopaedia. And that is what I have been asking about.

You have previously made no such distinction.

>>> To do that requires policy decisions within projects, so that editors have consistent guidelines.
>> Wikiprojects do not make Wikipedia policy.
> Wikiprojects have style sheets that say what best practice is for various endeavours,

Perhaps you mean "guidelines". Wikiprojects cannot write binding
guidelines, they can only offer advice. Generic guidelines, such as
the Manual of Style that recommends the use of {{lang}} for
non-English content, are already in place and cannot be subverted or
discarded by Wikiprojects. Why are we still discussing the internal
workings of Wikipedia?

>>> Ah. Then your scheme won’t affect ordinary text, only info boxes and so on.
>> That depends on what you mean by my "scheme". Your terms are unclear.
> Still?

Yes. What do you mean by my "scheme"?

>> If you mean my initial edits to a few templates, improving hundreds of thousands of articles
>> after a few minutes work, then the latter is true.
> Apparently you don’t expect your scheme (to subtag binomial names) will affect or be
> rolled out in the body text of the encyclopaedia.

You are mistaken. Please refer to my previous comments about the {{Lang}} tag.

Furthermore, as I have already made clear my interest in marking up
the language of taxon names is not limited to Wikipedia.

>> If you mean my request for "suggestions as to how [how to indicate the language of these names] might finally be resolved", and
>> the use of templates like {{lang}}, then yes, it will.
> So you expect some users to start using {{lang|la-linnaeus|Homo Sapiens}} but
> you’ve not discussed this with the user community?

Since the use of {{lang}} is already established, I see no need to
reconfirm current practice.

> And since translation and text-to-speech is a core argument, you’ve made no plans
> to implement this tagging generally in the body text of the encyclopaedia?

You are mistaken. Please refer to my previous comments about the {{Lang}} tag.

>> My question below, about the relevance of the internal workings of Wikipedia is again pertinent. Far more sites than Wikipedia
>> programmatically publish pages about individual taxons, or lists of them and could (and would, in my experience), apply language markup easily and quickly, if only a suitable and standard language (sub)tag was available.
> If we build it, they will come?

Is that a question?

> That might be a reasonable argument, but if that is your argument, you should own up to it.

Where have I ever denied it? But it is not my only argument.  I have
experience, as a web manager myself, and anecdotally from others in
that role an similar, of the frustration of not having a suitable way
to indicate the language of taxonomic names. See, for example, the
points made by Gregor Hagedorn .

I also have experience - several years of it - of receiving
conflicting advice as to what should be used for that purpose; and I
don't mean only that given on this list.

Andy Mabbett

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