Language for taxonomic names, redux

Michael Everson everson at
Fri Feb 24 16:03:46 CET 2017

On 24 Feb 2017, at 01:07, Andy Mabbett <andy at> wrote:

>> Well, you say you want to use a language subtag, evidently attached to the prefix “la”
> Where did I say that?

Evidently is my judgement.

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

What the prefix you intended to use the subtag with was. 

>> (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

Nor have you availed of the opportunity just now to respond to my preference. OK, that’s up to you.

>> 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…"

Yes, and I want to know what steps you have taken to engage the Wikipedia projects interested in this nomenclature to accept such tagging for body text, so that automatic translation and text to speech might occur as you have suggested it might, with the use of the subtag. If you haven’t done this, then you should, because otherwise we may assume that you would be the only user of the subtag.

>> which will have… um… some effect somehow
> It will have the effect that the language of that content will be explicitly marked.

Where? Only in the infoboxes? What about the body text? (I have asked this several times now. Give an answer.)

>> since you didn’t give any explicit example…
> An explicit example of what?

Of the implementation of your subtag. 

>> 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?

Fine. Be obtuse. I’m trying to *help* you here and you’re just continuing an adversarial banter, as if defeating me in some debate will convince me of the utility and sensibility of your proposal. Such an interaction is not interesting, and it’s not getting you your subtag,

You are either concerned with every instance of a Linnaean name on the Wikipedia or you’re only interested in “doing something” to one or more templates, and assuming that usage of the subtag will, I don’t know, “trickle down” or something. This is an insufficient description of how the rollout and use of the subtag. 

The subtag is not really a language variety. It’s a very special use case, and so you have to really show that it’s a good idea. 

So, go on. Tell a narrative. Take a Wikipedia article, say, and explain how, and how many times, your subtag will be used on that page. Perhaps you can help by making a PDF highlighting all the names that you would tag. And all the ones you would not. 

>> 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.

Why? Evidently for some purpose. Those are three purposes you’ve mentioned, are they not? 

> I came to this forum because that is where I was told I would receive help and advice in achieving that.

And you’re getting it, but you have to make a case for it. 

>> 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:

Who’s going to use it?

> and:
> "abstract”?

The “vexation of web editors and others” is too vague and I have asked specific questions as to how you are going to roll this out. You said you will edit some Wikipedia templates. I’ve asked you about the use of such names in body text of the Wikipedia. You’ve not answered that. I’ve asked if you’d talked with the relevant projects about their use of such tagging should a tag be established. I gather from your response that you haven’t done this. 

I suggest that you should. 

>>> 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.

BE SPECIFIC. What exactly will you do to the {{Lang}} template and how exactly will "la-linnaeus” be used throughout the Wikipedia and associated projects? What support from the relevant community interested in nomenclature on the Wikipedia do you have? 

>> 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.

Then you will want to get the relevant Wikiprojects to understand and endorse the scheme, will you not? (If you don’t, then I don’t find that you have made an adequate case that the subtag will be used by anyone.)

> 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.

Who has the need? Where are they? How will they find out about the existence of the subtag? How many of them know about this proposal?

> Wikipedia was merely one example of a use case.

And it’s a good one. You brought it up. It has implications. 

>> 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.

Scientific nomenclature is not language. There’s no grammar or syntax. It’s not just orthography either. It’s not a “normal” subtag and that is why you have to work harder to make your case. 

>>> 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.

Well, if you missed it, it’s all throughout this message, above. 

>>>> 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”.

Perhaps I do. Passive-aggressively poking at the terminology I use for the Wikipedia is not fostering amity. 

> Wikiprojects cannot write binding guidelines, they can only offer advice.

Zounds, you’re making it hard for yourself. 

> 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?

Because it’s a only credible usage scenario and you said you were going to implement the subtag there. 

Let’s say you do that, without any discussion with any wikiprojects. What prevents one or more editors who does not understand it from just going through and deleting all your hard work? That is why “generic guidelines” with regarding to style and so forth is relevant and sensible thing to consider. 

> 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”?

The deployment and use of the subtag. 

>>> 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.

No. They were vague and abstract and I have now asked you for a specific discussion of what exactly your usage of the subtag on the Wikipedia will achieve. Be explicit. Give examples. 

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

Go on. Tell your story. How will you use it. Where? What resources will you or others adapt to facilitate text to speech or searching or automatic translation or anything? Theory and practice. 

>> 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.

So it’s “If you build it, they will come” and nothing more?

>> 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.

No. I’m not sifting through this conversation to try to guess at what you are talking about. I’ve asked you to be specific. I don’t read minds. 

>>> 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?

It’s a metaphor. 

>> 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.

Language varieties and orthographies are what usually get subtags. Specialized terminology does not really qualify. You’re asking for something unusual. I have attempted to determine whether you’ve engaged a user community about the wisdom and utility of such a scheme (the use of a subtag for your nomenclature) and so far I hear that you have not. I’m afraid you’re going to have to. 

I would also like other members of this list to be explicit about their support. misgivings, or disapproval of the scheme. No plus-ones, and if you’re fence-sitting, say that explicitly too. Thanks. 

Michael Everson

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