Language for taxonomic names, redux

Michael Everson everson at
Sat Feb 25 02:36:31 CET 2017

On 24 Feb 2017, at 19:16, Doug Ewell <doug at> wrote:
>> I would also like other members of this list to be explicit about their
>> support. misgivings, or disapproval of the scheme.
> I'm fairly opposed, mostly because of the slippery-slope issue.

I don’t find that so worrying, 

> Taxonomic names are not a language (sorry, Yury, they're not)

They are *in* a language though. 

> and we can't even agree on what language they're a variant of (I would strongly argue Latin).

Yes, it’s Latin. It’s not anything else. 

> Like Mark, I can easily imagine future requests for things like "business speak" or "bureaucratese" or Cockney rhyming slang or blazon, that cite this proposal as a justification that these things are also in scope for BCP 47.

I don’t think I’d worry about that so much. 

> I understand that taxonomic names are an extremely well-understood concept and do have a relationship of some sort to language.

Um, no. It’s linguistic content. It can’t be anything else. Here are some articles about Scorpions.მორიელები

Alongside the Lithuanian, German, Georgian is certainly something that isn't Lithuanian, German, or Georgian. Latin would do. And it can be tagged so. Would a subtag provide users and service providers something actually useful?  

> If the registration form (not the record, and note that neither exists yet in a modern form) were modified to state explicitly that this proposed subtag does not set any precedent for encoding other systems of nomenclature or terminology, and if I felt assured that the list would honor that, my opposition would be noticeably lessened.

I don’t think there’s a danger of random things being proposed or accepted. 

> On other issues...
> Wikipedia taxoboxes already have built-in clues that strongly imply "this field is a scientific name." I'm not sure how a language tag would improve things here. I understand there may be other uses for this subtag, not nearly so heavily emphasized in this thread.

The body text doesn’t, though. That’s why I wanted to know if the requester had considered facilitating the wider adoption of his proposed subtag.

> The speech synthesis problem seems more complex than this approach could solve. Different people, speaking the same or different languages, do pronounce biological names differently. Trying to dictate a single, correct pronunciation that all should use has never been a goal of BCP 47 language tagging. Speech synthesizers already need to deal with loanwords, as well as native words with multiple pronunciations (English has many, but they exist in other languages too).

In the long run such precision would not be implausible. Don’t make too much of “a single correct pronunciation”; it’s not a deal-breaker and even now, relatively early in the life we may expect text-to-speech technoogy to have, we have a range of accents for English and Spanish available on macOS. (I don’t know what’s available on other systems.)

Michael Everson

> I am convinceable, but I would need good evidence.
> --
> Doug Ewell | Thornton, CO, US |

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