Language for taxonomic names, redux

Michael Everson everson at
Sat Feb 25 02:42:21 CET 2017

On 24 Feb 2017, at 20:00, John Cowan <cowan at> wrote:

> My view is that you are being excessively demanding,

Had I got the answers I asked for I wouldn’t have felt the need to press so much. But I’m with Arthur on that one. 

> and that the subtag ought to be registered.  In 1758, Linnaeus used Latin names for the organisms he was describing because he was writing a book in Latin, then the international scientific language.  Biology has moved from being all in Latin to a polyglot situation to being nearly all in English, but the names of organisms continue to be in Latin.  As such, it would be appropriate to tag them "la”.

The subtag certainly should be that. 

> However, Linnaean Latin is not Classical Latin or even 18C neo-Latin; it is a specialized variety including terms like _cockburnianus_ that are impossible in earlier Latin varieties.  That being so, and given the specialized use, a variant subtag is justified to distinguish it.  This is different from the case of selecting words from an extant language.
> Note that being a mere list of words is not enough to disqualify something from our list.  Aquitanian, like some other ancient languages, is known only from a few hundred proper names embedded in texts written in another language (Latin, in fact), and this is probably all the Aquitanian there will ever be, yet we allow tagging these names with "xaq".  As Yuri points out, there are specific rules for coining new Linnaean names, which is not the case for vocabulary lists simpliciter.
> Indeed, the author citation which often follows the taxon name as part of the Latin-tagged scope may contain bits of Latin grammar in it:  "_Andropogon aromaticus_ Sieber ex Schult." meaning that Sieber published this name based on an earlier description by Schultes, "_Rubus ursinus_ Cham. et Schldl." meaning that the name was jointly published by von Chamisso and von Schlechtendal, and "_Sphyradium_ sensu Hartmann" meaning that this name was used by Hartmann but has been replaced.  (Note that the author citation is never in italics, and even the taxon name is not necessarily all in italics: some names of subspecies contain "ssp." or "var." and this is not italicized.)
> In short, I believe that "la-linnaeus" is an appropriate tag for the subvariety of modern Latin used in taxon names and author citations, and will serve the purpose of suppressing translation, as well as possibly being appropriate for TTS in company with a user-selected choice of voice font to specify the accent to be used.  In the case of recorded speech, a nationality subtag may be given to indicate the accent used by the speaker.  In order to allow all possible variations, the Prefix should be simply "la”.

Thank you for your analysis.

Michael Everson

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