Language for taxonomic names, redux

Peter Constable petercon at
Tue Feb 28 22:09:34 CET 2017

I note that my English proofing tools don't complain about "viz", and they automatically correct "deja vu", "fiancee" and "cafe" as "déjà vu", "fiancée" and "café". 

I guess it's an empirical question to what extent any proofing tools for specialized terminology in particular fields incorporate borrowings from Latin, Greek or other languages. "Nastygmus"? "Galea aponeurotica"? "Arteriostosis"? Will an English medical dictionary call these Greek terms, or English terms borrowed from Greek? We'd have to start consulting some dictionaries to find out.


-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Everson [mailto:everson at] 
Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 10:13 AM
To: Peter Constable <petercon at>
Cc: lucp at; ietflang IETF Languages Discussion <ietf-languages at>
Subject: Re: Language for taxonomic names, redux

On 28 Feb 2017, at 17:57, Peter Constable <petercon at> wrote:
>> it should be clear already that Latin words are not English words
> But it is not clear whether words should be considered Latin or English words borrowed from Latin. E.g., several dictionaries (e.g., Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, Oxford) consider "homo sapiens" to be English.

The same might be said for “deja vu” and even “déjà vu”. Or “vis à vis”. Or “fiancée”. Or “viz” (which derives from “viꝫ” with a Latin abbreviation sign), or “Gestalt” or, well, lots of words. 

> I don't know of a clear basis for drawing a line between code switching for technical terminology (switch to Latin for taxonomic labels) or borrowings (these taxonomic labels have been in use in technical contexts for so long that they get taught without distinction from English-origin technical terms).

"Homo sapiens" may be considered a nativized English borrowing, but “Photinus pyralis” and "Camellia sinensis” are surely not. In this instance, as with “déjà vu”, it would be up to the tagger to choose whether to tag such a phrase or not. 

Michael Everson

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