Language for taxonomic names, redux

John Cowan cowan at
Wed Mar 1 18:47:25 CET 2017

On Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 9:30 AM, Luc Pardon <lucp at> wrote:

For example, there is more than one pronunciation for English, but we
> tag them all with "en". That is because we're tagging texts, i.e. the
> written form of the language. Where the writing differs (and matters),
> the tag can be made more specific (en-US vs. en-UK, or en-UK-oxendict),
> until it is precise enough for a spell checker to do its job - i.e.
> checking the written form.

We also do tag spoken-word artifacts like movies, and there are suitable
subtags for that.

If, on the other hand, it should turn out that these words are
pronounced in the same way by taxonomists all over the world

That is certainly not the case.

> For example, in "Camellia sinensis", the sound of the first -i- in
> "sinensis" may vary, but I'd expect the stress to be on the -e-  in any
> language.

Well, in languages that have phonemic stress.  In French I'd expect the
words to be pronounced as in French, with only utterance-final stress.

> In other words: the tagger can make do with a world-wide "la-taxon" tag
> to "push" the TTS engine in the right direction, and the user of the TTS
> can "pull" it towards him. This is the same as with regional accents,
> where the text writer (or tagger) and the listener also have to
> "cooperate" in telling the TTS what to do.

Thank you for explaining clearly what I have been striving to express.

> Secondly, you also suggest that "la-taxon" may be too vague:
> > if other taxonomies need to be supported
> That, I'd say, has more to do with the _meaning_ of the taxonomic name
> than with accessibility.

As far as I know, only the Linnaean system is Latin-based.  Other
taxonomies either use a single vernacular language or multiple equally
authentic languages.  The intent here is to tag Linnaean names, not just
any taxonomical names.

There would be a need to be more precise - although not for _web_
> accessibility purposes - if a single name would have different meanings
> in different taxonomies,

The same name may be and is applied to different taxa for animals and
plants, as a consequence of having different registration authorities.
However, this is generally not a problem and disambiguation is left to
context: when a botanist speaks of Proboscidea, devil's-claws are meant,
not elephants.

No saves, Antonio, loke es morirse en su lingua. Es komo kedarse soliko en
silensyo kada dya ke Dyo da, komoser sikileoso sin saver porke.
                        --Marcel Cohen, 1985
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