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Taxonomic Name Changes - Orthography of original spellings

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  • Sam Droege
    Hi All: I am posting this for Dave Wagner... a bit late, I am afraid ... in his response to the Epeoloides issue that arose a while back,,,,but of interest
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 8, 2011
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      Hi All:

      I am posting this for Dave Wagner... a bit late, I am afraid ... in his response to the Epeoloides issue that arose a while back,,,,but of interest none the less.
      sam
      ==================================================

      Hi all,

      There is a push for taxonomists to stop requiring agreement between generic and specific names and use instead the original orthography (spelling).  The problem with requiring agreement in gender, number, case, etc. is that such efforts are inherently unstable (in perpetuity) and thus contradict one of the three core missions of biological nomenclature: to provide a system of names that are unique, universal, and stable.  Every name change (taxonomic change) could result in/require a new spelling. And if all authors don’t recognize the same genera then two spellings of the species names could both be correct at the same time.  Another pragmatic issue is that few people are being trained in Latin these days…every time I name a species I need to track down a Latin scholar.

      The movement to return to original orthography (for the spelling of the species name, regardless of its generic assignment) is gaining momentum, with the primary reason being stability of names for information retrieval, databasing, etc.  A recent example: Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010) returned all spellings of species names to their original spelling….some 4,000 species-level taxa.

      Lafontaine, J. D. and C. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico. ZooKeys 40: 1-239.

      David L. Wagner, Professor
      Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
      University of Connecticut
      Storrs, CT 06269-3043
      v.860-486-2139; f.  860-486-6364

    • Doug Yanega
      ... As a Commissioner of the dreaded ICZN, maybe you ll permit me to make a few points in response. (1) This is not a push for taxonomists - this return to
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 8, 2011
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        Re: [beemonitoring] Taxonomic Name Changes - Orthography o
        Dave Wagner wrote:

        Hi all,

        There is a push for taxonomists to stop requiring agreement between generic and specific names and use instead the original orthography (spelling).  The problem with requiring agreement in gender, number, case, etc. is that such efforts are inherently unstable (in perpetuity) and thus contradict one of the three core missions of biological nomenclature: to provide a system of names that are unique, universal, and stable.  Every name change (taxonomic change) could result in/require a new spelling. And if all authors don't recognize the same genera then two spellings of the species names could both be correct at the same time.  Another pragmatic issue is that few people are being trained in Latin these daysŠevery time I name a species I need to track down a Latin scholar.

        The movement to return to original orthography (for the spelling of the species name, regardless of its generic assignment) is gaining momentum, with the primary reason being stability of names for information retrieval, databasing, etc.  A recent example: Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010) returned all spellings of species names to their original spellingŠ.some 4,000 species-level taxa.

        As a Commissioner of the dreaded ICZN, maybe you'll permit me to make a few points in response.

        (1) This is not a "push for taxonomists" - this "return to original orthography" thing is restricted to the lepidopterological community. This is *not* some sort of widespread phenomenon in taxonomy.

        (2) Gender agreement is *required* under the Code. It is not optional, it is not subject to debate, and it is certainly not appropriate for one clique of specialists to selectively refuse to comply with this requirement.

        (3) Returning to spellings of names that have not been used in hundreds of years is far more disruptive to nomenclature than the status quo. Note also that changes in spellings as part of gender agreement are *by definition* stable, because they are predictable; as far as the Code is concerned, "stable" is not synonymous with "invariant" - just as "disruptive" is not the same as "destabilizing".

        (4) It is not difficult to comply, does not require a Latin scholar to comply, and - most importantly - we now have exactly the infrastructure needed to create shared community resources that can make compliance trivially easy. This "movement" might have made sense had it taken place 40 years ago, but the justification for it *now*, in the context of online databases, is zero. How can I say this so confidently? Because there is a working example which proves that gender agreement is perfectly manageable:

        http://lacewing.tamu.edu/Species-Catalogue/

        John Oswald - a single person - was able to compile a list of every genus and species in the superorder Neuropterida, which indicates the gender of each genus (masculine, feminine, or neuter), and the form of every epithet (noun or adjective) and indicates explicitly how each and every species name would need to be spelled depending on the gender of the genus it is placed in. No one else ever needs to do ANY research or digging into the literature, or argue over anything. The work is completely done FOR them already.

        If just ONE GUY, working by himself, can do that for an entire group of that size, just imagine what several hundred lepidopterists could do collectively if they set their minds to it.

        It's really that simple: if you are scholarly enough to make a catalog in the first place (i.e., that you are looking at the original literature), then you can ALSO include gender of genera, and forms of epithets, in that catalog. If that catalog is online, then everyone *else*, everywhere, can be saved the tedium of ever having to do that research themselves. Furthermore, if that catalog is a shared resource during the data entry phase, then all it takes is one person with access to any given piece of original literature to go in, and enter the appropriate data. It's something called "cooperation", and I fail to see why anyone, lepidopterists included, should be unwilling to follow this example.

        The irony here is that in order to return to the original orthography, one needs to have the original description to check - meaning that it took Lafontaine and Schmidt the same amount of effort to do THAT as it would have for them to compile a proper catalog that included genders and forms. They took a step backwards instead of forwards, for the same amount of effort. This "movement" really, truly, makes no sense.

        Sincerely,
        -- 
        

        Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
        Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
        phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
                     http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
          "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
                is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
      • Jim Labonte
        Dear all: As a practicing taxonomist, albeit primarily with Coleoptera (a notably diverse taxon) but of necessity with virtually every order (just starting to
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 8, 2011
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          Dear all:

          As a practicing taxonomist, albeit primarily with Coleoptera (a notably diverse taxon) but of necessity with virtually every order (just starting to get my tarsi wet with bees), I wholeheartedly concur with sticking to the Code.  It's not that tough, having dealt with this with regard to several species descriptions and designations of replacement names.

          Jim

          On Jun 8, 2011, at 10:15 AM, Doug Yanega wrote:

           

          Dave Wagner wrote:

          Hi all,

          There is a push for taxonomists to stop requiring agreement between generic and specific names and use instead the original orthography (spelling).  The problem with requiring agreement in gender, number, case, etc. is that such efforts are inherently unstable (in perpetuity) and thus contradict one of the three core missions of biological nomenclature: to provide a system of names that are unique, universal, and stable.  Every name change (taxonomic change) could result in/require a new spelling. And if all authors don't recognize the same genera then two spellings of the species names could both be correct at the same time.  Another pragmatic issue is that few people are being trained in Latin these daysŠevery time I name a species I need to track down a Latin scholar.

          The movement to return to original orthography (for the spelling of the species name, regardless of its generic assignment) is gaining momentum, with the primary reason being stability of names for information retrieval, databasing, etc.  A recent example: Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010) returned all spellings of species names to their original spellingŠ.some 4,000 species-level taxa.

          As a Commissioner of the dreaded ICZN, maybe you'll permit me to make a few points in response.

          (1) This is not a "push for taxonomists" - this "return to original orthography" thing is restricted to the lepidopterological community. This is *not* some sort of widespread phenomenon in taxonomy.

          (2) Gender agreement is *required* under the Code. It is not optional, it is not subject to debate, and it is certainly not appropriate for one clique of specialists to selectively refuse to comply with this requirement.

          (3) Returning to spellings of names that have not been used in hundreds of years is far more disruptive to nomenclature than the status quo. Note also that changes in spellings as part of gender agreement are *by definition* stable, because they are predictable; as far as the Code is concerned, "stable" is not synonymous with "invariant" - just as "disruptive" is not the same as "destabilizing".

          (4) It is not difficult to comply, does not require a Latin scholar to comply, and - most importantly - we now have exactly the infrastructure needed to create shared community resources that can make compliance trivially easy. This "movement" might have made sense had it taken place 40 years ago, but the justification for it *now*, in the context of online databases, is zero. How can I say this so confidently? Because there is a working example which proves that gender agreement is perfectly manageable:


          John Oswald - a single person - was able to compile a list of every genus and species in the superorder Neuropterida, which indicates the gender of each genus (masculine, feminine, or neuter), and the form of every epithet (noun or adjective) and indicates explicitly how each and every species name would need to be spelled depending on the gender of the genus it is placed in. No one else ever needs to do ANY research or digging into the literature, or argue over anything. The work is completely done FOR them already.

          If just ONE GUY, working by himself, can do that for an entire group of that size, just imagine what several hundred lepidopterists could do collectively if they set their minds to it.

          It's really that simple: if you are scholarly enough to make a catalog in the first place (i.e., that you are looking at the original literature), then you can ALSO include gender of genera, and forms of epithets, in that catalog. If that catalog is online, then everyone *else*, everywhere, can be saved the tedium of ever having to do that research themselves. Furthermore, if that catalog is a shared resource during the data entry phase, then all it takes is one person with access to any given piece of original literature to go in, and enter the appropriate data. It's something called "cooperation", and I fail to see why anyone, lepidopterists included, should be unwilling to follow this example.

          The irony here is that in order to return to the original orthography, one needs to have the original description to check - meaning that it took Lafontaine and Schmidt the same amount of effort to do THAT as it would have for them to compile a proper catalog that included genders and forms. They took a step backwards instead of forwards, for the same amount of effort. This "movement" really, truly, makes no sense.

          Sincerely,
          -- 
          

          Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
          Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
          phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
                       http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
            "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
                  is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82


        • John S. Ascher
          Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010) returned all spellings of species names to their original spelling….some 4,000 species-level taxa. I fail to see how
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 8, 2011
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            "Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010) returned all spellings of species names to
            their original spelling….some 4,000 species-level taxa."

            I fail to see how "returning" thousands of spellings of species names to
            original spellings that may not have been used for many decades or more
            can be considered a helpful contribution towards stability. Even if this
            innovation has merits in the very long run, for the foreseeable future
            many of the most influential taxonomists would resist such a change, even
            in the unlikely event that it were approved by the ICZN. I believe that
            adoption of such a controversial innovation would inevitably result in
            dual competing systems, hardly a desirable outcome. A gratuitous
            abandonment of gender agreement by the ICZN would surely prompt many of
            particularly active and influential taxonomists to disregard the
            innovation, resulting in far more serious instability than exists at
            present.

            While I can see some (not much) long term merit to the proposal to
            "return" spellings of specific epithets to the original spelling without
            regard to the gender of the genus, such a practice would be vulgar, and
            adopting it in advance of ICZN approval is clearly destabilizing and
            irresponsible.

            I trust that this superficially attractive innovation, very appealing to
            those who are inclined to distrust taxonomists and to regard us as
            outmoded, will soon be recognized as ill-conceived, as was the Phylocode.

            Although many people claim that matching of gender has no utility, I find
            it very useful, for example when dealing with abbreviated taxon names or
            when reviewing a "species" field in isolation of a "genus" field. For
            example, a species named "A. parva" could be an Andrena but not an
            Anthidium as that would be "A. parvum." Gender agreement of an epithet is
            information inherent to the "species" field in databases that reinforces
            explicit information about generic combination in "genus" and "full name"
            fields.

            Regarding databases, the solution to the challenge of associating the mere
            three different potential spellings is to support collaborative work on
            this problem by computer scientists and taxonomists. Modern computer
            hardware, including phone apps, are surely powerful enough to link all
            three potential combinations, whether in wide use of not, if provided
            appropriate data by taxonomists as interpreted by appropriate software.
            With only three usual options (male, female, neuter) to link I fail to see
            how anyone could regard this as a serious information science challenge in
            2011! A more worthy challenge is to address problems caused by homonymy.

            The solution to the problem of changing spellings due to gender agreement
            is to support compilation of comprehensive digitized catalogs of all
            available names (not just valid names) after which the appropriate gender
            for all combinations can be reviewed, taking full advantage of incredible
            and readily available computer error-checking tools, by the few scholars
            who have competence and interest in such matters. The trivial computer
            science problems addressed by computer scientists working together with
            classical scholars and taxonomists (unfortunately, we cannot take for
            granted that the importance of a true collaboration among equal partners
            would be recognized).

            Whenever people are unhappy with taxonomy or taxonomists why do they
            always wish to disrespect and condemn us and our methods, without even
            making due efforts to understand these, rather than providing us with the
            funding and other resources required to address the problem globally using
            the best available (not the cheapest) expertise and technology for the
            benefit of all?

            With respect to bee names, those of us who led the compilation of the
            World Bee Checklist and its as yet still pending updates, including Dave
            Nicolson of ITIS, took great pains to establish correct gender agreement
            as I also did when originally compiling the Discover Life Bee Species
            Guide and World Checklist. We routinely queried relevant experts and had
            extensive discussions about difficult cases some of which remain
            controversial and therefore unresolved (e.g., Coelioxys, Melissodes). If
            we did not succeed in citing names correctly according to ICZN
            recommendations in all cases that was due to insufficient access to
            expertise, a problem that could be remedied if taxonomic nomenclature was
            a more respected and better supported branch of science.

            Regarding the inherent instability of taxonomic names, I encourage
            everyone to read "Taxonomic Stability is Ignorance": by E. Dominguez and
            Quentin D. Wheeler in Cladistics 13, 367–372 (1997).

            ftp://ftp.amnh.org/pub/people/lorenzo/downloads/RGGS_readings/Dominguez%20and%20Wheeler%201997.pdf

            The title should speak for itself.

            John



            > Hi All:
            >
            > I am posting this for Dave Wagner... a bit late, I am afraid ... in his
            > response to the Epeoloides issue that arose a while back,,,,but of
            > interest none the less.
            > sam
            > ==================================================
            >
            > Hi all,
            >
            > There is a push for taxonomists to stop requiring agreement between
            > generic and specific names and use instead the original orthography
            > (spelling). The problem with requiring agreement in gender, number, case,
            > etc. is that such efforts are inherently unstable (in perpetuity) and thus
            > contradict one of the three core missions of biological nomenclature: to
            > provide a system of names that are unique, universal, and stable. Every
            > name change (taxonomic change) could result in/require a new spelling. And
            > if all authors don?t recognize the same genera then two spellings of the
            > species names could both be correct at the same time. Another pragmatic
            > issue is that few people are being trained in Latin these days?every time
            > I name a species I need to track down a Latin scholar.
            >
            > The movement to return to original orthography (for the spelling of the
            > species name, regardless of its generic assignment) is gaining momentum,
            > with the primary reason being stability of names for information
            > retrieval, databasing, etc. A recent example: Lafontaine and Schmidt
            > (2010) returned all spellings of species names to their original
            > spelling?.some 4,000 species-level taxa.
            >
            > Lafontaine, J. D. and C. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the
            > Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico.
            > ZooKeys 40: 1-239.
            >
            > David L. Wagner, Professor
            > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
            > University of Connecticut
            > Storrs, CT 06269-3043
            > v.860-486-2139; f. 860-486-6364
            >


            --
            John S. Ascher, Ph.D.
            Bee Database Project Manager
            Division of Invertebrate Zoology
            American Museum of Natural History
            Central Park West @ 79th St.
            New York, NY 10024-5192
            work phone: 212-496-3447
            mobile phone: 917-407-0378
          • Matthias Buck
            I fully agree with what was said by Doug, Jim and John. They made their point eloquently so I have little to add: Matching the gender ending of adjectives to
            Message 5 of 5 , Jun 9, 2011
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              I fully agree with what was said by Doug, Jim and John. They made their point eloquently so I have little to add:

              Matching the gender ending of adjectives to nouns is familiar to speakers of most languages in the world (e.g., Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, etc., etc.), except anglophones. It is a really dumb idea to reverse this very natural rule after having created millions of species names in that way. The confusion would be babylonical.

              Cheers,

                           Matthias

              On Wed, Jun 8, 2011 at 11:46 AM, John S. Ascher <ascher@...> wrote:
               



              "Lafontaine and Schmidt (2010) returned all spellings of species names to
              their original spelling….some 4,000 species-level taxa."

              I fail to see how "returning" thousands of spellings of species names to
              original spellings that may not have been used for many decades or more
              can be considered a helpful contribution towards stability. Even if this
              innovation has merits in the very long run, for the foreseeable future
              many of the most influential taxonomists would resist such a change, even
              in the unlikely event that it were approved by the ICZN. I believe that
              adoption of such a controversial innovation would inevitably result in
              dual competing systems, hardly a desirable outcome. A gratuitous
              abandonment of gender agreement by the ICZN would surely prompt many of
              particularly active and influential taxonomists to disregard the
              innovation, resulting in far more serious instability than exists at
              present.

              While I can see some (not much) long term merit to the proposal to
              "return" spellings of specific epithets to the original spelling without
              regard to the gender of the genus, such a practice would be vulgar, and
              adopting it in advance of ICZN approval is clearly destabilizing and
              irresponsible.

              I trust that this superficially attractive innovation, very appealing to
              those who are inclined to distrust taxonomists and to regard us as
              outmoded, will soon be recognized as ill-conceived, as was the Phylocode.

              Although many people claim that matching of gender has no utility, I find
              it very useful, for example when dealing with abbreviated taxon names or
              when reviewing a "species" field in isolation of a "genus" field. For
              example, a species named "A. parva" could be an Andrena but not an
              Anthidium as that would be "A. parvum." Gender agreement of an epithet is
              information inherent to the "species" field in databases that reinforces
              explicit information about generic combination in "genus" and "full name"
              fields.

              Regarding databases, the solution to the challenge of associating the mere
              three different potential spellings is to support collaborative work on
              this problem by computer scientists and taxonomists. Modern computer
              hardware, including phone apps, are surely powerful enough to link all
              three potential combinations, whether in wide use of not, if provided
              appropriate data by taxonomists as interpreted by appropriate software.
              With only three usual options (male, female, neuter) to link I fail to see
              how anyone could regard this as a serious information science challenge in
              2011! A more worthy challenge is to address problems caused by homonymy.

              The solution to the problem of changing spellings due to gender agreement
              is to support compilation of comprehensive digitized catalogs of all
              available names (not just valid names) after which the appropriate gender
              for all combinations can be reviewed, taking full advantage of incredible
              and readily available computer error-checking tools, by the few scholars
              who have competence and interest in such matters. The trivial computer
              science problems addressed by computer scientists working together with
              classical scholars and taxonomists (unfortunately, we cannot take for
              granted that the importance of a true collaboration among equal partners
              would be recognized).

              Whenever people are unhappy with taxonomy or taxonomists why do they
              always wish to disrespect and condemn us and our methods, without even
              making due efforts to understand these, rather than providing us with the
              funding and other resources required to address the problem globally using
              the best available (not the cheapest) expertise and technology for the
              benefit of all?

              With respect to bee names, those of us who led the compilation of the
              World Bee Checklist and its as yet still pending updates, including Dave
              Nicolson of ITIS, took great pains to establish correct gender agreement
              as I also did when originally compiling the Discover Life Bee Species
              Guide and World Checklist. We routinely queried relevant experts and had
              extensive discussions about difficult cases some of which remain
              controversial and therefore unresolved (e.g., Coelioxys, Melissodes). If
              we did not succeed in citing names correctly according to ICZN
              recommendations in all cases that was due to insufficient access to
              expertise, a problem that could be remedied if taxonomic nomenclature was
              a more respected and better supported branch of science.

              Regarding the inherent instability of taxonomic names, I encourage
              everyone to read "Taxonomic Stability is Ignorance": by E. Dominguez and
              Quentin D. Wheeler in Cladistics 13, 367–372 (1997).

              ftp://ftp.amnh.org/pub/people/lorenzo/downloads/RGGS_readings/Dominguez%20and%20Wheeler%201997.pdf

              The title should speak for itself.

              John


              > Hi All:
              >
              > I am posting this for Dave Wagner... a bit late, I am afraid ... in his
              > response to the Epeoloides issue that arose a while back,,,,but of
              > interest none the less.
              > sam
              > ==================================================
              >
              > Hi all,
              >
              > There is a push for taxonomists to stop requiring agreement between
              > generic and specific names and use instead the original orthography
              > (spelling). The problem with requiring agreement in gender, number, case,
              > etc. is that such efforts are inherently unstable (in perpetuity) and thus
              > contradict one of the three core missions of biological nomenclature: to
              > provide a system of names that are unique, universal, and stable. Every
              > name change (taxonomic change) could result in/require a new spelling. And
              > if all authors don?t recognize the same genera then two spellings of the
              > species names could both be correct at the same time. Another pragmatic
              > issue is that few people are being trained in Latin these days?every time
              > I name a species I need to track down a Latin scholar.
              >
              > The movement to return to original orthography (for the spelling of the
              > species name, regardless of its generic assignment) is gaining momentum,
              > with the primary reason being stability of names for information
              > retrieval, databasing, etc. A recent example: Lafontaine and Schmidt
              > (2010) returned all spellings of species names to their original
              > spelling?.some 4,000 species-level taxa.
              >
              > Lafontaine, J. D. and C. Schmidt. 2010. Annotated check list of the
              > Noctuoidea (Insecta, Lepidoptera) of North America north of Mexico.
              > ZooKeys 40: 1-239.
              >
              > David L. Wagner, Professor
              > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
              > University of Connecticut
              > Storrs, CT 06269-3043
              > v.860-486-2139; f. 860-486-6364
              >

              --
              John S. Ascher, Ph.D.
              Bee Database Project Manager
              Division of Invertebrate Zoology
              American Museum of Natural History
              Central Park West @ 79th St.
              New York, NY 10024-5192
              work phone: 212-496-3447
              mobile phone: 917-407-0378




              --
              Dr. Matthias Buck
              Invertebrate Zoology
              Royal Alberta Museum
              12845-102nd Avenue
              Edmonton, Alberta
              Canada, T5N 0M6
              Phone: (780) 453-9122
              www.royalalbertamuseum.ca
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