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Re: [beemonitoring] Taxonomic Name Changes - Orthography of original spellings

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 of 5 , Jun 9, 2011
        • 0 Attachment
          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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