English vs. Latin, or Flame-Bait in the Subject Line

Curtis Clark jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU
Mon Mar 20 09:57:48 CST 1995

Date sent: 20-MAR-1995
Meredith Lane wrote:
 >pressed). I happen to think English is an excellent, flexible, expressive
 >language. But, there are several BILLION
 >people who think _their_ language is best. Who is anyone to argue?

 >The authors of the Codes picked a "dead" language for this very reason.

Botanical Latin has a great advantage over English in that it is
grammatically difficult to be ambiguous in the former.  I remember
reviewing a manuscript many years ago, and finding the Latin diagnosis
incomprehensible.  When I checked the English diagnosis, I found that
it *sounded* okay, but it had one of those situations where a group
of nouns and adjectives precede a noun, and it is impossible to tell
what modifies what.  The English seemed comprehensible, but wasn't.
The Latin made no sense at all.  My own preference is to write diagnoses
for new taxa in Latin first, and then translate to English.

But I see that the tide is turning against Latin, primarily because
no one bothers to learn it any more.  I would suggest that we create
"botanical English", with a restricted vocabulary and precise grammar,
to take the place of the old stalwart.

Curtis Clark                                       Voice: (909) 869-4062
Biological Sciences Department                     FAX:   (909) 869-4396
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Pomona CA 91768-4032                               jcclark at csupomona.edu

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