Language of description

Gayle Hansen hanseng at CCMAIL.ORST.EDU
Thu Oct 26 12:51:21 CDT 1995

      I am with Ken Harrison.  I love having botanical diagnoses and
      descriptions in Latin.  Since I work on marine algae of the
      northeast Pacific, many species related to those I study are from
      Russia, Japan, and China.  It would be impossible for me at this
      point to learn these languages.  Seeing a Latin description in
      these papers is wonderfully reassuring.  I can at least understand
      the Latin -- and then I can decide whether I need to pay to have
      someone translate the paper for me.  For me, Latin is easy to read
      since so much of English is derived from it.  When I write papers
      on new species, I attempt to write my diagnoses myself in Latin
      (it's not that hard) -- and then I send them off to a Latin
      scholar for corrections before I publish.  My Latin and English
      diagnoses for new species are always the same in length and
      content -- as is typically the case in most papers in my field.  I
      feel that having Latin as the required language for diagnoses
      gives botanical taxonomists a great advantage over zoological

      If I were in zoology and trying to pick a single "living" language
      for descriptions, I think I would worry (being not too skilled
      at languages) that, in reality, Chinese would be the best choice
      -- since most of the world's population speaks this language.

      Gayle Hansen
      Hatfield Marine Science Ctr.
      Newport, Oregon

      hanseng at

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