Language of Description
MICHAEL A. IVIE
ueymi at MSU.OSCS.MONTANA.EDU
Thu Oct 26 08:13:22 CDT 1995
In the responses to my recent posting against using Latin as the sole
language for zoological description, there have been some really good
thoughts. I personally would prefer that everyone use a language with
the Latin alphabet, as is proposed in the new draft Code, and am secretly
glad every time a paper I want to read is in English. However, speaking
strictly for Americans (i.e. U.S.A.), we have a real problem trying to
get requirements for foreign languages in our schools and universities.
I doubt any other country can come close to our level of incompetence in
foreign languages amoung its educated classes. Requiring English descriptions
just takes away another club.
Further (again from an American viewpoint), can you imagine Newt Gingrich's
response if he found out that all systematics papers were published in
another country's language, that our taxpayers couldn't read? You think
funding is bad now, think of what it would be under those circumstances.
Now ask what requiring the Latin alphabet could do funding in China, Russia,
or the newly independent states? Remember that our colleagues in those
countries are not on this listserver, because e-mail must be paid for.
We owe it to them to remember their needs and political realities.
Lastly, it seems to me that the problems with papers published in "difficult"
(i.e. non-Western European) languages is perhaps worse in Botany than
Zoology? I don't know if that is true, but from the responses I have
received, it seems that way. I know that in entomology, there are few
papers I need in Chinese that are not dual-published in English. Russian
is the main non-Latin alphabet language to deal with. Could it be that
the dictum of Latin diagnoses in Botany actually hurts the community, in
that people figure they can publish in a local language because the
new species are in Latin, and everyone can read them? In Zoology, if you
want your paper read widely, you must publish it in a widely read language.
I would hate to be restricted to only the new species descriptions in
a revision, faunal treatment or biological review. Perhaps not dictating
language actually encourages use of fewer languages in zoology?
Department of Entomology
Montana State University
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