Ranunculus alismaefolius or alismifolius ?

Frederick J. Peabody fpeabody at SUNFLOWR.USD.EDU
Mon Apr 14 10:25:55 CDT 1997

On Sun, 13 Apr 1997, Albertine C. Ellis-Adam wrote:

> Dear Frederick,
> you wrote:
> > The stem of a word
> >is found by removing the ending of the genitive singular form.
> >
> > The word "alisma"
> >is derived from the Greek (halisma), meaning a kind of water plant.  The
> >stem is "alism-"
> As far as I know the genitive is "alismatis" (in Latinizd form), so the
> stem is "alismat", and therefore the epithet should be "alismatifolius". I
> wrote this to Adolf Ceska.
> Are you sure that the stem is "alism"? Why? Please explain, in particular
> to Adolf who might be confused now.
> Cheers, Albertine Ellis
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
>         Albertine C. Ellis - Adam
>         University of Amsterdam
>         Hugo de Vries Laboratorium
>         Kruislaan 318 / 1098 SM Amsterdam
>         Phone: xx (0)20 5257822 / Fax: xx (0)20 5257662
>         e-mail: ellis at mail.uva.nl
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

It is true that the latinized form of the Greek "halisma" is "alisma" and
that many have presumed that the genitive, singular is "alismatis" as you
have said; hence the name of the family "Alismataceae," formed by removing
the ending "-is" from the genitive, singular and adding the "-aceae"
family suffix.

The word "halisma," however, is of Greek origin and it is a noun of the
first (Greek) declension, which has a genitive, singular form of
"halismas," with "-as" as the ending on the stem "halism-."

Most botanical authors are more comfortable with Latinized words, rather
than Greek words, and would prefer to treat all botanical names as being
derived from the Latin, when, in effect, they may be derived from any
source, or even of "arbitrary," derivation, to use the ICBN terminology.
Once formed, however, they are to be treated as Latin words, which refers
primarily to the application of appropriate endings to bring them into
agreement with their generic name, in the event that it is an epithet, as
in our case.

In the case before us we have the choice of "alismaefolius,"
"alismifolius," and "alismofolius."  A choice between the three can be
made based partially on orthography, i.e. which of the three is the most
appropriate according to "classical usage."  In my previous post (included
above) I eliminated "alismaefolius" as an orthographic error.  The choice
between "alismifolius" and "alismofolius" is rather subjective, and
probably the best recommendation is to follow the original spelling in the
protologue of the taxon, even though this may result in different choices
for different taxa.

Not a few nouns of Greek origin find their way into Latin in the third
declension, which often have irregularities when comparing the nominative
and genitive singular cases.  When crafting a name the author of a taxon
makes a choice as to the stem that will be used.  In the case of
"alism...." one can choose a Greek stem: "alism-" or a Latin stem:
"alismat-."  As far as I know, the choice of the Family name
"Alismataceae" has no bearing on the choice of a name for any other taxon.

We were not presented with the choices "alismatifolius," "alismatofolius,"
or "alismataefolius," which is not to say that they do not exist
somewhere.  The combining form "alismataefolius" I would eliminate by
again invoking orthography.  The other two renderings would have valid
standing based on the preference of the protologue author.

Frederick J. Peabody
Associate Professor of Botany
University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD  57069  USA
fpeabody at sundance.usd.edu

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