Dump Latin!

Mark Garland MAGarland at AOL.COM
Sun Feb 28 15:14:55 CST 1999

In a message dated 2/27/99 9:55:44 PM EST, jcclark at CSUPOMONA.EDU writes:

> Botanical Latin is closer to a programming language than to a natural
>  language, because an almost algorithmic precision is needed to
>  unambiguously describe plants.

Latin is just another language that can be used in many different ways.  Check
out the plays of Plautus or scenes in Petronius Arbiter, where I don't think
there is an "algorithmic precision" in the use of the language.  It is true
that a specialized Latin technical vocabulary for biological descriptions grew
up in the Renaissance and later, but that vocabulary now also exists in modern
languages, including English.

To me your statement is like saying that the metric system of weights and
measures is more accurate than the English system.  No--it's just another
system.  It has many *other* advantages, but more accuracy is not one of them.
It all depends on how you use it.   Same with languages.

Jan Bosselaers votes for Russian because of the number of declensions.  Does
the number of word forms increase the precision of a language?

>  But there will always be the tendency for English-speakers to "write
>  what they know" rather than attending to careful construction. Latin has
>  the advantage that *everyone* must take care with it.

I guess this is a problem--for English teachers, anyway.   But could there be
some people so familiar with Latin that they're sloppy, too?

Mark A. Garland
Florida Department of Environmental Protection

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