taxons and orthography

Peter Schuchert Peter.Schuchert at MHN.VILLE-GE.CH
Thu Mar 9 08:42:30 CST 2000

> This wonderful thread has proven, one thing, that English is an ambiguous
> language!  Even anglophones can't agree on it.

This freedom - or ambiguity as you call it - is the perfectly suitable for a
language that is supposed to be the "lingua franca" of the world.

As a conclusion of the various threads, it seem that I best apply the same
rules as in German. If you consider the name as a group of individuals (like
the Beatles, the policemen, the Narcomedusae, the Cnidaria) you use plural,
if you see it as an abstract unity (General Motors, the police, the clade
Narcomedusae) you use singular.

Similar examples are "the batallion was deployed...; the police was present;
the soldiers were deployed ...; the policemen were present ..."

However, I see taxon names more as a group of individual (subtaxons), hence
they correspond to "soldiers, policemen..." and require plural.

It grates in my ears  - that have at least enjoyed 2 years of Kiwi English -
to hear
"Narcomedusae is the sisters group of Trachymedusae". You couldn't say this
in German and you would have to add a unit forming word like "the CLADE
Narcomedusae is the sister group of the Trachymedusae". This seems also a
good way to cicumnavigate the problem in English.

The last example also touches the article problem. For my ears, there must
be an article before a taxon name, even if you use them as an abstract name
for a unity, eg in "the Cnidaria is the sister group of the Bilateria". You
would also say "the police is part of the security system ....; the Windsors
are related to ....."

Anyway, thanks for the help,

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