Rankless English orthography

Pierre Deleporte Pierre.Deleporte at UNIV-RENNES1.FR
Fri Mar 10 11:45:22 CST 2000

A 12:25 09/03/00 Mark A. Garland wrote:

>Dr. Gurcharan Singh writes:
>> It will be more appropriate to use the expression "The family Rosaceae
>What do you say if you get rid of ranks?  "The real historical lineage
>Rosaceae is.."?

Why not simply "The clade Rosaceae is"? If clade is understood as
"monophyletic group", then this is implicit in Tom DiBenedetto's use of:
"The Rosaceae is", meaning: "This single object constituted by the clade
currently named "Rosaceae" is...". Perhaps it is not formally grammatically
correct to suppress the term "clade" in this sentence, but the context of
the paper could have already made clear that the author meant "the clade"
when saying "Rosacea is". Editors should be delighted in saving one word.

Maybe we are facing the problem that plural latin nouns are still used by
convention to name what are now possibly considered as individual clades
and not only series of objects gathered by convenience.
Anyway this should surely not preclude the use of "The Rosaceae are", the
two locutions  would simply not mean the same thing, being respectively put
for: "The clade Rosaceae is" versus "The individuals (or species, or
anything specified or not) constituting the clade Rosacea are..." (see the
note of Richard Jensen on this topic).
Readers aware of the current two ways of considering "Rosaceae" would
understand this difference.

Humble opinion of a French guy struggling with this unvoidable scientific

Note that in French (I translate word-for-word): "The police is", while
only "The policemen are" and never "The police are" (quite atrocious to OUR
ears! Police is singular, and obviously feminine as anyone should know);
and also "The family of the Rosacea is", and "The Rosacea are", while
"Rosacea are" without the article "the" is impossible... however "Rosacea
and Cyperacea are" could work without the articles, but in a rather poetric
or emphatic style that we would'nt use in a scientific paper...
...now you will get some notion of the difficulty, and understand why the
misuse of "the" (or undue omission of "the") is one of the most frequent
mistakes made by French writers in English, hence the lasting doubts of
many of us in a field where the "sounds well" criterion is of little use...

Rules could help, provided that they integrate modern systematic notions
like singularity of individual clades.
(BTW I can tell you that the French speaking part of my brain was tempted
to put two or three additional "the" in the last sentence...!).


Pierre Deleporte
CNRS UMR 6552 - Station Biologique de Paimpont
F-35380 Paimpont   FRANCE
Téléphone : 02 99 61 81 66
Télécopie : 02 99 61 81 88

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