Rankless English orthography AND proper names

Thomas Schlemmermeyer termites at USP.BR
Mon Mar 13 09:15:39 CST 2000

Sorry, I had not the opportunity to follow the whole thread, but in my view
"Rosaceae" is a proper name and has therefore to be used without definite
article. This has, so far, nothing to do with the question whether Rosaceae be
a clade, a monophyletic group, a taxon, or anything else. From a linguistic
point of view it is simply a proper name.

And that leads me to a problem: Why do those taxonomists always write
scientific proper names with capital letters (Rosaceae), while the
corresponding vernacular names (roses) are usually written without capital

On (         Fri, 10 Mar 2000 11:45:22 +010),         Pierre Deleporte
<Pierre.Deleporte at UNIV-RENNES1.FR> wrote:

>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

Thomas Schlemmermeyer
Museu de Zoologia, Universidade de São Paulo
Caixa Postal 42694
CEP 04299-970
São Paulo, SP, Brasil

Thomas Schlemmermeyer
Caixa Postal 00276
CEP 14001-970
Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brasil

Fone, Fax: 016 6371999

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