"arcane" rules/was gender of -opsis

John Noyes jsn at NHM.AC.UK
Fri Aug 16 12:06:18 CDT 2002


Lynn Raw wrote:

>Surely this complaint about the endings of taxon names could be eliminated
>with some fairly simple database programming. After all, -us, -a and -um
>endings are all gender variants of the same words and so are -is and -e.
>Searching databases wouldn't even need to go this far, when I search my
>rather ancient DOS based database I take the trouble to enter the different
>endings or else base my search on the simpler option of using the root word
>without the ending. Sometimes there ARE simple solutions that don't need
>revolutionary reforms.

On the Chalcidoidea database on CD the programming has been done by Dicky
Yu (excellent it is too) and there is a facility whereby the endings of the
species epithets can be changed automatically to agree with the gender of
the generic name. This does work very well, but I asked Dicky to switch
this off because there is there is a possibility of the endings of species
epithets being changed incorrectly. Quite a few names are nouns used in
apposition, etc. (perhaps as many as 25%) and these are not often obvious.
It would therefore still be necessary to go and check all 29,000 names used
in this catalogue and that is totally beyond me I am afraid. Even if I did
there would be a lot of ambiguity because the derivation and gender of many
of the generic names would be difficult to ascertain. In many cases, even
someone with specialist linguistic knoweldge would have problems.
>
>Knowing which ending is actually correct sometimes does need specialist
>knowledge or advice. I would expect that anyone offering what purports to be
>an authoritative database on CD ROM would have this on hand in the first
>place. If not, perhaps a disclaimer as to the accuracy of its authority
>might be in order.

Yes, a disclaimer would be useful, but no-one reads those on a CD!

John


Entomology Department, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South
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