Vernacular concepts

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Fri Feb 25 12:46:48 CST 2005

Hi David,

> If I had to define a vernacular concept based on how I interpret what I
> generally see it would be a "factual association resulting in an
> implied equivalence between a Latinized 'scientific' name subject to
> nomenclatural regulatory codes and some other alphanumeric encoding
> that is NOT subject to these codes."
> In other words, a pairing of a common name with a scientfic name.

I think that the tricky part is that often there is an imperfect
correspondence between latin names and vernacular names.  For instance,
"Papio" in Hawaiian (also vernacular English among spear fishers) refers to
the juvenile/subadult stages of several species, and "Ulua" refers (more or
less) to the adults of a similar (but not necessarily identical) set of
species.  Clearly there needs to be a many-to-many relationship -- and
perhaps one that accomodates "in part" correspondence.

> This definition  distinguishes an identical vernacular string
> associated with two different scientific name strings as two different
> vernacular concepts.  Thus "bonito -  Katsuwonas pelamis" is  distinct
> from "bonito - Sarda sarda."

Not to be confused with my example above, where the multi-species "Papio"
and "Ulua" each represent a single vernacular concept (not a case of
vernacular homonymy, as is the case with "Bonito").

> On the other hand this definition would
> also include ad-hoc usages including things like ITIS Taxonomic serial
> numbers.

Hmmmm....interesting concept -- treating database unique identifiers as
vernacular "names".  I have a queasy feeling that it might be safer to
consider ID's as a separate catagory of "name", in the same way that
scientific and vernacular names each represent a different catagory of


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences
Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at

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