"Characters" and "character states"

Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG Richard.Zander at MOBOT.ORG
Fri Jul 22 09:40:53 CDT 2005

The terms "character" and "character state" are interchangeable only when
there is no ambiguity, e.g. when "character" clearly refers to a particular
character or trait. It's sloppy but okay, done all the time. The terms are
never interchangeable (to an editor, anyway) when there one is writing both
about characters and their states.

Richard H. Zander
Bryology Group, Missouri Botanical Garden
PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
richard.zander at mobot.org <mailto:richard.zander at mobot.org>
Voice: 314-577-5180;  Fax: 314-577-9595
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-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Dallwitz [mailto:M.Dallwitz at NETSPEED.COM.AU]
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2005 12:37 AM
Subject: [TAXACOM] "Characters" and "character states"

John Grehan wrote:
>>> I would not include the plesiomorphic characters for the ingroup
>>> at all. I would only include derived states

Don Colless wrote:
>> a perfect example of the confusion caused by not distinguishing between
>> "character" and "character state". ... How does one set up a data matrix
>> that contains only derived states?

John Grehan wrote:
> The usual way - outgroup coded zero for primitive state, ingroup coded 1
> derived state

In that case, the data matrix contains 0's (primitive states) and 1's
(derived states). It doesn't "only include derived states".

Don Colless wrote:
>> I am, by the way, not available for debate on the currently accepted
>> terminology for characters, states, etc.

John Grehan wrote:
> Looks like you are admitting that yours is not the only view on these

John's view seems to be that the terms are interchangeable. If this is the
prevailing usage, I suppose it has to be accepted. But it would be a pity -
there was once a useful distinction between the terms.

Mike Dallwitz
Contact information: http://delta-intkey.com/dallwitz.htm
DELTA home page: http://delta-intkey.com

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