[Taxacom] (no subject)

Laurent Raty l.raty at skynet.be
Tue Feb 19 06:44:55 CST 2008

Same in French... A plural article makes turning the plural of the word
used for the parts into a singular word used for the whole, almost
impossible. (Note that, linguistically, this is a very different process
from cases like "Los Angeles", where the resulting name is a city, not
at all a group of angels.) Omitting the article entirely is easily done
in English, but would definitely sound odd for a family name in French -
cladist jargon at best. Generic names are regularly used without an
article, though.

(This has interesting philosophical implications, btw, as this means
that the language I speak could have a direct impact on whether I would
be naturally prone to accept treating something like "Fagaceae" as an

In the context of a single particular species, I'd write "une fagacée"
(French and singular), in preference to "une Fagaceae" (Latin and
plural). With animal families, this would translate in, e.g., "an
icterid", rather than "an Icteridae". I don't know if there would be a
possible similar English construction for plant family names...?

Laurent -

Josef Greimler wrote:
> Interesting points on verb conjugation by Dick Jensen. Looking at the
>  problem from a German language background I agree with case (1) and 
> disagree with case (2). I cannot imagine anyone saying: "Die Fagaceae
> besteht aus holzigen Pflanzen." Everybody would say: "Die Fagaceae
> bestehen (!) aus holzigen Pflanzen ...". I think that we always have
> an extended subject in mind when using a familiy name. In my view
> something like "members of Fagaceae" or "the family of Fagaceae"
> applies to both cases. Cheers, Josef
> Josef Greimler Systematic and Evolutionary Botany Faculty Center 
> Botany, University of Vienna A-1030 Vienna, Rennweg 14 AUSTRIA Tel. 
> 0043 1 4277-54145 Fax 0043 1 4277-9541
> Shades of past Taxacom debates. I know many think of family names as 
> plurals because that's exactly what they are in Latin. Tod Stuessy 
> and I have debated this point and there was an extensive exchange 
> here several years ago. I have not altered my view that family names,
>  when used as collectives, take a singular verb. Here are two 
> different uses: 1. Fagaceae occur on at least five continents. (the 
> subject here is implicity "Members of Fagaceae"; no one occurs on all
>  five continents) 2. Fagaceae consists of woody plants. (here, I use
>  a singular verb because the reference is to the family as a whole).
>  Some have argued that we must use a plural verb because Fagaceae is
> a Latin plural. My reply is, We are not speaking Latin. We are
> speaking English. If the form of the noun in its original language
> were used to decide the appropriate verb, then I would have to say
> that "Los Angeles are a city on the west coast."! That really grates
> on my ears and nerves. Cheers, Dick J Richard Jensen, Professor
> Department of Biology Saint Mary’s College Notre Dame, IN 46556 Tel:
> 574-284-4674
> josef.greimler at univie.ac.at

More information about the Taxacom mailing list