[Taxacom] Language tags for scientific names

Donald.Hobern at csiro.au Donald.Hobern at csiro.au
Fri Jun 27 20:18:01 CDT 2008

I agree it is important to consider how we should represent scientific
names in XML data, but I think this is all getting much too complex for
the intended purpose and some of the suggestions are attempting to
overload the language tag with a lot of additional non-linguistic

We need to ask:

1. What do we (as the interested community) really want to represent by
such codes?  When we want to give additional information about a
particular scientific name (including e.g. code), why don't we just use
proprietary tags (like the TDWG RDF TaxonName properties)?

2. Is this compatible with the intended use of the language tag?  If
something is a proper name with no translation into different languages,
what would ISO expect?  Is the language code in any way appropriate in
such a case?  

3. Will other software (outside our community) be able to do something
sensible with what we put in the tag?  Do we know what various
language-enabled XML software packages do with language tag values they
have never seen before?  Do we know what they do with tag values
starting "zxx-"?  Will they do anything inappropriate if we make sure
that scientific names do not have any language tag at all?

I believe it is an abuse of the language code to use it to identify the
nomenclatural code, and something which may alienate non-taxonomic
users.  A single code, (null, "zxx", "tax" or something) would encourage
consistent interpretation better, but I still think we are
misunderstanding the point of the language tag.  Surely its primary role
is in situations in which there may be different versions of some
content in different languages and software may choose the most
appropriate for a given user.  This is not the case here and I suspect
the ISO recommendation would be to use "zxx" or nothing at all.



Donald Hobern, Director, Atlas of Living Australia
CSIRO Entomology, GPO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601
Phone: (02) 62464352 Mobile: 0437990208 
Email: Donald.Hobern at csiro.au

More information about the Taxacom mailing list