[Taxacom] Language tags for scientific names

Curtis Clark jcclark-lists at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 28 09:21:24 CDT 2008

On 2008-06-27 18:18, Donald.Hobern at csiro.au wrote:
> 3. Will other software (outside our community) be able to do something
> sensible with what we put in the tag?

Besides the translation issue raised above, I've encountered two other 
real-life examples recently:

1. There's a mini-controversy on Wikipedia (isn't there always?) 
concerning an editor who language-tags scientific names as la. He may 
have begun doing this when I pointed out that his autocorrection of 
Cornus florida to Cornus Florida was an error. A number of other editors 
have made the same point as people on the Taxacom thread, that 
scientific names are better regarded as elements within the language of 
the text that contains them, and are resistant to the idea of language 
tagging. Some of the proposals made here would address that.

2. I have been working with a student who uses a screen reader, as part 
of our accessible technology program. As has been pointed out, screen 
readers shift voices and pronunciations when they encounter language 
tags. This student is not a biologist, and doesn't often encounter 
scientific names, but a simple thought experiment shows the issues.

Consider the plant species Hebe trisepala. Pronounced by a screen reader 
as English, it might come across as HEEB trice-PAY-luh. Tagged as Latin, 
and assuming the screen reader had the ability to read Latin (probably 
not common), it would be HAY-bay tree-SEH-pah-lah. Neither of those is a 
good representation of the pronunciation in either American or 
Commonwealth English.

A set of requirements for tagging scientific names needs to address 
these real-world examples. Tagging as any language but en would probably 
solve the first one (until some parser goes through en.wikipedia looking 
for Klingon text and finds scientific names instead), but the latter is 
more nuanced.

Curtis Clark                  http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/
Director, I&IT Web Development                   +1 909 979 6371
University Web Coordinator, Cal Poly Pomona

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