[Taxacom] names and abbreviations

dipteryx at freeler.nl dipteryx at freeler.nl
Tue Sep 22 02:30:19 CDT 2009

Van: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu namens Phil Jenkins
Verzonden: ma 21-9-2009 21:16
> We Botanists had nothing before Brummitt and Powell 
> (Authors of Plant Names) but now we have a resource, 
> including individual designations for over 90 "Smiths". 
> Now it is on line. Nearly everyone I know agreed to disagree 
> with their choices, but followed this work because there was 
> nothing else. And if you don't like the abbreviations, 
> it is always correct to include the full name of the author(s).

It is not true that "Botanists had nothing before Brummitt and Powell", 
but as time progressed and ever more authors appeared in the literature, 
the system as it existed broke down, equally progressively.

However, it is the last point that merits elaboration. A general point 
that probably is not as widely recognized as it should be is that the 
botanical Code (ICBN) is much less centralized than the zoological Code 
(ICZN), or to be more exact, that it is much more sensitive to the human 
factor, and especially when it comes to allowing for style. Matters
regarding style have always been carefully kept out of the ICBN, 
as belonging with the individual authors (and editors). It is not true 
that the ICBN prescribes or even recommends that the standard
abbreviations as per Brummitt & Powell / IPNI are to be used. In the 
1867 Lois of de Candolle it was prescribed to abbreviate 'author' names, 
but this was later demoted first to a fact-of-life and then to a 
recommendation and finally phased out. The present provision is phrased 
extremely careful: Art. 46 prescribes certain rules, for those cases 
where author citations are given. In Rec. 46A there is a recommendation 
for how to abbreviate 'author' names for those cases where abbreviations 
are used. Also, Rec. 46A includes a Note 1 that indicates that 
Brummitt & PowellÂ’s Authors of plant names (1992) exists and that this 
     "provides unambiguous standard abbreviations, in conformity with 
      the present Recommendation, [...]
that (updated as necessary from IPNI and the Index Fungorum) 
     "have been used for author citations throughout the present Code."
Thus, the ICBN restricts itself to leading by example (as in other 
matters of style).

Anybody wanting to write out 'author' names in full or abbreviating them
in a way of his own devising is free to do so, although it remains an 
open question how well he will be understood by his readers.
* * *

Van: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu namens Mario Blanco
Verzonden: di 22-9-2009 0:36

> I agree that journal and author names should not be abbreviated in 
> texts aimed primarily at non taxonomists, [...]

It looks important to me to stop right there. There is an internal flaw
in the logic here. I see no real reason to include 'author' names 
"in texts aimed primarily at non taxonomists", so the question whether
to abbreviate them or not is moot. The non-taxonomist has no use for an 
author citation: it will just confuse him. The whole ICBN is focused on 
providing the one-and-only correct name for that one particular taxon. The 
botanical name itself is enough: it holds all the nomenclatural information 
that will be relevant to the non-taxonomist. An author citation basically 
is decoration only and, basically, is subject to change without notice. 
(Of course, it is very important in texts aimed at the taxonomist, but he 
can be expected to make sense of whatever abbreviations are appropriate)

What the non-taxonomist will need (even if he does not realize it) is the
taxonomic information indicated by the name (as used in that particular case). 
In what sense is the name used: how is the taxon circumscribed? That is the 
information that routinely should be included. In the case of a name with 
a lively history this is likely to be vital (possibly literally), and its
absence may be truly disastrous.

There is a lot of education to be done in this respect. The non-taxonomist 
is very unlikely to realize that four 'text strings', each with the same 
botanical name but including a different (lengthy) author citation are
one-and-the-same-thing, while the same botanical name "in the sense of the 
FNA" and "in the sense of the Flora Europaea" may be vitally different.


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