[Taxacom] Objective synonyms?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sat May 29 19:23:02 CDT 2010

How many taxonomists does it take to change a light bulb?
ANSWER: considerably fewer than it takes to understand each other on a question about synonymy!

My view was only this: species level synonymy in taxonomy (zoology at least)  is not perfectly precisely defined, and leaves room for differing interpretations. Whether or not you count combinations as synonyms is entirely a matter of choice. The ambiguity arises from the fact that species names are binomials (with one of the two names also being the name of a higher level in the taxonomic heirarchy, i.e., genus). This makes synonymy at the species level different and more complicated to deal with than synonymy at higher levels (where names are uninomials). Geoff said that if combinations are not synonyms then what are they? Well, they are combinations, period! But you can call them synonyms if you want to, but not IMHO "objective synonyms", because there is nothing objective about them. If, by "objective synonym" you mean homotypic, then they are objective synonyms by definition, but then objective synonymy has nothing to do with objectivity, which
 doesn't sound sensible to me! So why not just say that combinations are homotypic subjective synonyms? The most obvious cases of homotypic objective synonyms at the species level are replacement names like this one: http://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/Bitoma_novella 

I do not consider that I am bucking any orthodoxy of definition here, I rather think that I am working within a fuzzy area which lacks perfectly precise definitions ... and my main point was in reply to Curtis who seemed to think that the author of that Wikipedia article he found was clearly very wrong that combinations aren't synonyms, when in fact it is not quite so clear and more complicated than it appears to be at first glance ...

People will write glossaries, even the ICZN, but there is no guarantee that such glossaries are perfectly logically consistent ...


From: Geoffrey Read <gread at actrix.gen.nz>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Sent: Sun, 30 May, 2010 11:43:46 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Objective synonyms?

Curtis Clark:  "For anyone still reading, the answer I have come up with,
from responses here and on Wikipedia, is "Many zoologists assert that new
combinations aren't synonyms, and a fair number of those assert that they
are correct.

Synonymies presented without subsequent combinations would not be telling
much of the name history.  In practice subsequent combinations are always
in synonymies.  What does that tell those 'many' about what concept the
different combinations applied over the years fall under? If they're not
synomyms of the current valid name, then what on earth are they?



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