[Taxacom] lingua franca

Norbert Holstein holstein at lrz.uni-muenchen.de
Wed Jul 20 08:48:15 CDT 2011

> Yes, it’s a very intriguing and recurrent issue.
> About that point, I guess it could be discussed beyond the shift per se.
> If the replacement will be unavoidable, one could think about why not
> other language rather English.
> Sincerely, I guess that the reasons are far from the linguistic
> advantages. Thus, maybe the next discussion will be around the Mandarin.

As science is about communication of knowledge and theories, I think, it
is really about the lingua franca. If nobody knows about your findings,
your knowledge is lost. Publishing science in Khoisan therefore doesn't
help (nothing against Khoisan, which is in fact a language family
consisting of several different languages).

Formerly, Latin was part of the "highschool" education in Europe (where
most scientists were based), therefore Latin was a lingua franca.
Now, education changed and Latin is less known among scientists. Since
most publications are in English, it seems to be the lingua franca.

The problem arises as science in non-European countries becomes more and
more prominent. English was and is not obligatory in higher education as
Latin was in Europe formerly. However, English is in fact wide-spread
among scientists and it becomes more important, even in China.
  Counting the numbers of native speakers is in my opinion irrelevant for
the discussion since descriptions are made for scientists. Species
descriptions are pretty much uninteresting for most people, who don't
deal with taxonomy. So numbers of native speakers don't make sense, but
the numbers of scientists do. As most scientists speak English, and not
Spanish, Mandarin or sth. else, English as a lingua franca makes sense.
  The cultural dominance of English is a fact, as was Latin 200 years ago.
If pupils learn Mandarin and the use of Mandarin becomes more
wide-spread in the scientific community, we can talk about Mandarin as a
lingua franca, but I don't see that for the next couple of years.
  As Mandarin is always taken as an example, I'd like to remind that
Mandarin is only the mother tongue in north eastern China. In the South
e.g. Cantonese, Hakka etc. are more important, and then Mandarin loses
its importance. People, esp. scientists in the South often understand
Mandarin, but many also understand English, so nothing's gained.


Dipl. biol. Norbert Holstein
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Systematische Botanik und Mykologie
Menzinger Str. 67
80638 München
Tel.: +49-(0)89-17861-251
Fax.: +49-(0)89-172638

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