[Taxacom] ICZN - gender of genus-group name ending in -oops

Welter-Schultes, Francisco fwelter at gwdg.de
Sun May 22 15:50:43 CDT 2016

By using the term "successful" I should have added two words to explain what I meant.

Basic question is: Why do we have scientific names for animals? 
It is mainly because it is useful to find information on a species by searching just for one single name. In astronomy they did not establish such a system, so that stars can have up to 10 names or more, and you need to request various times if you like to find something out on a certain star.

Now "successful" is the answer to the question if this goal was achieved in the case of a certain species.
In molluscs the result is generally good. Most European terrestrial molluscs are indeed only known by one single name, given that you search for information that is less than 50 or so years old. So the system is generally successful in that the result - one single request and you can find everything about this species - is visible. 

>From this point of view it is meaningless if the name for which I have to look, is spelled correctly according to the Code rules or not. If the butterfly Delias clathrata is only known under this name, we have a successful result. So I would not define "successful" as a correct application of the Code. Successful in the sense of: All authors and users have ever only used one name in one spelling for this one species. (In this part of the study we need to discount the effect of species having changed their genus-species combination).

Gender agreement is partly successful in molluscs: yes, partly. We have two situations: (1) a name was established, (2) a name was transferred from one genus to another genus. In (1) an incorrect ending can have been proposed in the original source. In (2) the incorrect application of gender agreement can have happened when the species was transferred from one genus to another genus with different gender. In European terrestrial molluscs we had 250 of the latter cases. In 80 % of those the declination worked correctly. 
(There is a gap in the argument, in that some incorrect names are only known in their incorrect endings and not in their correct endings - there the term "unsuccessful" would not apply. However many taxonomists tend to correct when they detect incorrect endings, myself included, and continuously produce duplications of names).

> Does it mean that
> some authors apply gender agreement rules correctly, and some fail to do so? 

Basically yes, however I would not say authors, but rather talk of publications, and use the passive. And the past tense. Results of studies should always be presented in the past tense. 80 % of the names were declined correctly in their corresponding publications.
I don't like to say authors because I observed that basically all authors have been involved in incorrect application of gender agreement, also the most skilled, most experienced and most respected authors. Just removing a few authors we would not get rid of the problem.

> the main problem is not that the rules are overly complex, the main
> problem is that many people publish who should not publish

Definitely not in molluscs. If you remove the authors who applied gender agreement incorrectly in the past 200 years, you would remove the most skilled malacologists who really brought very much progress to the discipline and without whom European malacology would not be what it is today.

This is something you could have predicted: those most skilled scientists in a zoological discipline are premarily zoologists, not experts of Latin language.

Von: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]" im Auftrag von "David Redei [david.redei at gmail.com]
Gesendet: Sonntag, 22. Mai 2016 03:05
An: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Betreff: Re: [Taxacom] ICZN - gender of genus-group name ending in -oops


your question is, "how successful is gender agreement in zoological
nomenclature". I cannot fully get your point, how can gender agreement be
"successful" or "unsuccessful"? Does "successful" mean that all or most
authors apply gender agreement rules correctly?

According to your experience, gender agreement is "partly successful,
partly unsuccessful" (in Mollusca). What does this mean? Does it mean that
some authors apply gender agreement rules correctly, and some fail to do
so? If yes, I would say that this would be the result if examining any
other aspects of zoological nomenclature: type species designation, type
specimen designation, correct Latinization, correct formation of stems etc.
Many people apply the rules correctly, many fail to do so, I have seen
wrong family group names containing a wrongly formed stem, failed or
missing type species and holotype designations, failed neotype designations
etc., so one might say that all Articles of the Code are "partly
successful, partly unsuccessful". But I have the impression that in most
cases the main problem is not that the rules are overly complex, the main
problem is that many people publish who should not publish (as I told, poor
Latin grammar usually correlates with poor descriptions and poor taxonomy).
You can modify the Code in any way, a significant portion of people simply
will not read it. I do not think that the best policy is to modify the Code
in that way that the ignorant authors' acts will also become
Code-compliant, and claim that this new Code is better than the previous
one, because it is "more successful".

I agree with your notion that the cases where many authors fail should be
examined, and changes in the provisions of the Code regarding gender
agreement should be considered accordingly; perhaps some Articles could be
modified in a way which will result in less violations of provisions. The
problem is, I have never read any concrete proposal for emending,
modifying, simplifying, extending some particular, concrete articles.
People troubled by gender agreement usually claim that all the gender
agreement is "nonsense" (this particular word was used in this conversation
two days ago) and should be dropped as it is, and all epithet should be
used with their original ending, with no regard for the actual combination.
My comments were intended to reply their claims, not yours, your proposal
is perfectly reasonable for me.

Best regards,


On 22 May 2016 at 07:32, Welter-Schultes, Francisco <fwelter at gwdg.de> wrote:

> Being a scientist I tend to prefer arguments being based on scientific
> studies with falsifiable results.
> Based the results of such studies I would like to make up my mind on the
> question whether gender agreement should be maintained in the future, and
> to which extent.
> Such studies would have to analyse the experience we actually have. The
> question is: how successful is gender agreement in zoological nomenclature?
> If something is totally unsuccessful I tend to regard it as an obstacle,
> rather than as a thing that is useful.
> My own preliminary results of a few thousand molluscan names would
> suggest, gender agreement is partly successful, partly not.
> The next step involves a closer look. Where exactly is gender agreement
> unsuccessful?
> Is it possible to deliminate those situations?
> If yes, then could we eventually add some provisions to the Code, well
> deliminated provisions that could help to make the situation more
> successful?
> What I have often read here is that people (authors, journal editors, name
> users) should improve their skills in Latin grammar. For me this is not a
> good argument because those people already had enough time to do that, and
> the experience we all complain about is, they have not improved their
> skills. To me this suggests, they won't do that in the future.
> So we have to find other solutions.
> Cheers
> Francisco
> Francisco Welter-Schultes
> Zoologisches Institut
> Berliner Str. 28, 37073 Goettingen
> Phone +49 551 395536
> ________________________________________
> Von: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]" im Auftrag von
> "Scott Thomson [scott.thomson321 at gmail.com]
> Gesendet: Samstag, 21. Mai 2016 19:43
> An: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Betreff: Re: [Taxacom] ICZN - gender of genus-group name ending in -oops
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