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

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Sun May 22 18:21:00 CDT 2016


By your logic Mike, we should all become game show hosts or popstars or whatever is popular among non-taxonomists!

The contrary argument goes like this: for the last 250 years, taxonomic names have been based on Latin and latinized Greek. To change the system now would cause massive disruption (effectively negating 250 years worth of accumulated knowledge). Gender agreement is part of Latin. Therefore we should continue to respect it. It isn't very difficult most of the time (i.e. -us, -um, -a). So why all the fuss?

Stephen

--------------------------------------------
On Mon, 23/5/16, Ivie, Michael <mivie at montana.edu> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] ICZN - gender of genus-group name ending in -oops
 To: "Welter-Schultes, Francisco" <fwelter at gwdg.de>, "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Monday, 23 May, 2016, 11:07 AM
 
 We try to claim that what
 we do is central to biology, that taxonomy is relevant to
 biology in general, that we are not old fashioned dead bug
 traditionalists. That stable, repeatable names are critical
 to repeatability and information retreaval in Biology with a
 capital "B."  If so, taxonomy (as opposed to
 systematics) is a service disipline. But the only reference
 any of you use to keeping gender agreement is to taxonomists
 themselves liking it and tradition, i.e. it's retention
 is internal-looking, not outward looking to our users..  If
 you think an increasing number of systematists lack skill
 and interest in learning the arcane nuances of Latin
 grammer, the number of ecologists who do is vastly
 smaller.  Our fight to be seen as relevant to 21st century
 science is poorly served by clinging to 18th century
 norms.  Here a generalized conversation I have had over and
 over:
 
 Ecologist: "What
 is this species? It has never been associated with this
 plant before."
 Me: "Oh, that is
 the same as the species you have been working with, it has
 just been moved to another genus."
 Ecologist: "But, both names are different,
 not just the genus, it must be something different."
 Me: "No, it is just that the ending is
 changed to conform with Latin grammer."
 Ecologist: "But I am writing in English,
 not Latin, so I use which ending?"
 Me:
 "It is a rule, the ending changes."
 Ecologist: "You taxonomists need to leave
 the 18th century behind and embrace the 21st!  No wonder
 you have trouble getting respect and funding in the modern
 world."
 
 Gender
 agreement is now only relavent to the few traditional
 taxonomists who cling to it, it lowers our standing in the
 greater world we need to engage.  As shown in the example
 Frank shared, if it is done outside the Code, it leads to
 anarchy -- the Code needs to evolve to make the change
 workable.  Thus, I continue to strive to comply with the
 current rules, but it is just a matter of time before others
 follow the Lep community.
 
 Our holding to traditions that no longer serve
 us makes this our community's theme song:< https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWSoYCetG6A>
 I dare you to listen all the way through and
 ask how does this parallel our community?  Is not the
 standing of taxonomy in the broader realm of biology today
 much like that guy on the roof?
 
 If we hang on to our beloved tradition too long
 and too tightly, will we not find ourselves isolated in the
 shtetl?
 
 Mike
 ________________________________________
 From: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]
 on behalf of Welter-Schultes, Francisco [fwelter at gwdg.de]
 Sent: Sunday, May 22, 2016 2:50 PM
 To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] ICZN - gender of
 genus-group name ending in -oops
 
 David,
 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.
 
 Cheers
 Francisco
 ________________________________________
 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
 
 Francisco,
 
 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,
 
 David
 
 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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