[Taxacom] while we're on the topic...

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Fri Mar 27 15:57:27 CDT 2020

On 3/27/20 11:35 AM, Dennis During via Taxacom wrote:
> Not only Wikipedia and Wikispecies, but also Wiktionary would benefit from
> contributions of all kinds by taxonomy experts. Wiktionary is a good home
> for material on the etymology of taxonomic names and for vernacular names
> of taxa.  It is also a great place for specialist vocabulary of all kinds
> in ALL languages.
I omitted Wiktionary from my suggestion for two primary reasons:

(1) the technicalities behind Wiktionary entries are far more daunting, 
especially regarding formal statements of etymology and orthography. 
Very few of us are in a position to provide the spellings *in Greek* of 
name roots, for example. The creation of tables showing the various 
forms of nouns and adjectives is also not a trivial matter. As such, 
this resource really does not lend itself well to "casual" contributors.

(2) addition of *taxonomic names* to a dictionary runs a fairly serious 
risk of circularity; there are MANY names coined by taxonomists that are 
neither genuinely Latin nor properly Latinized, or which have been used 
incorrectly (e.g., treated as adjectives when they are not). This is 
already a serious problem in Wiktionary, as some contributors have done 
just this, and done so incorrectly. An example is 
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/melanocephalus which incorrectly claims 
that "melanocephalus" is an adjective when it is instead a noun phrase 
based on a latinized Greek noun; this is even in demonstrable conflict 
with other corresponding entries in Wiktionary 
(https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cephalus and 
both of which clearly state that "-cephalus" and its Greek root 
"*κεφᾰλή*" are nouns.

A tertiary issue is that there are scads of taxonomic names which have 
no explicit etymology, and it is inappropriate to add any such names on 
the basis of conjecture.

To the extent that these pitfalls can be navigated, yes, there is merit 
in having taxonomists contribute to Wiktionary, but these are rather 
substantial pitfalls.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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