Message 2001-02-0083: PhyloCode Alphabet

Wed, 21 Feb 2001 13:19:09 -0500 (EST)

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Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2001 13:19:09 -0500 (EST)
From: "T. Mike Keesey" <>
To: PhyloCode mailing list <>
Subject: PhyloCode Alphabet

On Wed, 21 Feb 2001, David Marjanovic wrote:

> > I meant to say "most of ours". Apologies to any Chinese systematists
> > reading this. (I hope there are some!)
> So do I, but I doubt it. Lots of people don't know the PhyloCode at all, =
> seems. Let's get more publicity!]

OOC, how many nations are represented on this list? In this exchange we
have the U.S.A. (myself) and Austria (David Marjanovic).

> > I think the article is a good one. Allowing diacritical marks could lea=
> > to confusion. (Suppose two names were identical except that one had a
> > grave over an 'a'? Even worse, if one had a grave and another had an ac=
> > mark?)
> I'd suggest to treat such cases in the spirit of Note 17.1.1., which stat=
> that diaereses can be used, but do not constitute a part of the orthograp=
> so names that don't differ in the actual letters are synonymous:
> "The use of the diaeresis, indicating that a vowel is to be pronounced
> separately from the preceding vowel, is not part of the orthography of a
> name, though it may be included in an established name as an optional
> pronunciation guide."

Oh, I missed that note! Sounds good to me. Only possible problem -- that
people may mistakenly think that the diaeresis is a required part of the
name. Which is hardly a problem at all, now that I think about it.

> BTW, not all pairs of dots on vowels are diaereses. =E4, =F6, and =FC,

(Again, my e-mail reader doesn't render these properly. I see a capital
Sigma, a division sign, and a superscript "n"!)

> at least 2
> of which occur in languages like German, Swedish, Hungarian, Turkish,
> Finnish, Estonian etc., are sounds different from a, o, u and rarely have=
> vowel in front of them. Are these to be treated as diaereses? (One exampl=
> comes to mind -- Donald F. Glut: Dinosaurs. The Encyclopedia, McFarland 1=
> uses *Velocipes guerichi*, *V. gurichi* and *V. g=FCrichi* on the same pa=
ge to
> describe a dinosaur scrap from Germany.)

There's already a standard transliteration for these characters (assuming
they're the characters I think you mean -- remember, I can't read them
properly): ae, oe, ue.

> > Sticking to 26 distinct letters also allows for easier typesetting
> > and, as we've seen here, electronic communication.
> That's why I said "allow" and mentioned Note 17.1.1., which makes the use
> optional. I'm well aware that most people's and publishing companies'
> computers, printers etc. can't write most diacritics!

Well, I guess this doesn't sound too bad. However, there are cases, as in
the above example of _Velocipes_, where I think it should be rendered in
"pure" modern Latin (_V. guerichi_). Using diacritics for these "umlaut"
sounds would change the basic letter content (eliminating the "e").

> I just think the Latin alphabet has some serious disadvantages when
> applied to many languages, because it doesn't have letters for plenty
> of sounds.

There exists a standardized, international alphabet capable of
representing every sound in human languages: the International Phonetic
Alphabet (based primarily on Latin, with a few borrowings from Greek,
etc.) Unfortunately, it's even harder to print and electronically write
using the IPA than it is using the characters you've had as examples.

But there are methods of representing the IPA in ASCII. I think this is
the most popular one (Evan Kirshenbaum's):

Note that under both of these systems, capitalizing words is impossible.

I think the real issue here is easing the transition. If PhyloCode names
were to be represented in the IPA, a lot of names would change from the
way they are represented under current codes (e.g. _guerichi_ -->
_gyriCi_). The current codes use only the standard 26 letters (at least,
the ICZN does -- don't really know much about the others). Having
PhyloCode do the same thing means one less hassle in converting names.

> Just think of the
> various ways to write what is written sh in English... (sch in German, sk=
> Scandinavian languages AFAIK, s in Hungarian where sz is "normal" s, sz i=
> Polish, with one sort of diacritic [the abovementioned "small v"] in near=
> all other Slav languages that don't use the cyrillic alphabet, with anoth=
> one [cedilla] in Romanian and Turkish...) and "zh"...

("zh" [Z] is a different sound (voiced version of "sh" [S]). But you've
certainly given enough examples to make your point.)

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