Message 2001-02-0087: Re: David M's orthography question

Thu, 22 Feb 2001 00:06:14 +0100

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Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 00:06:14 +0100
From: David Marjanovic <>
To: PhyloCode mailing list <>
Subject: Re: David M's orthography question

> The article appears to draw heavily from the botanical code's rules on
> orthography. The rule is restrictive with regards to diacritical marks
> because they are not a part of the Latin language, and it is generally
> assumed  that scientific names of organisms are to be written in Latin
> (Principle V of the botanical code [...]).

Same, AFAIK, for the zoological code.

> If the code were to allow more flexibility with regards to
> orthography, we might end up with scientific names being not so much Latin
> but representing some sort of Esperanto.
> (well that's the thinking, although when we start incorporating
> non-Latin words into Latin things get messy)

This is what has already been happening for quite some time, at least in the
zoological code. Just a few examples -- there is a fossil snake from
Australia called _Wonami naracoortensis_, an enormous pterosaur
_Quetzalcoatlus northropi_, a Middle Triassic erythrosuchian [for those
unfamiliar with basal archosaurs: imagine a crocodile-Komodo monitor hybrid
that's running after you] from Russia called _Vjushkovia_, an odd Middle
Jurassic mammal that was found near the village of Ambondromahabo in
Madagascar and is therefore called _Ambondro mahabo_, a
bird-or-something-similar from Australia called _Kakuru kujani_... yes,
Latin letters are used, but one can't argue that these examples are by any
means Latin, and some of them aren't even Latinized in the least.

> By sticking with Latin, the
> orthography rules can stay fairly simple, since established Latin custom
> be followed .

What orthography rules?

> The umlaut is not used in the Latin language.

True. (Otherwise the Romans would probably have invented letters for these.)

> Indeed to the best of my
> knowledge the only special character that is used in Latin is the

The joke is, the Latin in which, say, Systema Naturae is written is quite an
artificial thing. True classical Latin didn't use any signs other than pure
letters; y and z were only used in Greek loan words and therefore were rare,
j didn't yet exist (and originated as a calligraphic version of i), neither
did u, and w was invented very late for Germanic loan words.

> Since diacritical marks do not generally occur in Latin, Latinizing a name
> requires the suppression of the marks along with transcription as needed.
> your Gürich example, the epithet would be converted to "guerichi" (I
> botanists would write "guerichii"). If there is one place where the
> PhyloCode can follow the other codes' lead I suspect it is orthography!

No problems with _Velocipes guerichi_ (it's a practically useless scrap
anyway, nobody would name such a thing nowadays), but real, consequential
Latinizing is rare. I can only think of one example (in my limited knowledge
of names of extant species), the wombat genus _Vombatus_. It wouldn't be
possible in many cases -- as I lamented, there was no sh in Latin, but in
spite of this we have the above _Vjushkovia_, the Mongolian probable-bird
_Shuvuuia_ (shuvuu meaning bird), the Chinese dinosaur _Mandschurosaurus_
(apparently modeled after German, which has another problem in this case, as
I think this dsch should represent a voiced j)..., and nobody AFAIK has

AFAIK, the zoological code requires the emendation of unnecessary -ii
into -i (in accord to Latin grammar), doesn't it?


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