Adding vernacular names of taxa from Botswana. What writing style is best ?

  1. Do we add singular, plural or both when we add a vernacular name from Botswana in Setswana or one of the other many languages of Botswana.
    I think we should make an effort to add both singulars and plurals.
    Doesnt this make searching for a taxon much easier on inat if both are in the system.
    Though I have found most names in Botswana's languages are singular and plurals have been neglected, sometimes it is hard to search for a siingular word.

I tried to search for nong - a bird in Setswana and came up with nothing. Such a basic word. However I was able to find Dinonyane ( birds).

I've brought up this issue also in a Forum post.

2 Should we write names in a conventional way with the Capital letter only at the start of the word and not at the third letter as linguists seem to love ?
I think we should be writing names as most Batswana write names. With the capital letter only at the beginning.
This is certainly open for debate and discussion !

3 I don't think many people in Botswana use accents in words except linguists.
There may be accents in some dictionaries but if they are not used by ordinary people in their writing should we be using them on iNaturalist ?
Accents are very important in French but I dont think they are in Botswana languages.

Here are example of some Setswana names in iNat.

I found these names for a dusky lark in iNat Se.Botha, Se.Bothê
I suggest we should be adding the names as Sebotha and Sebothe using a more conventional form of writing as used by Mr or Miss Average Motswana in Botswana.

Camel thorn Vachellia erioloba is moGôtlhô in INat. What is wrong with Mogotlho ?
Are we creating iNaturalist for linguists or for normal people ?

I hope this arouses a bit of discussion.
Thank you for considering the issue of simplification of writing styles.

Thank you
Tony Benn ( aka Botswanabugs)

Publicado el 14 de julio de 2023 a las 12:25 PM por botswanabugs botswanabugs


@vandalsen @dewald2 @tuli @setlhare @grant_reed_botswana @robert_taylor @kueda @troos
How do other areas of southern Africa tackle these questions
@tonyrebelo @bartwursten @moira_fitzpatrick @katebraunsd are there similar issues elsewhere ?

Anotado por botswanabugs hace cerca de un año

For your point of searching vernacular names you use nong - Dinonyane but those words concern a group: birds. This obviously should be in plural since it does concern a group. Even in English you would search for birds, mammals or frogs, not bird, mammal, frog. When dealing with species you do look for one specific thing so there the singular form would make more sense. There is only one tree (singular) called Vachellia erioloba or Mogotlho.
I do think you have a point that we can do without the special characters. They are used mainly in theoretical linguistic situations to emphasize pronunciation, not by the general public. It would be a bit like using phonetic symbols in writing English names I reckon,

Gr Bart.

Anotado por bartwursten hace cerca de un año

Dictionaries and publications have their in-house rules and formats, both with regard to accents and diacritical marks. It is standard form to only use one style. There is no real issue with both being used on iNaturalist, esp. for languages where they were used historically, even if that is no longer the fashion. - the different versions would be alternative spellings or forms, and iNat handles them perfectly. You just need to set your default.

((I would recommend that for the Tswana/Setswana names, you set these as blank for default (not Botswana). If Zimb or NW Province use different names, then they can set it as default for their country or province. If there is a lesser known name already for southern Africa, then you can set another as a default for Botswana - currently it should be alphabetical: so first will be default much of the time)).

For iNat the policy in English is simple. Use singular for species, and use plural for higher taxa rankings (at least those with more than one species, but even for those with only one species

i.e. we can have Retzia Buttbushes and Retzia capensis - the only species - as Buttbush.)
I would recommend that you do the same in other languages.
It only takes one use for a user to realize the distinction. Remember that you are not identifying "a bird" but a "bird species". If you know which one, then it is singular, if you dont know which one (i.e. if it is a genus or a family) then it is one of many "bird species". [it does not help that "species" does not change from singular to plural - "specie" is wrong!].

Remember the name refers to the species not the plants, flowers, bulbs or whatever. So you may have a bucket of potatoes, but if you are referring to the species it would be a bucket of Potato if it was just one species, but if there were many then it would be plural: as in "the national soup of Colombia uses 10 Potatoes" (i.e 10 different species).
[note that if I did not use the proper noun for the species, this sentence would have been almost incomprehensible, and definitely confusing].

Anotado por tonyrebelo hace cerca de un año

If I search by typing in a singular group word like lizard or bird in English, happily I go staight to to the plural Aves (birds) or squamata ( lizards) . I can use a singular in a search to find a group name.

I think a person in Botswana or using another African language should be able to do the same and start with a singular to get to the group name. I think he should be able to type in nong or nonyane and get to Aves ( dinonyane). I don't thing singular group words like nong or nonyane should be missing from the iNat dictionary.

2 if Im a tourist and I ask a local 'what's this grass ?'. He might answer seloko or diloko as two possible answers. The visiting tourist shall then type one of these two words not knowing which is singular and which is plural. and make a search on inat. Inat therefore has to cater with plurals and singulars for a particular species to help the inquisitive tourist.

Anotado por botswanabugs hace cerca de un año

Yes Tony but that probably is because in English the singular word is within the plural. In many, if not most other languages the singular/plural rules are not that simple.

Anotado por bartwursten hace cerca de un año

Especially as most search engines use initial letters and capture trailing variants.

Perhaps I should have been more specific. I am talking about the default displayed name. Additional names can be included in the list, but only one can be displayed, and it should be singular. Plural, plant parts (many species have different names for different parts) as well as different names for different uses (e.g. food or medicine, or wooden poles, or chips or bark) can easily be included, and will be found by iNaturalist, but only the default name will be displayed. That default should be the name of the whole organism alive (not any part or derivative), and it should be singular.

In addition, any name should only be applied at the particular level. Thus Bird (including birds, tweets, feathered friends, etc - parts, derivatives, spelling variants) should only be applied at the Class level, and should never be repeated at lower levels. So even though Guinea Fowls are birds, the name bird (or its derivatives) would never be added at this level.

Anotado por tonyrebelo hace cerca de un año

Im understanding now Crows and Ravens will always use plural words for translation so here
The Afrikaans should be plural kraaie rather than singular kraai
I think a corrrection is needed. ( I dont know Afrikaans at all)
I was confused because I saw both Owl and Owls for strigiforms and thought that both plural and singular were acceptable.
I do think both singular and plural words for African species need to be documented since iNat is often the only dictionary for some languages where documentation of local names is taking place, in a systematic way.

Anotado por botswanabugs hace cerca de un año - Genus Corvus Crows and Ravens

Sorry: what are you talking about? One can put "Owl" and "Owls" in the common names, but the default one must be the plural: "Owls". - I thought that I made that clear in the previous paragraph.

If some people muddle up the rules in their language. it is up to those people using that language to sort it out.

Afrikaans is a mess, and I am not touching it or getting involved. Some "places" in Afrikaans are at the level of nature reserve - why should a nature reserve have a special name?

Anotado por tonyrebelo hace cerca de un año

What I've noticed is that the lists of names for taxa on inat have a mixture of singulars and plurals and the inat user and inat has no way of knowing which names are suitable for species (singular) and families/genera ( plural)
I think that when a name is entered into iNat the enterer should tick boxes stating if the name is singular or plural or neither ( like sheep).
Then inat should make two lists,-two columns next to each other, for singulars and plurals.
This would make the name lists of greater value.
I'm using Inat to record names of taxa that I dont think have ever been written down before and documented.
Both singulars and plurals should be recorded on inat and be carefully distinguished.
@kueda @vandalsen

Anotado por botswanabugs hace cerca de un año

iNat wont even allow botanists to include the author names, which technically are part of the scientific name under the botanical code. (Yes they can add them in the justification field).
You can add in the justification field that it is singular or plural or what part of the plant it is, or if it varies between genders or uses or forms, but the bottom line is that iNat is not the ideal place for putting these names. They should rather be collated and published. iNat is not a scientific or social journal - and if you are collecting these names, that ultimately is where they should be going. You are probably better off with a spreadsheet to store these names, with columns for locality, parts, singular/plural/gender, uses and notes. iNat cannot be everything to everyone: it would be too unwieldy.

Anotado por tonyrebelo hace cerca de un año

Thanks @tonyrebelo for bearing with me. Im a slow learner.
The way forward now for me for names in Setswana is to check the names for families, genera and orders and make sure they are plural as they should be and that the correct plural word is used. Then make changes myself or by flagging. It is interesting that plurals are often neglected even in formal lists of vernacular names, when published.
You may be interested in this paper for southern African vernaculars of solifigids. Ill be checking the Botswana
names carefully and looking for more names.

Anotado por botswanabugs hace cerca de un año

In most languages and dictionaries, only the female (or declension) singular is presented. Most language speakers would immediately be able to translate this into the other cases and states, and would know which to use when using the dictionary.
That is why they are "neglected". In some cases they may be too complicated to neglect, and it may have to be spelled out, but I dont know those languages, although in Latin the exceptions to the rules are explicitly listed.

Anotado por tonyrebelo hace cerca de un año

Añade un comentario

Entra o Regístrate para añadir comentarios