Leveraging Linnaean lingo in a loglang
|Date:||Wednesday, November 26, 2008, 14:33|
The Latin translation thread reminded me of a minor issue that I had
encountered while trying to borrow a certain word for my loglang-ish
conlang. The roots in my loglang are mostly 'a posteriori' and largely of
Latin origin. In order to assign a precise meaning, each loglang root that
names living things is selected to be morphologically unique, and pegged by
definition to the biological taxon to which the Latin (often New Latin)
source word is also pegged in Linnaean taxonomy. Here a few example roots
from the loglang:
"ariete" = domestic sheep = member of species 'Ovis aries'
"leone" = lion = member of species 'Panthera leo'
"kabalo" = horse = member of 'Equus caballus'
(The variation comes partly from the fact that the loglang root is based on
the stem, rather than the nominative singular of the L. source word, and
partly from standard borrowing rules.) More often than not, roots naming
living things are pegged to taxa higher than species:
"api" = honey bee = member of genus 'Apis'
"formicida" = ant = member of family 'Formicidae' (< L. "formica")
"anuro" = frog or toad = member of order 'Anura'
"avi" = bird = member of class 'Aves'
"animali" = animal = member of kingdom 'Animalia'
I want to point out that, for a whole host of reasons, I am not attempting
to provide a root for *every* taxon or species. I am not attempting to
achieve a perfect correspondence (that can be done by quoting the binomial
directly). What I am attempting to do is to provide a large number of 'a
posteriori' roots naming commonly encountered living things, and to define
them with scientific precision. So far, the loglang has a couple hundred
roots of this sort. The meanings of many Linnaean names are reasonably
close to those of the L. source words, which is desirable, as having
predictable meanings is supposed to be the main benefit of an 'a posteriori'
Sometimes the L. source word is scientifically assigned to a lower taxon
than one might have wished. For example, the L. word "Formica" meaning
"ant" scientifically refers to a particular genus of ants, not to ants in
general. In other cases, the L. source word is assigned to a higher taxon.
For example, L. "Equus" meaning "horse" refers to a genus that includes
zebras. Regardless, the loglang root is, in all reasonable cases, borrowed
from the taxon name, which may be either some suffixed New Latin scientific
term (e.g. "Formicidae") or something else (e.g. "caballus", which is
actually a good L. source word in this case).
Sometime the system fails. For example, domestic dogs are members of the
subspecies 'Canis lupus familiaris'. In the system under consideration,
"kane" would have to mean members of the genus including wolves, coyotes,
and jackals and "lupo" would clearly have to mean wolves, which technically
includes dogs. I suppose that "familiari" here is a candidate term for
"dog". But I'm not prepared to call dogs "familiari" in the loglang, so I
call them "hunde" (from German "Hund"). It's not a perfect system.
Incidentally, the loglang word "homine" means "human being" and is pegged to
the genus 'Homo'. By definition, this word can refer to individuals of
extinct 'H.' species as well as modern human beings. In the loglang, the
adjective "humano" (= pertaining to human beings) and the nouns "femina" (=
girl, woman) and "viro" (= boy, man) are pegged to "homine" and therefore
partly defined by this system. At first, I thought that I would need a
special word for modern 'H. sapiens', but seemingly this is not the case.
After a little reflection, it seems to me that "homine" does what needs to
be done, and that a separate word for 'H. sapiens' adds little value to the
loglang. One of the interesting things about conlang vocabulary design is
exploring semantic boundaries other than the ones set down by your L1 and
challenging which ones are important or not.
(Getting back to the minor problem that I encountered: There is a taxon
that is higher than all other taxa, and it's called "biota", which is a
lexical item of New Latin. I want to borrow this word with the meaning
"living thing". The problem is that I do not know whether it is a neuter
plural or a feminine singular. The evidence seems to point both ways. On
one hand, taxa other than genus are Latin plurals; this points to a neut.
sing. ?"biotum". On the other hand, "biota" seems to be a borrowing of
Greek "biote" (last vowel = eta), which strongly points to a fem. plural
?"biotae". Without knowing which it is, I don't know what the stem is.
Does anyone know what the coiner of "biota" had in mind with respect to the
Latin grammar, assuming he understood what he was doing? I know this sounds
picky, but it annoys me.)