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New official Checklist of the birds of Germany sparks debate (1 Viewer)

ZanderII

Well-known member
Direct equivalence between scientific genus / family names, and english genus / family names. So e.g. only species of Passeridae would be called sparrows; if something was called a sparrow, you could have the confidence to know the bird involved is (as the human brain expects) closely related to another bird also called a sparrow.

so you will be busy renaming the Passerellidae then?
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Czech Republic
I think this boils down to personal preference, despite people having the tendency to state their personal preference as some higher principle. We can see already here that several people enjoy the quirks and irrational features of today's languages dragging along centuries of historical baggage while other people approach language as a tool and would prefer it being seen as from the practical point of view; then there is a somewhat separate third type of viewpoints where people just want to continue talking as they are used to and everything else is apparently a personal attack on them.

I am openly a member of the second camp - I consider all impractical aspects of language silly and I would be very much in favor if simplifying grammar to the lowest possible complexity that is necessary to reliably convey meaning. A great example is that in Czech we have "i" and "y", both sound the same and children have to labourosly learn which word has which, because there is no logic and it servers no purpose. Yet if you ever talk about getting rid of this historical relict, you get vigorously attacked by people who obviously take pride in having learned this properly and do not want their greatest life achievement to go to waste ... The problem here is, that this divide is not really bridgeable. The two camps start with different priorities and often just different basic world views, there is really not much of a rational argument to be had here.

Having said that, it is easy to see why I would consider the idea that having multiple names for the same bird is even somewhat better absolutely preposterous and that the fact that American buntings are called sparrows sometimes haunts me in my sleep. Yet after having seen how strongly do people cling to their beloved aggregations of letters, I do not see any hope of any significant change; the most what we can hope for, really, is for things not to be getting worse.
 

Johann Sebastian Bach

Well-known member
I think this boils down to personal preference, despite people having the tendency to state their personal preference as some higher principle. We can see already here that several people enjoy the quirks and irrational features of today's languages dragging along centuries of historical baggage while other people approach language as a tool and would prefer it being seen as from the practical point of view; then there is a somewhat separate third type of viewpoints where people just want to continue talking as they are used to and everything else is apparently a personal attack on them.

I am openly a member of the second camp - I consider all impractical aspects of language silly and I would be very much in favor if simplifying grammar to the lowest possible complexity that is necessary to reliably convey meaning. A great example is that in Czech we have "i" and "y", both sound the same and children have to labourosly learn which word has which, because there is no logic and it servers no purpose. Yet if you ever talk about getting rid of this historical relict, you get vigorously attacked by people who obviously take pride in having learned this properly and do not want their greatest life achievement to go to waste ... The problem here is, that this divide is not really bridgeable. The two camps start with different priorities and often just different basic world views, there is really not much of a rational argument to be had here.

Having said that, it is easy to see why I would consider the idea that having multiple names for the same bird is even somewhat better absolutely preposterous and that the fact that American buntings are called sparrows sometimes haunts me in my sleep. Yet after having seen how strongly do people cling to their beloved aggregations of letters, I do not see any hope of any significant change; the most what we can hope for, really, is for things not to be getting worse.

A beautifully written and erudite post, illustrating that language as an art form is as important as language conveying meaning.

Does your "practical" approach to language leave room for the works of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Tolstoy (for example), or have they simply written a set of cumbersome texts for schoolchild squandering?

Being an old fogey and a lover of the arts, I prefer my bird names to resonate with my own history and culture, so "hedge sparrow" is as acceptable as "dunnock" but "zitting" is an alien verb to me.

Allowing taxonomists into the kitchen of bird-naming is a recipe for disaster, just as national committees who invent and pontificate on language (e.g. those in France and Wales) have produced unpalatable concoctions such as "le weekend" and "teledu".

Your Czech "i" and "y" is similar to the English apostrophe in the zeal it engenders. It's commonly misused, especially when its apostrophe is added to show possession which, of course, is wrong. But most English posters on BF continue its misuse. :-C

Peter
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
so you will be busy renaming the Passerellidae then?
That's the logic, yes; except not me doing so - that would be up to the inhabitants of the region where they're found, to think of a name that doesn't conflict with existing older names for other taxa (same principles of priority as apply in ICZN).
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi Jan,

Yet if you ever talk about getting rid of this historical relict, you get vigorously attacked by people who obviously take pride in having learned this properly and do not want their greatest life achievement to go to waste ... The problem here is, that this divide is not really bridgeable.

I don't know about Czech, but for German, much of orthography was defined by type-setters, who where concerned not just with grammar, but also with making the printed end result both easily legible and aesthetic pleasing.

My suspicion is that it was the extinction of the type-setting trade by the computer publishing revolution that opened the way for academics to stage a coup and assume authority over orthography, as the power balance had shifted in their favour.

I fully understand your annoyance with arbitrary spelling rules, but the German experience really is that once you allow any change of spelling rules at all, you're opening Pandora's box, and you will get a politically-determined end result that does not follow any logic at all, but only reflect the relative power of the quarreling factions.

Regards,

Henning
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I am openly a member of the second camp - I consider all impractical aspects of language silly and I would be very much in favor if simplifying grammar to the lowest possible complexity that is necessary to reliably convey meaning. A great example is that in Czech we have "i" and "y", both sound the same and children have to labourosly learn which word has which, because there is no logic and it servers no purpose. Yet if you ever talk about getting rid of this historical relict, you get vigorously attacked by people who obviously take pride in having learned this properly and do not want their greatest life achievement to go to waste ... The problem here is, that this divide is not really bridgeable. The two camps start with different priorities and often just different basic world views, there is really not much of a rational argument to be had here.

Take a look what Ameticans did with 'English' for similar reasons. Labour becomes Labor. Theatre becomes Theater, Centre becomes Center etc, etc
 

Maffong

Well-known member
Hi Jan,

I fully understand your annoyance with arbitrary spelling rules, but the German experience really is that once you allow any change of spelling rules at all, you're opening Pandora's box, and you will get a politically-determined end result that does not follow any logic at all, but only reflect the relative power of the quarreling factions.

Regards,

Henning
I really don't want to go off on a tangent here, but to me (who never learnt the old spelling) most of the changes eem ver logical indeed. I don't understand how Flusseeschwalbe could ever have been correct or how daß would have been any better than dass. It's obviously a matter of generation and probably a new generation won't have any problems with Nachtschwalbe and Anadyrknutt. But the question remains, who's ever had problems with any of the old names? Where is the necessity of change?

Maffong
 

MJB

Well-known member
Take a look what Americans did with 'English' for similar reasons. Labour becomes Labor. Theatre becomes Theater, Centre becomes Center etc, etc

'Labour' comes from the French, who took the word from Latin where it was spelled 'labor'. American lexicographers therefore had a precedent older than British lexicographers, so they decided they could 'simplify' many words.

However, many words as spelled in Shakespeare's time appear in American English today, unchanged. It seems that in the 18th and 19th centuries, British lexicographers were enamoured of the idea that French cognates often had 'ou' where previously the English words had but 'o', and so they changed many words to give them an air of superiority.

Meanwhile, the Americans lexicographers thought this idea was worthless, and so many American spellings were never changed. Hence, many of those spelling that currently are disparaged are in fact the original British English spellings...

Gyles Brandreth's new book Have you eaten Granny addresses this and many other oddities of English-language conundrums and British English spelling in rather absorbing fashion...
MJB
 

fugl

Well-known member
Direct equivalence between scientific genus / family names, and english genus / family names. So e.g. only species of Passeridae would be called sparrows; if something was called a sparrow, you could have the confidence to know the bird involved is (as the human brain expects) closely related to another bird also called a sparrow.

Closely related to, as opposed to merely looks likes, another bird? I can’t remember how many times I (as an obvious bird watcher) have been asked what those “funny looking ducks” (grebes, coots, cormorants) are called. The human brain is a complex organ with more than one “expectation” and the common tongue belongs to all of us, not just to a few hobbyists.
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi Maffong,

I don't understand how Flusseeschwalbe could ever have been correct

It actually was "Flußseeschwalbe". In my opinion, it's both more aesthetic, and by using the ligature "ß" to mark the end of the syllable, I'm pretty sure it's objectively more easily legible than the modern "Flussseeschwalbe" as well. Perception psychologists could probably quantify the disadvantage of the new spelling, but that's just my suspicion after having read an article about alphabet development a very long time ago. Just an illustration of printer's logic vs. linguistic's logic ...

I could provide some more information on what I meant regarding the lack of logic, but it's really all water under the bridge.

But the question remains, who's ever had problems with any of the old names? Where is the necessity of change?

If you found a committee tasked with standardizing bird names, I'm sure they will never run out of work to do ;-(

Regards,

Henning
 

DMW

Well-known member
Closely related to, as opposed to merely looks likes, another bird? I can’t remember how many times I (as an obvious bird watcher) have been asked what those “funny looking ducks” (grebes, coots, cormorants) are called. The human brain is a complex organ with more than one “expectation” and the common tongue belongs to all of us, not just to a few hobbyists.

I recall one of my university professors giving a lecture in which he made reference to a study on Puffinus puffinus, with the quip "I think we can all guess what that is". I didn't have the heart to tell him (he was an entomologist).

I guess we should rename the Puffins to avoid confusion ;)
 

fugl

Well-known member
I recall one of my university professors giving a lecture in which he made reference to a study on Puffinus puffinus, with the quip "I think we can all guess what that is". I didn't have the heart to tell him (he was an entomologist).

Yeah, that’s a real classic. . .. I remembered P. puffinus was a shearwater but I didn’t recall which one until I looked it up just now.

I guess we should rename the Puffins to avoid confusion ;)

Yes, but to what, that’s the problem? If ever a bird name suited its referent better than Puffin does to Fratercula arctica, I would sure like to know of it! ;)
 
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fugl

Well-known member
'
Gyles Brandreth's new book Have you eaten Granny addresses this and many other oddities of English-language conundrums and British English spelling in rather absorbing fashion...
MJB

Thanks for the book reference. I'll see about finding a copy. . ..
 

Acrocephalus

Well-known member
A few days ago the new "official" Checklist of the birds of Germany was published.
Barthel PH & Krüger T 2018: Checklist of the birds of Germany. Vogelwarte 56: 171-203
I can be found here

However this list has sparked some controversy and there's many things that should be discussed, even though the authors made a statement along the lines of "This list is science, science is not politics and therefore discussion is obsolete", which I think is absolutely wrong!
From what I have heard quite many German birders are unhappy with the outcome of this list, that had been awaited so eagerly for such a long time.

Here's what's new and could be discussed
  • Many German vernacular names have been changed, including very charismatic ones like "Ziegenmelker" (European Nightjar), "Katzenvogel" (Grey Catbird). All names that used to be two words have been changed to one word names, e.g. "Dunkler Sturmtaucher" has become "Dunkelsturmtaucher" or "Großer Knutt" has become "Anadyrknutt"

I am not a native speaker, but some original names are really beautiful even if they refer to something not real. And it’s sad to see some people want to change them to more “correct names”.

Take the example of Gypaetus barbatus, its English name was changed from Lammergeier to Bearded Vulture. And now, the Germans try to change the original name to a translation ‘Bartgeier’. Fortunately, the Dutch and other Germanic languages are keeping the original name.

On this subject and keeping the same species, I noticed that the Arabic name in Wikipedia was changed from ‘Bone breaker’ (as it’s called also in Berber language in the areas where it’s still present in Morocco, and in many Iberian languages) to a translation of ‘Bearded Vulture’. This is even weirder, because while the German name is formed by one word, the new Arabic translation has three words.

On the other hand what about the other German speaking nations or areas. I know this list is Germany’s as it’s clearly shown in the title, but still there should be consultation with the other German-speaking areas as it’s done in the case of German orthography (see: Council for German Orthography).
 

jurek

Well-known member
Another problem is how different countries treat C species like Ruddy Shelduck, Canada Goose etc. Dutch currently include no exotic species in their list (not even Pheasant), Germans have quite clear criteria, while other countries seem to have none whatsoever - and we are talking of contiguous populations.
 

Sangahyando

Well-known member
Take the example of Gypaetus barbatus, its English name was changed from Lammergeier to Bearded Vulture. And now, the Germans try to change the original name to a translation ‘Bartgeier’. Fortunately, the Dutch and other Germanic languages are keeping the original name.
AFAIK it's the other way round, the English name "Bearded Vulture" is a translation of the German term. I don't know how old that one is, might be traditional like Lämmergeier (which is being phased out for reasons related to "political correctness", since conservationists fear it'll give the bird a bad reputation as a sheep killer). It could also have been introduced in the mid-20th century, when they pushed for many name changes for conservation reasons, e.g. bird of prey: "Raubvogel", meaning "predatory bird", to "Greifvogel", meaning "[prey] taking/gripping bird", derived from the verb "greifen" (to grip) and related to the noun "Greif" (griffon).


On this subject and keeping the same species, I noticed that the Arabic name in Wikipedia was changed from ‘Bone breaker’ (as it’s called also in Berber language in the areas where it’s still present in Morocco, and in many Iberian languages) to a translation of ‘Bearded Vulture’. This is even weirder, because while the German name is formed by one word, the new Arabic translation has three words.
Yeah, that sounds really superfluous. I hope that at least in Spanish, they're not thinking of changing that one.
 
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Maffong

Well-known member
Bearded Vulture has already been Bartgeier in Germany for a long time, I don't think anyone ever uses Lämmergeier.

I've recently talked to a fair share of ornithologists (and birders) who are affected by the new list. The new list doesn't have (m)any fans out there ;)
Actually, quite many people are feeling directly offended by it for a matter of (understandable) reasons!
It was astounding to hear how many and severe consequences the decisions for such a list can have for fields like conservation, politics, science and others.

It seems likely that we may soon be hearing further news about the list and I wouldn't be surprised if some decisions will be amended. I'll try and keep you updated.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Bearded Vulture has already been Bartgeier in Germany for a long time, I don't think anyone ever uses Lämmergeier.

I've recently talked to a fair share of ornithologists (and birders) who are affected by the new list. The new list doesn't have (m)any fans out there ;)
Actually, quite many people are feeling directly offended by it for a matter of (understandable) reasons!
It was astounding to hear how many and severe consequences the decisions for such a list can have for fields like conservation, politics, science and others.

It seems likely that we may soon be hearing further news about the list and I wouldn't be surprised if some decisions will be amended. I'll try and keep you updated.


The best thing to do IMO, has already been suggested, just ignore it, it's not written in to law!
 

Maffong

Well-known member
That's the problem: It is used by dozens of institutions. It has many implications in real life and possibly even for laws! If I and others just ignore it, many false and stupid things will happen.

Here are some examples:
Supposedly the new edition of Collins Bird Guide (Kosmos here) is supposedly already printed with new German names. I believe the book and the publisher will suffer from this.

The platform ornitho.de is formally required to follow the new decisions, too. But how do you implement changes that have no followership? If you want to report a Curlew will the entry mask change from "Großer Brachvogel" to "Brachvogel (Großer Brachvogel)"? How senseless is this?

Will fundings for reintroduction schemes for e.g. Ural Owl and Bald Ibis seize, once the species are classified as category C and thus as alien species? Not unlikely! We need a category A2 or something!!!

How are the relationships between different organisations affected? Swiss and Austrian committees are already angry as they have had absolutely no say in the name changes. Nature conservation organisations are pissed, possibly having to explain completely unnecessary changes to names such as 'Ziegenmelker'.

Members of their own committee refused authorship as they felt ignored and duped!
The whole process is so unnecessary, intransparent and inconsistent that there's major tension everywhere.

And this is basically all just because of very few people in charge of these decisions, who think they know better than anybody else and who are too self-indulgent to cooperate or even follow their own rules!
To be clear: I don't think the different committees and organisations are bad per se. I just think some people who made it into these are destroying them and action needs to be taken to throw them out!
 
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