Why have so few Māori or Moriori names been used in taxonomic description?
- Onewhero, R.D. 2 Tuakau 2697, New Zealand
The listing by Veale et al. (2019) of taxonomic epithets based on te reo Maori and ta re Moriori show that there were very few until well into the 20th century and their approximate total to date of 1288 represents only about 4% of New Zealand species names. The bias against the use of indigenous names can be traced to the preference of eighteenth-century European scientists, and Linnaeus in particular, for their own scholarly languages, Latin and Greek, and their rejection of other languages as “barbarous.” As codes of zoological and botanical nomenclature were developed the European preference for Latin names in taxonomy became formalised and the use of indigenous names was discouraged. The dominance of Latin has only slowly been loosened. The term “barbarous” for names not from Latin or Greek remained in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature until 1956 and the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature until 1961. Since then there have been no restrictions or recommendations in either code on the source or language of new species names, although they are still required to be in Latin form. Taxonomists are thus free to use te reo Maori, ta re Moriori or any language when naming species and in recent years more have been doing so, although the old European preference for imposing Latin names still persists.