Nomenclature is a system of names or terms, or the rules for forming these terms in a particular field of arts or sciences. The principles of naming vary from the relatively informal conventions of everyday speech to the internationally agreed principles, rules and recommendations that govern the formation and use of the specialist terms used in scientific and any other disciplines.
Naming "things" is a part of general human communication using words and language: it is an aspect of everyday taxonomy as people distinguish the objects of their experience, together with their similarities and differences, which observers identify, name and. The use of names, as the many different kinds of nouns embedded in different languages, connects nomenclature to theoretical linguistics, while the way humans mentally structure the world in relation to word meanings and experience relates to the philosophy of language.
Onomastics, the study of proper names and their origins, includes anthroponymy ; toponymy and etymology as revealed through comparative and descriptive linguistics.
The scientific need for simple, stable and internationally accepted systems for naming objects of the natural world has generated many formal nomenclatural systems. Probably the best known of these nomenclatural systems are the five codes of biological nomenclature that govern the Latinized scientific names of organisms.
EtymologyThe word nomenclature is derived from the Latin nomen, and calare. The Latin term refers to a list of names, as does the word nomenclator, which can also indicate a provider or announcer of names.
Onomastics and nomenclatureThe study of proper names is known as onomastics, which has a wide-ranging scope that encompasses all names, languages, and geographical regions, as well as cultural areas.
The distinction between onomastics and nomenclature is not readily clear: onomastics is an unfamiliar discipline to most people, and the use of nomenclature in an academic sense is also not commonly known. Although the two fields integrate, nomenclature concerns itself more with the rules and conventions that are used for the formation of names.
Influence of social, political, religious factorsDue to social, political, religious, and cultural motivations, things that are the same may be given different names, while different things may be given the same name; closely-related similar things may be considered separate, while on the other hand significantly different things might be considered the same.
For example, Hindi and Urdu are both closely related, mutually intelligible Hindustani languages. However, they are favored as separate languages by Hindus and Muslims respectively, as seen in the context of Hindu-Muslim conflict resulting in the violence of the 1947 Partition of India. In contrast, mutually unintelligible dialects that differ considerably in structure, such as Moroccan Arabic, Yemeni Arabic, and Lebanese Arabic, are considered to be the same language due to the pan-Islamism religious identity.
Cultural nomenclatureNames provide us with a way of structuring and mapping the world in our minds so, in some way, they mirror or represent the objects of our experience.
Names, words, language, meaningElucidating the connections between language, meaning, and the way we perceive the world has provided a rich field of study for philosophers and linguists. Relevant areas of study include: the distinction between proper names and proper nouns; as well as the relationship between names, their referents, meanings, and the structure of language.
Folk taxonomyModern scientific taxonomy has been described as "basically a Renaissance codification of folk taxonomic principles."
Formal systems of scientific nomenclature and are exemplified by biological classification. All classification systems are established for a purpose. The scientific classification system anchors each organism within the nested hierarchy of internationally-accepted classification categories. Maintenance of this system involves formal rules of nomenclature and periodic international meetings of review. This modern system evolved from the folk taxonomy of prehistory.
Folk taxonomy can be illustrated through the Western tradition of horticulture and gardening. Unlike scientific taxonomy, folk taxonomies serve many purposes. Examples in horticulture would be the grouping of plants, and naming of these groups, according to their properties and uses:
- annuals, biennials and perennials ;
- vegetables, fruits, culinary herbs and spices ;
- herbs, trees and shrubs ;
- wild and cultivated plants ; and
- weeds, etc.
Ethnographic studies of the naming and classification of animals and plants in non-Western societies have revealed some general principles that indicate pre-scientific man’s conceptual and linguistic method of organising the biological world in a hierarchical way. Such studies indicate that the urge to classify is a basic human instinct.
The levels, moving from the most to least inclusive, are:
- "unique beginner" — e.g. plant or animal. A single all-inclusive name rarely used in folk taxonomies but loosely equivalent to an original living thing, a "common ancestor"
- "life form" — e.g. tree, bird, grass and fish. These are usually primary lexemes loosely equivalent to a phylum or major biological division.
- "generic name" — e.g. oak, pine, robin, catfish. This is the most numerous and basic building block of all folk taxonomies, the most frequently referred to, the most important psychologically, and among the first learned by children. These names can usually be associated directly with a second level group. Like life-form names these are primary lexemes.
- "specific name" — e.g. white fir, post oak. More or less equivalent to species. A secondary lexeme and generally less frequent than generic names.
- "varietal name" — e.g. baby lima bean, butter lima bean.
In keeping with the utilitarian view other authors maintain that ethnotaxonomies resemble more a "complex web of resemblances" than a neat hierarchy.
Names and nounsA name is a label for any noun: names can identify a class or category of things; or a single thing, either uniquely or within a given context. Names are given, for example, to humans or any other organisms, places, products—as in brand names—and even to ideas or concepts. It is names as nouns that are the building blocks of nomenclature.
The word name is possibly derived from the Proto-Indo-European language hypothesised word nomn. The distinction between names and nouns, if made at all, is extremely subtle, although clearly noun refers to names as lexical categories and their function within the context of language, rather that as "labels" for objects and properties.
Personal namesHuman personal names are presented, used and categorised in many ways depending on the language and culture. In most cultures it is customary for individuals to be given at least two names. In Western culture, the first name is given at birth or shortly thereafter and is referred to as the given name, the forename, the baptismal name, or simply the first name. In England prior to the Norman invasion of 1066, small communities of Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavians generally used single names: each person was identified by a single name as either a personal name or nickname. As the population increased, it gradually became necessary to identify people further—giving rise to names like John the butcher, Henry from Sutton, and Roger son of Richard…which naturally evolved into John Butcher, Henry Sutton, and Roger Richardson. We now know this additional name variously as the second name, last name, family name, surname or occasionally the byname, and this natural tendency was accelerated by the Norman tradition of using surnames that were fixed and hereditary within individual families. In combination these two names are now known as the personal name or, simply, the name. There are many exceptions to this general rule: Westerners often insert a third or more names between the given and surnames; Chinese and Hungarian names have the family name preceding the given name; females now often retain their maiden names or combine, using a hyphen, their maiden name and the surname of their husband; some East Slavic nations insert the patronym between the given and the family name; in Iceland the given name is used with the patronym, or matronym, and surnames are rarely used. Nicknames are informal names used mostly between friends.
Common names and proper namesThe distinction between proper names and common names is that proper names denote a unique entity e.g. London Bridge, while common names are used in a more general sense in reference to a class of objects e.g. bridge. Many proper names are obscure in meaning as they lack any apparent meaning in the way that ordinary words mean, probably for the practical reason that when they consist of Collective nouns, they refer to groups, even when they are inflected for the singular e.g. "committee". Concrete nouns like “cabbage” refer to physical bodies that can be observed by at least one of the senses while abstract nouns, like “love” and “hate” refer to abstract objects. In English, many abstract nouns are formed by adding noun-forming suffixes to adjectives or verbs e.g. "happiness," "serenity," “concentration.” Pronouns like "he", "it", "which", and "those" stand in place of nouns in noun phrases.
The capitalization of nouns varies with language and even the particular context: journals often have their own house styles for common names.
-onym nounsDistinctions may be made between particular kinds of names simply by using the suffix -onym, from the Greek ónoma. So we have, for example, hydronyms name bodies of water, synonyms are names with the same meaning, and so on. The entire field could be described as chrematonymy—the names of things.
ToponymsToponyms are the names given to places or features of a particular district, region, etc. This could include planets, countries, cities, towns, villages, buildings etc.; it can be further divided into specialist branches: hodonymy, the names of streets, roads, and the like; hydronymy, the names of water bodies; and oronomy, the names of mountains. Toponymy has popular appeal because of its socio-cultural and historical interest and significance for cartography. However, work on the etymology of toponyms has found that many place names are descriptive, honorific or commemorative but frequently they have no meaning or the meaning is obscure or lost. Also the many categories of names are frequently interrelated. For example, many place-names are derived from personal names, many names of planets and stars are derived from the names of mythological characters, and many personal names are derived from place-names, names of nations and the like.
Nomenclature, classification, identificationIn a strictly scientific sense, nomenclature is regarded as a part of taxonomy. Moreover, the precision demanded by science in the accurate naming of objects in the natural world has resulted in a variety of international nomenclatural codes.
Taxonomy can be defined as the study of classification including its principles, procedures and rules, while classification itself is the ordering of taxa into groups based on similarities or differences. Doing taxonomy entails identifying, describing, and naming taxa, therefore nomenclature, in the scientific sense, is the branch of taxonomy concerned with the application of scientific names to taxa, based on a particular classification scheme, in accordance with agreed international rules and conventions.
Identification determines whether a particular organism matches a taxon that has already been classified and named – so classification must precede identification. This procedure is sometimes referred to as determination.
BiologyAlthough Linnaeus’ system of binomial nomenclature was rapidly adopted after the publication of his Species Plantarum and Systema Naturae in 1753 and 1758 respectively, it was a long time before there was international consensus concerning the more general rules governing biological nomenclature. The first botanical code was produced in 1905, the zoological code in 1889 and cultivated plant code in 1953. Agreement on the nomenclature and symbols for genes emerged in 1979.
AstronomyOver the last few hundred years, the number of identified astronomical objects has risen from hundreds to over a billion, and more are discovered every year. Astronomers need universal systematic designations to unambiguously identify all of these objects using astronomical naming conventions, while assigning names to the most interesting objects and, where relevant, naming important or interesting features of those objects.
ChemistryThe IUPAC nomenclature is a system of naming chemical compounds and for describing the science of chemistry in general. It is maintained by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
- the Blue Book and the Red Book: the two publications containing the rules for naming organic and inorganic compounds.
- the Green Book, contains recommendations for the use of symbols for physical quantities
- the Gold Book, defines a large number of technical terms used in chemistry.