Sharing taxonomic information in a multilingual environment

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Making Taxoboxes multilingual[edit]

The description of organisms is a large part of the content of all the wikipedia's. They all have a dog a cat an elephant. As the wikipedia's become more mature, an elephant becomes an Asian elephant, it gets a latin name. Getting the data on all organisms is a LOT of work.

One of the resources for presenting information is using a "taxobox". In the taxoboxes currently in use, you find the name of the organism and the higher taxonomic ranks to which an organism belongs. As there are millions of species around, it is a lot of work to translate all available taxoboxes. Not only that, the taxons are to be translated individually for all languages that want to use them.

In order to help with the translation of the taxoboxes, I have created MediaWiki messages in the de: en: and nl: wikipedias. The name of these messages are the latin names of the taxons and, the content is the link to the article that can be used for the discription of that taxon. As a consequence the translation of the nl:pos was a snap. I uploaded the picture, copied in the taxobox and now there is a en:ruffe and a de:Kaulbarsch. Well it was the first one so it was not the snap I wanted it to be, but now it does work well. (I used the standard as used in the nl:wikipedia for this fish.)

The Status messages can become part of this initiative..

Follow up[edit]

If language independent taxoboxes are considered to be a good idea, it may be possible to convert the current taxoboxes with a robot to be language independent.

Taxonomic lists ready for multilingual use[edit]

When a taxon like a family is described, often all descending taxons like genera and species are described as well. The format in which this is done makes a lot of difference when translating. A typical list lookst like this:

  • Family: Familyname
    • Genus: Genus1
      • Species: animal1 - Genus1 species1
      • Species: animal2 - Genus1 species2
      • Species: animal3 - Genus1 species3
    • Genus: Genus 2
      • Species: animal4 - Genus2 species1
      • Species: etc

The translation of this list is a royal pain in the bud. The first reason is that all these "animals" have another vernacular name in a different language while the latin stays the same. Tne species are often sorted alphabetically and the sorting goes wrong as a consequence. Therefore I propose to create taxolists like below:

  • Family: Familyname
    • Genus: Genus1
      • Species: Genus1 species1 - animal1
      • Species: Genus1 species2 - animal2
      • Species: Genus1 species3 - animal3
    • Genus: Genus 2
      • Species: Genus2 species1 - animal4
      • Species: etc


The English wikipedia has many sensible standards in their Tree of Life. I think most are of a quality that they can be adopted as a standard for other wikipedia as well. Some however do not translate well. Practices do differ in the wikipedia's.


As my proposal is to get some coordination about taxonomy going, I would unvite you all for discussion on the subject. As I would like participation by people from all wikipedia's on the subject I think the meta-wiki is therefore the most logical place.

  • Subject: Is making the taxoboxes language independent a good idea, what more needs to be done?
  • Subject: What common standards to adopt for taxonomy?