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Adjective of Species (SciFi/Biology)

awnlee jawking

I've been writing science fiction for a long time, but not until now have I come across a need for an adjectival form of the noun 'species'. My desk dictionary (one of the condensed versions of the OED) doesn't list one. A google search turned up three candidates, each with a small number of proponents: special, specific and species. None of those alternatives inspire me.

Have any of the other SciFi authors here encountered this issue? What did you use, or did you resort to circumventions?

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP  EzzyB
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

I haven't encountered that issue as an author. I've read a lot of science fiction and I can't recall anything other than species being used in the context you describe.

If you need something more generic, you can try a higher level taxonomic category such as genus.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxonomic_rank

Race is usable for people (sentient) aliens.

Can you give a bit more context for your issue.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Can you give a bit more context for your issue.


A disparate group of non-natives on a planet are comparing their special/species/specific differences.

It's not particularly onerous to use a circumvention and it's probably easiest for readers if I do.

I'm not keen on using 'race'. I wouldn't use 'racial differences' when comparing whales and gorillas.

AJ

REP

@awnlee jawking

Species-specific is the only adjectival form that I am aware of.

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

I'm not keen on using 'race'. I wouldn't use 'racial differences' when comparing whales and gorillas.


No, I wouldn't either. But based on your added context you are dealing with sentient/intelligent aliens that should be classed as people, not animals so race would be appropriate for the context.

Another thing to consider is actual biology. Are they truly separate species or closer various human races or breeds of domestic dogs? How far apart are they, are we looking at an insect, a mammal, a reptile and a fish or a group of one of the above?

Replies:   REP  awnlee jawking
REP

@Dominions Son

so race would be appropriate for the context.

I would tend to disagree. We generally use race to differentiate between human appearance within the homo sapien species.

I would use people to group two intelligent species (i.e., Earth Human and Alien ?) that have a shared/similar concept of what makes a person a person even though their physical appearance may be different.

Replies:   Dominions Son
rustyken

I the above discussion a preference is indicated for for using race when referring to groups of humans that have different characteristics or appearance. Yet when we refer to other animals, such as cattle, we typically use the word breed for the same purpose. Why?

I have done some searching in an attempt to determine the reason. My conclusion was that the use of 'race' was a traditional preference when referring to different groups of humans. It also seemed that 'breed' could be used as an alternative.

Cheers

Dominions Son

@REP

I would tend to disagree. We generally use race to differentiate between human appearance within the homo sapien species.


Except race has been used in the manner I suggest in both science fiction and high fantasy. The term fits for anything that qualifies as people.

Replies:   REP
StarFleet Carl

@REP

Species-specific is the only adjectival form that I am aware of.


Pretty much ditto for me.

If all of the non-natives are sentient and discussing their differences (A is bipedal with bilateral symmetry, B is centauroid, while C is arachnoid), then for ease of reading I'd just use species specific. The problem with special is the second (and more common) pronunciation of that word, which does not have the long e, and would probably confuse the average reader. Spehshul, not speeseal, in other words.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
REP

@Dominions Son

True. It just comes down to how you personally want to perceive its usage.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Although not specifically stated in the story, the 'creatures' have vaguely similar outlines ie one head, two eyes, four limbs etc, but through a process of convergent evolution rather than common ancestors.

AJ

awnlee jawking

@StarFleet Carl

The problem with special is the second (and more common) pronunciation of that word, which does not have the long e, and would probably confuse the average reader.


Yes, I came across that alternative pronunciation in my google search.

IMO the same problem might occur with 'specific'. I suspect most readers won't make the leap back to 'species' despite the context.

AJ

Ross at Play

I would NOT use anything if the meaning I wanted is not listed in my dictionary. That rules out both 'special' and 'specific' for me.
If my dictionary does not list a different spelling to a noun for its adjectival form, I just use the noun. I do not recall anything suggesting doing that might be wrong.
For the word 'species', I expect it is going to sound odd if it is used as an adjective placed in front of the noun it modifies.
My choice would probably be to say, "To hell with minimalism! I am going to use 'different types of species'," or something like that.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

I would NOT use anything if the meaning I wanted is not listed in my dictionary. That rules out both 'special' and 'specific' for me.


That attitude simply doesn't work in writing for certain genres; science fiction, high fantasy, paranormal. In those genre, it is often necessary to invent new words.

Crumbly Writer

I've written about this type of situation many times, and haven't had any problems with using "species", although I'm unclear what you mean by "adjective form". Do you mean like: "What special (emphasis on the "e" rather than on the "c") abilities do you have?"

If you could give us a sample sentence to work with, that would help.

I'm publishing a new book which deals with many competing alien species that are all at war with humans, and I've been frustrated over the lack of alternatives for "species" or "race", so that's a common problem, but I'm not sure there is a specific solution. You might want to make it species specific. Say if the race is Quatrlduck, than the adjective form would be Quatrlduckal. That's pretty straightforward. Otherwise, you're talking about an adjective which describes "having the attributes of a species", which is merely having categories to label specimen by, hardly what you'd be likely to be looking for.

If you insist on an adjective for of species, I'd probably go with special, but modify it so it's clear you don't mean "Ah, isn't he special". I'd add an accent mark, such as "spècial", so readers know the accent is different. Another option is to invent a new word like "specium", such as "What are your specific specium attributes?"

Basically, you're trying to twist English into directions it was never intended to go.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dominions Son

That attitude simply doesn't work in writing for certain genres; science fiction, high fantasy, paranormal. In those genre, it is often necessary to invent new words.

YES. I had not thought about the need to create new words.

Would you agree if I revised my statement to:

If I needed the adjective form of an existing noun, then I would NOT use anything if the meaning I wanted is not listed in my dictionary.


EDIT TO CORRECT MY PREVIOUS NONSENSE:
There are at least two suffixes you could try. CW has already mentioned one, '-al'. There is also '-ic', for example 'demonic'.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I've been frustrated over the lack of alternatives for "species" or "race", so that's a common problem

The only two remotely possible alternatives I found at thesaurus.com were breed and strain.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

The only two remotely possible alternatives I found at thesaurus.com were breed and strain.


Strain is rarely used outside of bacteria and viruses.

Breed is not equivalent to species. It really only applies to variants produced by controlled breeding within domesticated species. Different breeds are not different species. Breeds will vanish in any free breeding population. This is why free breeding stray dogs and cats are all about the same size/weight/appearance world wide.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Strain is rarely used outside of bacteria and viruses.
Breed is not equivalent to species.

AND ... every other word suggested by thesaurus.com is even more useless. :(

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

AND ... every other word suggested by thesaurus.com is even more useless.


As I said before, authors of science fiction and high fantasy are frequently required to invent new words.

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

That attitude simply doesn't work in writing for certain genres; science fiction, high fantasy, paranormal. In those genre, it is often necessary to invent new words.


I've invented (although others may have got there first) several new words for the story, although the meanings are either obvious or it isn't necessary for readers to know. Somehow, inventing a new adjectival form for 'species' just seems wrong. Using the noun itself as its own adjective, as Ross and CW have suggested, is a decent option, but I'll probably opt for a multi-word solution in the end.

Thanks for all the replies,

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

A disparate group of non-natives on a planet are comparing their special/species/specific differences.


Personally, I'd go with something along the lines of them discussing 'physical variations' or 'physical differences' and leave it at that.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Personally, I'd go with something along the lines of them discussing 'physical variations' or 'physical differences' and leave it at that.

Even if "racial" doesn't fit, "racial types" might. Thus if you're talking about a particular alien species, they might break down into separate 'racial types' with distinctive features (ex. antenna, twelve-legs, two-heads or tentacles instead of sex organs.

EzzyB

@awnlee jawking

I've been writing science fiction for a long time, but not until now have I come across a need for an adjectival form of the noun 'species'.


I suppose, because you are writing in English, and, therefore, for us mere Earthmen, you would use something anthropological?

Mammalian species, insectoid species, avian species, or something like that.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@EzzyB

A crude example whipped up to illustrate what I've been saying very badly :(

The overbots examined the two of us, comparing our special/specific/species differences. As a human, I had four fingers and a thumb on each hand. As a Dryllian, Lytylla had three fingers and two thumbs.

AJ

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

The overbots examined the two of us, comparing our special/specific/species differences.

I would try to simply that, probably:
The overbots examined us both, comparing the differences between ... species.
The ellipses could be the/our/the two/our two

ustourist

@awnlee jawking

I would just have used 'physical' or 'visual' to replace the 'species'. Provided the general similarity in appearance is mentioned beforehand, I would think most would comprehend, and that should be easy to slip in somewhere.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

A crude example whipped up to illustrate what I've been saying very badly :(

The overbots examined the two of us, comparing our special/specific/species differences. As a human, I had four fingers and a thumb on each hand. As a Dryllian, Lytylla had three fingers and two thumbs.

I thought the specific example you were struggling with would allow us to better address the issue.

In this example, you'd clearly want "species differences". "Special" only works in spoken references, since there's little to differentiate special, meaning specific to a species, and "special", meaning that 'nice young disabled boy on the corner'. Specific isn't much better. But ustourist probably has the best option, avoiding the issue entirely since the overbots aren't particularly interested in species specific differences, but instead on the more obvious physical differences, though that may not help with the same issue further on in the story.

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

"Special" only works in spoken references,

I go to a store where reduced price items are called a Managers Special. Special in the same sense as Special Education, where the kids are slow (is that still politically correct?) Even at reduced prices the managers are kind of slow to think anyone would want to buy the "special" items.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@richardshagrin

What species are the managers? Or is that too specific a question?

AJ

garymrssn

From your example, I believe the correct adjective is heterospecific.

"The overbots examined the two of us, comparing our heterospecific differences."

Replies:   awnlee jawking  REP
Dominions Son

Hetero" means "same", so "heterospecific" means


No hetero means different, homo means same.

The term heterospecific is already used in zoology.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/heterospecific

awnlee jawking

@garymrssn

From your example, I believe the correct adjective is heterospecific.


Thank you. I love it! What a great word, and reasonably self-explanatory.

AJ

REP

@awnlee jawking

The overbots examined the two of us, comparing our special/specific/species differences.


Try physical instead of the options you indicated. It is what they are comparing. To specifically indicate difference between species rather than individuals, you could say: ... comparing the physical differences between our species.

REP

@garymrssn

Accurate, but it will probably cause some of his readers to grab their dictionary.

Replies:   Ross at Play  garymrssn
Ross at Play

@REP

probably cause some of his readers to grab their dictionary

I would not find it in either my Oxford dictionary or dictionary.com.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

I would not find it in either my Oxford dictionary or dictionary.com.


Likely because it's technical jargon from the field of zoology.

Replies:   Ross at Play
garymrssn

@REP

Accurate, but it will probably cause some of his readers to grab their dictionary.


Some readers, including myself, consider that a plus. We must all do our part in the fight against illiteracy.(.Y.)

Replies:   REP
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Likely because it [heterospecific] is technical jargon from the field of zoology.

Sure.
I am content when writing and reading fiction for a variety of ways to be used so that readers can interpret words correctly.
1. words are listed in large everyday dictionaries with the meaning the author intends explicitly listed.
2. words are easily understandable by readers as inventions by the author.
3. words specific to a particular genre of fiction. I'm sure sci-fi authors use a lot of those.
4. words built from everyday words and commonly used prefixes and suffixes.

BTW, there is a quite extensive list of prefixes and suffixes at this website, http://www.prefixsuffix.com/rootchart.php?navblks=1011000

I'm comfortable with an author assuming readers will know "hetero" means 'different kinds'.
I doubt as a reader I could see "specific" used in a word I cannot look up easily and guess it has been derived from "species".
I'm not suggesting the author does this, but I'm sure that as a reader I'd have a better chance of correctly interpreting their meaning if they invented "heterospecies". I think that gives me some chance of guessing correctly, but heterospecific does not.

REP

@garymrssn

True, I looked up the definition instead of guessing at its meaning for the context.

madnige

@awnlee jawking

The overbots examined the two of us, comparing our phenotypic differences.


- or phenotypical, both seem to be used

relating to the observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@madnige

It's not my field but, in my limited experience, comparing phenotypes implies two representatives of different populations of the same species, although it may be done with a view to erecting a new species or subspecies etc.

AJ

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