This article is from ECHO Asia Note #5
Communicating technical information among different language groups is challenging. For example, despite being familiar with the scientific, English and Tagalog common names for eggplant, how might an Asian development worker know what the Indonesians call the same vegetable? Fortunately, at least two excellent web-based resources related to multi-lingual plant nomenclature are available.
Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database
The Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database (MMPND), hosts more than one search engine related to international botanical taxonomy and plant references. It also offers access to a massive collective of indexes, lists and references for a wide range of plant groups including bamboos, vegetables, conifers, palms, fungi and medicinal plants. Associated with the University of Melbourne, MMPND is a one-stop resource for development workers, educators, students, researchers, translators and others whose work might lead them into the often confusing world of international and regional plant names.
One key component of the MMPND is the "On-line Bibliographical Resources" section, which lists links to dozens of sites suited to either professionals or plant enthusiasts. These resources provide indexes, photo galleries, search engines and information sources for dozens of botanical categories including aquatic plants, forage crops, spices and weeds.
For those in need of international and regional plant names, MMPND offers extensive lists in 70 languages, including those in authentic, non-romanized Asian scripts (e.g., Chinese, Thai, Burmese). From Abelmoschus to Zoysia, international names for roughly 500 genera of plants are offered. Additionally, separate indexes of plant names for several Asian languages include Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Nepali, Tamil, Thai, Urdu and Vietnamese.
The following is information from the "Know your eggplants" portion.
Solanum melongena L.
SYNONYM(S) : Solanum melongena L. var. esculentum (Dunal) Nees,
Solanum edule Schumann & Thonning , Solanum esculentum Dunal
TAGALOG : Talong.
TAMIL : Kathiri , Kathirikai, Kattiri.
TELUGU : Vankaya.
THAI : Makhua, Ma khuea yao (Ma khuea yaao, Makhua yao, Makhua yow) ,Makhuachan, Ma khuea khao (Má kĕua kăao, Makhua khao, Ma khua kow, Ma kuah kow).
TURKISH : پاتلیجان) patlıcan), Patlıcan.
UKRAINIAN : Баклажани.
URDU : Baigan.
VIETNAMESE : Cà tim, Cà bat, Cà tin.
VISAYAN : Bringhinas, Tarong.
Michel Porcher, who began developing this valuable on-line resource in 1995, reports that MMPND receives over one million hits per week. With such a vast array of botanical information, that should come as no surprise.
Glossary of Asian Vegetables
Mike Fennema, who works with CRWRC in Laos, recommended another useful website called the Glossary of Asian Vegetables (previously titled Thesaurus of Key Asian Vegetables). Hosted by the Department of Primary Industries for the state of Victoria, Australia, the web-based glossary provides different regional names (in the Latin alphabet) and photos of 74 key Asian vegetables.
The following is the entry for Ceylon spinach (Basella alba, B. ruba, B. cordifolia):
English: Malabar spinach/nightshade, slippery vegetable, basella, vine spinach
Chinese: saan choy, shan tsoi, luo kai, shu chieh
Filipino: alugbati, grana, libato, dundula
Indonesian: gendola, jingga, genjerot, gendolak, genjulak
Japanese: tsuru murasa kai
Malay: remayong, gendola, tembayung
Thai: paag-prung, phalpang, phakplang-yai
Vietnamese: mông toi
Providing multiple Romanized Asian names for 74 species of vegetables is a major undertaking. Since such phonetic spellings are unable to communicate tones and various linguistic nuances, persons familiar with these regional names may find a few limitations. But shortcomings aside, this glossary offers a valuable and concise tool for anyone looking for names and photos for Asian vegetables.
Glossary of Asia Vegetables. This 'material/diagram' is © State of Victoria Department of Primary Industries 2001. Reproduced with permission.http://new.dpi.vic.gov.au/notes/horticulture/vegetables/ag1393- glossary-of-asian-vegetables.
Porcher Michel H. et al. 1995 - 2020, Sorting the names of plants. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database (M.M.P.N.D) - A Work in Progress. Department of Agricultural and Food Systems. Melbourne School of Land and Environment. The University of Melbourne. Australia.Accessed April 16, 2010 http://www.plantnames.unimelb.edu.au/Sorting/List_bot.html.
Mike Fennema, e-mail communication, March 30, 2009.