At the blog Catching Flies, L. Shyamal has a very interesting post about the impact of orientalism on the study of the fauna and flora of India. There are all sorts of nice linguistic bits (as well as great images); a sampling:
The Dutch East India Company project of Hendrik van Rheede is exceptional in the nature of collaboration in knowledge production that put Indian traditional knowledge on record and gave local knowledge its due. Rheede came from an enlightened upper class background and it is interesting to see how he viewed other cultures. Rheede worked at a time when Linnaeus’ ideas of binomial nomenclature were still in development. The only labels that he could use were what he could find from local usage. He was aware of local variations both regional and linguistic and recorded them quite carefully. He had copperplate engravings made for printing the illustrations and all of them include local names in their original scripts in the corner.
Linnaeus considered words that came from non-classical languages (Greek and Latin) as ‘barbarous’. He is said to have had reservations about using local names except in the Latinized form as species epithets and only rarely for generic names. Joseph Needham accused Linnaeus of being prejudiced about Chinese knowledge although some later workers have pointed out there is little evidence for this claim.(Cook, 2009) It has been pointed out that Linnaeus used nearly 258 names from Malayalam based on Rheede’s work, the Hortus Malabaricus. (See Jain and Singh 2014 for a list)
We have already seen how Brian Hodgson was a big fan of local names in his descriptions as well as binomials. He was however forced by peer-pressure to shift to the use of Greek and Latin roots.
…The French entomologists Amyot and Serville are quite careful in their use of Sanskrit for insects from India. Redescribing a common northeast Indian bug which they called Lohita, they are careful in indicate the etymology and the association, even transcribing the original Sanskrit.