The process is explicit in that it is until the moment
of declaring a
request eligible that discussion is appreciated about a language. The
is that it is not fair to the community supporting and working on such a
proposal to deny them their request at a later stage.
Hmm, I have not suggested that the WMF actually close any approved project,
I am actually, as I said before if you have missed, stating my opinion about
the process, which could be used for approving Saudi, Libyan, Yemeni
languages/dialects in the future (and has already been used to approve
Moroccan). Why do you keep going back to 'closure is not an option' when I
have not requested one?
Rather, claims to
deny such a request on political and religious arguments are frowned upon.
Have I made such a claim concerning religion? I merely mentioned it as one
of the factors standard Arabic lives on, replying to Milos about adoption of
the spoken language as written. You are again putting words in my mouth.
When the standard Arabic language is so vibrant, when you are so certain
that a Wikipedia in other Arabic languages will prove to be a failure, I
would not be concerned about these request for new projects. If you are
afraid that these Wikipedias will detract from the standard Arabic language
and WMF projects that you champion, you have reason to continue agitating
against requests for one of the other Arabic language projects.
Again, I haven't mentioned that these projects will be a 'failure' and
'Standard Arabic will rule all' as you picture it, I will not repeat my
argument, please refer to it in previous discussion.
In the mean time, every community that represents a language has the
to request a project. People have to jump through all kind of hoops to get
to the stage where this request is granted. Freedom is one of the guiding
principles of the Wikimedia Foundation.
That is the second time you mention freedom and that is the second time I
reply, I am contesting the process, not people's freedom to do as they
choose, how does that coincide? unless of course you consider questioning
the language committee process as an infringment upon freedom.
Finally let me be blunt here, I feel you are replying to someone else's
arguments. I understand that you have had a lot of discussions with people
who may have had religious/political goals to forward, and may have not been
the best people to talk with in terms of POV and respecting other people
rights, but in replying to me with what you said to them when I have a
totally different concern would be stereotyping IMHO, if that is the case,
please don't do that, if it is not and I misunderstood, then I apologise for
the above statement.
On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 9:42 AM, Muhammad Alsebaey <shipmaster(a)gmail.com
Thank you for the fascinating insight, linguists are like the
anthropologists of culture :) .
Anyway, my opinion is simple, we may or may not be undergoing a process
where our language is morphing and forming, and we may even in a decade
less) see our version of Arabic as written (I do
or formal Arabic is not dead, as it is the language of the religious text
a heavily religious part of the world, among other factors). However, let
stress again my point, is it the WMF place to take a stand as to
such an adoption of the spoken language as
written? I dont think so.
has never been a published text in Masry in
history, politics, science or
any non-fiction topic AFAIK. The Masry Wikipedia will be the first to
such text, so will probably be the Lebanese,
Sudanese, and Morrocan (and
Gerard, you were saying worry over Lebanese is an over-reaction, how
Morrocan, its approval is under-way as far as I
see). I stil strongly
that as 'original research' and a stand
by the WMF to actually support
adoption of those language as written (as opposed
to leaving that to be
resolved by the respective community). So it may well be that those
languages will become adopted as written at some time in the future, and
may well be that the partially formed standard
for Masry that you speak
will come to light and somehow get adopted by the
until then, I think the WMF should stand on the sideline IMHO.
2008/10/5 Milos Rancic <millosh(a)gmail.com>
> On Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 10:04 AM, Muhammad Alsebaey <
> Hi everyone,
> The following is my belated, rather long, 2 cents regarding the
> > wikipedias for languages/dialects/whatever-you-want-to-call-them that
> > from Arabic, this is mainly relevant to the creation of the Masry
> > Wikipedia, the Masry Wikitionary proposals (by virtue of the fact
Egyptian, and thus I can relate to those two
projects with a better
> of confidence), but probably is still relevant for the proposals that
> subsequently stemmed for Morrocan, Lebanese, Sudanese and more will
> > am sure.
> Thanks for you email, it is a great one! Its content may be used as an
> example on universities: what do one educated non-linguist thinks
> about the situation when new standard languages are in the process of
> creation. I'll write a short paper/essay around your email. (Not here,
> even my email is long :) )
> I see the situation in relation between classic Arabic and regional
> languages very similar to the situation when Romance standard
> languages were born. Few steps behind that is the situation with
> English languages (yes, plural); however, morphological orthography
> very close to the logogramic type (like Chinese; but, instead of
> lines, letters are used) prevents up to some extent orthographic
> diversification. But, such situation can't last for a long time.
> Actually, Scots is already treated as a separate language.
> First, I may suppose that, for example, even Libyan and Egyptian
> spoken Arabic are not mutually understandable. But, if one Libyan may
> understand one Egyptian, it may be be comparable with the situation
> where one Portuguese may understand one Spanish up to some level.
> I would say that the processes which are ongoing in Arab countries --
> are natural. Learning a foreign language to be basically educated is
> not an advantage. It is an advantage at some higher level, but such
> situation leaves many people without the basic education (because they
> are not able or not willing to learn a foreign language). It is much
> easier to learn to write a native language.
> Linguistic standardization is very strongly connected with politics.
> Mostly, it is connected because contemporary linguistics is a 19th
> century invent from Europe; and this was a time of romanticism, when
> the ideology based on premises "one language, one folk, one state[,
> one leader]" was dominant.
> While it is possible to find different examples (Irish nation which
> uses English; Swiss nation which uses four languages), it is true that
> wherever European civilization came -- states are trying to make their
> own ethnicity and their own language.
> At the other side, at the time when language standardization was not
> forced, "natural" processes of language separation were dominant.
> Separated by natural barriers or feudal states barriers, people
> developed separate languages.
> In Europe, especially in Germany and Italy, where small feudal
> countries existed for a long time, a lot of separate language
> varieties exist at the areas of former feuds. For example, I think
> that areas Nuremberg and Hamburg have distinctively separate varieties
> than areas around those cities, without dialect continuum .
> So, there are two separate social (and just because this, linguistic,
> too) processes: when not well connected, wider areas with one culture
> (like the case was with Roman and it is with Arabic), it tends to
> separate to different societies, states, cultures and languages. If a
> lot of different societies and cultures exist on smaller and well
> connected area, they tend to be merged. Of course, opposite historical
> examples may be found: Andorra, Lichtenstein, Monaco, San Marino etc.
> are still separate states, while China is still one.
> > Let me state first though, that even though it will be obvious from
concerns below that I am against such a division (slightly oppose, to
> precise), I have no opinion as to whether
those languages or dialects
> > proponents and opponents would call them) are really separate
> > not. I have some issues and worries, which is what I will expand on
> > but ultimately, I don't know if what I speak is actually classified
> separate language or a dialect (yeah I am
that ignorant :P ) so from
> > specific rules-based linguistic-jargon point of view, I am sadly out
It is hard to give a clear linguistic answer what one language is;
even if we remove all political reasons. There are some obvious cases,
like distinction between Arabic and English is. However, there are a
lot of cases when it is not possible to give a clear answer.
A classic example for comparison of this kind is that spoken languages
in Germany are (or, at least, they were in 19th century) more
different than all Slavic languages between themselves. But, if we
remove political reasons (one German state; a number of Slavic states)
and try to give "a linguistic answer" what are the languages, we
couldn't do that.
Simply, the question "is this a separate language?" is a question of
the type "is the color [in RGB notation] #00xxxx blue or green?". We
are sure that #00FF00 is green and that #0000FF is blue and that they
are separate colors. We may be sure that even #00FF22 is green, while
#0022FF is blue. However, we can't be so sure when we move numbers
closer. Giving a discrete answer to a question which is a product of
our [whichever] bias is sometimes impossible.
> I have read most of the (rather heated) arguments for and against the
> proposals, here is what I understand (from a layman point of view)
> language: I speak Egyptian, which is a form of Arabic, it is not the
> 'formal' Arabic, however, it is only spoken in most of the cases. I
> > the majority of the body of literature written by Egyptians is
> formal Arabic. I simply come to this
conclusion because as an avid
> must have come across only one or two literary pieces written in
> > Arabic as 'pioneering experimental' works (as one author called his
> > Also the way of writing is not agreed upon by egyptians themselves,
example: words that contains the letter Kaaf (ق), I
saw some of the
> who tried writing a word containing it in 'Masry' would keep it as is
> other people would convert it to
'Hamza' as it is actually pronounced
> rather foreign to read. I can safely assume that almost all literate
> Egyptians who read and write in formal Arabic (actually that *is* the
> definition of being literate in Egypt) will find reading their own
> talking language rather alien (kind of ridiculous, but is the case
> > The point I am trying to make here is : For a language/dialect that
been spoken till now for the most part, Wikipedia
turning it into a
language would be 'original research' and
this is what I actually
in Wikipedia Masry, people write as they please,
and the result is
palatable and some times very foreign and
alienating (as a method of
delivering information). I suspect the same would be the case for at
> the Lebanese and Sudanese proposals for example, ditto if there will
> > a proposal for the gulf dialects (Saudi, Yemeni, etc.), the
> Egyptsystemian Sai'di
> > (upper Egypt dialect), etc...
> My father is from the area of Serbia where a distinctive language is
> spoken, Torlak or Shop . Unlike in the case of other geographical
> varieties in the South Slavic area, Torlak is not moribund, it is
> really alive language and speakers of it are actively adopting Serbian
> and Bulgarian words at the substratum of highly Balkanized (see Balkan
> sprachbund ; it's a separate, actually, opposite term from the
> political Balkanizaiton) mixture of Vulgar Latin , Thracian and
> dominantly Slavic languages (of course, Serbian, Bulgarian and
> Macedonian are Slavic languages, but, from the present situation,
> substratum is not based on Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian
> standards). It has no written literature (there are some "examples",
> but they are examples for usage of that language for dialogs inside of
> dramas written in standard Serbian); the situation is analogue as in
> Egypt. A literate inhabitant of Southern and Eastern Serbia has to
> know Serbian standard, a literate inhabitant of Western Bulgaria has
> to know Bulgarian standard; while a literate inhabitant of Northern
> Macedonia has to know Macedonian standard.
> When I was talking with one of the rare people who works on language
> there (a local one), we came to the question why inhabitants (even
> very educated; even professors of Serbian language) are using a
> dialect in all kinds of their communications in school except the most
> formal ones (lectures to high school students). The answer was:
> "Because it is easier to us, we don't need to care about rules."
> This is interesting because of two reasons. First, they care about
> rules, even they don't think so. It is the basic characteristic of all
> communication systems: participants have to follow some rules to be
> able to send an information and understand each other. The second
> issue shows how hard is one language system to speakers of a different
> But, the main difference between the situation in Egypt and in
> Southern and Eastern Serbia is the number of inhabitants. There is
> something between 200.000 and 500.000 people who are speaking Torlak
> (comparing with 76+ millions of Egyptians) inside of three very strong
> educational systems (95%+ comparing with 70%+ in Egypt). Speakers of
> Torlak are surrounded by speakers of standard Serbian, Bulgarian and
> Macedonian; while, AFAIK, there is no such place where standard Arabic
> is a common spoken language.
> In other words, Masri came into the position when it is not in the
> position of "a dialect of a language". It is now a spoken language
> with all cultural attributes of one language except the normalized
> standard (AFAIK, some kind of standard exists, but it is not finished
> The situation where people are able to choose how do they want to
> write is not a stable one. Sooner or later some [more precise]
> standard will start to be followed.
> > My second concern is, I am worried about duplicating the efforts in
> > of language separation, granted, I speak something that is not
> > formal Arabic etymology-wise maybe. However, there is not one
Arabic-speaking person who can claim he understands written
> Egyptian/Lebanese/etc. and not understand formal Arabic (by virtue of
> the above argument that my language is
mostly spoken, and what is
> > schools, and used in everyday written communication is formal
> dont know if it is good, given the already
low participation level in
> area of the world, to let people have
> mini-wiki projects, keeping in mind that all users of those will be
> perfectly comfortable reading the information in the Arabic
> > project.
> How distant are standard Arabic and Masri? Is it possible to make a
> conversion engine between those two languages? If you don't think so,
> what are the reasons?
> I believe (I say that I believe because I didn't prove it :) ) that it
> is possible to make very good conversion engines between similar
> languages (conversion engine between Bokmal and Nynorsk exists, but I
> don't know how good it is). And it is worth of effort. In the case of
> "Arabance" languages and Arabic such efforts may be very well funded.
> If it is not possible, note that Arabic language has the base in more
> than 1 billion of people (including all other Muslim countries); as
> well as Masri has the base in 76+ millions of people. Masri has better
> position than, let's say, Italian. So, the right way for thinking
> about this issue is to concentrate on efforts for spreading education
> and Internet in Egypt and other Arab countries.
> > Finally, I think the division is not purely language related, there
> > of socio-political issues at work, taking the Egyptian wikipedia
> example, there has been a considerable debate in Egypt about getting
language to be adopted writing-wise (and to make the grammar
> solid so as it would overcome the current problems in writing) to
> > the national identity of Egypt, while this proposal is currently
> > nowhere, it wont be hard to imagine
groups interested in promoting
canvassing just to prove their point, do we want to get involved in
> argument? is it wikipedia's place to? isnt such a statement already
Wikimedia creating one of the first bodies of
written text in the
:) As I explained before, every language (in the common sense of the
meaning of the word "language") is a matter of politics, not
linguistics. Even when you don't realize that as an obvious fact.
Arabic is a matter of politics, English is a matter of politics,
German is a matter of politics, French is a matter of politics,
Russian, Italian, Serbian, Croatian, Japanese, Yoruba, Zulu, Mayan...
Linguists are a small minority of inhabitants of some country. They
are not politically relevant to demand new language for new nation.
Also, they are not politically relevant to demand preservation of old
language. If one linguist says one of those things, he is not lead by
linguistics, but by political motives (no matter how positive or
negative those motives may be). While language standardization is a
matter of sociolinguistics, again, it is more about description than
about active involvement in political processes.
> I understand that it may be too late for Egyptian Wikipedia, the
> apparently already in, but I am currently seeing a slew of similar
> proposals,so I thought there should be some kind of discussion
> broader topic and not restricted to the proposal pages. I hope I
this list with this email :).
On our eyes Arabic language is developing into "Arabence" languages,
like Latin did it between the first centuries of the first millennium
and 19th century; and Slavic during the first centuries of the second
millennium. The conditions are now very different. There are Internet,
railroads, highways... You have a lot of possibilities to keep good
things from the fact that the most of educated people from Muslim
world know standard Arabic fluently and you should build your new
local languages to make education more achievable to more people.
And, to say again, your email is a great one. You described very well
the situation in which your society is now because of the birth of new
 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialect_continuum
 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torlak_dialect
 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balkan_sprachbund
 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulgar_Latin
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