You are welcome to your opinion.You are free to express your opinion. In the
mean time, the request for the Egyptian Arabic Wikipedia has run the process
that is the same for all languages. I have indicated that the language
committee was unanimous in deciding that the Egyptian Arabic Wikipedia
request was eligible.
The process is explicit in that it is until the moment of declaring a
request eligible that discussion is appreciated about a language. The reason
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.
The request for a "Lebanese" Wikipedia is not eligible at this time for two
reasons. The language that is the official language of Lebanon is part of
"North Levantine Arabic", there are more people outside of Lebanon speaking
this language.. There are also no people indicating that they will actively
support this request. Consequently the status of eligible is not granted.
When it comes to "original research", this concept is an issue for the
content of Wikipedia articles. What you call original research would be an
issue for several existing Wikipedias where the language has no fixed
orthography or where there is not even a unifiying dialect or orthography
for that language.
When you state that "worry is an overreaction", my question again is what
gives you the freedom to deny others the freedom to express themselves in
their language. I agree with you that standard Arabic is not dead. It it the
language of religion. The issue is that religion and politics are not a
factor when considering the eligibility of a language. Rather, claims to
deny such a request on political and religious arguments are frowned upon.
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.
In the mean time, every community that represents a language has the freedom
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.
On Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 9:42 AM, Muhammad Alsebaey <shipmaster(a)gmail.com>wrote;wrote:
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 (or
less) see our version of Arabic as written (I do have reservations,
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 accelerate
such an adoption of the spoken language as written? I dont think so. There
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 have
such text, so will probably be the Lebanese, Sudanese, and Morrocan (and
Gerard, you were saying worry over Lebanese is an over-reaction, how about
Morrocan, its approval is under-way as far as I see). I stil strongly see
that as 'original research' and a stand by the WMF to actually support the
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 it
may well be that the partially formed standard for Masry that you speak of
will come to light and somehow get adopted by the respective population,
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
> Hi everyone,
> The following is my belated, rather long, 2 cents regarding the
from Arabic, this is mainly relevant to the
creation of the Masry
> Wikipedia, the Masry Wikitionary proposals (by virtue of the fact that
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
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 my
> 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 languages
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 as
> separate language or a dialect (yeah I am
that ignorant :P ) so from
rules-based linguistic-jargon point of view, I am sadly out of
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 written
> formal Arabic. I simply come to this
conclusion because as an avid
> must have come across only one or two literary pieces written in
'pioneering experimental' works (as one author called his
Also the way of writing is not agreed upon by
egyptians themselves, for
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
I am trying to make here is : For a language/dialect that has
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,
(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 the
> of language separation, granted, I speak something that is not similar
> formal Arabic etymology-wise maybe. However,
there is not one literate
> 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 Arabic).
> 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
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 is
> of socio-political issues at work, taking the Egyptian wikipedia again
> 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 going
> nowhere, it wont be hard to imagine groups interested in promoting this
> 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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