[Foundation-l] Language Review Committee

Mark Williamson node.ue at gmail.com
Thu Apr 5 03:26:21 UTC 2007

On 04/04/07, Jeff V. Merkey <jmerkey at wolfmountaingroup.com> wrote:
> Mark Williamson wrote:
> >>Then the native speakers who are from the culture that concerns the language
> >>should be the ones setting up the wiki, running the wiki, and deciding
> >>who will or will
> >>not be contributors.  It should not be done by folks who do not speak
> >>the language or do not know the culture.
> >>
> >>
> >
> >They *are* the ones doing this. The discussion here is about
> >restrictions being placed on these people.
> >What we *are* discussing is whether or not these people should be
> >burdened with translating LanguageBat-ltg.php before they even get
> >their own Wikipedia. Nothing more, nothing less.
> >
> >
> >
> Completing a language file is reasonable and must be done.  Period.
> There are XML dumps and other
> logostics reasons why this makes sense.

Nobody in the past was required to do it _before_ they could start a
Wikipedia. I'm not sure why we need that requirement now. It's
certainly possible to extract the messages from
post ipso facto. Translating the messages via the MediaWiki namespace
is certainly a lot less 'technical' and is going to be a lot easier
with little technical experience to do.

I remember when a user wanted to translate the LanguageXX.php into
Breton, I had to walk him through certain parts (for example, the
Breton language uses an apostrophe as part of a trigraph, c'h, and you
have to type c/'h or it will think that's the end of the message).

> >>By way of example, there's a lot of Dine folks who are interested in working
> >>on Wikipedia projects,  but in my discussions with them, they have
> >>little interest in
> >>getting involved with non-natives with their language, and a lot of it
> >>deals with control issues
> >>and the lack of desire to interact with people outside of their culture.
> >>
> >>
> >
> >If they wish to work on the Navajo Wikipedia, I would see no problem
> >with finding a suitable sysop who is a native speaker of that
> >language, and if they wish I would be willing to leave right away.
> >There is no need to deal with non-speakers or non fluent speakers or
> >"outsiders".
> >
> >
> I don't think it is all on you, and the issue goes beyond having admins
> who are not speakers.  Dine people
> have an aversion to dealing with what they term "white culture".  They
> would look at it more like "Do I want
> to help Wikipedia take in money by using our language without our
> consent".   There's also the whole elder
> authority thing to deal with as well.  60 year old Dine speakers are not
> going to hang around long if they get
> chased around by trolls and 18 year old admins.

Well, there are several things here.

1) Perhaps certain people have an aversion to "white culture", but
there are many urban Navajo (in Flagstaff, Phoenix, and
Albuquerque/Santa Fe) who speak their language but also have no
"aversion" to "white culture" because they must interact with it on a
daily basis.
2) "Wikipedia" (the foundation?) is not making any money from the
Navajo Wikipedia. Note that there are no ads there, and there never
will be. The content is not for sale. It may be used freely by
3) Well, culturally it is important that respect for the opinions of
elders is embedded into policy. However, I see that as a non-issue
because as of yet, I have not heard of any elders with computers. I
knew a woman who said her uncle liked to use her computer to play
solitaire, but in this day and age, many elders are without
electricity, running water, or telephone service, let alone Internet
4) Perhaps arguments can be made about linguistic ownership for
languages like Hopi, with ~4000 speakers or O'odham with ~10000, but
when you cross the threshhold of 50000 or 100000, really, it isn't
something you can claim ownership of anymore. The idea that one person
has control over how far their culture may reach is something that has
been debated in the past, but the idea that one can complain about
their language being used "without their consent" is absolutely
ludicrous when there is a speaker body approaching larger numbers like
that. I have talked to people in the past who showed an interest in
nv.wp. Are their feelings to be denied by a small group of people who
feel it is inappropriate that their language be used anywhere without
their personal consent? What about the fact that certain municipal
documents in Flagstaff are available in their language? I'm sure they
didn't consent to that either. And what about people who genuinely
_do_ use the language for profit? Rather than demonising a NFPO,
perhaps they should pick on the people who make a living teaching
"Navajo culture" and "the Navajo language" to Europeans? (I use quotes
because it is often either a perversion of these or just entirely

> >I'm not sure what your point is here.
> >
> You got the point, you just disagree with it.  That's ok though.

I don't disagree with the idea that cultural sensitivity is important.
I don't disagree with the idea that people cannot be forced to write
content in their language. I do not believe that we should be
purposefully insensitive.

If the Navajo Wikipedia were in Hopi instead, I would understand such
objections because there is a religious basis for them, but the Navajo
language has been used in public documents by Navajo people, many
books have been written in it without a care as to who may buy them
(as opposed to, say, Havasupai, where books in the language are really
only available to tribal members). It's too late to say "oops, wait,
we want to keep our language secret".


Refije dirije lanmè yo paske nou posede pwòp bato.

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