[Foundation-l] Conlangs, ancient languages, non-active Wikipedias, non-written languages and priorities

Milos Rancic millosh at gmail.com
Sun Apr 13 04:17:52 UTC 2008

Conlangs and ancient languages are usually treated similarly. The
issues which are related to them are, also, our relation to
non-written languages, as well as non-active Wikipedias (note that I
am not talking about other projects; treat the word "project" as a
synonym for the word "Wikipedia"). All of them don't have a clear
future at Wikimedia.

I would like to reformulate those issues in relation to our
priorities. The main goal of WMF and Wikimedia community is to spread
free knowledge. According to that, we need to make our priorities and
to work according to them. It is, also, important to treat this issue
without personal (or whichever) POV, but as more neutral as it is
possible. We should, also, treat those issues not only synchronically,
but with a clear vision of some very predictable parts of our future.

So, I'll write about our priorities as I see them according to "some
very predictable parts of our future" as I see them.

Before I start, I want to say my POV about all of the issues: (1) I
don't think that conlangs except Esperanto and a couple of specific
conlangs more are too useful. Besides that, I really don't like
wannabe-world languages based on a couple of Indo-European languages,
including Esperanto. (2) Artistic conlangs are, at my opinion, even
lower. (3) I am not interested in developing neo-classical languages.
(4) In this moment non-written languages are not a Wikimedia issue;
some other institutions should take care about such languages before
they become our issue. (5) I already said that if for some project may
be reasonably said that it is not active ("reasonable" is a criteria
about we may talk...) -- then it should be locked, but unlocking
should be allowed if a new speaker of that language want to take care
about that project.

But, let's see what do we have:

1. (Projects in) natural and living languages:
1.1. The biggest encyclopedia in the history of humans: English Wikipedia.
1.2. Very soon, the second biggest encyclopedia in the history of
humans: German Wikipedias.
1.3. Well developed projects which are at a good path to become the
biggest encyclopedias in the history of humans, too. Generally, those
are projects which have more than 50,000 articles or which will have
that number relatively soon.
1.4. Emerging projects: active projects with, let's say at least 5000
articles and living communities.
1.5. Projects which started to exist: projects with around 1000
articles at least and a a couple of active contributors.
1.6. Not active projects which may become active: with less than
around 1000 articles and a couple of not so active contributors.
1.7. Not active projects: with less than around 1000 and without
active contributors.
1.8. Hundreds of living written languages which don't have a Wikipedia.
1.9. Thousands of living non-written languages which don't have a Wikipedia.

2. (Projects in) conlangs:
2.1. Two useful projects: Esperanto (the only relevant conglang
community) and Volapuk (similarity with English and a lot of data
added by one person).
2.2. (Do we have any other non-artistic conlang?)
2.3. A number of potentially useful conlangs which don't have a
Wikipedia because of various out-of-Wikimedia reasons, usually
copyright reasons. (Slovio is an example of such language; it may be
read by any educated person which native language is one of the Slavic
2.4. All other non-artistic conlangs which wouldn't get a project
because of the policies.
2.5. All artistic conlangs which wouldn't get a project because of the policies.

3. (Projects in) ancient/dead languages:
3.1. Actually, some of them are not dead (Latin, even a Church
Slavonic, but the later one doesn't have a project, Old Church
Slavonic has). Such are definitely useful: any educated Roman Catholic
(in the Roman Catholic matters) should know Latin.
3.2. Some of definitely dead languages, like Gothic, Anglo-Saxon...
3.3. A number of them which don't have projects because of our policies.

And, I'll try to put them in one priority list, with explanations.

1) 1.1. English Wikipedia is definitely our first priority. This is
not because I like English, but because of the fact that it is a
lingua franca of the contemporary world. If you have some knowledge
written in English, you may easily have that knowledge in other
languages, too. However, this project may take care about itself.
2) 1.2. German Wikipedia is at the same priority as the next group,
but it share one characteristics with English one: it may take care
about itself.
3) 1.3. Well developed projects are, also, often a lingua franca of
some region, or even more widely. Their importance is similar to the
importance of English Wikipedia in that sense. Because of those
projects we need to have the Volunteer Council: to give them
possibility to take care about themselves.
4) 1.4.-1.5. Emerging and starting projects are our next priority:
They need a lot of technical and other help to become a stable, well
developed projects. Their importance lays at the fact that a lot of
people are talking those languages.
5) 1.6. Of course, our next priority should be Wikipedias which have
some activity. If we see that some people are interested in Wikipedia
in their language, we should encourage them to participate in the
6) 1.7. Not active projects are important, too. At some time someone
came to us and asked for the Wikipedia in their language. We should
try to find some people who are interested in writing project in that
language. But, it goes out of the scope of online community and it is
a matter of WMF and their contacts.
7) 1.8. The same is for the written languages which don't have
projects. People who are speakers of some language and asks for the
project in their language are very important: it means that they would
be maybe able to go into the more stable state in the near future. At
this point I really support Gerard's position that MediaWiki messages
should be translated: It doesn't just allow other speakers to read MW
messages, but it shows to us that a person is (or persons are) really
willing to create their project.
8) 1.9. The last group, non-written languages, are, again, a matter of
the WMF. It should be incorporated into the international efforts to
make written forms of non-written languages.
9) 2.1.-3.1. Useful conlangs should be the next priority. At least,
some number of humans are able to communicate in those languages. And
we should allow them to write their encyclopedias. However, in this
category are only *really* useful conglangs, like Esperanto is.
However, again, Volapuk became a useful one, too -- because of its
similarity with English and a work of one person. This is the category
for useful ancient/dead languages, too, like Latin is. Also, if
Klingon (or whatever artistic language) becomes enough widespread to
be useful -- it should go into this category.
10) 3.2.-3.3. Definitely dead languages are the next. If we have
resources, and there are people who are willing to do some
neo-classical work -- it may be useful (somehow).
11) 2.2.-2.4. Non-artistic conlangs are the next. There are a lot of
them; some may be useful for scientific purposes or even for
communication ;)
12) 2.5. Then, here are artistic conlangs, too. If someone wants to
enjoy while making an encyclopedia in an artistic language and we have
resources -- why not to allow that. Maybe such languages would be used
for real communication sometime in the future.
*  2.3. (and similar) Of course, the only type of conlangs (artistic
or not) which are out of the scope of our interests are copyrighted

And the point is the question: Where are we now? Hm. While we are
doing partially other tasks, the answer is simple: We are now in the
process of making Volunteer council, which means that we are finishing
the third global task out of 12.

And, what to do? Of course, we should analyze our possibilities,
first. Maybe it should be one of the first tasks of the VC. I am sure
that the most of use will accept to take care about projects up to the
priority 7. However, WMF and VC should give to us an analysis of our
possibilities. If we need to spend $10 and 10 working hours (usually,
steward's working hours) per year for one new project in an artistic
language (priority 12), then I think that it is reasonable. However,
if we need to spend $50.000 and a lot of working hours per year for
useful, but not so important Volapuk Wikipedia, instead of giving
$10.000 per one African language for making five relevant
encyclopedias in their languages: I am definitely for the second

So, this was my contribution to relatively connected issues about we
are talking a lot. I tried to move discussion from arbitrary choices
to a bigger picture. Of course, I don't pretend for a perfect
construction. I just hope that we may move toward more rational talks
than arguing for one or another option.

More information about the foundation-l mailing list