[Foundation-l] Introduction to the internal workings ofthelanguage subcommittee

Brian McNeil brian.mcneil at wikinewsie.org
Sun Apr 13 22:37:54 UTC 2008

Perhaps it would make you seem more human Gerard if you sometimes got a bit
curt or short-tempered about some things. ;-) Yes, our discussion is now
digressing from the subject, but people are coming across as more human.
Being the professional-sounding voice of LangCom is not going to win you any
friends. It will help you garner opponents, but while being forthright and -
possibly - blunt will also allow you to collect people in opposition it has
a far higher chance of getting people to see the point you're making or at
least come to respect the position you are taking.

As someone who grew up in Scotland, went to school and university there, and
didn't leave the country until into his late twenties, it surprises me that
"Scots" is a recognised language. I knew of no school in my area that taught
it, nor of any qualifications available in it. The closest I ever came to
studying it was the poetry of Robert Burns, and what he wrote would be
classed - at least on my understanding of some of your earlier comments - as
a dead language. To go back to the intro, saying "Hoi" to someone who speaks
a Scottish dialect of English is likely to elicit the response, "Aye? Whit's
yer problem, pal?"

I am most delighted to hear you are sympathetic to Latin, that has to date
not been my understanding of what you have written. Personally, I would put
the availability of a body of work in Latin well above Esperanto. So many
legal systems employ it, and there is the Roman Catholic Church's use of it.
I think perhaps where we're losing the plot here is the focus on Wikipedia
projects. What about a Wikisource in Latin? The vast corpus of classical
works in the language could be incorporated and made widely available. With
a little work, the Holy See could be convinced to upload their texts which
are a "more modern" version of the language, and during that process
interface text could be translated. This latter part is where words would
need invented. It'd probably amuse a cardinal to say, "the language of
Wikipedia is not of this world". Wikiscanner shows they edit Wikipedia, so
why not engage with them in the lingua franca they know and love?

So far, I've seen nobody make the argument that the WMF should be practicing
necromancy and attempting to resurrect these languages to a state where they
have native speakers. Latin and Greek form the major foundations of so many
Western languages that they are - in my opinion - a vital part of the "sum
of all human knowledge". The best I personally can do with either is get
something like 50% score guessing which is the source from which the root of
an English word is drawn. With a larger online body of work in these
languages, the chances of that score improving increase. However, I feel
that with some of the high standards set for interface translation there is
a risk that, putting Wikipedia aside, if you start a Latin Wikibooks,
Wikiquotes, or Wikiversity, then you'll never have enough messages
translated to do the others (per rules) because you need to invent words.

As I infer from Jesse's statements the LangCom is a body which goes to such
lengths to work from consensus that it may well be killing itself. As
someone who considers himself to have an above-average command of English
with really basic knowledge of French and Dutch I certainly do not consider
myself qualified to be involved in the detailed discussion. However, there
needs to be some way that the wider community can get involved and do more
than throw peanuts from the cheap seats. That, I believe, is where this
discussion has been headed for the last few days. You, Gerard, are sticking
with the excessively conservative interpretation of the LangCom's remit and
not looking to do an end-run round it. People on foundation-l are looking
for the LangCom to apply "Ignore All Rules" and implement Latin and/or
Greek. It just frustrates me - and I don't think I'm alone - to think that
similar to images a fair use rationale could have been constructed for Latin
faster than trying to explain why the existing rules don't allow it.

Hopefully the above missive is more constructive in moving the discussion
forward than bitching about "Hoi" because I thought the whole thing had
descended into running round in ever-smaller circles.

Brian McNeil

-----Original Message-----
From: foundation-l-bounces at lists.wikimedia.org
[mailto:foundation-l-bounces at lists.wikimedia.org] On Behalf Of Gerard
Sent: 13 April 2008 23:09
To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List
Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] Introduction to the internal workings
ofthelanguage subcommittee

As you know my language is not English. Hoi, is just a greeting, there is
not much to it. If anything you can consider it a token of me not being
English. If you want to appreciate me with your English eyes, then you will
get the wrong end of the stick. This is not dissimilar in understanding
English in the first place by those for whom English is not the mother

You have some things wrong. First of all, I am appreciative of the Latin
Wikipedia and I think the ISO has it wrong where they call Latin an extinct
language. This is however not a problem for me because the existence of
those projects that existed before the start of the Language Committee are
outside its remit. Second, Scots is a recognised language. If it were to be
requested as a new language, it would be granted the "eligible" status
without a doubt. Third, if you want me to concede to something, you first
have to convince me. When some say that I am always saying the same thing,
they may deduce that they have not been convincing.

At this time the Language Committee is rather unforgiving against
constructed languages and reconstructed languages. Reconstructed languages
are in my opinion worse then constructed languages. I will not repeat the
arguments. For your information I am the one arguing for the approval of
constructed languages. I could accept reconstructed languages when they are
appropriately tagged as not being the language they are based on. When this
is instantly dismissed, then I expect that the consequences are understood;
I am not interested in seeing a reconstructed old Greek Wikipedia started.

PS Dutch spoken in Flanders is in many ways different from Dutch spoken in
the Netherlands.
PS I find it amusing that people cannot handle it when I stay polite :)


On Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 10:35 PM, Brian McNeil <brian.mcneil at wikinewsie.org>

> Thanks for this little insight into what goes on.
> I suppose one of the things that's got me riled at the moment is Gerard is
> so damn polite, yet never appears to concede anything. Another issue is
> (without knowing the history) I am baffled as to why sco.wikipedia.org is
> allowed to continue yet Latin is getting beaten senseless and denied.
> For Gerard, a little bit of language you may not be aware of... "Hoi" is
> not
> generally considered a polite greeting. I don't know what your native
> tongue
> is, but for the vast majority of English speakers its use is generally
> found
> in "Hoi You!" where it is a prelude to berating or otherwise giving
> someone
> a piece of your mind.
> Brian McNeil
> -----Original Message-----
> From: foundation-l-bounces at lists.wikimedia.org
> [mailto:foundation-l-bounces at lists.wikimedia.org] On Behalf Of Jesse
> Martin
> (Pathoschild)
> Sent: 13 April 2008 22:21
> To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List
> Subject: [Foundation-l] Introduction to the internal workings of
> thelanguage
> subcommittee
> Hello,
> Several people in the recent discussions, most recently Brian and
> Dovi, have asked about how the subcommittee reaches decisions and
> whether they can join to present their viewpoint. Here's a brief view
> into the wonderful world of the language subcommittee. Being a
> productive member of the subcommittee requires a very large investment
> of continuous time and effort.
> The language subcommittee operates by consensus. This means that most
> proposed decisions are discussed at length, and many tend to be
> compromises. Virtually every aspect of the approval policy is a
> compromise between very different positions in the subcommittee.
> Although it's possible to make a decision over the objections of one
> member, this requires lengthy discussion to attempt a consensus, and a
> complete consensus of the rest of the participating members. This is a
> very time-consuming and stressful process, so that a single member can
> block a decision for a long time. However, it ensures that all
> viewpoints are heard and fairly represented.
> The members of the subcommittee hold some significantly different
> opinions on several issues, and have significantly different
> priorities. As such, monthly discussion frequently outstrips many
> public mailing lists, and is sometimes heated. Discussion in January
> alone totaled some 20000 words.
> Many discussions can be very technical, particularly those concerning
> language code classification and technical accommodations for
> particular languages (like sign languages). This requires research and
> a good understanding of the subject at hand, and is a further drain on
> time and effort.
> Furthermore, after investing so much of your free time and effort on
> this, you must then defend yourself from public criticism for being
> slow, lazy, corrupt, arbitrary, and a sekrit cabal. When you're done
> with that, you then spend more of your free time answering requesters'
> questions and queries.
> New members are chosen by consensus as well. Interested users tend to
> desist when I explain how much fun it will be. A number of our members
> are inactive; I want to ensure that new members know what they're
> getting into, and won't freak out and vanish when they're approved.
> All this is why GerardM said "When the only reason to become a member
> of the LC is to argue a case, it makes little difference ;we can
> discuss on this list as effectively". Being a member of the
> subcommittee involves more than simply arguing your favourite subject.
> If all that sounds fun to you, you're welcome to apply.
> --
> Yours cordially,
> Jesse Plamondon-Willard (Pathoschild)
> On Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 4:59 AM, Dovi Jacobs <dovijacobs at yahoo.com> wrote:
> >
> >  >"Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
> the
> >  >sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment." The best way to inform
> is
> by
> >  >using the mother tongue of people.
> >
> >  Mother tongues are the best, but providing information in one of
> >  the great classical languages of Western civilization is also
> >  a lovely idea for sharing the "sum of all knowledge." Probably
> >  more useful than a few of the current European languages that
> >  are hardly spoken as first languages anymore (not that I have
> >  any objection to those either).
> >
> >  You do not need "native speakers" (mother tongue) to set up a
> >  project. I had the pleasure of getting the Hebrew Wikisource
> >  up and running, currently with many active contributors
> >  and over 4,000 texts. Hebrew is not my "native" (mother) tongue
> >  but I can contribute on a professional level. Same might be
> >  said for contributors in many languages. What you need are
> >  active, competent contributors, not native speakers or "mother"
> >  tongue.
> >
> >  Gerard, you repeat your arguments about neologisms at length,
> >  adding nothing new, and then conclude:
> >
> >  >The arguments the language committee uses are clear. They are
> published
> and
> >  >they are objective. You may not like them, but they are the arguments
> we
> >  >use. When people have issues, the arguments have to be convincing to
> make a
> >  >difference.
> >
> >  No, Gerard. Your arguments are indeed published, but they are
> >  not objective. It is *you* who have to convince the community
> >  at large that your arguments are correct.
> >
> >  >We use the ISO-639-3 as a reference. You are
> >  >welcome to apply for a label for reconstructed Old Greek.
> >
> >  No need, "grc" will do just fine!
> >
> >  I would like to add that I have no personal interest whatsoever
> >  in grc.wikipedia.org (my Greek is rudimentary). But I do have great
> >  respect for the fine contributions by others that I saw. And
> >  I think that the way the arguments have been made and the process
> >  has been handled need improvement.
> >
> >  I again repeat my request for information about the language
> >  committee. I would like to see more voices and greater diversity
> >  of opinion on it. How is its membership determined?
> >
> >  Dovi
> >
> On Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 5:10 AM, Gerard Meijssen
> <gerard.meijssen at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Hoi,
> >  In the language committee things are done by consensus. If you want to
> >  become a member of the committee, you will find that there are things
> that
> >  are at best a compromise. When the only reason to become a member of
> the
> LC
> >  is to argue a case, it makes little difference ;we can discuss on this
> list
> >  as effectively.
> >
> >  If you are interested in doing the work that we do in the LC, you will
> want
> >  to know about all the esoterica that are part of understanding how
> languages
> >  are dealt with technically, its different standards and their
> interaction.
> >  If you do not care for that, you can implement the procedures as they
> are.
> >  Thanks,
> >      GerardM
> On Sun, Apr 13, 2008 at 9:41 AM, Brian McNeil
> <brian.mcneil at wikinewsie.org> wrote:
> > Congratulations on responding without answering any of the points or
> >  questions raised... Again.
> >
> >  This, Gerard, is you, and you alone. I am not aware of the language
> >  committee appointing you as a spokesperson and you do a fine
> impersonation
> >  of Ian Paisley as "Dr. No". I've never seen you concede a point or
> accept
> >  anyone other than yourself has a valid argument. You assert that the
> basis
> >  for your position is the unstated guidelines to which the language
> committee
> >  allegedly works.
> >
> >  There was one clear and unambiguous question in the email you responded
> to;
> >  it came in two parts, and was a repeat of an earlier query. It would be
> most
> >  civilised to answer the question and not assert that the discussion
> should
> >  simply continue here. The option you offer is a complete and utter
> waste
> of
> >  time for everyone else on the list. I am none the wiser about how the
> >  language committee operates than I was nearly a year ago when I signed
> up,
> >  but by golly! Have I had to read a lot of messages from you that tell
> other
> >  people they're not qualified to give input.
> >
> >
> >  Brian McNeil
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