[Foundation-l] policy on languages without native speakers

Marcos Cramer marcos.cramer at gmx.de
Thu Apr 24 11:19:03 UTC 2008

The discussion about the Ancient Greek Wikipedia has started discussions about the current language proposal policy and about the current application procedure for new projects.

Currently the language subcommittee decides both about the language proposal policy and about its implemenation in particular cases. I agree that this has its advantages over the old procedure, where a community vote decided about each case. 

However I think that all discussions about the language proposal policy should be public, and if possible the language proposal policy should represent community consensus. The work of the language subcommittee would then be reduced to implementing the policy in particular cases and maybe to make final decisions about the policy in cases where there is no clear community consensus. 

On 17 October 2007, Pathoschild replaced "interested editors" by "living native speakers" in the language proposal policy, adding the comment "tweaked audience criteria per discussion". Since I could find no public discussion about that change, I assume that it was based on a discussion within the language subcommittee, which makes it quite hard for outsiders to find out the rationale behind that change.

People don't read Wikipedia only in their native languages. As for myself, my native language is German, but I also read the Wikipedias in Esperanto, English, Spanish and Swahili. Different Wikipedias often cover different topics in various degrees of depth, and despite the general NPOV policy, sometimes some Wikipedias give more weight to certain points of view than other Wikipedias. So reading Wikipedia in as many languages as one is capable of reading is often a very rewarding practice. 

Despite the fact that Esperanto has some native speakers (and one active contributor to the Esperanto WP is a native speaker), the Esperanto Wikipedia is a good example for the fact that a Wikipedia version can be very useful independently of their being native speakers of the language in question. 

So I would urge to remove the word "native" from the language proposal policy. In order to avoid proposals on completely extinct languages or recently constructed languages, I would add the following two criteria (which I already mentioned in an earlier message):

* New literature is still being produced and published in the proposed language (whether translated or original)
* The proposed language is taught in a number of institutions like schools or universities. 

GerardM wrote:
> Many people maintain their positions and do not for whatever reason 
> consider the arguments of others.

Many, including myself, have addressed Gerard's main argument (that one can't add neologisms to an ancient language, as it would no longer be that language). As a reminder, here is what I replied to his argument before: 

"In the case of an ancient language that is still used outside of Wikipedia for new pieces of literature, one can say that as a written language it is still "living" (though as a spoken language it can be called "dead"). Inevitably the language is still evolving by accepting new words or phrases (otherwise new pieces of literature wouldn't really be possible). So in that case, Gerard's argument doesn't apply."

Even though I have read all the messages in the threads about Ancient Greek and the language subcommittee, I haven't seen a response of GerardM to those who responded to his argument. So it seems to me that it's GerardM himself who is not considering the arguments of others.

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