[Foundation-l] How to dismantle a language committee

Marcus Buck me at marcusbuck.org
Sun Jan 11 00:18:17 UTC 2009

Jimmy Wales hett schreven:
> Mohamed Magdy wrote:
>> (I heard that people were happy at Wikimania (Florence?)
>> because of that proposal but I fail to understand why the Egyptian people
>> there didn't express their opinion about it (it was in Egypt :!).
> I was sitting next to an Egyptian VIP in the front row when the 
> announcement was made, and he laughed and indicated that he thought this 
> was stupid.
> It is not up to me to make any decisions nor have any particular opinion 
> about Egyptian, but this is one of many data points that suggest to me 
> that the current process is widely regarded as being broken.
> --Jimbo
I agree, that the current process of new language edition approval has 
major flaws and can be regarded as broken to some degree. And I will not 
take a definite stance in the matter of arz.Wikipedia.

But please be aware, that the question of whether or not language 
editions in language varieties widely regarded as "dialects" are 
"stupid", "useless" or "laughable" is highly POV. We European or 
American outsiders have few personal POV about the matter, but we don't 
know much about the real linguistic differences. Those who know about 
the differences, have very deep personal POVs. If we grow up in a 
specific society, we unconsciously internalize the prevalent POVs of 
that society at a very early age. It's hard to overcome those POVs.

In the Arabic world there's a prevalent POV, that Arabs form one nation 
united by the use of the Arabic language. But in reality Standard Arabic 
is something like Latin. With the difference, that Latin fell out of use 
to make place for the Romance languages. So Egyptian Arabic vs. Standard 
Arabic is like French vs. Latin. And the Egyptian VIP is like a 13th 
century monk. "Writing in the language of the people. How stupid... 
Latin is a godly language."
By the way: This "uniform nation" and "stupid language" thing is not a 
Arabian world only thing, that the Europeans got rid of by kicking 
Latin's ass. The whole repeats itself on lower levels. Look at French 
vs. Occitan. If you ask Sarkozy or the Parisiens, Occitan is a French 
dialect. As citizens of the French Republic they should speak French. 
Trying to establish Occitan as a language on par with French is trying 
to destroy the unite French nation. But from a linguistic POV Occitan is 
not very closely related to French. Not closer than to Catalan, Spanish 
or Italian.
Catalan being the next example. The Spanish saw it as a Spanish dialect. 
But they couldn't manage to drum that "fact" into the Catalans and 
Catalan finally became a "recognized" language.

So if the Egyptian VIP laughs, he does not laugh a linguistic laughter, 
but a political laughter.

The emancipation of Arabic "dialects" could lead to the establishment of 
a Arabience language family like Latin fell apart in the Romance 
language family. And that's what many Arabs fear, just as the Latin 
monks didn't like the end of Latin. But the 'future' (that means 
contemporary) Italians and French and Portuguese live happily with the 
former vernaculars.

Allowing the Arab dialects to go this way is a highly political 
decision. Forbidding it would be too. So there is no way Wikimedia could 
avoid making a political stance. But from the POV of 'Freedom' we should 
allow. If we forbid that's a definite stance. If we allow, there are 
still two possible outcomes: Latin will fall or it stand strong and 
Vulgar will stay vulgar.

Marcus Buck

More information about the foundation-l mailing list