[Foundation-l] How to dismantle a language committee

Muhammad Alsebaey shipmaster at gmail.com
Sun Jan 11 06:21:39 UTC 2009


With all due respect to all the work Gerard has done, my issue with him is
simple (should be apparent by now), he approved EA based on a mail exchange
he had with only one committee member, painted that in a public email as a
unanimous decision, and it turned out that 4 of his committee members were
inactive at the time and at least one (I have not heard from the others yet)
had at least some issues with the decision. I will be completely satisfied
with a simple acknowledgment that the process was faulty, and that he is
willing to work to rectify it for the future, as of now, I only see that he
sees absolutely nothing wrong with what happened.  I just want to see a
clear path for that not to happen again in LangCom, I have been encouraged
by Jesse's comments, but they still remain pretty much in contrast with the
position Gerard maintains.

On Sat, Jan 10, 2009 at 9:45 PM, Milos Rancic <millosh at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 3:27 AM, Marcus Buck <me at marcusbuck.org> wrote:
> > elisabeth bauer hett schreven:
> >> 2009/1/11 Marcus Buck <me at marcusbuck.org>:
> >>
> >>
> >>> 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."
> >>>
> >>
> >> So, tell me...
> >> Which language do the egyptian newspapers use?
> >> In which language are the egyptian books written?
> >> Which language does Naguib Mahfus use in his books?
> >> Which language do the children learn at school?
> >> Which language do you use in a letter when you apply for a job?
> >>
> >> greetings,
> >> elian
> > The answer to all of this is: Standard Arabic. That's exactly what I was
> > pointing at. There's a strong non-conscious POV forcing the people to
> > use a language for writing, that is very different from their native
> > language. What language do most Mari use, when writing to other Mari?
> > Russian. Aymara will most likely use Spanish when writing to other
> > Aymara. Does that mean, that Mari is a dialect of Russian and Aymara a
> > dialect of Spanish? Of course not. But it's a symptom of a very deeply
> > internalized feeling of inferiority. A feeling spurred by Russian and
> > Spanish speakers feeling superiority over those uneducated non Spanish
> > speakers and non Russian speakers.
> >
> > A 13th century monk would have argued:
> >
> > Which language do the Royal chronicles use?
> > In which language is the Vulgata written?
> > Which language does Francis of Assisi use in his books?
> > Which language do the novices learn at monastery school?
> > Which language do you use in a letter when you petition to the
> sovereign's court?
> >
> >
> > The use of Latin restricted knowledge to those who were educated in the
> > monasteries. The dismissal of Latin was an act of emancipation for the
> > speakers of the vernaculars. I do not know enough about Arabic to judge
> > whether pushing the vernaculars would be an act of intellectual
> > emancipation or an act of divide et impera.
> >
> > If the idea of writing in the vernacular would be obviously ridiculous,
> > nobody would do it. There are people who want to work on arz, so they
> > must see some use in it. Maybe they are still wrong. We can only figure
> > it out, if we allow them to try.
> >
> > By the way: You mention schools. When schools became mandatory in the
> > course of the 18th, 19th century, many people had humanistic and
> > educational goals. But from the very beginning it was also a tool for
> > the country's rulers to manipulate the brains of young people. To induce
> > attachment to the king and to prepare boys to be good soldiers. To make
> > the children loyal citizens. That's still valid today. Language is one
> > measure of bending the pupils' mind (of bending all people's minds). By
> > teaching the national language, that in many cases is different from the
> > native language, you estalish a direct channel to the mind. This channel
> > is in the sole occupancy of the authorities and there's no need to share
> > it with other information transmitters, cause the native environment
> > uses another language (at least that was true in the time, when schools
> > became mandatory. Today there are more diverse information channels).
> > Language is a tool of power. That's the reason, why VIPs are no good
> > source for opinions about languages not supported by the powers in
> > force. Somebody who is Very Important has to stay in touch with the
> > powers in force to keep being important. Touching the balance of power
> > by supporting languages other than the language of power is dangerous if
> > you have to keep a status.
> > The mission of the foundation is an educational one. So it would be
> > better to ask the uneducated masses of Egypt, whether they feel a gain
> > from a Wikipedia in their language or whether they stick with the
> > "Latin" Wikipedia.
> First of all, I may sign every Marcus' word in this and previous email.
> There is one more issue which I mentioned in the previous iteration
> related to EA [Sports]. Having education in the native language is a
> very important cultural achievement. Instead between 1/4 and 1/5 of
> inhabitants who don't know to read and write you [Egyptians etc.] will
> have much better ratio. Besides examples which I gave the last time,
> here are two more: one of the poorest countries in Europe, Albania,
> with relative majority of Muslim inhabitants, has 98.7% of literate
> people; not so rich Azerbaijan (yes, it could be much richer) with
> 90%+ Muslim majority has 98.8% of literate people. This is something
> less than 1/100 of inhabitants who don't know to read and write. In
> both of countries Arabic is a language for religious purposes, while
> native languages are educational. More educated persons means more
> intellectual power, which gives more political influence. Power of
> European countries before the Renaissance was silly in comparison with
> China (which solved educational problems at other way, not applicable
> to phonographic writing systems) and civilizations under Chinese
> influence (like Mongols, Tatars and Turks were). Instead of opposing
> EA and similar projects, educated Egyptians (and other educated Arabs)
> should learn from European history (but, please, avoid the first half
> of 20th century!).
> And about life and work of Gerard Meijssen... Along with Jesse, Gerard
> is the most responsible person for the fact that Language subcommittee
> is working. Before asking to remove him from the subcommittee, I would
> like to see a proposal for a member which would have comparably
> similar characteristics:
> * A high level of enthusiasm for Wikimedian projects and involvement in
> them.
> * At least one significant project (cf. OmegaWiki).
> * At least 6 months of active work in Language subcommittee.
> Otherwise, we may close the shop.
> To be more precise, here are things which none of others would do:
> * Implementing transparency by archiving emails at the public place.
> Along with other technical issues which make LangCom to look like the
> most regulated (sub)committee, this is done by Jesse and I can't
> imagine someone else who would do that. While I think that
> transparency and look and feel are important, for that kind of job I
> would have to be payed (actually, I wouldn't accept such job, even it
> is payed).
> * Raising attention around boring issues around languages by using
> variety of methods (blogging, writing projects, talking with a lot of
> people...). This is done by Gerard and I really can't imagine someone
> else at that position. Even I am 10 years or so younger than Gerard, I
> have a very small part of his energy. And he is interested in
> languages.
> Both of them are doing those jobs for years. It is not about temporary
> enthusiasm.
> At the other side, of course, I am one of not so big number of persons
> who has the honor to know very well how hard is to work with Gerard.
> But, his willingness to change some positions (slowly but surely) is
> good enough in conjunction with his other qualities. In other words, I
> would like to be able to fly, but I am not. I would like to see
> perfect persons at the right positions, but it is far from reality.
> Out of the issue related to Gerard personally, I want to say that this
> objection (and the previous one) to Language subcommittee's work is
> the most articulated one. Because of that I think that we may have
> some benefits from it. For example, I would like to hear a generic
> solution for cases like EA is (here, at the list, or at Meta).
> Personally, I would like to see more articulated community's opinion
> toward issues related to languages.
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Best Regards,
Muhammad Alsebaey

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