[Foundation-l] Changes in Language committee practice: ancient and constructed languages

Milos Rancic millosh at gmail.com
Mon Mar 8 10:45:03 UTC 2010

On Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 10:32 AM, Dovi Jacobs <dovijacobs at yahoo.com> wrote:
> This announcement is a very positive step forward! The members of the language committee deserve great
> credit for their willingness to re-think these proposals. I am truly grateful, and I'm sure many others who put
> great effort into trying to improve the language proposal policy last year are grateful as well.
> To my mind, the most important thing by far in the announcement has to do with Latin (alongside Esperanto).
> Here the rules themselves were never really the issue, but rather the ability to make a reasonable evaluation of
> "special" languages on a case-by-case basis. Latin is "special" because on the one hand it has a popular
> reputation as the ultimate "dead" language in Western culture. But on the other hand in reality it is very much
> alive in literature and culture (both academic and popular), in the discourse of living religious communities (the
> Catholic Church), and even to a degree in science (e.g. medicine, zoology). The decision to reconsider Latin as
> a living language, thus finally giving it full legitimacy among the Wikimedia projects, is of crucial importance!
> Thank you.
> Given this evaluation of Latin, a re-evaluation of classical Greek might also be in order. While not as popular as
> Latin, nevertheless like Latin it too is still very much alive in literature and culture (both academic and popular)
> and in the discourse of living religious communities (the Orthodox Church), though far less so in science.
> Also important and positive is the official decision to allow Wikisources for ancient languages, and sometimes
> Wikiquotes, based on case-by-case evaluations. I'm not fully convinced that the default interface should always
> be English as a requirement (since those studying a rich literature should be able to create and handle an
> appropriate native interface), but ultimately I don't think the question of default interface language is a very
> important one. Rather, what is truly important and positive is the willingness to consider such languages on a
> case-by-case basis and arrive at a reasonable conclusion regarding each one. From this perspective, the
> conclusions reached about Wikisources/Wikiquotes in Coptic, classical Greek, and classical Chinese all seem
> eminently reasonable.

A general test for having interface in MediaWiki in some language is:
Would the translation of the word "file" [computer meaning] be
understandable for native speakers or for those who are/were using
that language as a medium for communication? (I didn't want to say
"would it be a neologism" as all new words in all languages are
neologisms, but, in fact, this is about neologisms. They are
acceptable in a living language, but they are not in a dead language.)
This is true for Latin, but not for Ancient Greek. At least, in this
moment of time.

A general test for having Wikipedia (and thus the full set of
Wikimedia projects) in some language is: Would you able to write an
article about thermodynamics in that language without using
neologisms? Or about train? Again, this is true for Latin, but not for
Ancient Greek nor Coptic.

As I mentioned already, interface in such cases doesn't need to be
necessarily in English, but in the common living language. Church
Slavonic Wikisource, for example, would have interface in Russian.

Note that the situation can be changed (usually positively) for every
ancient language. If we are talking about time ~40 years ago, Latin
wouldn't pass requirements. If there is no living culture, Wikipedia
is not necessary. Spoken language in Vatican is Italian, not Latin.
Before revival in 1970s, Latin was much more religious language and
without full potentials to serve as a medium for communication. Today
it is a living language, which was "frozen" for ~100 years. (Before
romanticism, it was used as lingua franca in science.)

So, if somebody is willing to make similar place for Ancient Greek --
which may have sense, of course -- they will need to create a living
culture in that language: web sites, newspapers, radio programs etc.

On Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 5:18 AM, Aphaia <aphaia at gmail.com> wrote:
> A pure question: is there any means we have a multilingual website for
> those Classical language rather than saying the default is English?

Projects like Ancient Greek Wikisource will be probably similar to
Commons, so, yes, projects will be multilingual. Just default
interface will be in English. It is up to the community what would
they use.

(Classical Chinese situation is more complex and I'll fork it into
another thread.)

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