[Foundation-l] 1.3 billion of humans don't have Wikipedia in their native...

Milos Rancic millosh at gmail.com
Mon May 23 14:42:45 UTC 2011

On 05/23/2011 03:04 PM, M. Williamson wrote:
> When words are from the same root, the same character is generally
> used regardless of modern pronunciation. In Traditional Chinese,
> phonetic elements are mostly based on older pronunciations which might
> not make sense in all modern Sinitic languages; sometimes in
> Simplified Chinese these are replaced by phonetic elements based on
> Mandarin pronunciation.
> However, Milos, I believe you have misinterpreted "logophonetic" here.
> Although the script has phonetic elements, this does not mean that the
> phonetic elements are based on modern pronunciations. So for example,
> 西瓜 is the word for watermelon in every Sinitic language (as far as I'm
> aware). In Mandarin it is pronounced "xi gua"; in Cantonese it is "sai
> gwaa", in Min Nan it is "sai koe", in Shanghainese Wu it is "si kwo"
> (I have not noted tones here due to different tone systems in these
> languages). In spite of differing words, since they are all from the
> same etymological root, they are all written exactly the same way with
> the same characters. This is probably not the best example since
> neither of these characters has a phonetic element, but that is
> irrelevant because even if they did the case would be the same.
> What DOES make Sinitic (Chinese) languages different when written is
> the following (*this is important*): Words that are not etymologically
> related to the equivalent in other Sinitic languages are often/usually
> written differently; grammar and syntax can be different (as an
> example, in Shanghai Wu you can say "We drink coffee" as "Ala kafi
> che" which is literally "We coffee drink"; in Mandarin it would be
> said as "Women he kafei", literally "We drink coffee", notice the
> different word order), including grammatical particles which have no
> direct equivalent.
> Imagine for a moment that English and Spanish used a similar writing
> system. "I want you to give me a piece of bread" and "Quiero que me
> des un pedacito de pan" would be written differently due to differing
> grammar:
> "I want you to give me a piece of bread" would be written as "[I]
> [WANT] [YOU] [TO] [GIVE] [ME] [A] [PIECE] [OF] [BREAD]"
> "Quiero que me des un pedacito de pan" would be written as
> Also, "Cuando va a llegar Maria?" (accents missing) and "When is Maria
> going to arrive?"
> "Cuando va a llegar Maria?" would be written as "[WHEN] [GO]-[THIRD
> "When is Maria going to arrive?" would be written as "[WHEN] [IS]
> [MARIA] [GOING TO] [ARRIVE]" or something like that. Note here that
> the "arrive" comes after "Maria" in English, but before in Spanish.
> These are relatively simple examples, but although in many ways
> English and Spanish (and many other Western European languages) have
> relatively similar syntax (as compared to, say, Asian, African or
> American languages) and are related, due to these grammar differences
> it would be impossible to unify them in writing.
> It is essentially the same case with Sinitic languages.

Mark, thank you very much for making things clear!

> However, there is another issue at play here: the classification of
> Sinitic languages and dialects is a bit controversial, and it is
> possible that some of these "languages" identified by the Ethnologue
> would not want or need a separate version. Jin Chinese, for example,
> is often identified as a divergent dialect of Mandarin, and I'm
> doubtful that a Wikipedia written in Jin in Chinese characters would
> differ substantially from zh.wp, and almost certain (though I am
> willing to be proven wrong) that they would not differ enough in
> writing to merit separate Wikipedias.
> ...

I would ask you personally (but, others, too) to give your opinions
toward as many as possible missing languages inside of "notes" sections
at [1] or inside newly created articles inside of the namespace of that
page (let's say, [[Missing Wikipedias/Spoken Arabic varieties]]). Such
additions would be very valuable: if there are people who don't need
Wikimedia projects editions, we can spend our resources on those who need.

Macrolanguage editions of Wikimedia projects are not anymore taboo. If
it is more reasonable to use one project for a number of closely related
languages *and* communities want that, there is no reason why not to
allow that.

[1] http://strategy.wikimedia.org/wiki/Missing_Wikipedias

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