[Wikipedia-l] Languages: crossing a border?

Erik Moeller erik_moeller at gmx.de
Mon Apr 5 04:23:50 UTC 2004

The Toki Pona language was constructed by Sonja Kisa. Sonja Kisa is also  
User:Sonjaaa and the primary instigator of the Toki Pona Wikipedia. Toki  
Pona is not an officially recognized language anywhere.  Now the Toki Pona  
Wikipedia is effectively not an encyclopedia, but a language development  
wiki for the TP language.

So, where do we stop? A few years ago I scribbled down the beginnings of  
an artificial language somewhere. Can I have my own Wikipedia, too? Yeah,  
it's not really complete, but I can develop it as I go along, right? There  
are 133 Google hits on Sonja Kisa's name. There are 13,100 hits on my  
name. Heck, there are only 894 hits on "Toki Pona" and Google thinks I  
misspelled "Toki Ona" (whatever that is). I bet I could push an artificial  
language I create to 5,000 hits within a couple of months.

I realize that Brion is a fan of languages, and since he sets up those  
wikis he pretty much decides what is acceptable. Shouldn't those languages  
undergo some basic public approval process first, though, so that we can  
determine whether there is really any value in creating them? In my  
opinion, Wikipedia should not be a promotional vehicle for other people's  
pet projects.

To me, it matters not whether a language is artificial or whether it has  
naturally developed over hundreds of years. It does matter, however, how  
many speakers there are, and if we can realistically create a complete and  
accurate encyclopedia with that number of speakers. I'd say a minimum of  
10,000 active speakers is a requirement for creating an encyclopedia.  
Neither Klingon nor Toki Pona meet that requirement.

But they don't harm anyone, right? Well, they do clutter the list of  
interlanguage links, and they do have the potential to harm our reputation  
as a serious project. When a professional historian reads our article  
about the Holocaust, and there's a "Klingon" link right next to Japanese,  
that might be seriously off-putting. Especially if there's also Tolkien's  
Elvish, and maybe some language from the Buck Rogers universe. I'm sure  
the furries also have their own languages.

IMHO this puts us into a similar realm as the micronations, of which there  
are also thousands. Creating Wikipedias for all these unused languages is  
like formally acknowledging them. Furthermore, this will bleed into all  
other Wikimedia projects.

I'd prefer it if these languages were developed on separate wikis, until  
they have a meaningful number of active speakers. And I also think the  
decision whether to start a particular language should be made by the  



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