[Wikipedia-l] Languages: crossing a border?

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Mon Apr 5 07:38:19 UTC 2004

Erik Moeller wrote:

>>There are also many endangered languages with *fewer* speakers than
>>there are active speakers of Toki Pona or Klingon.
>Well, considering Toki Pona has about a handful of "speakers" (none of  
>which speak Toki Pona exclusively or even for a substantial amount of  
>their time), I doubt that they would be worth including.
I don't know enough about Toki Pona to make an informed comment about 
this specific language, but I can certainly view the proponents of 
Klingon with benign condescension.

>>Getting _them_ to
>>put together some encyclopedia material in their native languages would
>>probably earn somebody a nice PhD in linguistics or anthropology, and
>>would be very very worthy of our support.
>Why? They can set up their own wiki (or use my affordable wiki hosting  
>service). Wikipedia is about building an encyclopedia, not about earning  
>PhDs in linguistics. You are entering original research territory here.  
>Not everything that some people may consider worth doing is worth doing on  
>Wikimedia's property.
I would view the PhD as merely an incidental benefit.  Like Fred I'm not 
completely averse to original research, but I don't think that 
other-language Wikipedias necessarily means original research.  The 
people with a direct interest in developing an endangered language 
Wikipedia may not be in a position to pay you for your "affordable" wiki 
hosting service.  A supportive on-line community is sometimes a 
requirement to keep something going.  The resource shortage is not just 
a financial one, but the paucity of speakers of the language also 
implies a shortage of intellectual resources for doing the work.

>>The cost is minor,
>I disagree. If we lose professionals because of our Elvish or Klingon  
>factions, that is a major cost. If this whole multilanguage thing gets out  
>of control, that is more and more likely to happen.
Maybe we would lose some, but to say that those losses would be 
significant is entirely speculative.  Far more are likely to look at the 
long list of languages with pride, even though they feel no need to 
visit what's happening in these other languages.  Klingon may merit a 
shrug or a head-scratch, but it won't drive people away.  Businesses and 
other enterprises grow by taking bold steps; Wikipedia's growth has come 
from taking bold and innovative steps, not by conservatively spending 
its energy protecting its past accomplishments.  As a people's 
encyclopedia we let all sorts of people edit with no special status 
being granted to professionals.  If a professional can't live with that, 
maybe he should leave.

>>If you want to
>>improve the signal/noise ratio, I humbly suggest you concentrate on
>>boosting the signal.
>Concentrate, yes. Ignore the noise, no. We have to draw the line  
>*somewhere*, and if you do not suggest an alternative to the 10,000  
>speaker requirement I have to presume that you want to draw it *nowhere*.  
>The inclusion of Toki Pona sets a highly questionable precedent.
Some of us are flexible enough to live in communities where lines are 
never drawn.  The passion that some people have for making rules 
probably drives more people away than our support for obscure languages.



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