|This page is a proposal for a new Wikimedia Foundation Sister Project.|
|What is the proposed name for the project?||Wikilang (can be changed)|
|Proposed project tagline (if available)||The free language resources project|
What is the project purpose? What will be its scope? How would it benefit to be part of Wikimedia?
|Wikilang is a project with the goal of documenting, recording, sharing and teaching all languages with a strong sub-project on languages revitalization including living dictionaries, sprachausbau and decipherment of dead languages and scripts as options.|
|How many wikis?
Will there be many language versions or just on one multilingual wiki?
|How many languages?
Is the project going to be in one language or in many?
|The interface will be multilingual, the lingua franca is English and in some projects the particular language can be the working language.|
|Proposed project website address||wikilang.org|
If the project requires any new features that the MediaWiki software currently doesn't have, please describe in detail. Are additional MediaWiki extensions needed for the project?
|Please list yourself here if you support the idea or would like to help build the proposal and project.
"Many linguists predict that at least half of the world's 6,000 or so languages will be dead or dying by the year 2050. Languages are becoming extinct at twice the rate of endangered mammals and four times the rate of endangered birds. If this trend continues, the world of the future could be dominated by a dozen or fewer languages."
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Purposes
- 3 Original research
- 4 Why this way?
- 5 Why it isn't solvable with the other Wiki projects UPDATED
- 6 What it means for Wikipedia
- 7 How it would be composed
- 8 Examples
- 9 FAQ
- 10 Proposed by
- 11 See also
- 12 References
Languages are more interwoven with culture than almost nothing else. Losing the language is very often described as losing the identity. And as a big majority of today's languages are endangered it is very important that we do something against that. A wiki-project is a perfect tool for that purpose. At the WikiLang page several projects would be hosted; everybody can start a project and participate. Language revitalisation is becoming a very popular topic espacially in times of globalisation (see European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages), one could consider this as a reaction to this trend.
The main topics would be: sprachausbau, language revitalisation, language documentation, decipherment of dead languages and/or undeciphered scripts and little projects.
This field is very wide-ranging and covers most of the other topics. The users can create language courses, didactic material and other things that can help to revitalize the language. They can work out ways to normalise a language in its origin area when it is not the majority language anymore, build up new communities of speakers, work on campaigns or strategies to bring back a language into a certain community or as a subject in schools in that region and work out law texts or translate official documents (see "Little Projects"), etc. Together the user could also compile a strategy guide on how to revitalize a language that could help communities of endangered languages. Language revitalisation is more an umbrella term for the other branches.
To reverse language shift sprachausbau or language development is one of the most important steps. The main step of this is to build a lexicon that covers all domains and registers of a modern vocabulary. Many languages don't even have words for a "refrigerator" or a "hook-and-loop fastener". In linguistics it is generally accepted that every language has in theory the possibility to express everything that all the other languages do, if it had words for all of it. Another big step is to find a standard variety. That simplifies the handling of it at institutions, in school, etc. Teaching is easier if everything is based upon a standard. For building a standard many aspects are very important: determining a standard orthography, choosing a variety as standard or creating a new variety as a mix of existing varieties, etc. In order to get wide acceptance of the new standard it is very important to cover as many opinions as possible. This is why a free platform like this project would be perfect for it.
Some languages cannot be rescued anymore or are already dead. But they can be documented. For many dead or small languages there are already little grammars or dictionaries that could be used to build detailed grammars and lexicons at this project. Both a grammar and an adequately big dictionary are the essential parts of language documentation. This site could be also seen as a language database where there are enough pieces of information on a language to make studies with it or to learn/revitalize it to a later time. That database could try to reach that size that it covers most of the languages that are or were on our planet. But in the moment particular attention should be paid to endangered languages. The hitherto existing wiki projects wouldn't fulfill these aims as Wiktionary is not laid out to cover and preserve the lexicon of dead or endangered languages because it is more intended as an interlinguistical translation project; and the other wiki projects are not meant to create and compile a growing grammar of a language. To document a language it is beneficial to have both combined lexicon and grammar and to not divide this up onto different wiki projects. That wouldn't be the meaning of "database".
Decipherment of dead languages and/or undeciphered scripts
There are a lot of dead languages and scripts that are not deciphered yet. The big problem in the decipherment of scripts or languages is that the material that is needy for it is hardly available. This project's aim would be to make them free available so that everybody can work with it and all the users can try to decipher it together. The more people work on it the better the chance for a success would increase. And here aswell a documentation of all scripts could be imaginable. (But that database could be also solved by Wikipedia.)
These are little projects like selfwritten stories, translations of books or official documents and laws or learning materials. All in all side projects that can help to achieve the upper aims.
This seems to be a tricky thing for new wiki project proposals. On most of the other wiki pages the focus lays on documentation than original research as far as I noticed. As I already said above documentation is a big part of this project, too. But on the other hand there is a creating aspect when new words, new standard varieties etc. are formed. Furthermore it could be called "research" when people are trying to decipher scripts and languages. You have to decide how far this is a positive or negative point.
- Wikipedia has a policy of "No original research". However, that policy does not necessarily apply to any other Wikimedia project. It is up to each project to determine its own policies in regard to research, and there are wikis that support research as one of their chief aims.
- For example, the Xenharmonic Wiki
an open resource for anyone curious about any aspect of microtonal music, xenharmonic music, alternative tuning practices, et cetera.
This wiki is a repository for information about specific tuning systems, as well as the relations between them and the theory behind them. It is added to by volunteers only when doing so is useful to them. It is a living wiki by structure, meaning anyone can add a new page or add content to an existing page. Relevant new content is most welcome.
- In my opinion, original research must be an important part of any project to rescue and revitalize endangered languages. From my own experience, I know that it is, for example, necessary to discover the target language's phonology, and to determine which of its sounds (phones) together comprise "the same sound" (phoneme) in its speakers' minds, before it is possible to devise a suitable new orthography (writing and spelling system) for that language. In the seventies, I did just that for Cham language, at the request of Cham friends who wanted to keep in touch with family and friends overseas in Cambodia, Malaysia and France. And although I was 'only' an amateur linguist, I know by their response that they found my efforts useful. Whether they're still using that orthography, I can't say, since I've lost my main contacts to old age (the lucky ones) and war. But my point remains: any research – conducted with appropriate thought and sensitivity – can only help the speakers of the endangered language preserve, maintain and grow their culture. Which is what this project is mostly about, I think. yoyo (talk) 05:01, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
Why this way?
A wiki-project is the perfect way to afford these aims. In the case of language revitalisation the mass is an important factor. The internet links together people from all over the world and is an easy way to interact almost barrier-freely. And for such aims as sprachausbau it is very important to find a consense in things like a new orthography or new words. Those would be better adopted if they are based on a broad consense. Many language communities of endangered languages do not have the knowledge to create such an internet project or to revitalize their language. And this is why this project is so important, to help those communities and make it so much easier for them to build up projects. And in the case of projects like the decipherment of old languages or scripts the wisdom doesn't lie in the élite but in the general public. This project would try to provide all the available information as pictures or sketches of inscriptions, particular letters or corpora of dead languages that are mostly not accessible for the public. By that manner those projects would lead much faster to success than in general.
Why it isn't solvable with the other Wiki projects UPDATED
Wikilang would work together with all the others derrivates as it may work things out that would be useful later for Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wiktionary etc. But Wikilang should not be outsourced to those plattforms because of the following reasons:
- 1. We are dealing with little languages here. Many of them don't even have a Wikipedia page and/or don't know how to set up an wiki incubator which wouldn't even be exactly what they need to revitalise or document their language. (An incubator or a Wikipedia page is only a very short part of what is needy for a documentation or development. A project on Wikilang would take by far less ressources than to build up a whole new Wikipedia/Incubator) Wikimedia projects would be thus only accessible for bigger languages which is the opposite of our aim. WikiLang would be the only chance for them to organise a language revitalisation.
- 2. The big benefit of WikiLang is the centralisation of language projects. One can much easier overlook all of it and participate much simpler than look through all the wiki derrivatives to find something that is related to a paticular language and for a revitalisation or documentation. That would also improve its use for scientific and research usage. Apart from that many of Wikilang's projects can't be divided into different parts for they belong together.
- 3. Wiktionary/OmegaWiki: Wiktionary is not ideal to lead discussion on new words and sprachausbau or to come up with a standard variety and standard grammar etc. It is only to document words in any language and explain them in different languages. On Wikilang in order to document a language we would only create word lists with English translations. Creating word articles on Wiktionary would be too much effort for those words and would be contradictory for our effort. A speaker of an endangered language or a linguist wants to use as less as possible of its own ressources to create a documenting word list. Wiktionary is not suitable for the demands on documenting vocabulary on Wikilang. (Furthermore, Wiktionary is only available for bigger languages. The little language have too little participants to build up a whole new Wiktionary for their language, but enough people to build vocabulary lists on Wikilang.)
- 4. Wikipedia: Wikipedia has some articles on grammar and phonology but they don't get into detail as much as it would be needy to document a language. The grammar articles would be tremendous and maybe too big for Wikipedia. We could achieve that here, espacially for little languages; they are highly underrepresented on Wikipedia. Maybe it could be the other way around: Wikipedia could refer to Wikilang when it is about big grammar/phonology articles.
- 5. Wikibooks: With Wikibooks there would be of course some overlap. (But the whole aim of Wikilang and its unsuitability with other Wiki derrivates would not be an argument to outsource it to Wikibooks just because there is some overlap. Wikilang would be by far more than writing books like on Wikibooks.) On Wikilang there would be coming up some books, but sometimes it is also just an article, a text or something. There would not be a clear border between them and they would mostly have an article form. But creating texts and books on different topics here could be then also offered on Wikibooks. But it would fit to the whole language documentation and -ausbau done here.
- 6. All others: It can't be the goal of Wikilang to put it into 10 parts and outsource it to the other Wikimedia pages. First of all this is not how to do language documentation and sprachausbau and furthermore there would be no general discussion on language developpment possible. But this is the aim of Wikilang: People shall discuss about (their) languages, maybe build a standard, develop more words etc. Additionally, we want to provide a platform for the decipherment of languages and scripts. There are still a lot of them that are not decoded yet. (The benefits of Wikilang for those can be read under "Purposes".) And if a Wikilang project would suceed in some decipherment there would be a lot of reputation for Wikimedia after it.
- 7. Original research: As mentioned below, Wikilang would do original research which is against most of the wiki derrivates' policies like Wikipedia. Hence, it wouldn't even work on those sites. This is why we need Wikilang.
All in all the outsourcing of Wikilang to other Wikimedia derrivates would only misuse their ressources because it doesn't really fit to any of them. The need for a language documentation is already explained on the discussion page, languages are dying out unbelievably fast and Wikilang would offer a perfect tool to document those languages in an own derrivate. I am studying linguistics and my focus were endangered languages and language revitalisation and I can guarantee you that this would be what every linguist and every endangered language group was searching for, a free platform for language documentation and development. There are a lot of linguists, organisations, societies, acitivists etc. that would love to take part in Wikilang. (The long participant list above already shows a sample of the big urge to participate.)
What it means for Wikipedia
First of all this is a very honorable campaign. It would increase the prestige of Wikipedia in the public. Furthermore it would earn a high reputation if some of the projects result in real success like the decipherment of a script or the noteworthy revitalisation of an endangered language.
How it would be composed
Every considered language would have an own main page which could or should be at least bilingual (English and the respective language). On that page the projects would be presented with links to them. The page names of the projects will probably have to have the ISO 639 forms (the short forms for languages like “en”, “ar”, “de”.) to keep different projects apart. This is an example for a page for a dictionary with new words we are trying to build on the Gothic Wikipedia: Gothic dictionary It is divided into a discussion page, where new proposals for words can be posted and discussed and if it is widely accepted the words get added to the word list on another page. This is how most of the pages could be composed like. But I guess that by time most of the communities will find a better and more fitting way to serve the purpose. (How the WikiLang would really look like at the end is not really strict yet. I'd be really reasonable for any changes, improvements or other things.)
(I hope my bad English won't result in a rejection of the proposal. If there are any questions, tipps, feedbacks or anything else, please tell me.)
- Open School of Languages
- Other stuff in Category:Proposed projects - language
- Wikimedia Indigenous Languages