Grants:PEG/Lauren Gawne/Improving endangered language content

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This was a submission to the Project and Event Grants Program from an Individual in 2015-16, but was withdrawn by that Individual before a funding decision was delivered.

Improving endangered language content
We want to improve the quality of information about endangered languages on Wikipedia. We hope this will also increase participation in Wikipedia from linguists and language enthusiasts.
targetEnglish Wikipedia, WikiProjects:Endangered Languages
strategic priorityImprove quality
start dateDecember 1
start year2015
end dateJune 1
end year2016
budget (local currency)540GBP
budget (USD)835USD
grant typeIndividual
non-profit statusNo
organization• Lauren Gawne & Charlotte Hemmings
created on10:29, 14 September 2015 (UTC)


The initial goal is to create regular monthly meet-ups for linguists and other interested parties, based at SOAS, University of London.

I hope to that we will have up to 15-25 participants per month, although this will change depending on the time of semester. Of these, I expect that around 50% will be new to Wikipedia, based on User:Gretchenmcc's experience at #lingwiki events.


There are many languages in the world, and thanks to the work of the Languages WikiProject and Endangered Languages WikiProject we've automatically harvested the basic information to make pages for many of the world's languages. What we need to do now is start populating these with quality information. We want to see more pages like those for Wagiman or Greenlandic, but currently 6744 languages are little more than stubs on English Wikipedia.

I want to start actively targeting linguistics students and teachers interested in Endangered Languages and linguistic diversity to use their knowledge and skills to create summaries of information about endangered languages on English Wikipedia, or any other language Wikipedia if they have the language competency. University libraries have amazing resources but these need to be synthesised for a Wikipedia-reading audience. I plan to start regular 'grammar group' editathons at my home institution SOAS, University of London, for members of the university and anyone else interested. SOAS has a world-leading program teaching students about Endangered Languages and Revitalization and is home to the Endangered Languages Documentation Project.

This solution also provides additional benefits. It encourages students and researchers to edit Wikipedia, and we're hoping to attract and train new Wikipedians. It may also help revive the Endangered Languages WikiProject which has currently been given a 'semi-active' status.


The plan is for a monthly meetup at a regular time and location - 4-6pm on the middle Thursday of the month has been decide at project meeting as the most likely to attract people. Wednesday is a seminar, Friday is end-of-week drinks, so Thursday works well. 4-6pm allows people to come from afternoon classes at 4pm or 5pm, and for it to run later into the evening, or wind down into pizza and chat after doing some good work. Experienced editors can use the time to work on improving language pages that they wish to work on, especially stubs. I will work with new participants to train them in using Wikipedia. The first meetup will be divided into a introduction to Wikipedia and then hands-on editing. If participants will find it useful I will work with Library staff to locate relevant materials and bring them to the editathons

I will also create materials such as CC licensed slides to explain how to do this kind of editing.

We have planned 6 meetups across the 7 month period to account for losing time over Christmas and Easter breaks.

These meetups will target SOAS students, particularly linguistics students involved in the Language Documentation and Revitalization projects, but will also be open to anyone at SOAS and in the area. Linguistics students will be better at synthesizing complex linguistic information for language pages, but non-linguists and freshers will be able to add general information about languages, their speakers and location.

A number of SOAS students have expressed interest in participating, and members of the ELDP have also offered space and support. Charlotte Hemmings and Elia Dal Corso are both PhD students at SOAS who will participating. Mandana Seyfeddinipur is with the Endangered Languages Documentation Project at SOAS and will be providing space and logistical support (and she promised to bake for us!).


Target readership[edit]

The target readership are linguists interested in well summarized information about languages of the world, people interested in the range of languages in the world, and speakers of these languages who can also read the majority language that the page is written in. We have come up with four different main activities, with varying levels of linguistic knowledge required. They are, in order of accessibility:

  1. Adding links to Wikipedia from existing endangered language repositories and archives like Paradisec and ELAR .
  2. Adding ethnographic information about languages, taken from reference texts that we will bring to each session from the SOAS library.
  3. Working on a specific feature of language, across different language pages (e.g. phonetics inventories). Aimed at researchers who have a particular typological interest.
  4. Working in depth on a specific language page. This will appeal to research staff and students who have research projects on a specific language or group of languages.

Since starting this grant proposal we've been in touch with The Long Now foundation, and will be using their online All-Languages Wiki and the resources on that to enrich the language pages ( . We have also been in touch with PanLax and where possible will also link to the lexical resources available on their site (

Fit with strategy[edit]

The main goal is to increase the quality of information about minority languages of the world though increasing participation by subject matter experts (in this case, linguists) to perform surface and in-depth reviews. Therefore there's a secondary strategy benefit of improving editor diversity by recruiting new editors from this target group and the ongoing monthly editathons will mean and there will be opportunities to educate new editors with a plan for follow-up and mentorship across the series.

Measures of success[edit]

I expect around 10 participants a month minimum, based on my experience running a lingwiki editathon in Singapore. I expect that around half of these will become regular editors, meaning we will hopefully have around 40 participants across the scheduled semester. Some participants may choose to make deep edits to a single language page across multiple sessions, while others may make many changes to a diversity of pages, but I hope that across the six sessions we'll edit around 75-100 pages on endangered languages. Some pages will have a single link, or paragraph added, while others will have detailed improvements. These different types of changes will be tracked.

The distribution of materials on how to edit Wikipedia pages on endangered languages will also be another measure of the success of this project.

I have used Google Survey to track participation and satisfaction with previous events of this kind, however I would also be interested in attempting to use the Wikimetrics tool to track participation and retention.

Resources and risks[edit]


The Endangered Languages Documentation Project (ELDP) have offered space and equipment (such as internet) to host these events. I have training resources available and the ability to train new Wikipedia users thanks to User:Gretchenmcc's #lingwiki project. I'll also create new resources specifically about updating language pages and make them available through a CC license. Charlotte has participated in other #lingwiki events and we've been training Elia, so we now have three of us who will be able to support newcomers. Charlotte will also be named on the grant as I'll be away for some of the editathon time with work commitments so she will ensure continuity.


There is a risk that momentum may not be sustained across the 6 months, especially as semester deadlines loom for students. We've gone with monthly meetups, and no expectations of editing outside of these times, to reduce any feelings of onus on participants. We've chosen a time that is relaxed and sociable (Thursday afternoon/evening) to increase positive social cohesion which will hopefully make people feel like they want to come back.


Please provide a detailed breakdown of project expenses according to the instructions here. See Budget Guidelines. Grantees are subject to line-item scrutiny of expenses. Changes to the approved budget beyond 10% in any category must be approved in advance.

Project budget table[edit]

For each editathon I have calculated based on 25 attendees

Number Category Item description Unit Number of units Cost per unit Total cost Currency Notes
1 Refreshments Pizza for editathons 4 pizzas per event for 6 events 24 15 360 GBP
2 Refreshments non-alcoholic beverages drinks for 1 event 6 15 90 GBP
3 Refreshments miscellaneous snacks snacks for 1 event 6 15 90 GBP
Total 540 GBP

This is £90 per event. This is based on the experience of participants who have organised events in this area before.

Total cost of project

There is in-kind support from ELDP, providing space. ELDP staff have also offered to support a small amount of food at the first 2 editathons in October and November before funding is finalized, and I'll chip in money as well (around £30 each event for light snacks). If the grant is not available then this food funding will unlikely be sustainable for them. Therefore the only cost of this project will be for food for participants.

Total amount requested

540GBP (835USD)

Additional sources of revenue

As mentioned above, ELDP will provide in kind support, and a small amount of financial support to start the project.

Non-financial requirements[edit]

I will be voluntarily organizing editathons and providing training. I've already shown willingness through organising #lingwiki events in Singapore and participating in online sessions. As this is my area of professional research, I have a strong professional motivation to perform this task as well. All logistics will be arranged between myself and ELDP staff, other Wikipedians who participate can focus on facilitating participant experience.


Community notification[edit]

You are responsible for notifying relevant communities of your proposal, so that they can help you! Depending on your project, notification may be most appropriate on a village pump, talkpage, mailing list. Please paste a link below to where the relevant communities have been notified of this proposal, and to any other relevant community discussions. Need notification tips?

- We are visiting relevant classes at the start of term to let them know. We're also hosting an informal get-together in October to introduce SOAS students to the project, as well as other Endangered Languages projects.

- We will be holding the first editing session on November 12th. I will advertise it on the SOAS email list, my blog (Superlinguo), the RNLD mailing list, which is for people interested in endangered languages. For the January term we'll be contacting the class at SOAS that is about language documentation and description, as these students will be developing the specific and relevant skills. We also hope that word-of-mouth will encourage more participants - especially if there's free pizza!

- UPDATE on first event. On the 12th of November we had around 12 people show up, around 10 of whom had never edited Wikipedia before. We had some trouble with accessing Wikipedia due to firewalling because of previous antisocial behaviour, so we're scouting other locations for future events. I've been editing at other places on campus, and have never had this problem before (it is, apparently, a thing that is more common in the UK than other places) so this was a good learning experience. All of our participants are super-keen to continue and grow these events.


  • I've worked with Lauren on previous linguistics Wikipedia editathons and I'm confident she'll do an excellent job here. The proposal itself looks realistic based on my experience conducting similar editathons. --Gretchenmcc (talk) 17:24, 26 September 2015 (UTC)
  • This is a carefully considered proposal with a practical approach to improving coverage of minority languages on Wikipedia, and engaging more editors in the process. Lauren has been an active contributor and organiser in previous linguistics edit-a-thons, and this is a great way to expand on those efforts. Roseybill (talk) 02:13, 28 September 2015 (UTC)
  • I've participated in other linguistics Wikipedia editathons with Lauren, and I also believe this is a good way to expand on the other efforts. The topic is definitely a worthwhile one. Her organizational efforts for the other events suggests she'd do a good job with this as well! Robo-Kyon (talk) 15:53, 28 September 2015 (UTC)
  • I've known Lauren since we were PhD students together at Melbourne, and she's always been very proactive in organising events, not just within our department, but in the wider university. These include Linguistics in the Pub, originally in Melbourne but now also in London, and software carpentry workshops. I have no doubt she'll ensure that this series of editathons is very successful. Jangari (talk) 20:51, 6 October 2015 (UTC)
  • Lauren did quality control and systematization on a set of her data in 2012 in order to make those data available through the PanLex project. Her work at that time was very competent and conscientious. This project seems to offer substantial benefits, including linkage to major sets of data, at low cost. Jonathan Pool (talk) 16:54, 29 October 2015 (UTC)
  • I like this project Jmcabandara (talk) 07:00, 11 April 2018 (UTC)