Small Wikipedia Community Sustainability/ActionPlan/Linguistic-cultural identity

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Attractive linguistic and cultural identity

We have to do some heavy lifting, within «Wikipedias in the languages of Russia» community & much wider.

Imagine your great-grandkids are growing up at a large space station around Mars and national identities on Earth are by then no more important that your provincial or city identity are currently. Why should we bother creating language nests for them to learn and actively speak say Russian or Spanish, Arabic or French, not to mention heritage languages with even smaller number of speakers today? And if it's worth it, then how should we do it?

Any cultural knowledge can only exist & continue enriching lives of those around as long as there are people that keep its flame burning. In case of language, this requires vibrant ethnic, national or, in case of world languages, a strong linguistic identity.

Wikimedia movement is capable of becoming key contributor towards preserving linguistic diversity & related intangible cultural heritage of our planet in the digital age, preventing the growing generation gap & cultural alienation of children, youth & young adults, which can in turn help to keep valuable cultural knowledge alive & serving future generations of humans.

Why deal with this[edit]

"Of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken today ... less than 5% ... can still ascend to the digital realm. ... To summarize a key result of this study in advance: No wikipedia, no ascent."[1]

— András Kornai

  • Benefits of multilingualism seem to be well documented. Constantly developing one's linguistic identities is a must for mastering any language.
  • Cultural diversity has similar benefits on a societal, but even more on a personal level. Diversity of cultural identities help people to be creative.
  • Attractive cultural & linguistic identities are a must to assure survival of any language in the digital age, when all of us are becoming ever more multilingual.
  • Language is also a cultural code that defines the way its speakers perceive the world. When there's no access to the soft infrastructure, necessary for developing and preserving one's multilingualism, the individual is losing not just multilingualism, but own sovereignty regarding the cultural code that is defining his or her worldview.
  • Today only English is showing sustainable growth in popularity, being the most valuable language for success in the global economy and does not require external support, unlike those within various programs ran by other language organisation (World French Language Forum in case of Francophonie, Association of Academies of the Spanish Language in case of Hispanidad, and similars of Russkiy Mir, Dutch Language Union, and others).
  • Languages of stateless nations & thus not a dominant working language in life of majority of its speakers, are loosing them at even faster rate. The majority of such do not have language regulators or, if they formally exist, those are not active enough in the public life or in the digital realm.


[T]he time has come when ... a language has become only a tool, another means of expressing reasoning patterns. ... A language that continues its development is usually being used in all areas of life. Excluding the language from use in some field of human activity, be it some specific scientific discipline or a type of artistic pursuit, an industrial or services sector of economy, i.e. from generating more reasoning patterns, is blowing an irreversible damage that promotes language death. ... It's very important to aspire towards such a state of things, when any news are expected to be expressed by that specific language means.

— Gaynulla F. Shaykhiev[2]

"The paradox related to preservation of language and culture is that they can only stay active by welcoming changes. Only dead languages and cultures can be fully preserved against change."[3]

— Annika Pasanen, Janne Saarikivi

"Young people need language-related attractive role models to be interested in associating themselves with their heritage language. Such areas of language use as home and school are no longer good enough, folklore culture with its nostalgia of the past is not exciting at all. But constructing youth culture from outside is difficult — only youth itself can create its own culture and role models. This great challenge encountered by the modernizing community of the local language speakers requires attention."[4]

— Annika Pasanen, Janne Saarikivi

Long-term sustainability of cultural and linguistic diversity of the planet, as well as preservation of cultural knowledge encoded therein, can only be assured by making ethnic identities of stateless nations or their linguistic identity analogues no less popular among all age groups than cultural values predominant in their social environment.

Ethno-national & religious identity[edit]

On top of nation states insisting on their citizens to believe into the concept of nationality, globalization leads us to developing global citizenship identity (we are all becoming increasingly cosmopolitan). At the same time, regional authorities or elites within various countries are interested in promoting regional economic growth and thus are often pushing to strengthen regional or local identity. The only way for ethnic or national identity of a stateless group or nation to survive and flourish in this all-out war for human attention & ideologic dominance is by getting out of line of fire of these three politically stronger competitors – leaving the contest by evolving into politically-neutral cultural identity. This is particularly important as, unless there is extinction-level event, other kind of significant disruption, technological or social change among humankind, the global citizenship identity will eventually dominate over everything else. It's also important to stay out of harm's way in the battle between humankind-wide vs. specific proselytizing religious identities. Overall, for language & its inherent culture survival the area of identity politics is a dangerous minefield that requires careful navigation.

Ethno-cultural isolationism[edit]

At the same time, the youth is always hungry to embrace new opportunities coming with globalization & multilingualism, whilst majority of older generation proficient native speakers of languages of stateless nations or ethnic groups is afraid of imminent language death (which is often seen as loss of meaning to their lives, cultural values & those of previous generations) and is usually choosing the strategy of ethno-cultural isolationism. This leads to cognitive dissonance, particularly among the youth.

Linguistic continuity[edit]

The weakest link for assuring continuity for linguistic minority languages is availability of content, attractive for its teenager, university student and young adult speaker populations. These will only be able to serve as role-models for younger generations and continue relying on specific language use if they see it as attractive tool to address their personal communication needs. This category is usually not covered by groups, interested in language acquisition, linguistic revival or older generations, interested in preservation of traditional, family or other types of cultural values.

What needs to be done[edit]

Wikipedia as a product[edit]

People only spend their time on what they see as valuable, so WP in every language must be attractive

  • Topics of interest[5]
    • Children — cartoons, basic articles about the world and human body, humanities, science & technology, professions, etc.
    • Teenagers — hobbies, family issues, sports, personal relationships, sex, music, film, etc.
    • University students & young adults — travel, personal development, specialized topics in education & career, social sciences, parenting, etc.
    • Adults & Seniors — history, cultural heritage, advances in science & technology, current political events, personal convictions, etc.
  • Quality of encyclopedia
    • Ease of navigation & discovery, help pages
    • Quality of language
      1. Standard language
      2. Correct grammar
      3. Easy-to-understand sentence structure
      4. Encyclopedic style
  • Discovery portal
    • Dynamic Main Page, rich in information
    • Community Portal about what's planned & what's going on
    • SiteNotice & Central Notice about specific opportunities

Wikipedia as a community[edit]

Any long-term work requires planning & team that makes it happen. In case of volunteer-driven WP, any developments only happen when there's project community willing to contribute their time.

  • Sharing news about Wikimedia movement
  • Online & Offline mentoring
  • Knowledge-sharing & skill development events
  • More active engagement into the activities of global Wikimedia movement

See also[edit]


  1. Digital Language Death by András Kornai
  2. (Russian) "[Н]астал момент, когда ... язык стал лишь инструментом, средством выражения образов мысли. ... Развивающийся язык находится обычно в общении во всех сферах жизненного цикла. Исключение хотя бы одной сферы, будь она разделом какой-то науки или искусства, производства или услуг, из общения на этом языке, т.е. из производства образов мысли, наносит языку непоправимый удар, способствует его вымиранию. ... Надо стремиться, чтобы новость ожидали из формулировок этого языка."
    Шайхиев Г.Ф. "Язык разума. Мы думаем и по-татарски, и по-русски, и по-английски..." Казань, изд-во «Хәтер»: 2000 ISBN 5-900004-83-X сс.230-231 Глава V Раздел 9 Асимметрия в эволюции мышления. ("Language of Reasoning. We (can) simultaneously think in Tatar, and in Russian, and in English..." /Chapter V Section 9 Asymmetry in evolution of reasoning)
  3. (Russian) "Парадокс сохранения культуры и языка заключается в том, что они сохраняются исключительно путем изменения. Только мертвые языки и культуры можно полностью обезопасить от перемен", from Замятин К., Пасанен А., Саарикиви Я. "Как и зачем сохранять языки России"./ Часть I. Многоязычное общество и многоязычный индивид. Глава "Изменяющаяся роль языков", 35 с.
    ("How to and why keep languages of Russia". / Part I. "Multilingual society and multilingual individual", Chapter "Evolving role of languages", p.35)
  4. (Russian) "Для того, чтобы отождествлять себя с родным языком, молодежи требуются привлекательные образцы для подражания, связанные с этим языком. Такие сферы употребления языка, как дом и школа, уже не вполне достаточны, ностальгирующая по прошлому фольклорная культура нисколько не привлекает. Однако молодежную культуру сложно конструировать извне — только молодежь может сама соз давать свою культуру и образцы для подражания. Это представляет большую трудность для модернизирующегося сообщества носителей локального языка, на которую следует обращать внимание."
    Замятин К., Пасанен А., Саарикиви Я. "Как и зачем сохранять языки России". / Часть III. "Пути сохранения языков под угрозой исчезновения. Практические советы", Глава "Преподавание на языке меньшинства в школе", раздел "Что кроме школы и после школы?", 162 с. ("How to and why keep languages of Russia". / Part III. "Ways of preserving vulnerable languages. Practical advice", Chapter "Minority languages as a medium of instruction at school", section "What on top of and how about after school?", )
  5. The thirst for knowledge will be satisfied in either supported or dominant language. It's important to avoid causing cognitive dissonance and cultural alienation, which is possible when person discovers he missed something important that was not made available in or was specifically censored out from his/her native tongue cultural environment.