ALPES Ancient Language Promotion, Education and Support/Letter to Wikimedia Board

Letter to Wikimedia BoardEdit


Dear Wikimedia Board,

We the undersigned are disappointed that the Language Committee has not engaged to resolve our problems regarding the second-class status that our languages have been given. The Language committee have absolute discretion as to whether to grant new projects in our languages, because they are "ancient".

We believe that Classical languages, such as Sanskrit, Classical Chinese, Latin and Ancient Greek, should be judged on their current contemporary usage, and not on the fact that they are ancient, are mostly or entirely second languages, or the fact that these languages are used differently to the way they were used hundreds or thousands years ago when they were widespread native languages.

As languages in current use, they find ways to express modern concepts, and that should be treated positively, not negatively, as a "corruption" of the Classical standard, as some members of the Language Committee have claimed.

Position of Sanskrit in societyEdit

Sanskrit is taught as part of religious training, meaining around 1 million priests have a high level of reading ability, of whom perhaps 10% are able to write the language. A similar number of children gain a high knowledge of Sanskrit through education, some of which is Sanskrit-medium school education. A reasonable estimate would give around 2 million proficient readers and 200,000 competent writers of Sanskrit. Grassroots efforts involve teaching of Sanskrit at every level of society. There are 18 Sanskrit Universities offering Sanskrit medium education. There are a range of publications, including daily papers in Sanskrit, online and one in print.

Sanskrit has methods to evolve terminology and has done for thousands of years.

Position of Classical Chinese in societyEdit

Classical Chinese is taught as a subject in Taiwan, and it remains an official language of Taiwan. It lost official status in mainland China in the 1960s. As a result, proficiency levels are common, because of the need to access official or specialist material that was relatively recently published. Classical Chinese is regularly produced, both officially and unofficially. Around XXX are able to read it, and XXX can write it competently.

Position of Latin in societyEdit

Latin is learnt at a high level by tens of thousands of University students. Latin-medium education is available at graduate and post-graduate level in Universities and institutes in Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Israel and the USA, with other efforts gaining ground in the UK and elsewhere. A small but growing number of fluent speakers from these and other grassroots projects is driving an increasing amount of contemporary Latin production, which has never ceased. It is an official language in the Vatican; words are formed by academic and official processes and through informal adoption through necessity by users.

Position of Ancient Greek in societyEdit

Continuous production of content, changing and adapting language

The same revival efforts for Latin are producing a growth in fluent speakers and writers of Ancient and Koine Greek, as they are frequently taught by the same institutions.

Problems with the current policyEdit

The policy currently precludes all of these languages from applying for Wikimedia projects, such as new Wiktionaries, Wikiversities, or any other Wiki projects that may be launched.

Without a clear policy permitting the fair assessment of our languages, we cannot plan or think about or encourage more projects.

It is unfair to suggest we try and hope that we will be granted permission against the policy, or for people to understand that discretion is likely to be applied. This is even more the case given that Committee members have expressed the view that it is impossible for our languages to qualify, going so far as to call the process of adding new words a "bastardisation" of our languages.

The existing policy has caused a 14 year dispute with the Ancient Greek Incubator project, whose project has been declined a Wikipedia subdomain on the grounds that ancient languages are precluded by the policy, instead of being given a fair hearing, on the basis of fair criteria. This alone should be enough to take a second look at the functioning of the policy.

All other language groups, including constructed languages, which have similar roles and functions to Classical languages, as linguae francae that are primarily second languages, are judged on the basis of whether they are employed and used by people today. As such the policy is highly discriminatory, in a way that impacts particular ethnic and religious groups.

We are calling for a small adjustment to the language policy. We are not asking that Ancient Hittite and Phoenician Wikipedias be allowed. We are asking for contemporary, working Classical languages to be given a clear policy that allows us new projects, and a full status in the Wikimedia community.

Unfortunately, the Language Committee have not engaged with our very reasonable asks, and appear committed to retaining their current policy, so we are asking you to resolve this issue with them directly.