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Say What? — WikiProject Linguistics

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By Mabeenot
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Engraving of The Confusion of Tongues with the Tower of Babel in the background

This week, we spent some time with WikiProject Linguistics. Started in January 2004, the project has grown to include 7 Featured Articles, 4 Featured Lists, 2 A-class Articles, and 15 Good Articles maintained by 43 members. The project's members keep an eye on several watchlists, maintain the linguistics category, and continue to build a collection of Did You Know? entries. The project is home to six task forces and works with WikiProject Languages and WikiProject Writing Systems. We interviewed Aeusoes1.

What motivated you to join WikiProject Linguistics? Do you have any special experience or training in linguistics? Have you contributed to any of the project's Featured or Good Articles?

Shortly after I got my BA in English, I decided to use my education to contribute to Wikipedia. I quickly found that my interest in linguistics (which I had minored in) dominated my edits. My membership in WikiProject Linguistics is an extension of that.
I contributed quite a bit to the diaphoneme article, motivated by the desire to explain and justify using the obscure concept that Help:IPA for English hinges on. I like to think that the resulting article has reduced the rate of linguists complaining at that our transcription of English words violates IPA principles.

How well are linguistics topics covered by Wikipedia? Are there any significant gaps in coverage?

In my experience, the two enemies to encyclopedic accuracy, POV and truthiness, have much fewer opportunities with language-related articles. There are a few outliers, such as politically-charged editors at African American Vernacular English and the original research creep at Non-native pronunciations of English. The biggest gap, on a language article by language article basis, might be more technical syntax-related content. I'm not very good with syntax, so I can't do it myself.

Is it difficult to describe the linguistic elements of languages other than English without turning the article into a how-to guide? How does the project prevent this?

Not usually, though I may be guilty of the opposite charge: writing in a way that is full of jargon and unhelpful prose to the uninitiated. One thing a user did that I thought was rather clever was the use of prose templates in the descriptions at articles covering individual sounds (bilabial nasal, voiceless pharyngeal fricative, etc). This way, the same features of different sounds can be described with the same language without an overly burdensome monitoring process.

What steps does the project take to ensure articles about complex linguistic concepts are easily accessible to the average reader? Where does the project draw the line between too simplified and too complicated?

I'm not sure. The only time I've encountered conflict over this issue was at Talk:Hawaiian phonology, but the issue was settled quickly when one editor was blocked for unrelated personal attacks.

Have you worked with any of the project's six task forces? What role do the task forces play in supporting the goals of WikiProject Linguistics?

The Phonetics task force used to be a separate WikiProject. My name's still signed under it, so I must still be part of it. I don't know what the difference is.

Does WikiProject Linguistics collaborate with any other projects?

I haven't seen project-level coordination, though I've noticed some prominent WP:LING contributors also active in astronomy-related articles.

What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?

It'd be nice if another phonology article got to FA status.

Next week, we'll play the greatest strategy game of all time. Until then, be a good pawn and read our old articles in the archive.

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