26 November 2010

Wikipedia as (Multilingual) Word-Hoard

Wikipedia is often regarded as little more than a poor person's encyclopedia, providing a handy reference collection of basic facts. But there's another side that I predict will be recognised increasingly: as a key corpus of texts in languages that lack traditional large-scale publishing to preserve their cultures.

Here's a good example:

"Some Indian-language Wikipedias are already the largest online repositories of information in their respective languages," Bhati said. "Regular community meetings such as the one we had today in Ahmedabad can help spread the word about our mission."

This facet is even more important for languages with a relatively small numbers of speakers, or perhaps threatened with outright extinction. Wikipedia acts as a natural focus for the creation of texts in these languages that might otherwise be missing - a repository of linguistic wisdom that can be shared and built on. In this way, it plays an important role not just in spreading knowledge about the world, but also about the languages that people use to talk about that world. (via @klang67)

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4 comments:

PV said...

I can attest to that as well; aside from things like names of picture albums that myself or other family members have created, I have yet to find one online reference to my family name outside of Wikipedia.
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a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

glyn moody said...

@PV: interesting point - thanks.

gwern said...

> Wikipedia is often regarded as little more than a poor person's encyclopedia, providing a handy reference collection of basic facts.

Out of curiosity, if Wikipedia is the poor man's encyclopedia, then what is the rich man's encyclopedia?

Encyclopedia Britannica, with its tiny out of date selection? Seems unlikely...

glyn moody said...

@gwern: yes, I was thinking of Encyclopaedia Britannica. The fact that it is tiny and out of date is because of comparison to Wikipedia, but I think it used to be something that richer families bought (and at some considerable cost).