The Roundup: Linguistics and Wikipedia

Wikipedia’s coverage of linguistic topics is ripe for improvement. Currently, only 12 of the 4,668 highest-quality articles on the English Wikipedia relate to language or linguistics, and many articles about languages are still stubs. As part of our Year of Science initiative, and our partnership with the Linguistic Society of America, we’ve seen some excellent movement to expand Wikipedia’s linguistics information.

From University of Wisconsin, Madison’s Language Endangerment and Revitalization course led by Dr. Monica Macaulay, we’ve seen students develop articles on languages and dialects that were otherwise being ignored.

For example, a student created an article about Wisconsin German. The article describes the social context for the dialect and attempts to document it. Another student tackled an article on the German dialect spoken in parts of Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, and Austria.

Students in that course also contributed to articles about lesser-known languages, such as Cimbrian and Ho-Chunk.

While some students are tackling articles about languages, some are developing articles about linguistics itself.

For example, a student from Grinnell College’s Language Change course, led by Dr. Cynthia Hansen, found the article on Language convergence to be underdeveloped: three sentences with a single example.

The student expanded it, drawing from a variety of excellent academic sources. It now stands at five sections, with a new lead and multiple examples, served with some context and links to broader article pages.

Another student created an article on Subjectification from scratch. That article explains a process behind language acquisition in which words can be used with contextual awareness to convey an attitude or a layer of additional meaning related to the speaker’s position.

We’re proud to see work like this on Wikipedia, and grateful that our partnership with the Linguistics Society of America has such potential to improve public access to knowledge about linguistics. We’re looking to welcome even more linguistics courses for the fall 2016 term.

If you’d like to participate in our Year of Science campaign to improve language and linguistics knowledge on Wikipedia, we’re happy to start a conversation. Just e-mail us:

Photo: Dictionary 2 by TEDx NJLibraries, CC-BY 2.0 via Flickr.


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