Talk:Isthmian script

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A note on nomenclature[edit]

Multiple names can exist for an artifact, phase, culture, etc. The more obscure the subject, it seems, the more likely we'll have multiple names. I have chosen the article name of "Epi-Olmec script" over "Isthmian script" or "La Mojarra script" because:

  1. That is the name used on the Ancient Scripts and FAMSI websites.
  2. That name has more Google hits than the other 2 names.
  3. That is the name used by Justeson and Kaufman, who seem to be the academics who've studied the script the most.
  4. The term "epi-Olmec" is also used to describe the culture with which this script is associated (e.g. see Diehl, Richard A. (2004) The Olmecs: America's First Civilization, Thames & Hudson, London.

I have also used the name "O'Boyle mask" because that is what Justeson and Kaufman have used.

FYI, Madman 17:19, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

No problems with the naming, Madman. Although "Isthmian" might be a better descriptive name, "Epi-Olmec" would seem to be the more usual. And O'Boyle is the only name I've seen associated with that mask, when it is referred to by name. Good stuff. --cjllw | TALK 00:58, 22 August 2006 (UTC)
I believe this article should be renamed Isthmian script. Justeson and Kaufman have called it epi-Olmec (indeed with lower-case e) but their argument that they have deciphered it has not been accepted by most scholars in the field. "Isthmian script" is language-neutral (it's not proved that it's Olmec) and is the safer name to use at our present moment of knowledge about this script. -- Evertype· 11:52, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
I added one more reason (#4) above. The name "epi-Olmec" is not the best way, in my opinion, to describe the culture or the script, but it is the most commonly used name and so we need to follow Wikipedia naming policy. In particular, Stateside here we've been getting a lot of flack about "Wikiality" (that is, the idea reality is what Wikipedia says it is). Moreover, it would be strange to call the script "Isthmian" and the culture "Epi-Olmec". It would be like saying "Yucatan script" and "Maya culture". Thanks for listening, Madman 21:20, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
Problem is that the conneection of the Isthmian script with olmec culture is purely hypothetical but Kaufman/Justesons term epi-olmec makes it seem like a fact. Michael Coe uses Ishtmian in his "art of the maya scribe" and probably also other publications, so i don't know which is more widespread, but isthmian seems less misleading to me.Maunus 22:22, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
"Wikipedia naming policy" is a guideline, not a rule, and it gets trotted out a lot. Sometimes the right name is not the most common, Longcase clock was one where there were good reasons not to have the whole article under "grandfather clock". In this case, "Epi-Olmec" is contentious: many scholars who do not accept the decipherment (for good reasons) warn against using this term. Madman, there may well be an epi-Olmec culture, no problem with that. The difference is that Maya script is known to be used for the Maya language. The Olmec language is not known, and the proposed decipherment failed an attempt to verify with an untested document. I propose to move this article to Isthmian script. We can preserve the links, and discuss the questions as discussed here. But the name the article has isn't the right one. -- Evertype· 22:41, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
I've no objection to this being renamed as Isthmian script. The recent mesoweb article by Joel Skidmore on the Cascajal block find uses "Isthmian", and given the piecemeal state of knowledge about the entholinguistic history of the gulf coast region, in this case it may be best to follow the position of those sources preferring a non-committal name, even though epi-Olmec remains in use by others. Per Evertype we could explain in the article itself the implications of the name choices.--cjllw | TALK 01:10, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, all, I moved it but am at meetings and haven't had a chance to fix all the redirects. -- Evertype· 10:07, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Let me ask you if any of the four facts above are untrue. I don't know about the rest of the world, but Wikipedia has come under tremendous fire and ridicule here in the States for stating that "reality is what we say it is". This is a case in point. You don't like the name epi-Olmec, so you change it. I myself think it's not the best name, but that is the name that is most widely used, both throughout the Internet and throughout scholarly materials. It is not for us to say that that is wrong. Madman 02:22, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Me? "Epi-Olmec" is what people who claimed to have deciphered the text called it. That decipherment has not been held up, ergo, in the best scientific sense, it is not a name which should be applied to the script. The more neutral can and should be preferred. It has currency, and its use does not imply anything but that it is a designation. Were we to use "epi-Olmec" it would appear that we approved of the decipherment: but the decipherment has not been verified. (1) You cite the Ancient Scripts website. Well, so what? That publishes the phonetic grid which has not been proved accurate (it failed to be applicable to a new Isthmian text). (2) Wikipedia is not a democracy. Google hits are not how articles are named. (3) J & K's theory has so far not been accepted by most scholars, and (4) call the Culture epi-Olmec, but "epi-Olmec" isn't a language. I do not think there is anything objectionable about the name "Isthmian script" but some scholars (more than J & K perhaps) do object to the suggestion that the "epi-Olmec" decipherment is correct, and so it would be premature to accept the more "popular" name which of course will have turned up in a lot of press-releases. I think moving the article was her right thingl -- Evertype· 11:13, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
No, I was not singling you out, Evertype. That was a "you plural". My apologies if you had thought otherwise.
To address some of your points, you spend a lot of time talking about J & K's decipherment. As far as I am concerned, they are perhaps 30%-40% correct. But this is a non-issue. Would you push for the epi-Olmec name if their decipherment were proven correct?
When a verifiable decipherment is made, we will know better what the language is and a name will be chosen by the specialists. J & K's attempt at decipherment failed when applied to new material, so their claim that the language is "epi-Olmec" is unconvincing at present. (The name "epi-Olmec" with lower-case initial is pretty bad in general though.) -- Evertype· 08:00, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
You say: "Wikipedia is not a democracy." Wikipedia seems very much a democracy within the non-negotiable rules laid down (e.g. NPOV). I would be interested in examples where this is not the case.
I said (and meant) only that Google hits are not votes and are not the criterion by which article names are assigned. -- Evertype· 08:00, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
I myself have no doubt that the people of the epi-Olmec culture (e.g. as defined by Diehl) used the epi-Olmec script, given the architectural context of the findings. As mentioned above, it is strange to call the script "Isthmian" and the culture "Epi-Olmec". It would be like saying "Yucatan script" and "Maya culture". Madman 14:20, 27 September 2006 (UTC)
I have already addressed the reasons we do not say "Yucatan script". See above. -- Evertype· 08:00, 1 October 2006 (UTC)
Just to note, the Protoclassic and Classic histories of the gulf coast region are probably even less well understood than the Formative/Preclassic proper (have not had the same degree of attention), and the identification of a holistic culture there whether called epi-Olmec or something else is more tentative. I don't feel all that strongly about either name, but IMO "Isthmian" does the better job of being descriptive without tying in an association with a cultural tradition that is still being fleshed out. As mentioned, we could explore the "political" nature of the name choice (in terms of the current academic debates) in the article itself, and concentrate instead on expanding the article itself which madman has made such a fine start on.--cjllw | TALK 08:13, 29 September 2006 (UTC)