Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Linguistics

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Welcome to the talk page for WikiProject Linguistics. This is the hub of the Wikipedian linguist community; like the coffee machine in the office, this page is where people get together, share news, and discuss what they are doing. Feel free to ask questions, make suggestions, and keep everyone updated on your progress. New talk goes at the bottom, and remember to sign and date your comments by typing four tildes (~~~~). Thanks!

Irish linguists[edit]

I found the categories Category:Linguists from Ireland and Category:Linguists from the Republic of Ireland and made an effort to unify them, by moving members of the former into the latter. My edits were reverted, and I had to learn that there are susceptibilities I hadn't expected. After some fruitless discussion at User talk:Timrollpickering#Irish linguists, I decided to post the issue here.

I think it is obvious that both categories should be unified (for example, they both share literally the same description text). As for the name of the unique target category, I'm impassionate. I suggest that you discuss this in the project, and perform the member page moves. Best regards - Jochen Burghardt (talk) 19:18, 29 October 2014 (UTC)

I see no linguistic issues here — the dispute seems to be 1) political in nature and 2) concern the wider topic of "Xs from Y" categorization of people. --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 20:34, 30 October 2014 (UTC)

I opened a discussion at Wikipedia:Categories_for_discussion/Log/2014_December_2#Category:Linguists_from_Ireland. Someone may wish to contribute. - Jochen Burghardt (talk) 13:54, 2 December 2014 (UTC)

Editing conflict: Head directionality parameter[edit]

An editing conflict has arisen with the Head Directionality parameter entry that relates to theoretical and terminological differences between "dependency theory" and "X-bar theory". Guidance is needed in how to resolve this. Currently, the article (which is being developed from a stub for a course-related project) states that "dependents" are ordered relative to the "heads" that they are associated with, and then goes on to consider how this plays out for the [Head-Complement] relation. However, this section has been over-written by a proponent of dependency theory, which results in both theories being inaccurately presented. Consistent with Wikipedia's neutrality policy, I suggest that a more appropriate solution would be to present the two approaches separately (in two separate sections), rather than conflating them into one section (as is the current situation). Any & all constructive suggestions about how to proceed would be much appreciated.--RM Dechaine (talk) 01:14, 6 December 2014 (UTC)

Launch of WikiProject Wikidata for research[edit]

Hi, this is to let you know that we've launched WikiProject Wikidata for research in order to stimulate a closer interaction between Wikidata and research, both on a technical and a community level. As a first activity, we are drafting a research proposal on the matter (cf. blog post). Your thoughts on and contributions to that would be most welcome! Thanks, -- Daniel Mietchen (talk) 02:16, 9 December 2014 (UTC)

IPA font links gone[edit]

The font links have disappeared from International Phonetic Alphabet; see Talk:International Phonetic Alphabet#Font links gone. Please take any discussion to that Talk section, as I am also posting this note to another project's Talk page. Thnidu (talk) 04:48, 7 January 2015 (UTC)

WikiProject X is live![edit]

WikiProject X icon.svg

Hello everyone!

You may have received a message from me earlier asking you to comment on my WikiProject X proposal. The good news is that WikiProject X is now live! In our first phase, we are focusing on research. At this time, we are looking for people to share their experiences with WikiProjects: good, bad, or neutral. We are also looking for WikiProjects that may be interested in trying out new tools and layouts that will make participating easier and projects easier to maintain. If you or your WikiProject are interested, check us out! Note that this is an opt-in program; no WikiProject will be required to change anything against its wishes. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you!

Note: To receive additional notifications about WikiProject X on this talk page, please add this page to Wikipedia:WikiProject X/Newsletter. Otherwise, this will be the last notification sent about WikiProject X.

Harej (talk) 16:57, 14 January 2015 (UTC)

Indo-European linguistics[edit]

I hope some informed linguists can provide input in this debate: WP:Fringe_theories/Noticeboard#Proposed Hypothesis/Theory as fact. Cheers, Kautilya3 (talk) 18:03, 26 January 2015 (UTC)


I've opened an RfC at Talk:Indigenous Aryans#RfC: the "Indigenous Aryans" theory is fringe-theory. Let's keep it civilised. Best regards, Joshua Jonathan -Let's talk! 16:30, 28 January 2015 (UTC)


Spotted in the wild: an apparently recurring edit-a-thon of linguistics articles on Wikipedia, with online organization via Twitter. Next upcoming event announcement --Trɔpʏliʊmblah 15:34, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

Hi! Yes, I've been organizing these edit-a-thons to try to get more linguists involved with editing related Wikipedia articles, especially stubs, under-documented languages, and outdated/insufficient BLPs. I attended a local Art+Feminism editathon last year despite knowing nothing about art because I figured I could provide tech support (I have a long-running habit of lurking Wikipedia/Wikimedia policy pages, I've worked with several independent class wikis, and I used to do some WIkipedia editing under a long-defunct account way back when) and I ended up helping a bunch of people get started with editing, which was really satisfying.
I do a lot of linguistics outreach writing on my blog and for other places, so I end up linking to Wikipedia a lot, but I fairly often come across pages that could use improvement. So I thought, since I'm actually a linguist, why not do an editathon for linguistics? Doing in-person or even via-Twitter events is more fun, plus a specific time makes it easier for academics to fit in their schedule than a vague exhortation to do stuff. And I've got quite a good network of linguists that I can reach out to to get involved. So the first editathon I organized was in person at the LSA annual meeting in January 2015 with parallel virtual editathon on Twitter. It went quite well and there was a lot of enthusiasm for further events -- I collected some stats and comments about it here. I'm also hoping that making recurring editathons will both develop expertise among linguists as editors and encourage participants to go back to articles they were working on and keep adding to them, resolve any warnings, etc.
The next editathon that we have planned is for the weekend of March 28-29, via Twitter, with spinoff events in Singapore and Canberra (that I'm aware of so far), so anyone here definitely feel free to use that date as motivation to do some editing, whether or not you want to check out the #lingwiki hashtag! I'm also planning a series of in-person editathons for four Wednesdays in July as part of the LSA summer institute in Chicago, plus a workshop on how to have linguistics classes edit Wikipedia (I'm talking to people from the WikiEd Foundation about that because I know there are pitfalls there for insufficiently prepared instructors). So if anyone is in the Chicago area in July 2015 and wants to come out, or join virtually from anywhere, it would be great to see you! Anyway, I'm glad to see some signs of life from WikiProject:Linguistics -- I've been sending people to the list of linguistics stubs but I didn't really see much going on from the main project page. But now that I notice people seem to check the talk page occasionally, I'll be sure to also post updates here so we can try to combine forces. Do let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions of things for people to work on! --Gretchenmcc (talk) 21:30, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Split of Palatalization[edit]

I'm proposing that we move material on palatalization as a sound change from Palatalization to Palatalization (sound change). Material on the secondary articulation would remain where it is. Voice objections in Talk:Palatalization § Move material on sound change to Palatalization (sound change). If nobody objects in the next few days, I'll go ahead and do the move, since I think it's pretty commonsense and uncontroversial. — Eru·tuon 23:21, 10 February 2015 (UTC)

The result of discussion is that the article will be split into Palatalization (phonetics) and Palatalization (sound change). If there are no objections, I will make the move in a day or two. — Eru·tuon 23:53, 11 February 2015 (UTC)

Examples from ancient languages in vowel and consonant pages[edit]

One of my areas of interest is historical linguistics and reconstructed phonological systems. At the moment, the vowel and consonant pages do not include examples from ancient languages, like Latin, Greek, and Old English, though I have added notes on ancient languages in some of the articles, like Close front rounded vowel § Occurrence. I think I once tried to add one, but my addition was reverted because the example was not from a living language whose pronunciation is known from observation. This is understandable; however, it would be ideal to include reconstructed languages somewhere on the vowel and consonant pages.

We should create a section, where necessary, in which reconstructed forms can be listed. It should be placed as a subsection under Occurrence. It could be titled "Reconstructed forms" or "Ancient languages", or something else if someone has a better idea.

This section could be reserved for ancient languages that are actually attested, and whose phonological systems we know in a fair amount of detail, like Ancient Greek, Classical Latin, Sanskrit, Old English, Old Norse, Gothic, and Old Church Slavonic. And where the pronunciation of the phoneme is uncertain, we can note this fact.

It's doubtful whether we should include languages that are not attested and only reconstructed, such as Proto-Italic, Proto-Germanic, Proto-Indo-Iranian, Proto-Greek, or Proto-Indo-European — and languages that are attested but whose phonological systems are known in less detail, like Mycenaean Greek, Etruscan, Hittite, Akkadian, Phoenician, and Ancient Egyptian. However, in theory we could include these with a clear note that their pronunciation is much more uncertain than that of the ancient languages noted above. — Eru·tuon 21:47, 11 February 2015 (UTC)

For reference, here are the guidelines as they currently stand for these pages. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 00:29, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
I have to disagree with User:Erutuon. No matter how well we think we know the pronunciation of some symbol in some ancient language, we can never be completely certain. The same is not true of languages which a competent modern linguist has recorded. Just look at Φ, for example. Was it [f] or [ɸ] or [pʰ] or something else? As much as we think we know from educated guesses based on circumstantial evidence, they are still guesses. --Taivo (talk) 02:49, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
You are quite right about lack of certainty, and as you say, reconstructed phonology and phonetics is essentially a "guess". It is clearly different from phonology and phonetics of spoken languages, which we know from observation. I don't disagree with you on this point, and I don't propose that we imply that reconstructed phonology and phonetics is completely certain.
Uncertainty by itself does not mean that reconstructed phonetics should be excluded from phonetics pages. It simply means that the uncertainty must be stated explicitly and that dead and hypothetical languages must not be placed in the same table as living languages.
Uncertainty regarding the pronunciation of dead languages is limited by certain parameters. For the case of Φ, which you mention, uncertainty regarding the sound it represented in Ancient Greek is actually limited as follows. There is no uncertainty regarding the phonological feature of place: the sound represented by the letter has always been labial (bilabial or labiodental), as opposed to dental, alveolar, palatal, velar, uvular, pharyngeal, or glottal. The feature of manner is known: the sound patterned with stops in Ancient Greek. The feature of phonation is certain because the tenuis stop Π became Φ before the rough breathing, and Φ was even written ῾Π (I think) or ΠΗ in some regional orthographies. In addition, the change from an aspirated stop to a voiceless fricative is typologically frequent; it is an example of lenition, and has occurred in the phonetically described forms of the Indo-Aryan languages, for instance. These facts establish certainty, within certain parameters, regarding the pronunciation of Φ in the Ancient Greek period: the sound was bilabial, a stop, and aspirated.
We also know that the sound changed to a fricative during the Koine Greek period. However, there is uncertainty how it occurred: what the phonetic stages were between the [pʰ] of Ancient Greek and [f] of Modern Greek. We can propose that it went through the stages [pʰ], [pɸ], [ɸ], and [f], but this is only based on typological considerations relating to phonetics and phonology, not on actual evidence (as far as I know). In addition, the when is uncertain: it seems to have changed at different times in different places and social registers, but we cannot establish the precise times in the various sociolects of each regional variant of Koine Greek.
There is also uncertainty regarding its muscular tension and precise voice-onset time. We know it was a labial aspirated stop, but we cannot determine whether it was pronounced with greater muscular tension and an audible pop, as the Hindi voiceless stops, or with less tension and no audible pop, like the Thai ones (this observation derives from my listening to recordings of these languages); or how aspirated it and its tenuis and voiced counterparts were relative to the voice-onset times of the stop phonemes and allophones in French, English, Thai, Korean, Hindi, or other modern languages. These areas of uncertainty are similar to the uncertainty in phonetic description of living languages, and the level of uncertainty present in phonetic transcriptions of these languages: there is no system for unambiguously representing the different levels of aspiration or muscular tension in stops, only some ad-hoc systems used in the transcription of English and High German dialects, and in the transcription of Korean, and the muscular tension and voice-onset time are not recorded for all living languages. The transcriptions in, for instance, Voiceless bilabial stop therefore do not note these fine distinctions.
Thus, given the uncertainty already existing in phonetics articles, it would be entirely appropriate to include some examples from ancient languages — if they are clearly separated from the examples of living languages, and their status as reconstructions explicitly stated, along with the parameters within which they are uncertain, as well as a note of alternative reconstructions in cases where they exist. — Eru·tuon 07:23, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
You make my point, Erutuon. With modern languages, there is certainty about the sounds--with ancient languages there is none, just guesses and assumptions. The charts of vowels and consonants don't need uncertainty when there are ample examples from modern languages that are certain. Why include a symbol from an ancient language that requires three paragraphs of footnote (as you have written above) or, (gulp) actual text, in order to clarify or explain the educated guess that its inclusion is based on? There are plenty of places where data from ancient languages are appropriate. The pages for consonants and vowels are not included. --Taivo (talk) 08:13, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
One way to think of this is along the distinction between phonetics and phonology. We have reasonable certainty about the phonology of ancient languages; certainty reasonable enough that we can include information about these languages with minimal qualification in their respective phonology pages or sections. However, we don't have nearly as much certainty about the phonetics of these languages. The articles regarding phones are phonetics articles, which puts ancient or poorly attested languages less squarely in their purview.
That said, the prose of any of these articles can be expanded with generalizations about the distribution of sounds both geographically and synchronically. This includes information about their presence in ancient languages, which I think would be appropriate as long as the necessary qualifications are provided. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 08:40, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
"Necessary qualifications" is the problem, of course. When the text of the "qualifications" becomes greater than the text of the article and phonetic description itself, then we have simply opened up more problems than it is worth. None of these ancient languages offer any illumination to any of the phones that would be under discussion. Do we really need another three languages demonstrating the existence of the phone [p] when we have 6000 other modern languages to illustrate it? Is there really any question that [p] existed 2000 years ago when we're 100% certain that it also existed 100,000 years ago? Is the cost (in terms of justification and qualification text) really worth the virtually non-existent benefit (yes, there was [p] 2000 years ago)? --Taivo (talk) 13:59, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I dont see what we gain by adding examples from ancient languages to phonetics articles. There is no reason lists of occurences of a given phone should strive towards being exhaustive.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 15:45, 12 February 2015 (UTC)

@Taivo: Actually, my comment was an explanation to you; I don't propose adding verbose explanations of linguistic reconstruction to phone articles, any more than I propose adding extended discussion on phonetics and phonology of living languages. Extended discussion belongs in X language phonology articles. Some discussion of the reconstruction of Ancient Greek is provided in Ancient Greek phonology and in the sources used for that article.

No more verboseness is required for ancient languages than for living languages, if the examples from ancient languages are chosen well. The details required are: 1. the language and the dialect, sociolect, or time period, 2. the example word in standard orthography, 3. its transcription, 4. its meaning, 5. a brief note on phonemic contrasts and allophony relating to the sound. These items can be provided, and the detailed information above can be boiled down to a concise note quite easily, just as it is for examples from living languages.

@Aeusoes1: While in many cases phonetics is uncertain, in other cases the phonological distinctions provide enough detail for a phonetic transcription. For instance, we have enough phonological certainty regarding the short vowels represented by Α and Ι and the consonants represented by Φ and Σ to provide phonetic transcriptions: [a i] and [pʰ s]. There are a number of uncertainties. The open vowel was most likely front or central, possibly back; but it was probably very near completely open. The close vowel was likely near completely closed and front; but it might have been slightly lowered or centralized. The aspirated stop could have one of several degrees of aspiration, and the sibilant might have been be postalveolar, alveolar, or dental, apical or laminal.

However, these articulatory details are not necessary for a phonetic transcription, since many transcriptions of modern languages don't make these distinctions. We have enough phonetic detail to transcribe the word φάσις in Classical Attic pronunciation as [pʰá.sis]. Other words can also be transcribed in sufficient phonetic detail, though some words are more difficult, because their constituent sounds changed more in pronunciation than the sounds above.

@Taivo, Maunus: Is illustrative usefulness actually applied as a criterion? I don't see anything relating to it in User:Aeusoes1/Phone tables. The current practice regarding examples of phones seems to be 1. exhaustiveness, 2. substantiation from reliable sources, 3. a sufficient level of accuracy. These criteria would be satisfied by some examples from ancient languages.

If illustrative usefulness would exclude ancient languages from lists of examples, it would also exclude some living languages — perhaps more obscure living languages, or living languages from the same language family as others. Which living languages, then, are excluded, and how precisely is the criterion of illustrative usefulness defined by current practice, if not by written policy? How is this criterion not satisfied by examples from ancient languages?

It would be preferable not to have an exhaustive list in the phone articles, but rather to put it in a separate List article, but at the moment, we do not have such list articles.

A final point: we have an IPA help page providing an IPA transcription system for Ancient Greek, and one for Latin. In addition, we discuss these languages in articles on phonetic features, implying that we know their phonetics in some amount of detail. It is therefore a little odd not to include examples from these languages in phone articles. — Eru·tuon 22:06, 12 February 2015 (UTC)

I think the normal criteria for what to include in an article applies. I think having an exhaustive list of every language in which a phone occurs is clearly outside of what we usually put in articles and probably a violation of WP:NOT. So yes I think that the correct thing would be to remove those lists of examples should be removed to list articles or simply removed. There may be examples where adding descriptions of some ancient language (e.g. as an example of sound changes involving a specific phone) might be useful, but I dont think we should ever add them just for the sake of adding them. I feel the same about examples from obscure living languages. User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 23:58, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
@Erutuon:"However, these articulatory details are not necessary for a phonetic transcription". If that is your opinion, then you don't seem to know what a phone actually is. Articulatory detail is precisely what makes a phone a phone. And without a recording, you simply don't know if that Attic Greek <φ> is [f], [φ], or [pʰ]. Classical Greek is simply not the most important language in the world and it simply doesn't belong in every chart of "this is what languages do". I can tell that you love the language very much and are a specialist, but you simply have to realize that it doesn't belong everywhere. This is one of those places. Without audio recordings or a modern phonetic transcription, dead languages don't belong in articles about phones. --Taivo (talk) 03:34, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
@Taivo: Excuse me, but as I said, Classical Attic Greek Φ was an aspirated stop, not a fricative. As such, it was phonetically [pʰ], not [f] or [φ]. There is clear consensus on this point among scholars of linguistic reconstruction. There are far more lines of evidence available for attested ancient languages than for hypothetical proto-languages. Therefore, the phonetic details of Classical Attic Greek are known in greater detail and with greater certainty than the phonology and phonetics of Proto-Indo-European. The identity of the three PIE stop-series, the so-called voiceless, voiced, and voiced aspirated stops, is unknown, as well as the identity of the three PIE dorsal series, and there is great disagreement among reputable scholars on these points, as well as others. By contrast, all reputable scholars I am aware of agree on the basic phonetic distinction between the three stop series of Ancient Greek. Uncertainty only arises regarding their pronunciation in the Koine Greek period; the three options you give belong to Koine Greek, not Classical Greek.
I am aware of the definition of a phone, and I repeat, not all articulatory details are always transcribed. In the case of [p], the sound must be a pulmonic egressive bilabial stop and not voiced. There is more transcriptional latitude relating to other features. The aspiration of the stop is only marked in more narrow transcriptions or where it is phonemically distinctive. Different levels of aspiration are not distinguished; only aspiration and non-aspiration, if anything. Muscular tension is not marked, except in ad-hoc ways (using voiceless diacritics on letters for voiced obstruents). We have enough information to transcribe the Classical Greek stops as [pʰ p b], and no more phonetic detail is required.
It would be wonderful if we could corroborate the results of linguistic reconstruction with direct observation, but we can't. Unless the reasoning used by scholars of linguistic reconstruction is invalid, their findings are worth mentioning. In many cases, their reasoning provides enough phonetic detail for a phonetic transcription; in other cases, it provides certain phonological features, or the endpoints of a sound change. Examples can be selected that have the least phonetic uncertainty, especially regarding the phone being exemplified. Properly chosen examples would not require several paragraphs of caveats and transcriptional options.
My argument for inclusion of Ancient Greek does not rest on my love for the language, but rather on the fact that examples, at the moment, are included without regard for illustrativity. The practice is to make exhaustive lists of phone occurrences; no examples are excluded because they are from the same language family as another example, or because they are too obscure to be useful to readers. If so, then there is no reason to exclude examples from dead languages whose phonetics are agreed upon by scholars of linguistic reconstruction.
If we create a policy on illustrativity, it will not only exclude examples from ancient languages, but also some examples from living languages. It would probably also require that we do include examples from ancient languages that illustrate typologically rare features: see below. ([p], as you say, is a typologically common feature, but a contrast in aspiration is a little less common.)
@Maunus: Okay, I can respect the principle of illustrativity as long as it's applied consistently. I think mentioning Ancient and Koine Greek in a few cases, like for voiceless resonants (ʍ l̥ r̥), the close rounded front vowel, and different heights of mid vowels, would be useful illustratively, as well as in the case of sound changes like monophthongization, lengthening, raising, and fronting. Some of these notable features would be appropriate to mention in phone articles, others in phonetic feature or sound change articles.
It would be beneficial to move examples of phones to a separate article: then allophony and phonological distinctions could be discussed in more detail. We should also list sound changes that different phones either undergo or develop from. At the moment, sound change articles are largely divorced from phone articles. — Eru·tuon 18:02, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
@Erutuon: Whether we are talking about an exhaustive list or an illustrative list, languages for which we have no audio recordings or no modern phonetic description should be excluded because, no matter how good you think scholars have postulated the sounds of an ancient language, it is still nothing more than a hypothesis without concrete, non-circumstantial, evidence. It is unattested and must therefore be marked with a star (*[pʰ] or *[f] or *[ɸ] or whatever). Ancient Greek pronunciation may be more certain than Proto-Indo-European pronunciation, but it is still unattested. --Taivo (talk) 18:38, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Some evidence is not circumstantial: the direct descriptions of grammarians, for instance. Let me grant, however, that reconstructed pronunciation is hypothetical and must be marked with an asterisk. Still, however, the reconstruction is phonetically specific, and can therefore be included. At the moment, the only reason for not including it is the a priori one: that we only include living languages, not dead or constructed. This a priori reason is not justification for itself. It must therefore be reconsidered, and only retained if there is further justification for it.

If the reason behind it is lack of direct observation, this reason is not sufficient: reconstructed phonetic features are still phonetic features. Phonetic features belong in pages on phones. Hypothetical phonetic features are established by the reasoning of linguistic reconstruction, which is equally as valid as the direct evidence of auditory or articulatory analysis. The hypothetical nature of the phonetic features is not the same as lack of clear substantiation for them.

If the reason is lack of illustrative value, this reason is only sometimes sufficient: sometimes the reconstructed phonetic features of dead languages are typologically common and not worth mentioning, while sometimes they are typologically rare or would provide further examples of features that occur in living languages. If dead languages have no illustrative value because they lack audio recordings, this reasoning is invalid, since it does not exclude the examples of living languages that lack audio recordings.

If the reason is a preference for direct observation over theorization, this reasoning is invalid, since other phonetics, sound change, and language phonology articles do not exclude dead languages for lack of direct observation — unless there is some reason why phone articles are unique? — Eru·tuon 19:55, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

All your sophistry simply does not eliminate the simple fact of the matter. 1) we are talking about distinct sounds in human language that we call "phones". 2) Extinct languages without audio recordings or accurate phonetic descriptions by modern linguists have no direct evidence of their sounds. That's the simple fact that with all your argumentation you want to mask or avoid. These sounds are unattested. And if these sounds are unattested, then they have no place in the articles that describe sounds. --Taivo (talk) 21:07, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I do not see the fundamental distinction between phones as defined by the evidence of linguistic reconstruction and phones as directly observed in acoustic and articulatory analysis of living languages. As I understand it, certain types of arguments used in linguistic reconstruction are relevant to establishing the details of the phonetic distinctions made in dead languages. The phonetic precision of these arguments is comparable to the precision achieved by basic acoustic or articulatory analysis in modern phonetics. If so, then there is no fundamental distinction between phonetic details established by linguistic reconstruction and phonetic details from modern phonetics. The only distinction is that some phonetic details are established by phonetics, and others by linguistic reconstruction; this distinction should certainly be noted.
My arguments are not sophistical; I give them in good faith, with no intent to deceive or to blur concepts that should remain distinct. If my arguments are unclear, logically invalid, or inaccurate, it doesn't help to cast aspersions on my motives or my argumentative ability, but rather to present a more clear, logical, and accurate picture of the theoretical question. I do not see the point you are making as entirely accurate. Perhaps it is because I am more familiar with the lines of evidence used in linguistic reconstruction, and their relevance to phonetics, than you are.
If you are familiar with the evidence, I would appreciate some explanation of why evidence used to establish phonetic details of dead languages is insufficient: for instance, how it is unclear whether the Classical Attic Greek aspirated stops were indeed phonetically aspirated and stops. If it is clear from the evidence, then the theoretical distinction between linguistic reconstructive evidence and direct observation is not relevant. If it is not, then perhaps the linguistic reconstruction is indeed too uncertain to be presented in the page on a phone. — Eru·tuon 22:21, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I am a historical and descriptive linguist by training, by profession, and by publication record, so I know precisely the lines of evidence that are used in hypothesizing the phonetic values of the phonemes of dead languages. And that is why I can very clearly and succinctly say that there is a fundamental and irrevocable difference between actual evidence from living languages and hypothetical deduction from ancient languages. Hypothetical deduction from ancient languages, based upon circumstantial evidence as it is, is not valid as illustration of modern linguistic phones that are described from audio recordings and modern linguistic description. --Taivo (talk) 22:37, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
Things are better with early stages of living languages, such as Old English or Old French. But even here there are difficulties. Much better to use modern languages as illustrations of what Old English sounds are thought to have been, than to use Old English as an illustration of what a living language is described to be. — kwami (talk) 23:19, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
@Taivo: Oh, I was not aware of that. My apologies; that gives you much more authority on this matter than me.
@Kwamikagami: I like that proposal. Supposing we added more information on phonological distinctions, typology, and sound changes to phone articles, then it might be appropriate to give examples from dead languages. For instance, if we mentioned the aspiration distinction in Armenian in the article on [p], we can also mention the aspiration distinction reconstructed for Ancient Greek and Sanskrit and give examples of words in which the distinction is hypothesized to have occurred. Or if we mention vowel fronting in the article on [y], we can mention that fronting is hypothesized for early Attic Greek. Similarly, we can mention Latin and Sanskrit in the context of discussing vowel quality distinctions between long and short vowels, etc. Mentioning dead languages here has value, since the features are hypothesized for dead languages partly because they occur in living ones. This is assuming we do add more information on these topics to phone articles, and do include several examples of each feature.
What do you think, Taivo? I accept your point regarding dead languages not being useful examples of phones; but what about mentioning hypotheses of linguistic reconstruction in connection to the other topics above? This idea needs more developing, I admit, but I think it would make more sense than placing dead languages in tables of examples. — Eru·tuon 23:56, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
I hadn't intended to suggest that, but I don't see any harm. Except that I think a lot of these articles have gotten ridiculously overwritten. What's the point of illustrating a sound with an obscure language no-one but linguists and its speakers have ever heard of? unless it's the best-known language that illustrates the sound? Personally, I think these articles should just give examples from just a few languages that most people will have heard of, and leave it at that. For reconstructions, IMO those should be in the articles on those languages, with the phone articles illustrating the sounds for readers who do not know what they are. Only for truly obscure sounds, where a reconstruction would be notable because of its rarity, would we want to mention the reconstruction in the phone article, and then separately from the illustrations. But then that's from the POV of someone who would gut most of these articles. If we truly wish to illustrate [a] with examples from all 4,000 languages (or however many) that have it, then I suppose we could add all reconstructions with *a (even if the reconstructor has no idea if it was actually [a]), and maybe all Pokemon characters with 'a' in their names as well. (That snark is directed at the state of these articles rather than at your suggestion.) — kwami (talk) 00:15, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
@Kwamikagami: Well, like I said somewhere earlier in this ridiculously long thread, I think the lists of examples are stupid and unmotivated. We don't have definite reasons for inclusion or exclusion besides adequate sourcing. It would be best to come up with a policy on which examples to keep in the phone articles, then move the rest of the examples to another article, titled, for instance, List of examples of the voiceless bilabial stop, Examples of the voiceless bilabial stop, or Voiceless bilabial stop (list). And then the phone article could briefly discuss typology, allophony, phonemic distinctions, sound changes, and the list article could provide a more comprehensive set of examples of all phonemes from every documented language (tenuis, aspirated, ejective, palatalized, labialized, pharyngealized, etc.: whatever variations are already included under a certain phone). Even all the phonemes of Ubykh! Maybe allophones could also be mentioned. The hypothesized phonetic examples of ancient languages could be placed in a separate category of the exhaustive listing, but only in the main article if illustratively useful, which might be never. Not sure precisely how the list article would be organized, or if it's possible to include all these things. The details must be figured out along the way. — Eru·tuon 00:40, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
Allophones are only defined with respect to phonemes, which strictly speaking are not sounds. We could have yet another section on which other sounds are allophones of this sound, in various languages, but inclusion would yet again be difficult to decide. They would also overlap so much that we might end up with more noise than clarity. — kwami (talk) 02:16, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Thinking out loud here. It seems that the maximal amount of information in a comprehensive list would be something like as follows: That [t] is an allophone of the phoneme "by default" pronounced [d] in languages with final devoicing, an allophone of an oral stop also realized as [k] in Hawaiian, etc. That the phone [t] has under its purview certain variants, distinguished by aspiration, secondary articulation, and other articulatory features, and that some of these variants are allophonic in some languages, in others phonemically distinctive. That the phoneme whose "default" realization is [t] undergoes lenition in some languages, yielding [d ɾ ð θ s z ʔ], or palatalization, yielding [tʲ ts tɕ tʃ tʂ c], and that some lenitions and palatalizations are allophonic, and others created phonemic splits.

Listing this information requires distinguishing between phones and phonemes, allophones and historical sound changes, and the creation of an organizational system. Some categories of information could be excluded. Not sure how precisely this would be done. Maybe I'll try. — Eru·tuon 05:08, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

Check out User:Erutuon/Voiceless alveolar stop for a test-case of the proposed phone-article extension and restructuring. — Eru·tuon 01:11, 15 February 2015 (UTC)

To clarify, this is a possible outline for an exhaustive list. How much of this information belongs in the main article remains to be decided. — Eru·tuon 23:55, 15 February 2015 (UTC)

Phonology articles[edit]

If I were a phonologist writing articles on phones I would want to add spectrograms of each phone with some prose description of the relevant formants. I dont think most (any?) of our articles on phones have this. And it would be really useful as a reference.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 00:00, 13 February 2015 (UTC)

That would be nice. But we'd want e.g. all vowels from the same speaker and the same frame, so they could be compared. Would be difficult to find someone would could pronounce all the vowels or fricatives as well as a native speaker. — kwami (talk) 00:21, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
I am not sure they would need to be the same speaker. In textbooks or studies they are not necessarily by the same speakers, just whichever speaker is considered to be illustrative of a given sound. We can simply note the native language of the speake pronouncing the phone. User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 03:22, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
This is a very good idea. Whether the spectrograms are all from the same speaker or not: it would be nice if they were all
  • produced from audio recordings actually used in the articles, with the same software (e.g. Praat), using the same options/parameters and
  • included with a template that shows that recording and spectrogram derive from the same recording session and represent the same utterance. —LiliCharlie (talk) 09:48, 14 February 2015 (UTC)
Some general phonetics–phonology articles, like Voice-onset time and Tenseness, could also use more soundfiles and perhaps spectrograms. Some of these require native speakers: although I could try to manufacture the French voice-onset distinction, it would probably be not quite accurate; and the Korean tenseness contrast is beyond me, and probably beyond most English-speaking linguists. Palatalization (phonetics) and Labialization have a few examples, but need more examples from specific languages. Labialization could use examples of the different types of labialization, which would require the help of native speakers of some relatively obscure languages, or the authorization of phonetics researchers. — Eru·tuon 22:38, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

Tips for enthusiasts in Australia[edit]

We're gonna be joining the lingwiki collaboration down here in Canberra later in March. I was just wondering if you wanted to highlight and specific series of articles that you'd like us to work on in particular. There are potentially people who don't know what to write about and I'd be handy to have some clear and easy tasks lined up. Marshagreen (talk) 12:41, 16 February 2015 (UTC)


I have initiated a discussion regarding the use of small caps which some editors consider to be deprecated by the MOS in general but which are of course necessary for writing interlinear gloss in language and linguistics articles.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 19:55, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Here is the RfC about the issue: Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Capital_letters#RfC:_Proposed_exceptions_to_general_deprecation_of_Allcaps You input will be valued. User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 21:16, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Importance scale[edit]

The importance scale might need some revision. It takes two things into account: the familiarity of the subject to non-linguists and its importance inside linguistics. For instance, Phoneme is rated as mid-importance. This seems to be based on the familiarity criterion, because as far as importance in the field of linguistics is concerned, phoneme is pretty fundamental and would probably be ranked as High. Maybe this is only importance within the subfield of phonology, or of theoretical linguistics, but if not, then the importance scale is somewhat problematic, since it blurs the distinction between reader interest (or whatever else you might call it) and importance within the field. I don't know if Wikipedia allows making a distinction between importance defined by readership and importance in a field, but if there's the possibility of making these two distinct, it would be beneficial. — Eru·tuon 18:39, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

I suppose the other option would be to rate some less familiar concepts as higher importance even though they're not well-known under their typical name to non-linguists. — Eru·tuon 19:09, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

I think most people dont care about the importance scale really, and that noone will likely object if you change the importance on any article. It is really only meant for project internal processes and no one is carrying out those processes currently so the whole rating thing is a little redundant.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 22:30, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

Linguistics guidelines[edit]

I've suggested in the RfC on capitalization that WikiProject Linguistics create a set of guidelines for linguistics. This is in response to Margin1522's comment that new editors find Wikipedia guidelines too dense and hard to understand. If a set of guidelines for linguistics were created, the use of small caps for interlinear glossing could be removed from the general guidelines on capitalization, or briefly mentioned with a link.

These linguistics guidelines could include the following:

  • general notes on using the IPA
  • instructions on IPA, script, and language formatting templates
  • instructions on use of italicization and quotation marks in language examples and glossing
  • instructions on the usage of angle brackets, square brackets and slashes
  • a list of morphological and syntactic abbreviations for interlinear glossing
  • notes on the formatting of phoneme and phone tables in language phonology articles
  • notes on occurrence tables in phone articles

Guidelines for occurrence tables already exist, but I haven't seen guidelines on these other topics. — Eru·tuon 04:12, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

What do you mean by general notes on using the IPA? — Peter238 (v̥ɪˑzɪʔ mɑˑɪ̯ tˢʰoˑk̚ pʰɛˑɪ̯d̥ʒ̊) 21:55, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
Notes on using the IPA could include links to the Help:IPA for X and other IPA pages, or the other item, description of bracketing and the difference between phonemic and phonetic transcription, etc — or notes on adding IPA transcriptions, sound files, and translations to articles, and converting orthography to phonemic and phonetic transcription. The categories above bleed into each other. — Eru·tuon 23:18, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
Oh, ok. We should also cover the degree of precision in phonetic transcription (e.g. tiring [ˈtaɪrɪŋ], RP [ˈtˢʰa(ɪ)ɹɪŋ]), perhaps in the article about the difference between phonemic and phonetic transcription. — Peter238 (v̥ɪˑzɪʔ mɑˑɪ̯ tˢʰoˑk̚ pʰɛˑɪ̯d̥ʒ̊) 23:39, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
We have a list of glossing abbreviations, and brackets are covered in the IPA article. — kwami (talk) 03:04, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
Given our recent decision to use Leipzig gloss as standard perhaps the abbreviations should be updated.User:Maunus ·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 01:42, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Okay, good — glossing abbreviations are covered.
However, I think creating a separate explanation on IPA usage on Wikipedia would be useful. The IPA article is long and difficult to wade through. It contains information irrelevant to Wikipedia editors, like history, real-life usage, IPA symbols in African alphabets, letter names. It also isn't explicit or detailed enough on topics that I think are important to Wikipedia IPA usage, like diphthongs and syllabification, diacritics for places of articulation, specific examples of bracket usage. These topics are difficult for new and inexperienced editors (from personal experience), and somewhat fragmented, scattered across different Wikipedia articles. Placing this information in a single article or set of articles with examples would be helpful — both for editors and readers — and might result in more consistency in IPA transcription and example formatting throughout Wikipedia. — Eru·tuon 04:17, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Finally actually looked, and found the pages Help:IPA and Help:IPA/Introduction. These are the sort of pages I'm thinking of, although at the moment the first is just a list, and the second is about English. — Eru·tuon 23:53, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Cyrillic letter articles[edit]

Would anyone be able to check the veracity of new Cyrillic letter articles and changes made to existing articles by User:PGCX864 and User:Spc10K? Alakzi (talk) 12:41, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

Wikipedia Corpus[edit]

Wikipedia Corpus is a new text corpus among the corpora at
Wavelength (talk) 01:51, 28 February 2015 (UTC)