Talk:Esperanto orthography

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ASCII transliterations[edit]

This article discusses Esperanto orthography in general - including the "h" and "^" systems, not just the x-system - so I propose moving it to Esperanto orthography, which in any case would mean more to non-Esperantists. Any objections? -- Oliver P. 16:45 Feb 17, 2003 (UTC)

Okay, I've moved it and made separate sections for different systems. Somehow its ended up quite a lot longer than before, despite the fact that I haven't added much. I think my writing style may be too verbose. But hopefully it's clear enough. Please check through it if you have time! -- Oliver P. 20:42 Feb 17, 2003 (UTC)
I like it. Good job! --Chuck SMITH
Phew! Thanks. :) Feel free to improve it if you want... I wasn't sure about including the weird capitalisation method, as I've only known one other person who has used it. I used it for a while when corresponding with Martin Howard. (He was for a time the president of the Orienta Federacio, which is the main Esperanto group for East Anglia and its environs.) I can't remember where he said he got it from, but I seem to remember him being very keen on it! I haven't written to him for quite a while, though. I'll try to find the old e-mails where he was telling me about it. -- Oliver P. 21:04 Feb 17, 2003 (UTC)

-- Speaking of h-system, i added an item about the ambiguity of u (can be either u or ŭ). The item i added cites w as an available letter (could be used in h-system or x-system), but i hope it doesn't upset people (yet-another-way-of-writing... :) ). I'm not proposing it, i think people use too many variant spellings (vx??? c' g' u'??? ^c ^g???) and this makes it hard to search the net for Esperanto words... I just wonder why the creator of the x-system didn't use w in the first place. --Yuu en 01:29, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

That may be to avoid confusion with actual w, which occasionally may occur in unassimilated proper names, or because w is normally trascribed as <v>, not <ŭ>. kwami 02:08, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

Use of upper-case letters[edit]

One very unusual system is to dispense with the normal capitalisation rules, and use lower-case letters to stand for unaccented letters, and upper-case letters for accented ones. For example, ŝi would be written as Si, regardless of where it occurs in a sentence. This system has the advantage that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the letters being reprsented and the characters used to represent them. However, the resulting texts look very peculiar to most people, and the system is almost never used.

I removed the above section because this convention is never used in reality. --Chuck SMITH

<c> vs. <ts>[edit]

As far as I'm aware, Esperanto does not contain monomorphemic sequences of <ts>, <tŝ>, or <dĵ>, so the argument against the phonemicity of /c/, /ĉ/, and /ĝ/ is spurious. If there are a couple such words in some sources, most Esperantists would agree that they don't fit accepted Esperanto orthography. One could just as easily argue against the phonemicity of English <ch> because it's phonetically [tʃ] and even spelled that way in Tchaikovsky. Bimorphemic sequences may be slightly distinct due to their composite structure, but such marginal cases are found in most languages. --kwami

Since there's been no comment, I'm removing that section. You wouldn't argue the Fijian script is nonphonemic because < b > is [mb], since that is a phoneme in the language. Similarly, affricates are phonemic sequences of sounds. --kwami 02:04, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
About the presence of <ts>, <tĉ> and similars: some words have them (matĉo), as a rule they are not supposed to produce an affricate, so matĉo is pronounced mat-ĉo. These words also appear not so unfrequently in compound words. Orzetto 17:06, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Not sure if you're agreeing or disagreeing, Orzetto. Geminate consonants certainly occur, though usually not monomorphemically (mallonga, for example). <Tc>, <tĉ>, <dĝ> are the geminate equivalents of <c>, <ĉ>, <ĝ>, and they do occur occasionally, like in your example of matĉo. (Should we also add the diphthong because someone coined the word ppo? Do we need to recognize as phonemic everything that someone decides to transcribe into Esperanto? [That's an honest question, by the way; I'm not trying to be sarcastic].) However, I don't believe there's any contrast between plosive + fricative and affricate, unless it's across morpheme boundaries and the syllable boundary falls between the two segments. English does this (can't think of a good example offhand; only thing that comes to mind is achoo vs. at Shoe), and you wouldn't argue <ch> isn't phonemic because of that. I don't know if there's any official take on whether <ot-so> should be syllabified as [] or [o.tso], that is, as contrasting with or homophonic with <oco> [o.tso]. Note also that <dz> is not considered a phoneme in Esperanto, and as far as I know geminate <ddz> never occurs. --kwami 01:57, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)
P.S. I frequently read that Esperanto does not have monomorphemic gemination, despite a few words like matĉo.

Nearly phonemic?[edit]

As far as I know Esperanto is defined phonemic, so ekzemple is indeed pronounced with /kz/, or it would be written differently. The same goes for ŭ, it is not an allophone of /v/ (even though in normal Esperanto words it is found only as or ). If someone is pronouncing like that, he/she's simply pronouncing wrong and looking for excuses. It can and should be remarked that some (groups of) esperantists have pronounciation biases, for example Russians tend to use anticipatory voicing quite a lot; this is possibly the origin of some rumours on irregularities in pronounciation. Orzetto 17:06, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

You're right, I should have said "nearly a one-to-one correspondance of letter and sound" or some such, which is quite different. However, there's nothing unphonemic about pronouncing /kz/ as [gz], as long as that's a systematic rule for the language: "voiceless plosives become voiced before voiced obstruents except /v/" is a perfectly normal phonemic rule (and basically the situation of Polish and Russian). Then within a morpheme, it would be an arbitrary orthographic choice whether to write [gz] as <kz> or <gz>, with Zamenhof choosing <kz>. (English is similar here; we write sky, even though *sgy would seem closer phonetically: Compare the sky with this guy – the only difference for me at least is in the placement of the syllable break.)
It could very well be the case that Zamenhof intended <kz> to be pronounced [gz], or even that he pronounced it that way without realizing it, and that people have been trying to pronounce it [kz] ever since, despite the nearly universal tendency for voicing assimilation (and Esperanto is the "universal language"!). Actually, I believe the Esperanto script is usually claimed to be phonetic, not phonemic. Z's phrase was "unu litero - unu sono", but that's impossible in any literal sense. (Can we really expect anyone to pronounce both the /m/ and the /f/ in <emfazi> the same as in <bombo> and <infano>, with one bilabial and the other labial-dental?) There must be allophony in Esperanto, as human speech is impossible otherwise. The only question is how much allophony we allow. Since a good portion of Esperantists – and in rapid speech, probably the vast majority – pronounce <kz> as [gz] (whether they realize it or not), this must be reflected in any descriptive (as opposed to prescriptive) account of the language. Even if Z specifically intended <kz> to be [kz]. Fundamento or no, this is how the language is.
As for <ŭ>, I didn't claim it was an allophone of /v/. I believe [w] is an allophone of /v/, but <ŭ> isn't [w]: it's a diphthongal offglide [u̯]. As an onset, [w] is Esperantized as <v>. Z purposefully created a single phoneme for [w], [v], etc., which at first he wrote <w>, but which he had changed to <v> by the time he went public. He suggested Italian as the model for pronunciation, but that's only a suggestion. So any pronunciation in the [w] to [v] range would be acceptable, and these are allophones of a single phoneme /v/.
As for any contrast with <ŭ>, I do wonder if that's not also allophonic. <Ŭ> may very well contrast with /v/: although Z seems to have avoided any contrast in root words, there are near minimal pairs in derived forms, such as lave and laŭe. Unless the difference is one of syllabification? / = [] vs. /lav.e/ = [lau̯.e]? I wouldn't go so far as to make such a claim, but you don't seem to find, say, Classical Eŭgenio versus Slavic Evgenio for the proper name. Instead, <ŭ> is found as a syllabic coda, and <v> as a syllabic onset: Complementary distribution. If this is indeed the case throughout the vocabulary (and I haven't researched it), then there'd be no basis for claiming <ŭ> and <v> represent separate phonemes. By "unu litero – unu sono", Z may have merely intended there to be two recognized allophones, that would avoid German objections to [wino] at the same time as they avoided English objections to [avtomobilo]. An allophone, after all, is just a sound, and here we might have two letters for two "sounds" (two allophones). This would fit with the Esperanto alphabet being "phonetic" rather than phonemic. And even if Z did conceive of <ŭ> and <v> as separate phonemes (if he even thought in terms of phonemes!), if he created them to never contrast, then there is no linguistic basis for claiming they actually are separate phonemes in the living language.
Anyway, I'll go ahead and change the wording a bit. Again, I think we should be describing what Esperanto is, not what people (even Zamenhof) say it is. --kwami 06:39, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)


added a blurb on punctuation. quite rudimentary; needs to be corrected and expanded. kwami 09:48, 2005 May 6 (UTC)

Mac OS X keyboard layout[edit]

I've created a custom Esperanto keyboard layout for Mac OS X. Would it be inappropriate to link to it in some way on this page, like in External Links? --Bill Du Talk 08:51, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

Sounds fine to me. What was the reason for making a new layout? Mithridates 11:04, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
Because I wasn't aware that there was already Esperanto keyboard layouts for Macs, so I made one. I'll be bold and add the link to this page and the main Esperanto article (under the External links section "Input Tools") after I create a page with instructions on how to install the layout that includes the link to download the layout.--Bill Du Talk 09:07, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Section on Shavian alphabet necessary?[edit]

The material already exists in the Shavian article and use of the Shavian alphabet with Esperanto is nearly non-existent. This article is about Esperanto orthography and I think that an explanation of Shavian is out of its scope. Also, Shavian was designed for English and the English orthography doesn't mention it. Saying Shavian has been used for Esperanto and providing a link to the Shavian article should be more than enough. - DNewhall 22:35, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

Agreed, this is totally out of place. I removed the mention from the first paragraph, for starters. --babbage 22:44, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

Non-printed variants[edit]

Another explanation for the origin of the manual alphabet Z sign in Signuno might be that the number 3 resembles the Cyrillic letter that corresponds to Z. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 23:13, 17 April 2007 (UTC).

"Modified alphabet"[edit]

Is this just someone's pet project, or is this actually used?

I've deleted about half the section, which was obviously false or subjective opinion, but we need some source for accepting any of it. — kwami (talk) 22:57, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Actually, I'll just move the factual parts of it here. I can't find anything about it on Eo wiki.

You said in the history page that this article was not about reforms and had not to deal with this "modified alphabet". Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "reform" because it is actually not a reform, but the way some people write in Esperanto (at least the one who wrote those lines probably does). In both cases, the few paragraphs in question are still relevant because they are about Esperanto orthography. I won't go any further with this silly game of adding and deleting these paragraphs again and again because it won't sort out the problem. But if you still have any objections to these paragraphs' presence, on which article would you suggest them to appear, instead of this one? — (talk) 00:38, 24 March 2009 (UTC)
Why should they appear anywhere? They're personal idiosyncrasies and not at all notable. For example, I spell the English word probably "prob'ly", since that's how I pronounce it. Should I add that to the English orthography article? People have written English in all sorts of reformed spellings, and most are completely insignificant. Now, if a notable Esperanto author used one of these systems, that would be a different story, but I've seen no evidence that is the case. kwami (talk) 01:13, 24 March 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure these spelling modifications are only personal idiosyncrasies, as you said. They actually seem to be used by a certain number of people that shouldn't be ignored, as we can see in the history page that several people consider these paragraphs are important:,, Lothlerarhlichliarmetlialeta. However those three names may refer to the same person... We should ask the person who first wrote it (= what were his reasons to do it and can he testify to the use of these modifications by a notable community? — (talk) 18:31, 24 March 2009 (UTC)
Likely just s.o. pushing a personal project. Not notable enough to warrant even a mention on Eo wiki. No evidence ever presented that it has any notability. I'd left this here earlier to end an edit war with s.o. pushing this, because it was rather harmless, but he was never able to justify it. No evidence presented in the mean time. Time for it to go. kwami (talk) 19:24, 24 March 2009 (UTC)

Modified Alphabet[edit]

In order to combat the idea of having to use some kind of additional symbol, a "modified" alphabet has come into circulation, which represents consonant clusters as two separate letters rather than diacratically altered ones. The idea makes use of some of the letters in the latin alphabet that have not been included in the original Esperanto alphabet in order to represent the diacritically altered letters.

Below shows the original alphabet, with underneath, the "modified" system. Consonant clusters are shown in brackets, as they do not use separate letters, but instead combinations of others.

Original Alphabet: a - b - c - ĉ - d - e - f - g - ĝ - h - ĥ - i - j - ĵ - k - l - m - n - o - p - r - s - ŝ - t - u - ŭ - v - z
Modified Alphabet: a - b - (ts) - (tc) - d - e - f - g - (dj) - h - q/x - i - y - j - k - l - m - n - o - p - r - s - c - t - u - w/v - v - z

The modified system achieves a greater phoneme-letter accuracy, with one sound being represented by each letter, and all consonant clusters being represented by seperate consonants.


Seven changes in total are seen, but these changes liken the alphabet more to the Latin alphabet used in Romance and Germanic languages.

  • The "c" changes into its consonant cluster of "t" and "s".
  • The "ĉ" changes into its consonant cluster of "t" and "c"(which was originally represented as "ŝ").
  • The "ĝ" changes into its consonant cluster of "d" and "j"(which was originally represented as "ĵ").
  • The "ĥ" changes into "q" (or sometimes "x").
  • The "j" changes into "y".
  • The "ĵ" changes into "j".
  • The "ŝ" changes into "c".
  • The "ŭ" changes into "w" (or sometimes "v", which represents an allophone of the phoneme).

Significant popularity of this method has been seen over the internet, in which it becomes quicker to type using this method, and also achieve's greater correspondance with the IPA.

Below is a comparison of text in the "originial" Esperanto alphabet side by side with a "translation" in the modified one:

Original Alphabet

Estis iam reĝido, kiu volis edziĝi kun reĝidino, sed li volis, ke tio estu vera reĝidino. Li travojaĝis la tutan mondon, por trovi tian, sed ĉie troviĝis ia kontraŭaĵo. Da reĝidinoj estis sufiĉe multe, sed ĉu tio estas veraj reĝidinoj, pri tio neniel povis konvinkiĝi: ĉiam troviĝis io, kio ne estis tute konforma. Tial li venis returne hejmen kaj estis tre malĝoja, ĉar li tre deziris havi veran reĝidinon.

Modified Alphabet

Estis iam redjido, kiu volis edzidji kun redjidino, sed li volis, ke tio estu vera redjidino. Li travoyadjis la tutan mondon, por trovi tian, sed tcie trovidjis ia kontrawajo. Da redjidinoy estis sufitxe multe, sed tcu tio estas veray redjidinoy, pri tio neniel povis konvinkidji: tciam trovidjis io, kio ne estis tute konforma. Tial li venis returne heymen kay estis tre maldjoya, tcar li tre deziris havi veran redjidinon.

Capitalization of months[edit]

I often see the names of months capitalized. Is this less common, or is this inroad from English and German the norm? Jchthys cont. 18:02, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

My Plena vortaro does not capitalize the months. I think it probably is an English influence. kwami (talk) 22:23, 25 February 2009 (UTC)
I do think it is an English influence. The lernu! Detala gramatiko, does capitalize the months, as does my Esperanto Ubuntu (though the translation of open-source software is not perfect). Jchthys cont. 23:23, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Names of the letters[edit]

I think there is undue weight given to alternate names for the letters. Yes, there have been lots of reform attempts, including by prominent Esperantists such as Kalocsay. However, in common use these are virtually irrelevant. I propose cutting the entire section on alternate names to this:

Since these names are easily confused, there have been numerous proposals of alternate naming schemes, including one by the writer Kálmán Kalocsay. However, the traditional names ending in o are widely accepted and are the only names in practical use. --N-k (talk) 05:41, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

I think your 'however' addition is good. We should be clear about that. However, given that it's Kalocsay, I don't think it's unreasonable for his names to remain. — kwami (talk) 06:09, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

Utility for typing Esperanto[edit]

I wrote a program that makes typing special characters easier. When you type, it automatically replaces sequences like ,^g ,^h ,uu with the corresponding letters ĝ ĥ ŭ. (You type a comma followed by the characters that you want to combine). This program can be found at It is free, open source and portable. It was originally made for translators and terminologists who need to type in several languages, but I suppose that it can be useful for typing Esperanto. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Maxbois (talkcontribs) 07:53, 8 April 2011 (UTC)

Sound value[edit]

Should we include the example of the IPA like j for you like in those IPA articles?--Kc kennylau (talk) 09:04, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

I added a word. It is easy for English speakers to confuse. — kwami (talk) 10:00, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Neutrality of "Graphic work-arounds"[edit]

"Many new Esperantists from America and Western Europe, who are not used to diacritics from their own languages, perceive the Esperanto diacritics to be a problem, and often propose reforms to the orthography, sometimes with substantial modifications, in order to "fix" it. Such proposals are ignored by the community, both because they generally come from people who do not know the language well, and because reform projects tend to snowball, a fate that has destroyed several constructed languages."

Not only does this section lack citations for the claims it makes, but also seems not to be written objectively ("in order to 'fix' it"). I would rather not take it out, because orthography reform was a big force in the movement until after the Idismo split, when a self-maintained stability mindset was created among the Esperantists who remained in the movement. Before I modify this, are there any objections? — Preceding unsigned comment added by PatrickNiedzielski (talkcontribs) 01:51, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

I've heard a fair number of complaints about the circumflex. Along with gender, it seems to be one of the main things people dislike, so I think something that communicates that would be desired. — kwami (talk) 06:49, 5 March 2012 (UTC)
I have heard these complaints too, and although it seems reasonable that the complains would be coming chiefly from America and Western Europe (due more to what I know about East Asian and East European Esperantist culture than any solid knowledge), I can't find any citations that would justify this. I'm going to edit the paragraph for tone, and change the final sentence to be more accurate. PatrickNiedzielski (talk) 04:39, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
Though OR, look at the complaints here on WP-en about diacritics. If you're used to them, as in eastern Europe, it wouldn't be a big deal. Similarly if your native language is not written in a Latin alphabet. — kwami (talk) 05:26, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
I think the complaints about Esperanto orthography have largely been based on previously popular character set technology. It's less about "I don't like or am not used to diacritics" than "My computer doesn't (or didn't) have the diacritics." -- Evertype· 12:28, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
I can't tell if this is supposed to be justification for your recent edit. Your edit summary contradicted the edit itself.
Complaints about the diacritics predate computers. — kwami (talk) 12:41, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
You are mistaken: The reason does not contradict the edit. The text you removed said workarounds aren't needed now we have Unicode. My reason for restoring that text was "I don't think it's trivial; it explains why the workarounds are not needed much." That is exactly why the sentence isn't trivial. It is useful and interesting to inform people why the -h and -x workarounds aren't needed now. We have Unicode. Please revert your reversion, because the reason for your reversion was that my reason contradicted the text I was restoring—which id did not.
Some complaints about the diacritics may have preceded computers, but some of the complaints about the diacritics were certainly based on the Latin 1 and Mac Roman character sets. The -x convention was popularized with computers because of data concerns (h may be appropriate at morpheme boundries). Accordingly the sentence should be restored to the article: you have certainly not demonstrated that "triviality" is anything but your opinion. 12:51, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────When I reverted your deletion of the original text, I kindly marked it "reversion of good-faith edit by Kwami". It would have been polite to have discussed it here, rather than just reverting it again. That's a bullying tactic. You employ it a lot. It makes it hard to respect you as an editor. In any case, your rationale for deleting the text and for reverting my reversion are not correct, so please revert it back yourself. Thank you. -- Evertype· 12:55, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

I would have left it alone if you had given a rational reason for its removal. But (apparently) saying it is correct while removing it is irrational. Perhaps I just misinterpreted your edit summary, and your explanation here?
Or perhaps you misread the edit? You say I removed the text and you restored it, when I restored it and you removed it.
You often accuse others of being bullies because they disagree with you. That makes it hard to respect you as an editor. There is such thing as honest disagreement, as well as honest misunderstanding. — kwami (talk) 13:01, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
I misread the edit history. My mistake. -- Evertype· 21:28, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

Cyrillic alphabet[edit]

Because we have no proofs that Cyrillic script was actually used, and it has no standard alphabet, and propositions to use it are just arbitrary volapük transliterations, that section has no encyclopedic value or authoritative source, and therefore should be removed as WP:OR. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:29, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

I've seen the claim several places. What we don't have are Cyrillic documents from that era, so I can't tell if the link uses the same convention -- or if there even was a single convention. — kwami (talk) 23:13, 16 July 2012 (UTC)
No convention, no phenomenon. It is common knowledge that you can transliterate latin-based alphabets with cyrillic ones, and vice-versa. Because we have no proof that it was done in some standard way, and differed from common tendencies, it is probably WP:OR. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:14, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
Then why not delete the Shavian as well? That's less used than cyrillic. — kwami (talk) 10:22, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
There we have a booklet presumably typed in that script. About cyrillic we have nothing. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:02, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────See Cirila transliterumo de esperanto. -- Evertype· 21:31, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

The WP-ru page has been deleted.[1] I can't access the page history to see why. I've asked at their wikiproject. — kwami (talk) 21:43, 17 July 2012 (UTC)
The reason given was Original Research. -- Evertype· 13:16, 18 July 2012 (UTC)
Well, as no reliable sources was found or presented (somebody's homepage with vague recommendations does not count), and WP should strive to contain verifiable information, I will remove the unsorced part. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:09, 20 July 2012 (UTC)
I do not think that this qualifies as Original Research or as hearsay. See Cirila transliterumo de esperanto. It is proper to tag it for references, but not to just go delete the material ofter only two days. That's what reference tags are for, I.P., to invite people to find and provide the information which may not be to hand. -- Evertype· 12:07, 21 July 2012 (UTC)
Like Jimmy Walsh said:

There seems to be a terrible bias among some editors that some sort of random speculative "I heard it somewhere" pseudo information is to be tagged with a "needs a cite" tag. Wrong. It should be removed, aggressively, unless it can be sourced.

Links from Esperanto article (which misses source references completely btw.) lead to (1) dead, (2) somebody's homepage and (3) to joke thread in the forum. The entire eo-pedia looks like it was created for pagecount only, but that is irrelevant. Unless we find a source which (a) describe an exact version of the alphabet presumably being used, and (b) shows some tangible proof of its use, that will be the "I heard it somewhere", described above. It like if I was to create a section about Cyrillic alphabet for English, as I used it some time in my childhood, linking various sites with mock English cyrillic alphabets as sources.
I ask you to keep the controvercial topic removed, until someone with sources beforehand will appear to reinstate it (hint: never). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:29, 22 July 2012 (UTC)
One month has been more than enough time to produce trustworthy sources. (talk) 18:38, 12 August 2012 (UTC)