Glottopedia:Frequently asked questions

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Is a freely editable linguistic encyclopedia really reliable?

It is well-known that the freely editable encyclopedia Wikipedia is not less reliable than other encyclopedias, and is significantly more up to date. This is achieved by the collective efforts of a large community of Wikipedia contributors.

As soon as Glottopedia gains a fair amount of contributors and supporters, the same effect will happen in Glottopedia: Errors committed by one contributor will be corrected by another, and gradually the quantity and the quality of the information in Glottopedia will rise.

Information in Glottopedia will be more reliable than information in Wikipedia because anonymous editing will not be possible. Contributors will have to give their real name when they register and log in, so all contributions can be traced back to their authors. No academic linguist will want to risk their reputation by deliberately entering incorrect information.

Why should I contribute to Glottopedia?

The main reason why linguists contribute to Glottopedia is that they want to make their knowledge available to the public, so they are primarily driven by altruism and the desire to help students to answer their questions and to help colleagues in their research.

Glottopedia is an enterprise of unprecedented scope: While there exist a number of dictionaries of linguistic terminology and catalogues of the world's languages (and also one biographical dictionary of linguists), these are limited in the amount of information they contain and often are not freely accessible on the web. Existing terminological dictionaries generally have only 4000 entries or fewer, while there are probably at least 50,000 technical terms that linguists use, if not many more. Existing language catalogues generally do not give alternative genealogical classifications. These reference works are generally not multilingual and often do not include bibliographical references.

Thus, once Glottopedia is a mature reference work, it will be far superior to anything that linguists have had so far. Modern technology makes it possible, so many linguists will want to turn it from a utopia into reality.

Glottopedia articles are (at least potentially) multi-authored and they do not include the authors' names prominently (although the information on authors is available on each article's history page). They are thus not citable by authors' name, unlike other published works, and it is not easy to list your contribution to Glottopedia on your CV (see Glottopedia:Citing Glottopedia). However, the software keeps records of all editing work that a particular user has done, so each author's work is documented fully.

The advantage, however, is that work on Glottopedia is published immediately -- authors do not have to wait for months or years before they see the public fruit of their efforts.

It is expected that most of the editing work will be done by students of linguistics, who tend to be early adopters of new technology, and who tend to have less busy schedules. However, many established linguists will use Glottopedia in teaching, and will encourage their students to write, edit or translate Glottopedia articles as part of their class assignments.

Why do we need Glottopedia in addition to Wikipedia?

  • Glottopedia is intended for a specialist audience and will include full references to the scientific literature in the field of linguistics. Its articles need not be accessible to lay users, unlike Wikipedia articles.
  • Glottopedia is being created by academic linguists, i.e. linguists with a current or previous affiliation with a university or other academic institution (including advanced students of linguistics and independent scholars with an academic background).
  • The articles can be created and edited freely by any registered linguist. Unlike Wikipedia, Glottopedia does not allow anonymous editing.
  • The terminology of linguistics (including terminology of language names) is very confusing even to many linguists. Glottopedia aims to bring light into this confusion by including entries for synonymous terms and explaining the various uses of polysemous terms. Similarly, there will be entries for each variant of a language name, explaining what the differences are (e.g. Romanian vs. Rumanian).
  • There can be biographical articles on anyone who made a contribution to the academic field of linguistics. This is in contrast to Wikipedia, which allows articles only on "prominent" persons. (However, to avoid the issue of personality rights, Glottopedia allows full biographical articles only for dead linguists. For living linguists, the biographical articles must be restricted to links.)

Is it possible to cite Glottopedia articles?

In principle, Glottopedia articles can be cited like any other internet source. Guidelines for how to do this in a scholarly context will be given on this page at some point.

However, Glottopedia does not (for the time being) aim to make authoritative scientific statements that one can rely on or argue against. Since it is freely editable and there is no central editorial control, and since its articles can have multiple authors, it is not expected that the scholarly community of linguists will give Glottopedia's content the same status as regularly published articles.

Glottopedia's main purpose is to put together first-glance information that would otherwise be hard to get quickly. It contains references to the literature and quotations that will make it useful as a working tool, but not as a substitute for textbooks, journals or monographs. Linguists will still have to read long texts, but Glottopedia can guide them when an unfamiliar term, language name or author name appears and they want a quick reference to further in-depth information.

In particular linguistics students should be warned against using Glottopedia for their papers. They will learn about linguistics primarily by reading books and articles and contributing to Glottopedia, rather than by taking material from Glottopedia.

Other languages

German Glottopedia:Häufige Fragen