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Wikipedia and Scots

Wikipedia attempts to provide articles in all manner of languages. The ones that are well known - English, French, Spanish, etc.
Wikipedia also tries to support articles written in minority languages, such as Welsh (131,643 articles) and Breton (68,565 articles).... and Scots.

The Scots page introduces itself as: This Scots edeetion wis shapit on 23rd Juin 2005. We hae 57,922 airticles the nou.

Although I was born in Scotland, I did not live there for very long so I am not familiar with Scots as a language. My mother has told me a few things that she encountered in her time in Scotland, such as "giss a wee keek oh du bairn" (written phonetically), and one of my favourite phrases "glaikit midden".
So from time to time I'd look at various entries in the Scots version of Wikipedia and I'd see things like this:

The 2020 Simmer Olympics are postponed for ane year due tae the coronavirus pandemic.
And I would be like "this is a real language?!".

Well, it turns out... probably not. Because the chief maintainer of the Scots edition of Wikipedia, having created over 26,000 articles (about a third of them) and made over 100,000 edits (Wikipedia) or 200,000 edits (TheRegister) over the course of a an American teenager who has no clue about the Scots language.
It's basically a copy-paste job from English Wikipedia, with some horribly bad "this is what I think a Scottish person sounds like" phonetic spelling changes, and a few actual Scots words (which may or may not be the right word) thrown in for good measure. Grammar is English, and it would appear (from people that actually understand Scots) that most of the content is pretty much utter drivel.

The thing, though, is the potential damage that this may have caused. I, for one, took Scots to be some weird dialect of English where one needs to read the sentences aloud to work out what the heck is being said. Given the far reaching popularity of Wikipedia, it's entirely possible that many people who saw it took it as some sort of joke language; when in actual fact it's basically the creation of mostly one very peculiar person.

The ruse was discovered by somebody on Reddit (called Ultach) who went digging to figure out what was going on. As is to be expected from the Internet, it looks like some people did not react particularly well, as Ultach edited his post to add "I've been told that the editor I've written about has received some harassment for what they've done. This should go without saying but I don't condone this at all.".
Given that far too many people think it okay to post death threats from behind their keyboard (which can be a scary thing to receive from complete strangers), I can agree that such things are out of order.

However, Ultach continues: "They seem like a nice enough person who made a mistake when they were a young child, a mistake which nobody ever bothered to correct, so it's hardly their fault.".
I'm afraid we're going to have to agree to disagree with that. It may be "a joke" to create an article or two in a fake impression of a language, and I would imagine that if people looked hard, they may find some gag edits created by children (is there a Cockney version of Wikipedia that reads like Dick Van Dyke narrated it?), but this... tens of thousands of articles and hundreds of thousands of edits... this is some really weird form of cultural assassination, or the guy has deep psychological issues.
Either way, great job annoying an entire country.

I see some people are saying stuff like he meant well or that he had good intentions. Personally, I don't believe that. Why? Easy. I would never attempt to write, maintain, or otherwise have anything to do with editing pages in Verlan. On the face of it, it's basically French backwards. But many people know the word "meuf" as a Verlan version of "femme". But, then, it's "meuf" and not "emmef". Why? Because languages, dialects, spoken word that people actually use... they're like that. And if you don't know the language, shut the hell up and get the hell out. I don't know Verlan, I wouldn't write Wiki articles in Verlan. He didn't know Scots, he shouldn't have written Wiki articles pretending to be Scots. That's the long and the short of it.

The user profile of the person responsible is Amaryllis Gardener. While neither Reddit nor The Register wanted to name the editor, Wiki by definition keeps a history of all edits, as well as the discussion page on what to do next pointing at it, so it seems pointless keeping it a secret when all one needs to do is poke the "History" button and scroll down until a name starts looking familiar.

With any luck, this ought to stir up some people who actually do know Scots to purge all that rubbish and create articles in actual real Scots. Because if it's a real language, then it should be treated accordingly. Just... what's there... that's not a real language. I'm just wondering if anybody should try to fix what's there, or if it mightn't be better to purge it all and start again. Possibly with a little help from Holyrood (like how the Welsh do it)?

At the very least, whether one wishes to call it "vandalism" or "well meaning / good intentioned", the fact remains that a person who didn't actually speak the language they were writing articles in, wrote articles, apparently reverted corrections applied by people who could speak the language, and did this for huge numbers of articles and many years.
With that in mind, I think that we can thank Amaryllis Gardener for one thing - that is discovering several novel weaknesses in how Wikipedia itself works and is maintained.


Now, we all know that everything is better with kittens, so...


Five minutes of furry fun

Playing with Anna.



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Gavin Wraith, 26th August 2020, 23:13
I read about the Scots Wikipedia Fail on languagehat. An extraordinary business. But there is masses of rubbish on YouTube. Some of it is obvious rubbish, like videos claiming to show what ancient languages sound like, when the author does not understand the difference between syllabograms and logograms in cuneiform writing; with the former you can make a guess at the sound but not necessarily the meaning, and with the latter it is the other way round. This is the case with The Sound of the Old Hittite Language, which claims to read aloud the Proclamation of Anittas & Telepenus but does not realize that he is pronouncing Akkadograms in Akkadian rather than in Hittite (where the pronunciation is probably unknown). But there are other videos that may be more cunning frauds, going so far as to reproduce possibly fake inscriptions in hieroglyphic Luwian. I saw one a few months ago which I cannot find now, so it may have been taken down.
David Pilling, 27th August 2020, 03:42
Interesting the BBC has a Pidgin service. Most of the money apparently goes on Scottish Gaelic, that's perhaps the equivalent of Welsh.

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