Linguist List's

Wikipedia Update Vote

(April 2 - 4)

What is the Wikipedia Update Vote?

How does this benefit linguistics?

How do I vote?

What is the vote count at?

What is the Wikipedia Update Vote?

It's your chance to vote on a suggestion made to us by Dr. Barbara Partee:

Linguists in Moscow are getting organized about filling in gaps in linguistics coverage in the Russian-language Wikipedia . . . . It seems to me that the English-language Wikipedia also needs some effort to improve linguistics coverage...Having fuller linguistic coverage would be one good way to reach out to prospective students and to help educate the broader public, as well as providing resources and links for all of us. Is there a chance that Linguist List could help coordinate such an effort? You have the optimal channels and the breadth to reach everyone, if you could possibly take it on - to get the word out and ask people to suggest what new entries are needed, and then to call for volunteers to write new entries and improve existing ones. Not that you guys should try to write or edit or screen articles, but to be a hub and a prod and a facilitator. The "community" should do the editing.

Read the full text of Dr. Partee's letter.

Would you like LINGUIST List to organize an update of the linguistics sections of the English Wikipedia?

In the letter quoted above, Barbara Partee suggests that LINGUIST organize an editorial effort similar to that of the Russian linguists; i.e., identify Wikipedia pages that need updates, call for volunteers, and keep track of and upload revisions. We thought it was a great idea. But even if we don't write the pages ourselves, it would involve quite a lot of work.

We've decided to give you a chance to vote with your donations. $2,000 will pay for one Graduate Assistant to work half-time on this for one semester. If we collect $6,000 in the next 48 hours (the $2000 we usually collect each day in Fund Drive, plus $2000 more for the Wikipedia update), we'll do it. Otherwise, we'll assume it's not a high priority for the discipline or that you've found a better way to go about it.

How does this benefit Linguistics?

Wikipedia is a popular source of information for the public. Sharing our knowledge of languages and linguistics can bring more attention to the discipline and generate interest in our field of study. Here is one story about how the information on Wikipedia inspired a high school student:

In my large intro course yesterday, there was an unfamiliar hand in the air a lot of the time, and the student's questions and insights were the best I've had all semester. It was puzzling, because I didn't recognize him, and he seemed to know much more about syntax than one would expect. (It was our first official day on the topic.)
After class, he came to the front and introduced himself as a prospective student, just out of high school. He said linguistics was his passion in high school. I said, "What? How?"

And he replied, "Wikipedia."

-Christopher Potts, University of Massachusetts

There is a lot of work to be done to have the linguistics section of Wikipedia up-to-date. Comparing information on Wikipedia to that at LINGUIST (which is as updated as possible, but it does not completely reflect the development and spread of the discipline), it is noticeable that there is a lot of room for improvement. As one simple example, Wikipedia has a list of linguists with a total number of 418 linguists. The LINGUIST's list of linguists goes up to 14,649. Some well-known and influential linguists are not in the list, such as Eve Clark and Tanya Reinhart, among many others. This project is a great oportunity to make this growing resource a good tool for people around the world to learn linguistics from the point of view of linguists, with the accuracy this implies.

How do I vote?

Vote with your donation! Each day during Fund Drive, LINGUIST List averages $2,000 in donations. Over the next 48 hours (April 2-4), if we receive our regular $4,000 plus an extra $2,000 (total $6,000), we will know that the online linguistics community has an interest in the project, and we will take up the project in Fall 2007. Click here to donate!

What is the vote count at?

The vote is in! LINGUIST users voted to update Wikipedia. We successfully raised $6,000 in 48 hours. The project is scheduled to begin this summer. For more information, please email Hannah Morales at