Monday, October 29, 2007

Wikipedia in Volapük, an "exponential" growth

After doing a quick visit to Wikipedia, the widely-known free online encyclopedia edited by users and available in hundreds of languages, I noticed something curious (probably after millions of people already did): Among all the languages in which Wikipedia is available, only 15 have a collection of more than 100,000 articles ready to be read (and edited) by users. Those languages are: English, German, French, Polish, Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Russian, Chinese, Finish, Norwegian, and Volapük.

Volapük? What on Earth is Volapük anyway? I did some research in Wikipedia itself to find more information about that widely-unknown language, and to understand why is is so popular in Wikipedia in terms of amount of articles available.

According to the Wikipedia article about Volapük, it is an artificial language created during the 19th century by a German priest named Johann Martin Schleyer. It was actually the very first attempt (and failure) to introduce a language to be spoken globally. Schleyer based his language in vocabulary borrowed mostly from English, French and German. But the complexity of its grammar and the development of a much easier global language, Esperanto, quickly turned Volapük in a decaying language. In fact, there are currently only between 20 and 30 Volapük speakers worldwide.

That being said, it doesn't make much sense that the 100,000+ Wikipedia articles in Volapük can be only understood by 20 or 30 people worldwide, when other languages with far more speakers in the world, like Korean, (which is spoken by approximately 78,000,000 people) barely reach half that amount of articles. Moreover, it doesn't make much sense that 20 or 30 people could write 100,000+ articles for Wikipedia, unless all of them are intellectuals and geeks. Thus something is odd here.

I made a bit more research to understand a bit more about the origins of the articles of the Volapük version of Wikipedia. Not very surprisingle, I found the answer to my inquiries in Wikipedia itself once again, in an article named "Volapük Wikipedia": The administrator of the Volapük Wikipedia thought that he "could try to get some new people interested in learning the language and contributing by doing something a little crazy -- like increasing the size of the Volapük wikipedia as fast as I could, with Python programs for copying and pasting information onto pre-translated templates". This, because he is the only contributor of Wikipedia in Volapük and he hoped that, by doing this, he would attract more people to learn Volapük and hopefully to contribute to the Wikipedia in that language as well.

His idea did attract the attention of people, indeed. By adding thousands of stubs to the Wikipedia in Volapük, he created a bit of awareness about the existence of the language among Wikipedia readers. Will that encourage some of them to learn Volapük and to contribute to the Wikipedia in Volapük? That's difficult to answer, it is a matter of time to know whether that will happen. But the strategy to increase exponentially the amount of Wikipedia articles in Volapük proves once again the ease with which information can be manipulated there, and the low quality that certain articles may have because of automated translations. But Wikipedia is still, essentially, a beautiful thing.


At 9:37 PM , Anonymous Mark G. said...

Hahaha-- a constructed language aficionado and a student of Esperanto myself, I just read about the Volapük language today in Wikipedia and was compelled to investigate a little further by way of Google-- and I find this! Indeed, I hadn't yet taken notice of just how many articles the language contained, but I'm certainly fascinated and a little disconcerted.

Call me crazy, but my research of the language got me a little fascinated-- maybe someday I'll end up helping to clean up Vükiped! :-P

At 2:05 PM , Blogger Eddie said...

Mark g, that thought is pretty nice. The history of Volapük is quite fascinating. If you're willing to learn that language as well to contribute to the Volapük Vükiped, I'm sure that Sergio Meira (currently the only contributor to the wikipedia in that language) will highly appreciate it!

Thanks very much for your comment, and please come back to this humble blog!

At 11:13 AM , Anonymous mildareveno said...

I think that articles should be created by humans. It is unfair towards the other languages. What would happen if all did the same?

At 2:00 PM , Blogger Eddie said...

Mildareveno, I definitely agree with you.

Tailing up on your comment, I would add that letting computers translate complex articles would potentially create inaccurate information, which would ultimately result in misleading online articles. That would make any online encyclopaedia to lose all its inherent value as a source of reliable information

At 1:10 PM , Blogger Bryce said...

Wow, that is really interesting. I'll have to go to Wikipedia now and check that out.

If you're interested in other sites in Volapük, here is one:

Volapük wiki browser

At 10:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

la historio de Volapuko estas mia historio, mi estas preskaw denaska esperantisto kaj mi chiam initeresighis al aliaj pontolingvoj, kaj mi povas diri ke mi estas iom volapukisto, iom idisto, iom neisto, iom interlingvistano. En Italio estas itallingvaj vortaroj kiuj enhavas la vorton volapuko inter la leksikaro. Do nun oni volas forstreki de la historio fenomenon grava kiel la ekzistado de Volapuko?
Chu Vikipedio estas diktaturo?
Marjo Righi/Milàn-Milano

At 4:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really, when you think about it its quite a good idea...... until you find that only 20-30 people speak it worldwide. You just begin to think, what is the point? If people are going to do something like this make easy learning sites as well.


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