Variety: Not always so amusing

Variety: Not always so amusing (II)

It can be tricky to collaborate in a Wikipedia when there are several varieties of a language, but some cases are even worse: Imagine an idiom that does not have a standard at all.

The Eastern dialects of the Netherlands are called Low Saxon; to distinguish them from German Lower Saxony we also say Dutch Low Saxon, the Wikipedian abbreviation is nds-nl. As there is no unified language Dutch Low Saxon, the nds-nl.WP tends to be a federation of several dialects. It works accordingly to the principles I have presented two days ago (such as: the creator of an article decides in which variety it is to be written).

Under some articles in nds-nl.WP you find templates of this kind:

Dit stok is eskreven in ‘t Zuudwest-Zuud-Drèents van de Drèents-Oaveriesselse grèensstreek.
(This stub is written in the South-West-South-Drenthe idiom of the Drenthe-Overijssel border region.)

Dutch Low Saxon dialects
Dutch Low Saxon dialects

Sometimes the dialect is indicated (also) via categorization. The page Wikipedie:Spelling explains some basics on the variety problems (which are not related only to spelling) and what dictionaries are recommended for the single dialects. So if you come from the region Achterhoek and want to write articles in Achterhoek dialect, you should use the dictionary WALD (Woordenboek van de Achterhoekse en Liemerse Dialecten).

But when you look into this dictionary you will often find that one peticular Dutch word does not correspond to one Achterhoek expression, but to several. Which one to choose?

As said in the previous blog entry, it is difficult to write in a Wikipedia if you know only one of the varieties used. In interviews Dutch Low Saxons told me that in practice there is not much conflict because there are so few editors at all. And no variety has much more speakers than the other one, everyone belongs to a minority.

For the creator of an article it is a tricky thing to find out whether the article he wants to write is already written – he has to check a number of different spellings. The Dutch word provincie (province) can be found in nds-nl.WP in the following forms: provinsie, provinzie, pervinsie, previnsie, previncie, perveensie. The article itself is called “Pervincie”.

Striking I found another answer from dialect Wikipedians: Where did they learn their dialect? Did they have classes at dialect institutions? No one told me that he did so, everyone pointed out that the dialect was his “native tongue” and that he did not have to learn it as an adult.

The more thoughtful dialect Wikipedians – also Dutch Low Saxons – did understand my point: If you want to be capable to write in an idiom, you need specific education. Many people who love their dialect, the editors told me, do not edit Wikipedia because they are afraid that they can not write their dialect properly.

Ziko van Dijk


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