Decennial ABC: I as in Interwiki

In ancient times, encyclopedias had a certain inherent transnational scope. Since they were written in languages such as Greek and Latin their readers belonged to different ethnic groups.

Encyclopedias or encyclopedic works in ‘ethnic’ or ‘national’ languages origin in the middle ages. Around 1300 French became an important ‘competitor’ to Latin, and Middle High German reached the third rank in Western Europe. But, according to Robert Luff: ‘The choice of the popular language for encyclopedic works was something unusal in the German middle ages, a risk that became routine only at the end of the 15th century.’ [1]

Copying/translating from previous works was common, even after copyright laws have been established in the 19th century. In one way or another, models such as Encyclopaedia Britannica and Brockhaus had a crucial influence on the works in other languages.

When Wikipedia was established first in English, soon a number of other languages followed. German came in March 2001, then there was a wave in May. Since August 2002 (and the months following) an article in one language version can be easily linked to the correspondent article in other language versions.

For a linguistic community, especially for a small one, Wikipedia has great advantages to earlier international collaboration. A group of encyclopedia enthusiasts has immediately web space and a concept for an online encyclopedia. A giant text corpus can be used as a basis, and with Wikimedia Commons there exists a huge media collection.


Previously: A as in Advertisement, …, H as in Hagiography


[1] Robert Luff: Wissensvermittlung im europäischen Mittelalter. ‘Imago mundi’-Werke und ihre Prologe. Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 1999, p. 417.


3 thoughts on “Decennial ABC: I as in Interwiki

  1. Interesting/good points! And participants in these language groups can be collaborators rather than — what was construed as — pirates. Such as Thomas Dobson’s American versions of EB.

  2. I find it very interesting to see how the same subject is treated in other Wikipedias. Altough I’m quite sure that NPOV is respected there as much as it is on my (Dutch) Wikipedia, you often find interesting cultural differences. It sometimes makes me regret that I can’t read other languages than Dutch, English, German and, with difficulty, French.;)

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