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Egypt: Egyptian Dialect Wikipedia

Wikimedia has agreed to create a new section – a Wikipedia in the Egyptian Dialect. This decision was the catalysis for a discussion across the Egyptian blogosphere. Is it a good or a bad move, and is Egyptian and standalone language, or just a dialect of Arabic?

Iknaton2, from A Whisper, wrote here:

وافقت ويكيميديا على تخصيص نطاق خاص لويكيبيديا باللغة المصرية بعد أن تقدم بعض مستخدمى الويكيبيديا بطلب إنشاء هذا النطاق على أساس أن اللغة المصرية لها مفردات وقواعد مختلفة عن اللغة العربية يستخدمها أكثر من 70 مليون!!
بالنظر لطلبات إنشاء ويكيبيديا بلغات/لهجات عربية مختلفة نجد عدة طلبات للهجات العربية مثل اللهجة السودانية (ما زالت تُناقش) واللهجة الجزائرية المغربية (رُفضت بتاريخ 23 أبريل 2007) واللهجة اللبنانية (رُفضت بتاريخ 7 نوفمبر 2007).
موسوعة ويكيبيديا باللغة المصرية الآن تحتوى على 43 مقالة باللهجة العامية المصرية وهناك إقتراح من بعض مستخدمى ويكيبيديا العربية على غلق هذه الموسوعة على أساس أنه ليس هناك لغة إسمها لغة مصرية وهى مجرد لهجة مختلفة من لهجات العربية
Wikimedia has agreed to create a new domain for Wikipedia in the Egyptian language, after some Wikipedia users have submitted a request to create such domain claiming that the Egyptian language is a standalone language that has its own vocabulary and rules which are different from the Arabic language, and is spoken by more the 70 million people.
There have been various requests to create domains for different languages/dialects such as the Sudanese dialect (the request currently is being discussed), the Algerian dialect (the request was refused in the 23rd of April 2007), and the Lebanese dialect (the request was refused in the 7th of November 2007).
The Egyptian Wikipedia currently contains 43 topics in the Egyptian slang, while there is a suggestion for the Arabic Wikipedia users to close the Egyptian section since they claim that the Egyptian is just an Arabic dialect and not a separate language.

Ahmad Gharbeia then commented on Iknaton2‘s post saying:

الشباب دول عندهم تصورات غير صحيحة عن تاريخ تطور اللغات القومية في أوربا و عاوزين يحاكو ال هم فهموه، متصورين أن دا أبدع مسار تاريخي ممكن! عارف أنت النظرية الساذجة بتاعت “في البدء كانت اللاتينية، ثم انفجرت ماسورة اللغات”
و عندهم تصور أنا مختلف معه في فهم دور اللغة في دعم الهوية القومية كدافع للنهضة. و برضو دا مبني على تصورهم تاريخ لغات أوربا. و مش مقدرين ميزة أنك تقدر تتواصل مع جماعة أكبر بكتير من شوية الناس ال تصادف أنهم كانوا في منطقة جغرافية معينة في يوم ترسيم الحدود، و أثر دا على إنتاج و مراكمة المعرفة.
غرضهم كويس، لكنهم مش فاهمين. مش هنخسر حاجة و يمكن نتعلم.
Those guys have a wrong perception about the development history of the national languages in Europe, and they want to imitate what they believe is the best way for languages to evolve! You know, it is like that silly theory that claims that it was just the Latin language there, then it gave birth to all the other languages.
They also have a different perception about the role of languages to enforce people's national identity and nations development. And this is still related to their incorrect perception of the history of languages in Europe. They do not feel the value of having a common language that facilitates the communication with more people, even more than those who happen to be in the same geographic area when countries borders were created. And they also cannot see the effect of this on our accumulated knowledge and cultural products.
Their intention is good but they lack the knowledge and understanding. Anyway, we have nothing to lose here and at least we may learn something from their experiment.


Lasto Adri
reacted to Ikhnaton2's post as follows:

أنا إتضايقت اول ما قرأت موضوعك يا رامى
ماكنتش متخيلة إننا نوصل للمرحلة دى من تدهور للغة العربية..
صحيح فى لهجات.. لكنها لهجات فى الكلام المنطوق.. وكفاية قوى إن المصرى ممكن مايفهمشى اللبنانى أو المغربى وهو بيتكلم.. وكان العامل المشترك بيبقى اللغة الفصحى.. الوحيدة اللى الكل بيعرفها
تخيل الإختلاف فى اللغة كمان يبقى فى المكتوب.. ونبنى أجيال جديدة بتطالب بعربى مغربى وعربى صومالى… دا فعلا مهزلة
بعدين دخلت ع الصفحة اللى بتطالب بإلغاء الفكرة لقيتها إتلغت
طب أعبر عن رفضى لمين دلوقتى؟
I was really upset when I read your post, Rami.
I couldn't imagine that our Arabic language is going to deteriorate to this level.
Although there are different dialects, but still they are just verbal ones, and it is enough that someday Egyptians will not be able to understand Lebanese or Moroccan people when they talk. Traditional Arabic has always been the common language between us, and the one that we all understand easily.
Can you imagine what will happen after few generations when there will be Moroccan or Somali Arabic. It's a joke you know.
Anyway, I logged into the page where I can submit my disagreement to the idea, but it came out that it has been deactivated. Whom shall I talk to now to show my refusal?

Gharbeia then replied:

موضوع الفرق بين اللغة و اللهجة خلافي فعلا، لكن في موضوع اللهجات العربية المعاصرة فأغلب اللغويين (و دول خواجات مش متاثرين بصراعات الأيديولوجيا بتاعتنا قوي) شايفين أنها تنويعات على اللغة العربية صرفًا و نحوًا و مفرادت؛ لأنها ما عدّتش عتبة الفروقات ال تخليها لغات مختلفة. (مش زي المالطية مثلا، ال برضوا أساسها عربي شمال أفريقي لكنها عدّت)

و أعتقد أن دا جزء من الموضوع..أغلب مؤيدي العامية هم قوميين مصريين أو قوميين أقباط (ما يفرقوش عن ال قبلهم غير أنهم مسيحيين)، و الاثنين شوفينيين و عندهم مشاكل في رؤية التاريخ و مفهوم مصر كدولة، و مفاهيم العروبة الثقافية|اللغوية|الإثنية. لكنهم مشتركين في تأثرهم بدور الانحطاط الحضاري ال احنا عايشينه، و هي دي الأوقات ال تزيد فيها الدعوات ال زي دي، مدعومة برواج خرافات أصول اللغات و النقاء العنصري (مصري و للا عربي)، بصي في المدونات و أنت تلاقي منها كثير.
The differences between languages and dialects is a source of huge debates, but when it comes to modern Arabic, most of the linguistics – who are by the way non Arabs, and are not affected by our ideological debates – believe that the variations in vocabulary and grammar between the Arabic dialects spoken nowadays are not enough to make them languages, which is somehow different than the Maltese, for example, which was based on the Arabic spoken in North Africa but it's a standalone language now.
I think that most of those who are with the Egyptian language are Egyptian and Coptic Nationalists and chauvinists who have problems in understanding the history of Egypt and its value as a state, and they also fail to understand ideologies such as ethnic, lingual and cultural pan-Arabism. They are affected by the cultural degradation we are now suffering from, and in such an era, calls like those are more common. These are calls that are also affected by the lack of understanding of the origin and evolution of languages, and their relation with our ethnic and national identity. Have a look in the Egyptian blogosphere and you will find tons of such ideas there.

Then Bella added:

اولا مافيش حاجة اسمها لغة مصرية
فيه حاجة اسمها لهجة عامية مصرية

شوفينية غير مقبولة وفي غير محلها كالعادة
نرجو الا يتم اغتيال العربية الفصحى على يد ابناء مجمع اللغة العربية لنضيف خيبة جديدة لخيباتنا المتكررة.
First of all there is nothing called the Egyptian language.
There is an Egyptian dialect instead.
This is an unacceptable chauvinism.
And I hope that we do not murder our own Arabic language someday, to add one more disappointment to our ongoing disappointments.

Also Zeinobia wrote a separate post about the same issue:

I am totally against the new Egyptian dialect Wikipedia , now we got our localized version of Wikipedia , we got our own Egyptian dialect Wikipedia and I am sorry to say that it sucks.
Seriously it is ridiculous , I read in it some entries and I was shocked.
Look I do not know why people do not contribute more to the Original Arabic Wikipedia if they can spend hours contributing to the Egyptian dialect Wikipedia.!!??
May be they hate the Arabic grammar rules !!??
Well then I have a nice suggestion , I do not know if it is available or not but we can add spell and grammar checker to Arabic Wikipedia.
I do not know what the next will be ; a PortSaidi or Upper Egyptian dialect Wikipedia !!??

Such debate wasn't limited to the blogosphere only, but it spread out to Jaiku.

Tarek (Myself) wrote:

ويكيبيديا بقت باللهجة المصرية … تفتكرو ديه حاجة حلوة ولا وحشة؟ و ليه؟
Wikipedia is now in the Egyptian dialect. Do you think this is a good or bad thing? And why?

Then Alaa (Manalaa) replied:

That was a big controversy in Wikimania Alexandria, lots of under the table politics.
IMO it's an insignificant project that's bound to fail. so not very important to think about anyway. and while fragmentation might sound like a bad idea the reality is most probably those who contribute to the “Egyptian” Wikipedia where not going to contribute to the Arabic one anyway.

Lasto Adri responded:

Even if its a limited project.. still its there.. and you can underestimate it now.. but tomorrow , it might me a different case.

Alaa reacted:

lol u guys are overreacting the benefits of having a unified language across the arab world are so high, no need to feel threatened.
if you're so worried about it do something, go help with arabic wikipedia and make the best source of knowledge there is in the arab world. that's the best way to insure that your children will know fos7a and like it too.

And Moftasa had a different point of view there:

Think of it as a more intuitive scratch pad for developing articles in formal Arabic. So I might write an article in Egyptian dialect because, for me, it will consume less energy and time to write. Someone else might decide to contribute to it or transfer the information in it to the formal Arabic wiki. Exactly like what happens between the different Wikipedia languages.

Tarek then asked another question:

طب خلوني أسأل سؤال تاني … فبعيد عن ويكيبيديا … أنا شايف إن فيه رأيين سواء في ويكيبيديا أو في المدونات أو حتى في قناة زي أو تيفي … فيه ناس شايفة إننا مصريين و لازم نعتز بلهجتنا المصرية و إن اللغة العربية لم تتطور منذ ألف و ربعميت سنة و حرام نربط نفسنا بلغة فقدت القدرة على التطور كباقي اللغات خاصة أن لا أحد في الواقع يتحدث بها و هذه الدعوة عادة يتبناها الليبراليين و العلمانيين و يمكن كمان الأقباط … و في المقابل هناك دعوة يتبناها الإسلاميين و القوميين من أجل الحفاظ على اللغة العربية لإنها تربطنا بالوطن العربي الكبير و لما لها من إرتباط بإرثنا الثقافي و الديني و دول شايفين إن فكرة التخلي عن اللغة العربية من الممكن أن تضعف هويتنا الثقافية و تبعد المسافات بين الدول العربي إلخ

إنتو بقى مع أنهي رأي؟
Let me ask another question. Away from Wikipedia, I can see that we have two points of view out there, either in Wikipedia, or in Blogs, or even in a satellite channel like O-TV. Some may claim that we are Egyptian and that we have to be proud of our own dialect, and that the Arabic language has failed to evolve in the last 1400 years, and it is really useless to bond ourselves to a language that wasn't capable of evolving like any other language in the word. And those who hold such claim are mainly liberals, secular and Copts. While on the other hand others – Islamists and Pan-Arabists – believe that we have to protect traditional Arabic, because it facilitates our communication with other Arabs and it also is links us to our cultural and religious heritage, and they believe that abandoning the traditional Arabic language may affect our identity and widen the gaps between Arabs.
So who point of view do you agree with more?

Lasto Adri replied:

انا لا قومية ولا لبرالية ولا حتى إسلامية… هذا والله أعلم

بس شايفة إننا ماشيين على مبدأ “فرق تسد” ومش قادريين نفكر صح
بس كدة
As far as I know, I am neither Liberal nor Islamist.
But I think that we are moving towards an era of “Divide and Conquer” and we really cant realize that.
That's it

And Alaa added:

أنا شايف ان فيه قلة من الناس اللي صوتها عالي في فريقين هما اللي مخليين الاختيارات كده
فيه ناس كثير قوي بتستمتع بشعر عامي و تقرأ أدب بالفصحى من غير ما ده يبقى تعبير عن انفصام في الشخصية
العامية لهجة و لا لغة و مدى و طبيعة علاقتها بالفصحى دي أسئلة علمية مش أسئلة سياسية.
و أي كانت الاجابة الناس مش هتبطل تعبر عن نفسها بالعامية
يبقى العامية باقية
في نفس الوقت الفوائد الاقتصادية من وجود لغة موحدة ما بين بلاد المنطقة عالية جدا و الثقافة و الفن و الاعلام بيعبروا الحدود العربية بتزايد
يعني بغض النظر عن قرائتك لتاريخنا في الألفية اللي فاتت الفصحى باقية برضه (و من غير حتى ما نحتاج نتكلم عن تأثير الدين في الموضوع) و مش صحيح أنها مش بتطور هي بس تطورها مواكب لباقي تطورنا الحضاري مش سابقه و ده عادي يعني مش مستغرب.
فيه بقى اعتبارات عملية و تنموية و اقتصادية و اعتبارات ثانية فنية و ثقافية و كلها أهم بكثييييير من الحوار الخنيق عن هل هويتنا عربية أم مصري أم بشرطة
I think that there are few ones in the two team who have the louder voice and those who make us see it that way.
Some people out there may listen to poems written in Egyptian dialect and read novels written in traditional Arabic, yet this has nothing to do with their ideologies.
People will never stop using the Egyptian dialect. It will last forever.
Also there are huge economical benefits of having a common language among all Arabs, so it will last forever too.
I also do not agree with you that Arabic doesn't evolve, it evolves but its evolution is in resonance with our civil evolution.
There are plenty of economical, scientific, and other matters that are more important than our debate whether we are Arabs or Egyptians.

And finally, Tarek wrote:

أنا معاك يا علاء … فأكيد مش كل إل بيدون باللغة العامية ليبرالي ممكن يكون شعبوي على رأي بلو و برضه مش كل إل بيقول شعر بالفصحة له توجهات قومية أو إسلامية … بس ميمنعش إننا صعب نفصل هويتنا عن لغتنا و ميمنعش برضه إن فيه ناس بتفضل الفصحى على العامية أو العكس لإعتبارات أيديولوجية مش لمجرد الإستسهال أو التعود.
دعني أختلف معك في نقطة أن اللغة العربية تتطور … فكلنا يعلم أن هناك بعض القواعد النحوية كالرفع و النصب و الجر و اللغوية مثل المثني و نون النسوة و ما إلى ذلك لم تعد مناسبة للعصر الحالي و الدليل أن جل اللهجات العربية تخلصت من تلك القواعد لكننا في اللغة العربية لم نستطع تحريرها من تلك القواعد حتى لا نبتعد عن لغة القرآن … و أيضا لأنه لا أحد يتحدث بها في حياته اليومية فإن أي مصطلح جديد يدخل في اللغة يدخل عن طريق مجامع اللغة و هو عكس المفترض في أي لغة حية يكون تتطورها نابع من الناس و ينتهي إلي المعامل و ليس العكس … ففي اللغة الإنجليزية مثلة تدخل مصطلحات مثل جوجل بمعني البحث و روبوت بمعني إنسان ألي نتيجة تطبيق أو كتاب خيال علمي يتداوله الناس أما هنا فلا وجود لهذا التطور لأننا حصرنا لغتنا في المعامل و خلف الجدران الأكاديمي
I am with you, for sure not all those who blog in the Egyptian dialect are liberals, and also not all those who write poems in traditional Arabic are Pan-Arabists or Islamists. But we can't deny that some may prefer to use one more than the other based on their ideologies and not only based on the one they find easier.
And let me disagree with you about the evolution of Arabic as a language. We all know that some grammatical rules in Arabic are outdated and not acceptable nowadays, and this can be seen where the current dialects have abandoned them. But it is hard to liberate the Arabic language from such rules since we do not want it to be shifted away from the one the Quraan was written in. And also in our daily lives when we need to invent a new word it has to pass through language authorities first, which is the opposite to what happen in other languages where the evolution starts from the people and ends in the lab and not the other way round. In the English language, for example, words like “to Google”, and “robot” where invented based on a web application or science-fiction books, while here any evolution is only limited to labs and academies.

18 comments

  • GerardM

    Hoi,
    The language policy of the WMF is quite simple. A language is a language when it is recognised as such by the ISO. Egyptian Arabic, North Levantine Arabic et al are. When people request a project and they create an incubator project, do the localisation at Betawiki, they can have their own project.

    The Egyptian Arabic effort has proven itself as a good effort worthy of its own project. When you compare this with the request for a Lebanese Wikipedia, you will find that the language is known as North Levantine Arabic. According to the text at Ethnologue there are more people in Syria who speak the language then in Lebanon AND there were no people actively supporting this proposal. Now only requests from people who actively support a project are taken further.

    The policy is really explicit about accepting certain arguments for or against a request. Political and religious argument are not acceptable. This means that the notion of a unified Arabic world is not relevant and certainly not when weighed against the recognition of separate languages by ISO.

    The notion that it splits up the Arabic Wikipedia community is not a valid argument either because who can determine for someone else what to work on. The ability of people from different languages to understand each other has also not been a real issue in the past. Neapolitan and Catalan people understand each other really well probably much better then an Iraqi and a Moroccan.

    When people consider this as a move against their religion, they fail to see that it is every one’s right to work on the Wikipedia they feel most comfortable with. If for religious reasons people object to something like the Egyptian Arabic Wikipedia, they show a lack of respect for the views of those who either do not share their interpretation of religion, their religion or value their mother tongue as a language separate from Arabic.

    The freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. So you are quite welcome not to appreciate the Egyptian Arabic Wikipedia, but you are not free to effectively deny this project its existence.
    Thanks,
    GerardM

  • Mohamed Ahmed

    Hello; I am an Egyptian, I am against this version of Wikipedia, becuase it violates the priciples and the rules of Wikipedia. Egyptian Arabic is only spoken, most of the Egyptians recognize it as a dialect. There is a golden rule in all versions of Wikipedia, it is to avoid Original Research. But, we find that in this Wiki, alot of Original Research is being made. Now there is a proposal for a Wikitionary to “Standarize” the “language” as the supporters say. I wonder: Can we “standarize” a “language” on a wiki?!! I guess not. I won’t forget to say, that the supporters hold a view on Egyptian Arabic, they call it “Modern Egyptian Language” They didn’t try to rename it as they want on the English Wikipedia where Egyptian Aranbic is a variety of the Arabic language. The Policy of Wikimedia regaridng the creation of new language project states that Wikipedia is not for developing new language entities.

  • GerardM

    It is the ISO or International Standards Organisation that recognised Egyptian Arabic as a language.

    This is not the first project where people make an effort to standardise a language. This is not considered original research. Original research is associated with the content of articles.

    Please get your facts straight.
    Thanks,
    GerardM

  • Mohamed Ahmed

    Facts sraight, the User who proposed this wiki said “Egyptian Slang” himself. It is original Reseach. Because the ISO page say it is Spoken. Wirting using Latin Alphabet is Original Research. And, now they are inventing words on this wiki.

  • fay

    remove that thing from the web .i will boycott wikipedia if this is continue

  • Laith Kra7as

    Just to be fair, in this case there should be British, American, Mandarin, Cantonese, Iraqi and Brazilian Wikis.

  • Hoi, the rule for a new Wikipedia is that the language has to be recognised by the ISO-639-3. When enough people speak that language and when sufficient people ask for a project in a recognised language, it is deemed eligible. Egyptian Arabic is recognised as such.

    American, Australian etc English is not recognised as a separate language and as such they are not eligible for a new Wikipedia.

    The rules for new Wikipedias are simple and published. They are implemented with the full agreement of a committee of Wikipedians and experts.
    Thanks,
    GerardM

  • Mahmoud Kefaya Punk

    Thanks for modern science. Thanks for logic & reasoning. Thanks for sanity. Thanks for neutrality. Thanks for GerardM.
    The problem with supporters of enforcing Arabic language is that they are driven by religious ideologies, such as Arabic language is a sacred language & it’s the most eloquent language in existence, because it was the language in which Koran was written in… (Fanatic & illogical claims)
    It’s explicitly clear that whenever you read about opposition to use the truly spoken languages of the allegedly Arab League nations, that their reason not to use spoken languages is that they are not the languages of Koran!
    Not only that, they exclude & call for violence to what they oppose. They even call for vandalism against Egyptian Wikipedia. I saw it in blogs & groups.
    Arabists/Islamists are blinded because they refuse to think logically. They refuse the fact that Arabic language is a dead language. They fail to understand what is a language actually!
    Who is the extremist here? The ones who want to practice their primitive right to practice writing in their own language, or the ones who want to force a dead language, always related to Koran & Islam by forces of discriminating laws & “takfir”.
    The state of what is called “Spoken Arabic” is not any different from what is called “Vulgar Latin”.
    The reason for naming the spoken languages of Arab League states as “varieties of Arabic” is political & because the people there were raised to believe their spoken languages as pejorative accents of the glorious & eloquent Arabic language of the Koran.
    I’m really amazed by the ones who call themselves as tolerant or moderate Muslims, when in fact they very fanatic & lack reason.
    A note worthy note: Arabic Wikipedia is under the seige of Islamic extremists.

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