The goal of the LSA’s partnership with the Wiki Education Foundation to improve the quality of information about linguistics found on Wikipedia. The partnership will involve two components:

1) Classroom Resources to assist linguistics faculty in engaging students in teaching and learning through editing relevant articles, or developing new articles on Wikipedia.

2) Sponsoring Visiting Scholars to use your university’s digital linguistic resources to write high-quality Wikipedia articles. Visiting Scholars use their linguistic experience to determine which articles to edit or create based upon the resources you provide.

Wikipedia’s coverage of linguistic topics is ripe for improvement. Currently, only 12 of the 4,668 highest-quality articles on the English Wikipedia relate to language or linguistics. Many linguists, theorists and theories simply aren’t represented on Wikipedia. Likewise, most dialects and languages have articles that could be improved by applying linguistic expertise. Wiki Ed programs can help LSA members and linguists contribute to Wikipedia in two ways: first, by supporting linguistics faculty as they assign students to edit Wikipedia; second, by helping linguistic departments sponsor Visiting Scholars. The partnership builds on activities held at recent LSA events, and planned for future meetings as well.

The Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at the LSA 2016 Annual Meeting, scheduled for Friday, January 8, from 2-5 pm is a great chance to become more familiar with the basics of editing linguistics-related Wikipedia articles. This event is facilitated by Gretchen McCulloch, who also organized Wikipedia edit-a-thons at the 2015 Annual Meeting and the 2015 Linguistic Institute. You can also join in online using the how-to-edit slides resource and #lingwiki on Twitter.

Our partners at Wiki Ed will be on-hand in the Annual Meeting Exhibit Hall to answer questions, and will also be making a short presentation about this project at the Roundtable of Department Chairs and Program Heads, scheduled for Friday from 3:30 – 5:00 pm. The Wiki Education Foundation partnership is not exclusive to the LSA. A number of other scholarly societies have formed similar partnerships, including:

  • American Sociological Association
  • Association for Psychological Science
  • National Women's Studies Association
  • Midwest Political Science Association
  • American Society of Plant Biologists

Linguists interested in using Wiki Ed materials for linguistics courses or sponsoring a Visiting Scholar to kick off this LSA Wikipedia initiative should send an email to Wiki Ed.

Reflections on the importance of this partnership, by Gretchen McCulloch

Wikipedia is the seventh most visited site on the internet, and its articles about linguistics are a major way that non-linguists find out about our field. Whether that's prospective students researching professors to work with, community members and journalists searching for information about minority languages and dialects, or scholars in other fields looking up unfamiliar terminology in cross-disciplinary work, Wikipedia is an essential quick resource that, when well-referenced, can also lead people deeper into the field. 

I believe that editing Wikipedia is an essential part of linguistic outreach: it gets knowledge out of obscure bookshelves and paywalled journals into a form that's freely accessible worldwide and where the public is already looking for information, and assigning editing in courses is a hands-on way of teaching students to critically evaluate how knowledge is constructed and disseminated. 

Since I've started doing Wikipedia editathons with linguists, I've heard resoundingly positive feedback from participants. A lot of people have said that the editathons are fun and that they'd considered editing Wikipedia before but hadn't known how to start or what articles could use their help. Someone else commented that "The back and forth on the talk pages was quite fascinating." And we're having a real impact: in 2015 alone, the first year of #lingwiki, over 200 linguists edited or created over 200 articles at 10 editathons. I've also happened to talk with several people who referred to articles that I know were created or improved during previous editathons, without even being aware of it.