by Sunny Ananthanarayan (all pronouns) and Archie Crowley (they/them)

LSA and Wikipedia Edit-a-thons

If someone is interested in learning about a linguistics topic, often the first step is a Google search, and often the first search result is a Wikipedia page. While many academics and professors have historically had an adversarial relationship with Wikipedia, as linguists who care about providing accurate, up-to-date information about language to a broader public, we think that editing Wikipedia is an important way to engage in science communication (SciComm). Further, part of the Linguistic Society of America’s mission is to provide better public education and raise awareness of linguistics in the general public, and Wikipedia Edit-a-thons are one way to do this! 

The Committee for LGBTQ+[Z] Issues in Linguistics (COZIL) is following in the footsteps of many other groups working to host linguistics-themed Wikipedia Edit-a-thons – #LingWiki events. Gretchen McCulloch started organizing Wikipedia Edit-a-thons at the LSA 2015 Annual Meeting and 2015 Linguistic Institute, and has continued to host Edit-a-thons since. The Committee for Gender Equity in Linguistics has hosted several Edit-a-thons for International Women’s Day, and several #LingWikis were hosted for the International Year of Indigenous Languages

Reflections on #LingWiki Edit-a-thons

Edit-a-thon participants 2022
Some of the Wikpedians from the 2022 Edit-a-thon!

Sunny’s start in linguistics, way back in high school, relied heavily on Wikipedia as a starting point. Even back then, Wikipedia articles for topics in linguistics were very strong and gave direct references to relevant material. Talking with young, similarly keen future linguists, Sunny has seen that many share that experience, especially as the field gains more popular recognition. The biggest lesson Sunny has taken from Wikimedia project editing–especially Wiktionary, a dictionary search that takes a string and returns definitions for languages where that string is a lexeme–is that you can spend 60 seconds to fix a typo, add a link, or even make a new entry, and make a change in the world, so answers are all the more accessible to the curious.

Despite having no previous Wikipedia editing experience, Archie attended the 2021 Edit-a-thon for International Women’s Day hosted by COGEL. They were surprised how easy it was to start editing, make pages, and add citations to up-to-date linguistics research. As the then chair of COZIL, they were excited to host an Edit-a-thon focusing on LGBTQ+ Linguistics Issues, and were excited when Sunny agreed to help host the event! Archie found that many pages related to Language and Gender sometimes had outdated terminology, did not include recent work on nonbinary communities, and often just needed editing for organization. They are very excited to see the ways that COZIL members have been able to make an impact on a wide array of Wikipedia pages!   


Impact of Edit-a-thons

Especially as it pertains to minoritized groups, pushing for more recognition and representation in an iconic encyclopedic resource can mean a lot. With growth in the field and a effort to democratize knowledge, major improvements have been made to pages that are important to us as queer people. For example, the page for LGBT (or Lavender) linguistics: in the year 2014, it was mostly about the speech of gay men, and there was a section on the speech of lesbian women. Now, the article contains information and references about the language of nonbinary people as well as expansions to emphasize the diversity and nuance in claims about queer language. It was good then, it’s better now!

Some other highlights from the past two COZIL Edit-a-thons are the creation of pages for Lal Zimman, Gender Neutrality in Portuguese, and major edits to the page on Language and Gender. And while making new pages is exciting, small tasks as simple as adding references and pointing out which articles are “stubs“ or need expansion are crucial to signal to more experienced Wikipedians where attention needs to be paid.

Check out our impact from the past two years: 

2021 Final Stats

2022 Stats- These stats will be updated through all of June!

COZIL is proud to add to the publicly available linguistics knowledge through participating in Wikipedia editing, and we are excited to continue to host more Edit-a-thons in the years to come! If you ever find yourself with some spare time and want to edit a Wikipedia page…do it!