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Submissions/How to make MediaWiki support the grammar of your language better

From Wikimania 2013 • Hong Kong

This submission is on the wait list for Wikimania 2013.

Submission no.
Subject no.
Title of the submission
How to make MediaWiki support the grammar of your language better
Type of submission
Author of the submission
Amir E. Aharoni
Country of origin
E-mail address
Personal homepage or blog
MediaWiki has a unique feature: the ability to define custom grammar rules for each language, which help translators to that language make correct translations. These rules are defined for some languages already, but many languages lack them, even though they are probably needed. This session will show what these grammar rules are and how anybody could improve the support for their languages in MediaWiki by contributing their knowledge.
Detailed proposal
In the early years of software development, almost all user interface messages were written in English. English happens to have a relatively simple morphology - for example, it requires little processing for things like plural forms and usually adding an -s is enough. As time passed, software became more sophisticated and the need to support other languages became an important issue. Since the grammar of many languages is more complicated than the grammar of English, many other requirements appeared. For example, many languages have more than just singular and plural. Since this requirement is so common, it became pretty well standardized in the Unicode's Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR), which is used by some software projects, including MediaWiki. Some pieces of software—especially social networks engines—also support proper wording of user interface messages according to the gender of the user.
However, many languages pose even more complicated and unexpected requirements to be written in a way that would appear correct, natural and readable for users who speak it. For example, languages of Eastern Europe, such as Russian and Polish, require that words have different endings after some prepositions, so it's often incorrect to write "Search Wikipedia" without changing the ending of the name "Wikipedia"; in Hebrew, a hyphen must be inserted to some words under certain conditions; in Turkish and other similar languages, word endings must match the sounds of the root word. MediaWiki, uniquely in the field of internationalized software, supports some of these rules, thanks to requests and contributions from its excellent volunteer translators' community. However, MediaWiki developers feel that there may be many languages that require such rules, but don't have them yet.
This talk is mainly targeted at people who have good knowledge of the grammar of different written languages (human languages, not programming languages), and are willing to contribute their knowledge to improve MediaWiki's support for these languages, and to all people who are curious about languages and about language support in software. It is also targeted at MediaWiki developers who want to improve their understanding of its internationalization framework.
This talk will include the following:
  • A sample of the different grammar rules currently in use.
  • A presentation of how to request new rules or fix existing ones.
  • A short presentation of how to write the rules in PHP and JavaScript.
  • Technology and Infrastructure
Length of presentation/talk
25 minutes
Language of presentation/talk
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  1. Danny B.
  2. Siebrand (talk) 19:02, 20 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Pginer (talk) 17:45, 11 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  4. OrenBochman (talk) 02:12, 23 March 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Man77 (talk) 20:01, 17 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Daniel Mietchen (talk) 21:45, 22 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Amqui (talk) 20:28, 25 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Vogone (talk) 15:35, 27 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  9. Language issues always interest me. CT Cooper · talk 23:42, 28 April 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  10. Runa Bhattacharjee (talk) 05:21, 6 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  11. Nirakka (talk) 08:59, 7 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]