[Humanist] 29.179 resisting a monocultural (digital) humanities

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Jul 21 01:13:34 CEST 2015

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 179.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 20 Jul 2015 21:59:25 +0200
        From: Miran gmail <miranhladnik1 at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: Resisting a monocultural (digital) Humanities

My concern about the ignorance of English speaking humanists regardig the
emancipatorial endeavours of other languages
has been quite calmed down by the reply of Gregory Crane
Crane regrets the extinction of immigrant languages in the USA. Let me add
that according to Hans-Dieter Steinmetz, in 1893, before they were melted
and replaced by English, 796 German journals were edited in the US, which
was twice the number of all the other non-English US-periodicals
(http://www.karl-may-gesellschaft.de/kmg/seklit/JbKMG/1994/312.htm). Among
the other half of vital non-English publications in the USA there were also
Slovene newspapers and journals which threatened to outnumber the Slovene
newspapers and their readers in the Old World. None has survived.

There is no need for English to act in a hostile way towards other languages
to win. It is sufficient to be only ignorant to them, as the economy of
conveying information will always give priority to English. Yes, each
community is responsible for its own language, nevertheless, global
humanists shouldn't be careless about the natural process of language death
and should consciously support and maintain language diversity. The
responsibility for the survival and regular use of minor languages is also
on the side of English speaking. I am sure we all can profit from
alternative concepts that other languages contribute.

Limited possibilities of minor languages are clearly documented with the
case of entry culturomics (https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kulturomika) which
was put on the Slovene Wikipedia by my students on March 24. 2011. In the
English Wikipedia, it appeared on September 9, 2011, half a year later; the
Italian, Ukrainian, and Latin followed. However, till August 2014, as I
accidentally came across it, the English article remained ignorant about the
existence of Slovene predecessor and lacked an interwiki to it. Alas, we all
got used to search and consult information in the most spread and most
easily accessible languages, English in the first place, instead of browsing
through the repositories of knowledge hidden in other languages, too. Of
course, these languages ought to publish relevant contents on their
Wikipedias first, as Wikipedia is the starting point of all investigations.

The comparison of encyclopedic information in tens of languages in Wikipedia
is the first promising step towards the knowledge about alternative
concepts. Automated translations are still very awkward, but they offer us,
for the first time in history, the possibility to peep into perspectives of
languages we haven't even known their names. We mostly meet simplified
translations from English, in some cases, especially with those dealing with
humanities subjects, we discover the national specificity of concepts of
which we thought at first glance they belonged to the unique western culture
. The discovery encourages us to localize also entries that were translated
earlier without respect to the local meaning and use.

Some examples. The entry »kolektivni roman«
(https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolektivni_roman 'novel with multiple
protagonists') exists in Slovene, Western Frysian and Scandinavian
(Norwegian and Swedish) Wikipedias. The term appeared in the 1930s, when
minor literatures realized they were not of interest in dominant world
literatures and that the international literary exchange runs one way only:
from dominant towards minor. So they got connected with each othter in a
solidarity protest. The article »kleiner Mann«
(https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mali_%C4%8Dlovek) exists in the Slovene,
Polish and Russian Wikipedias; outside Slavic literatures the concept is
obviously not known enough to become an encyclopedic entry. Alpine story
(https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planinska_povest 'mountain story') has been
described in the Slovene Wikipedia only and is missing in the German one,
although German »Berggeschichte« influenced the Slovene term. Why there is
no entry about novels about priests in English or German as it is in Slovene
(https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duhovni%C5%A1ki_roman)? »Generationsroman«
(https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generacijski_roman) is known to the Slovene
and Swedish Wikipedias only, the Partizan novel
(https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partizanski_roman) to the Slovene and
Hungarian. The entry liberalism (https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalizem)
is known to 111 Wikipedia languages, however, the definition of liberalism
and its Slovene history differs evidently from the genuine one by stressing
the principle of national and progressive on the account of freedom. Etc.

The topic of language diversity hasn't triggered much echo in the Humanist
Discussion Group yet; considering the discussions on diacritical signs and
special national characters, it has been even dealt with adversion by some
of fellow discussants. So I support the innitiative by Gregory Crane and
Domenico Fiormonte (http://infolet.it/2015/07/12/monocultural-humanities/)
that the issue of language diversity enters the schedule of regular academic

miran hladnik (https://uni-lj.academia.edu/MiranHladnik)

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