Wikipedia talk:Requests for comment/Johan Magnus, Ruhrjung, Tuomas

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This is an intermediary response. I place it here as a sign of it not having reached any kind of maturity or final status. Yet, I am eager not to appear as if I think a RfC is something that can be ignored.

It's not quite clear whether this RfC can be taken seriously.

It can, however, be noted that while Peter above poses as a newbie, and really has some reason to complain about not having been treated quite in accordance with Wikipedia:Please do not bite the newcomers, this may at least to some extent be explained by him not being a newbie, which he actually also stated at Talk:Scanian language#Anonymous revert, and also by from the beginning appearing as an experienced Wikipedian in command of Category:Wikipedia policies and guidelines rather than as a newcomer.

My chief experience of trying to work together with Peter is one of overwhelming confusion. This experience is not language dependent, but constant both in our common mother tongue, Swedish, and in English. When I've discussed matters with Peter, I most of the time feel as if the meaning of what we write gets heavily distorted on the way between writer and reader. My perception from March (User talk:Johan Magnus#Swedish) hasn't changed much at all.

I also feel that Peter has an unlucky talent for calling forth opponents and perceived enemies where there really ought not be any to find. Also when he agrees[1] to what has been many times proposed, he manage to do this with wordings that make people feel targeted[2]. I am not quite sure this interpretation of Peter's intentions was lucky, but it demonstrates the strange phenomenon that not only do Peter feel bullied, but he is perceived as a bully himself.

Without yet having gone back to check the somewhat messy edit histories, I would propose that Peter chiefly has been asked to do three things:

  1. to change one detail or aspect per edit when he disputes the factual content of articles that may be far from "finished" but that have "stood the test of time"
  2. to give clear hints which detail he disputes, at least in the edit summary, and maybe also on the actual talk page, which would be facillitated if not too many controversial changes were combined in edit edit
  3. to use wordings that attribute opinions and judgements to authoritative sources when possible, since such edits would be less likely to get reverted by someone who perceived his edits as too rash

It's undisputabel, I believe, that Peter has been asked, with increasing gravity, to support his edits or to use more Wikipedia:verifiable wordings when content that has "stood the test of time" has been removed or altered by him in ways that have resulted in essential changes of meaning. It's similarly true that by Peter requested references to scholarly works have not been produced as speedy as Peter would have wished. And in this situation there clearly has been a conflict between one contributor who argues that his unsupported alterations are more credible than the old wordings and three other contributors who have had more faith in longstanding versions than in Peter's knowledge.

This situation was not improved by Peter emphatically declaring him being convinced of different details that no-one else believed in and that Peter often sooner rather than later would abandon.

I intend to return with demonstrating diffs. --Johan Magnus 23:48, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

I for one would be very interested in those diffs - David Gerard 10:47, 4 May 2005 (UTC)

In order to present diffs, I started going through the edit histories, and this is so far I by now have come in that respect:

Peter Isotalo (User:Karmosin) arrived at the English language Wikipedia January 31st, this year, and to the Swedish Wikipedia February 3rd. (I must admit that it surprises me somewhat. I had the unfortunate impression that Peter had a considerably longer history in the Swedish Wikipedia.) The same day, he makes a perfectly sensible contribution[3] in a discussion in Talk:Swedish language#Rinkebysvenska that ended in agreement and no immediate change of the text of the article. The rest of February is characterized by a discussion on faults and weaknesses in that article's section on phonology[4] and some adjustments and improvements of the article[5], although it was quite obvious that none at that moment had incentive or energy to make the effort that obviously had to be invested. Meanwhile, Peter produces 1,500 edits in the Swedish Wikipedia, more than I believe to have produced here since my arrival exactly two years ago, but remains absent from the English Wikipedia.

March 5-6, Peter and I have a confused discussion in sv: Diskussion:Svenska#Sveamål, which hardly could have left a positive impression of the other by any of us.

Early in March, Peter in effect returns to the English Wikipedia and contributes, among other things, with hundreds of sound files with pronunciations. Also improvements of the article on the Swedish language, that were discussed but not really implemented in February are now produced[6]. It may be said that Peter did this a little bit more radically, than is most usual in Wikipedia, and that the meanings expressed by over half a dozen contributors on the talk page the previous month were not taken too seriously, but overall, I considered Peter's achievement to be a great improvement of the article, (... and the details that got lost can always be re-inserted later on, as for instance notion of allophones [g, j, k, ç] of the phonemes /g/, /k/). It may also be argued that Peter's explanation of his changes on the talk page were rather brief[7], but that is nothing particularly unusual in Wikipedia. On the talk page, Tuomas makes a remark in the same vein as my thought and asks if Peter is about to reinsert some specified content[8], which maybe could have been combined with an expression of recognition of Peters effort. Peter answers reasserting[9]. Peter's answer can in retrospect be seen as indicative of what would come, but back then it was impossible to guess that. Peter states that he thinks that the connection to orthography had until then been too pronounced, that "orthography and phonetics should not be mixed".

Here, I believe, lies the explanation to the different views that have clashed. Peter draws, we must observe, the conclusion that the phonology should be closely connected to phonetics, which in effect means that the phonology must be connected to a particular dialect. Tuomas and Ruhrjung, and somewhat less pronounced also I, have during our time as Wikipedians strived for the opposite position. The Swedish language has no established standard for phonetics, but there exists a strict standard for the written language and in effect thereby also a common phonology (though not phonetics) for how to speak the written language; varieties of speech that in Swedish fills the role of prestige dialects. Both Ruhrjung and Tuomas have, as far as I remember, clearly stated that they consider the lacking phonetic standard as one of the unexpected obstacles when learning Swedish, and furthermore an obstacle that they were unprepared of until they had lived in Sweden for a while. This is no unimportant question in a country with 12% immigrants (and also a considerable amount of foreign university students) where discrimination of immigrants often is expressed in terms of allegedly deficient language skills. Tuomas lives, and Ruhrjung has lived, in Malmö, a city with 25% immigrants that however mentality-wise has not yet adapted to this situation. Speaking Swedish with the phonetics of (prestigious) Swedish from distant parts of the Swedophone area results in Malmö, and probably in Southern Sweden in general, in a social stigma since a couple of fricatives and assimilations appear less clearly distinguished compared to prestigious South Swedish. In addition, also the prosody is clearly different, and more important than in many (most?) other languages. The difficulties are bi-directional. Swedish speakers in Helsinki find the kind of diphthongs that in South Sweden characterize long vowels confusing.

While all can agree that phonetics and orthography better is not mixed, it will turn out that Peter by this also means that phonology and orthography should not be "mixed".

1½ hour later, Tuomas criticizes this aspect of Peter's changes in unveiled words: but it must be concluded to be a gross oversimplification, not at all helpful neither to Swedes nor to non-Swedes. The sad truth is that Swedes use too many fricatives for their own good, and even Swedes with a good linguistic ear get problems to distinguish between, for instance, she/chess.[10] I agree, essentially, but would maybe not have chosen such direct and colourful expressions, particularly not at that stage ...and not without expressing gratitude for Peter's effort that overall was an important improvement. But done is done. Peter answers rather balanced that we should [not] be moralizing over how many fricatives the Swedes use. :-) Which, after all, Tuomas had not proposed us to do. The second half of Peter's reply is as far as I can judge a properly worded question hinting that Tuomas might be wrong in one of his assertions (and thereby possibly also hinting that Tuomas' objections should not be taken too seriously). It follows a period of a few days when Tuomas is absent, Peter remains at the scene, and before Tuomas' return Ruhrjung makes entrée with some 40 edits of which a handful are about Swedish and Finnish issues, and one attempts to answer Peter's question — in my opinion successfully. Peter, however, doesn't buy Ruhrjung's explanation.[11]

The following is, imho, significant for the early exchanges of thoughts between Tuomas, Peter, and Ruhrjung:

Tuomas: The previous solution with allophones denoted in groups ( ʂ ~ ɧ ~ ɸ ) was definitely more instructive although I am a bit unsure about the details, since textbooks and teachers are so evasive on the subject.
Ruhrjung: By the way, I see that you use the symbol 'ɸ' for the typical whistling-sound that is usual in Götaland for the sje-sound. However, are you really sure that 'β' wouldn't be more accurate? As far as I understand, the former is unvoiced and the latter is voiced. Isn't the whistling-sound initial to sked and sju in fact a voiced sound?
Tuomas: Seems unvoiced to me.
Peter: I've read about certain Swedish dialects realizing that sound ɸ at the mentioned article, (though I can't see any further discussion about it). Here you also mention that β is a possible allophone of /ɧ/. This is completely new to me and I can't relate to it at all. Especially about some dialects realizing it as [ɸ], since I am familiar with the sound from my studies of Japanese. I know that /ɧ/ is often pronounced labially (see link for explanation and recording of the two variants), but bilabially? Sound downright foreign to me. :-) Could you quote some sources on this matter?
Tuomas: No, not really, since (which is already noted above) textbooks are evasive and Swedes are chronically confused on these issues, I've no memory of any good written sources. You have to learn it the hard way when you arrive to Sweden. But compare the sje-sounds of the following examples, which all demonstrates a sje-sound that is rather a variant of /f/ or /v/ than of /ç/, labial rather than dorsal: [12][13][14][15][16][17] — Peter will not show any signs of recognizing the perception of this list, which not exactly improves the atmosphere.

Tuomas' tone may be perceived as somewhat edgy or annoyed, and he has not yet indicated any reason for this. Peter's changes have however sanitized the tables from references to Swedish as it's spoken in South Sweden and in Finland, and it is in retrospect easy to assume that this was a cause of distress.

We now have established the unlucky situation that Peter have encountered Tuomas and Ruhrjung here, and me in the Swedish Wikipedia, and in all three cases the relations started on the wrong foot. From now on, there is a mental grouping of three against one. Peter doesn't understand the three, and is likely not to take them quite seriously, and the three don't understand Peter. Both sides believe to have recognized errors on the opposite side.

Partly due to my not so encouraging encounter with Peter in sv:Diskussion:Svenska, partly since other matters interested me more, and partly since I wished to avoid appear as taking side between Tuomas and Peter, I didn't interfere in the discussion until March 14th. The discussion was then taken up by Peter in Talk:Voiceless dorso-palatal velar fricative#A Swedish bi-labial fricative?. While the discussion goes on there, Peter makes no sign of recognition for Tuomas' list of sound-examples, which maybe was somewhat insensitive. One may get the impression that Peter deliberatly ignores Tuomas when he'd (sort of) delivered what Peter had asked for, i.e. a list of sources. My first comment may appear a little bit snide[18], which I realized and softened up a bit. Peter answers:

And you can make all the claims you want about Scanian or southern Swedish accents being radically different - I'm perfectly aware of what they sound like. If you can't cite any sources for it, I'll have to assume that you've simply misinterpreted the phonology.

He also gives an example that should demonstrate his view that a such realization of the phoneme in question doesn't exist in Swedish [19] and is supported by User: Steverapaport, but I didn't agree[20]. Neither did I understand how I could have misunderstood the phonology, but I don't know if I wisely kept that kind of smartass comment to myself, or not.

--Johan Magnus 17:08, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

I don't know if this response is supposed to be complete yet, but I do have a few questions and objections.
What is this "have stood the test of time"-argumentation based on? It does not seem to be offical policy or even an official majority opinion of Wikipedia. Swedish language had not a single reference to any academic sources before I started editing it [21]. In fact the whole concept of this Test of Time-notion seems to be completely at odds with Wikipedia:Be bold as well as Wikipedia:Verifiability (due to the lack of source material in this case).
I would like to point out that despite over two months of fairly intense discussions on the sounds of Swedish as well as numerous citations from academic literature on phonetics, Johan Magnus is still insisting on some glaring misconceptions of Swedish phonology as well as phonetics in general:
"...as for instance notion of allophones [g, j, k, ç] of the phonemes /g/, /k/)."
This is an obvious confusion of Swedish orthography and phonology. /g/ and /k/ as phonemes have basically the same phonetic values as in English. /j/ and ɕ are not allophones of /g/ and /k/, but seperate phonemes that occasionally are spelled with "g" or "k". Additionally [ç] is a rather rare realization of /ɕ/ which is realized in most varieties as a voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative (or a corresponding affricate) and this character is used by nearly all modern phonologies to designate the Swedish phoneme.
This tendency to choose IPA that is "more common" (to major Western languages like French, German and English) or "more recognizable" rather than accurate to Swedish sounds seems to me like bordering original research. This includes the list of various realizations of /ɧ/, since many (but not all) of the examples that have been mentioned are actually extrapolated from various sources by J, R and T according to their own perceptions of how they sound and hence transcribed.
The term phonology is also not narrowly defined as just grammar or morpheme analsysis. That phonetics is included in the term is supported by EB [22] as well as by dictionary definitions [23]. Indeed, not even phonologies of Wikipedia are confined to just listing phonemical attributes of a particular language.
As for the accusation of excluding everything but my own spoken variety, I'd like to see some diffs that proves this claim; e.i. edits that actually show me removing (accurate) information on allophones. This complaint seems to be about the use of IPA characters (J,R & T's own choices actually often seem to favor Finland-Swedish or even German) for phoneme transcription rather than any actual attempts to supress certain varieties of Swedish. Peter Isotalo 17:03, May 7, 2005 (UTC)