I. The language itself

The proponents of the project have convinced me that Montenegrin is comparable 
as a language standard to Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian. That, by itself, does 
not justify the creation of a Montenegrin Wikipedia. Surely it's mutually 
intelligible with other varieties, so to that extent you could argue that 
Montenegrin speakers could contribute elsewhere (at least if forced, but see 
points below). That having been said, if we were starting over now—if we had no 
projects in Serbo-Croatian at all, or if only the macrolanguage project 
currently existed—it would be very hard to justify treating any of the four 
differently from each other.


If that were the current situation, I'd probably agree with you not to create 
Montenegrin Wikipedia ... or Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian. But if you insisted 
on creating the other three, I would require you to create Montenegrin, too.


II. Current facts on the ground

The proponents of the project have convinced me that, at best, it is difficult 
for Montenegrins to contribute constructively to the other projects. This is 
true from the point of view of both language standards and content. There are 
many examples both of NPOV violations on subjects related to the politics of 
the region and on the use of Montenegrin linguistic varieties being rejected on 
the other projects. Based on the usual standards of project autonomy, it is 
very difficult for us to force these other communities to give equal access to 
the Montenegrin community.  (And to some extent, it's probably reasonable for 
the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian projects to prefer their own linguistic 
standards, even if the NPOV issue itself is still a problem on those projects.)


As far as the macrolanguage project itself, I suppose we could hope to reserve 
that for the use of Montenegrin. But we can't really enforce that position on 
that community, either. And shwiki is such a mess now that the Montenegrin 
community would have an easier time starting over than in fixing it.


The other result of all this is that a lot of Montenegrins simply don't care to 
participate; they simply don't want to bother fighting. And that goes toward 
violating WMF's goal to give everyone access, as per the next point.


III. Rule 3:  "Sufficiently unique" vs. "free and unbiased access"

The long-time position being articulated by members of the committee relies on 
Point 3 of the "Requisites for eligibility":  "The language must be 
sufficiently unique that it could not coexist on a more general wiki." It seems 
to me, though that the rest of the point is being ignored: "The committee does 
not consider political differences, since the Wikimedia Foundation's goal is to 
give every single person free, unbiased access to the sum of all human 
knowledge, rather than information from the viewpoint of individual political 
communities."


The position that "the committee does not consider political differences" is a 
fine one when we are starting off on a level playing field. But under the 
circumstances, it is my view that it is not viable to ignore political 
differences in this case. After all, the current situation is not one where 
"the viewpoint of individual political communities" is fully equal. Where we 
are now, in fact, is that every single "individual political community"—except 
the Montenegrin community—has its viewpoint already entrenched in the system. 
If we do not consider political differences in this case, we are, in fact, 
entrenching the viewpoint of some individual political communities at the 
expense of others. And that expressly violates the remit of the Language 
Committee.


I suppose that instead of creating Montenegrin Wikipedia, we could try to get 
the other projects to give equal access to the Montenegrin community. Good luck 
enforcing that, though.


I will argue in point V below that it is more politically neutral to allow 
Montenegrin than to reject it.


IV. Committee position on macrolanguages

The committee's current position allows projects in macrolanguages sometimes, 
but expresses a clear bias in favor of having projects in individual component 
languages rather than in macrolanguages.  It is clear that this position is not 
absolute. Still, ruling against Montenegrin goes against that trend, rather 
than for the trend.


V.  Language codes, LoC/SIL and LangCom's neutrality

Surely, the main reason we rely on SIL's decisions around language codes is 
that they are the official standard-keeper, and we are not. But as part and 
parcel of that, by relying on SIL's decisions, we are putting the burden of 
sorting out linguistic considerations from political ones on SIL, not on 
ourselves. Now, we are all aware that sometimes, at the borders, we might 
prefer to see things differently from the way SIL does. That is why there is 
now a procedure in place for situations where language codes don't exist. But 
unquestionably the existence or non-existence of a language code represents a 
strong default position on how LangCom should act. Indeed, we normally require 
a supermajority to allow projects that don't have ISO 639–3 codes.


In the past, part of the argument against Montenegrin has been "SIL 
[Ethnologue] describes it as just another name for Serbo-Croatian". Fine. Then, 
it was a politically neutral decision to reject Montenegrin, and would have 
been a politically "motivated" position to accept it.  Now, the situation is 
reversed. Now, it is a politically neutral decision to accept Montenegrin, and 
a politically "motivated" position to reject it.


I am fully aware that many of you believe that Montenegrin's winning of a code 
was a political, rather than a purely linguistic, victory. There are academics 
who don't agree with that, but suppose that it is true. Let that be SIL's 
problem (or the Library of Congress's), not ours. When we choose to disagree 
with SIL, I think we have to justify that.


Finally, let me add that the Montenegrin community managed to get action not 
only at SIL, but actually at LoC first, getting the first change to ISO 639–2 
in about five years. Again, maybe that was a political victory. But personally 
I don't think we ought to putting ourselves in a position where we are 
second-guessing all these experts.


VI. The Incubator test

The rules for allowing a test on Incubator are less stringent than the rules 
for approving a project. Accordingly, there has been a test project on 
Incubator since December. At this point, it is probably the highest-quality 
project we have in Incubator now, including the ones just being approved.  
There are about 65 editors (33 with over ten edits each) and 1,200 main space 
pages in the project.  Pretty much none of them are the 1–2 sentence pages we 
often see on Incubator projects. Of the ten pages I just checked, nine had 
references, and the other was a list page. Solely on the basis of whether the 
community is working to create a serious encyclopedia project consistent with 
WMF's goals, I'd say that this community is very deserving of recognition.


VII.  Appearance of neutrality and fairness

Say what you will about the rules, a situation where Montenegrin doesn't get a 
code appears profoundly unfair.  Superficially, this situation is not much 
different from supporters of Ancient Greek complaining that Latin has a 
project, but they don't, because the rules changed at a certain point. But the 
intense political rivalry in the Balkans makes this a much less trivial case; 
after all, supporters of Ancient Greek don't try to interfere with the use of 
Latin on Latin Wikipedia. This case is simply one that I don't think we can 
justify by falling back on the rules.  I'd far rather "bend the rules" in the 
direction of fairness—particularly because I don't even think this would be 
bending the rules. I think the rules can easily be interpreted to allow 
Montenegrin, rather than to reject it.


Conclusion

Several people have said to me that Montenegrin is more similar to other 
Serbo-Croatian varieties than US and UK English are to each other; would I 
insist on separate projects if they happened to have separate language codes? 
No, I wouldn't. But that's because on the whole, the various English-speaking 
communities around the world do manage to co-exist with each other quite 
well—and tend to blunt each other's excesses a bit, too. Sadly, that's not the 
case here. It is difficult, though not quite impossible, to justify Montenegrin 
Wikipedia solely on the grounds of linguistic uniqueness. But based on every 
other criterion we are supposed to evaluate, if we were starting over now, we'd 
either have only one Serbo-Croatian Wikipedia, or we would have separate 
projects for Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin. Since we can't stuff 
the other three back in the bottle, the right thing to do now is to accept 
Montenegrin Wikipedia.


Respectfully,

Steven


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