Talk:Language Evolution (book synopsis)

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 Definition Synopsis and commentary on book by M.H. Christiansen and S. Kirby, essays on language evolution by multiple authors (2004) [d] [e]
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 Workgroup categories Linguistics and Biology [Categories OK]
 Subgroup categories:  Evolution and Language
 Talk Archive none  English language variant American English

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Start Talk page. Anthony.Sebastian 02:59, 16 April 2010 (UTC)


This is not an article, but a book synopsis, and thus arguably belongs as a subpage of the evolutionary linguistics article. It doesn't quite fit the existing subpage types, though, so I suggest creating a specific one, perhaps /Synopses. Also, with this article moved, we no longer need to have language evolution (disambiguation). John Stephenson 12:23, 19 November 2011 (UTC)

I think you are correct on both counts. The subpages are great for grouping content like that, and since the only other article in the disambiguation list is redlinked that page would certainly be superfluous. David Finn 12:30, 19 November 2011 (UTC)
I have written other standalone book synopses and plan many more as time permits. So have other CZ authors. I myself prefer to leave them as standalone articles, Title (book). I suspect those other authors who have written articles summarizing a book will feel the same way.
If someone wrote ten articles, each a synopsis of a science fiction book, each by a different author, they'd get lost in a "Book Synopsis" subpage of Science fiction. I should think they each need a Main Article page.
The article in question here was written as a book synopsis for a PLoS journal, and modified by me to make it suitable for CZ. I myself own numerous books on the evolution of language, many of which I hope to write a Title (book) Main article. I'd hate to see them buried in subpages under the Main article Language evolution.
May we discuss this further. We can at anytime turf the broader issue to the EC. Anthony.Sebastian 23:13, 19 November 2011 (UTC)
I take your point about the many science fiction sysnopsii (probably it isn't synopsii but it sounds good and I have a lot to learn about spelling) - although in that case they could be grouped by author. Grouping by author might work in this case, rather than grouping by subject (i.e. making the synopsis a subpage of the author rather than evolutionary linguistics) but if you think it would be more useful as a standalone article I won't argue. David Finn 00:29, 20 November 2011 (UTC)
Grouping by author could be done, but not in the readers' best interest. Let me go right to Looking Backward to see what it's all about. I may have heard about the book, but don't remember its author. It's an extra step to do a CZ search.
It seems we've already established the tradition: The Literature Workgroup, for example, has written dozens of standalone Main articles on individual books, the titles of the books used as the the titles of the articles, usually without a prenthetical 'book' or 'book synopsis' in the title. From Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Looking Backward to Why Johnny Can't Read. And not just the Literature Workgroup. To pick from various Workroups:
Biology has its The Origin of Species; Chemistry, its Perry's Chemical Engineers' Handbook; Linguistics, its The Sound Pattern of English; Astronomy, its Copernican revolution (book); History, its The End of History and the Last Man; Geography, its World Factbook; Classics, its Aeneid. I'd keep things as they are, personally. Anthony.Sebastian 02:26, 20 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree that some books should have a main page if the article is actually about the book, e.g. its influence, fame, the historical reaction to it, etc. The Sound Pattern of English, for instance, is a highly-influential text that much phonological research since has been a response to. But synopses or reviews concern the content of the book and do not really go beyond the book's influence, so would be better as subpages. They will not become 'lost' as subpages since search engines will find them wherever they are, plus we can use redirects. John Stephenson 03:34, 20 November 2011 (UTC)
By why would a discussion of a book "be better as subpages"? In authoring a synopsis of a book, I prefer it as a Main article. Also, as a Main article, I can use the subpages to provide additional information, creatively. But that's not the only reason I prefer it as a Main article. There are many others, some of which I have already mentioned. Where do you see the harm to the project? Anthony.Sebastian 04:09, 20 November 2011 (UTC)

[unident] Articles that deal mainly with the content of a book, especially when it is not particularly well-known to non-specialist readers, should be placed on subpages, in my view, unless we want CZ to place specialist content on a par with regular articles, which are typically basic to intermediate introductions to subjects that are often quite broad. A synopsis is arguably specialist material, so would work better as a subpage. As main pages, there is a risk that they would sow confusion by having similar-sounding names to the main topics (e.g. there are lots of books called 'linguistics'...). I also think that synopses are more subjective than general articles. The introduction to this synopsis, for example, involves opinion.

In the case of 'language evolution', the term redirects to a disambiguation page because you have placed there links to synopses of works about that topic. We currently have a red link to a book called Adam's Tongue. That does not satisfy the purpose of disambiguation pages, which is to distinguish topics with the same or similar names. So you are redefining the use of disambiguation pages as well. And without the synopses links, the term would immediately redirect to evolutionary linguistics, which is probably what someone searching for the term would require, as they're likely to be looking for information on the topic of language evolution as a whole, not an article about one book. John Stephenson 09:30, 20 November 2011 (UTC)

The Origin of Species is not exclusive to the Biology Workgroup. It is a text that has been discussed in the wider world for some time, it has cultural and historical impact. Our article on the Origin of Species is rather incomplete, but when completed it would be obvious from the content that it was a standalone article.
Perry's has been a source of chemical engineering knowledge for chemical engineers, and a wide variety of other engineers and scientists, through seven previous editions spanning more than seventy years.
The Sound Pattern of English is the most significant work to date in generative phonology.
The Copernican Revolution, Kuhn’s first book, is one of the best selling books ever written on the history of science.
The CIA Factbook is a widely appreciated text used by many around the world - it is not exclusive to geography in any way.
Language Evolution is a fairly recent book. This article itself suggests that it may not even be a very good book, that it is missing sections and that there are already several books in existence covering the same ground. Language Evolution does not then appear to exist in the same epoch-making class as the like of the Origin of Species.
We shouldn't put too much stock in CZ content regarding this - take a look at a more developed version of the same article. It should be obvious why the Origin of Species requires an article of its own - it has cultural impact felt far outside the subject.
i don't see then why this book needs a standalone article. I don't see why a book synopsis of any kind requires a standalone article. This is an encyclopedia, not a book review club. It seems unlikely that a reader would come to a general encyclopedia to look for a book synopsis for a book that is not widely known.
In this case the reader would be best catered to by grouping the content using the subpages system.
We should try to get away from the idea that subpages are a dead end or somehow inferior - subpages are the system CZ has chosen to use and it is only a lack of use that prevents them being as useful as they could be.
I have Googled for information regarding this book - am I missing something? Does this book have a cultural impact beyond its just being a book? If not it is a clear candidate for move to subpages. Citizendium, a general encyclopedia, cannot and should not be home to any standalone book synopsis but should only contain main articles that fully deal with their subject.
John is also correct about the use of disambiguation pages. David Finn 10:56, 20 November 2011 (UTC)
Whether an article about a book qualifies for Main Article status calls for a judgement regarding its quality. The book itself qualifies as a topic, a topic of information, as does a film (theatrical movie, e.g., "Inception"), a work of art (however minor), a recipe for banana cream pie, a biography of a minor figure in the world of juggling.... Books are important. If a Citizen wants to write about a book, and writes it well, it will not harm Citizendium. I fear our positions have dug in, and that we simply have different opinions. Anthony.Sebastian 04:36, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
Anthony I don't think that whether any article qualifies for Main Article status calls for a judgment call regarding its quality. We have the Status field for that - from 4 for external articles right up to 0 for approved articles. There is no other measure of quality used on Citizendium, other than the fundamental ability to remove an article or not.
The suggestion is not that this article is somehow substandard, the question is whether it is in the right place, especially when considering the encyclopedia reader first.
Your examples do not address the issue. A film synopsis would also not be a candidate for a main article of an encyclopedia - all films have a cast list, have a production team, there is a release history, box office figures, independent reviews. The film deserves an article, of which a synopsis may be part, either within the main article or as a subpage.
A work of art wouldn't require a synopsis and will almost certainly have cultural reference beyond its field. A recipe for pie - you might remember we all had this precise discussion some months ago and it was agreed that recipes belong on a subpage to a main article about the food concept. Citizendium is not a recipe book in that we do not intend to have main articles about every recipe known to man, although we make the provision for the use of subpages for that task.
A biography is not a synopsis. A synopsis is a brief summary of the major points of a written work - by definition it exists only as a subpage of the main article that is the book itself. Biographies are obviously main articles. A synopsis of a person could be something like a discography or a filmography or a timeline - all subpages to the main article that is that persons life.
That was all comment, but let me ask you a couple questions. First, what is your opinion of the subpage system in general? And second, do you think it a wise aim for Citizendium to have a book synopsis for every book ever written as a main article? And if not, can you give an indication of why this book needs one, because that isn't apparent from the article itself.
(ps, there is a possible fix to this - rename the article language Evolution (book) and put the commentary about the book before the synopsis. Hey presto, its an article about a book rather than a synopsis of its content - the article can then be expanded as and when is needed whereas the very nature of a synopsis is much more static) David Finn 08:04, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, one (or two) very last point(s). We aren't really talking about other articles on Citizendium, just this one - the only Citizendium article titled "synopsis". That makes this a precedent setting case surely, and worthy of discussion. David Finn 08:21, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
Very last - this is an external article, right? It is a book synopsis by an author about their own book, and the article is titled Name (book synopsis).
Ok. Lets say that someone else writes a synopsis. Lets say five someones write a synopsis each. What do we call those articles? They all qualify as Name (book synopsis). Only one thing qualifies for Name (book), but many potential things qualify for Name (book synopsis).
Or do we use Name (book synopsis by person A) followed by Name (book synopsis by person B)? Do we keep deleting and rewriting the article whenever the next better synopsis comes along? And what happens if a Citizen thinks they can write a better synopsis? They cannot alter this synopsis or it would change the point of it being an external article surely... David Finn 09:02, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
David, it's not a book synopis by the authors of their own book. I like your idea of removing 'synopsis' from the title and editing the lede.
No more '(book synopsis)' in titles. The articles should be 'about' the book, even though it may describe its contents. Many Citizens even leave off '(book)' in title. Anthony.Sebastian 14:55, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
David, check out The Interlopers. 15:04, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
BTW: We have many recipe Main Article Pages. See Hayford Peirce for the list of those he alone has written. Anthony.Sebastian 15:33, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I misinterpreted who the authors were in relation to the book. I take your point about The Interlopers - we don't have another article titled "Language Evolution", just the disambiguation page, so just calling the article Language Evolution seems good to me.
As to Hayfords food articles I checked out most of those listed on his page. All the articles were main articles about the recipe itself, often with historical and cultural references. The actual recipes, that is to say the directions for cooking, are secondary to the main text he writes, and often contained within a Recipes subpage like this one. So I think Hayford might be in agreement with us changing the title to Language Evolution also! David Finn 17:37, 21 November 2011 (UTC)

Title and content

(I started a new section because of the length of the previous one)

Anthony, I'm sorry but I have to agree with much that has been said enough.

  • If I understand it correctly, then this book has some significance in the development of the field. It is therefore (probably) suitable for a main page article. But this article should be on its significance (similar to the introduction), not a synopsis.
  • The title could be Langueage Evolution (book), or perhaps better Langueage Evolution (2003 book). Even Langueage Evolution would be possible (because of title case).
  • Bibliographic details and (perhaps) a table of contents belong into the bibliography (possibly with links to reviews in scientific journals).
  • A (commented) synopsis of all or some chapters would fit on a subpage of this article.

But independent of all these suggestions there is another important issue:

  • The text of the article (except its layout) is an (almost unchanged) copy of the external source -- it does, therefore, not conform to the importation rules and thus has to be completely rewritten.

--Peter Schmitt 17:01, 21 November 2011 (UTC)

Thanks for your input Peter, it seems like we can agree to move the article to Language Evolution for now as we have no other main article of the same name. That will require a look at the disambiguation page also but if no-one objects I will take a look.
As to your second point this article was added 2010, I believe before the change to how we import articles. Weren't public domain reproductions (for example Wikipedia articles) allowed up to that point? David Finn 17:28, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
I think just calling this 'Language Evolution' would be confusing. There is nothing to tell the reader that the article is about a book rather than the field itself. Sometimes people capitalise every significant word in the title (this keeps happening on CZ as well). I recall a precedent for this when there were articles called red dwarf and Red Dwarf; Larry argued that the capitalisation was not disambiguation enough, and later CZ developed more explicit disambiguation in titles. I would accept Language Evolution (2003 book) as there are at least three other books with the same title and more with similar ones. John Stephenson 03:04, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
I was waiting for your comments, you obviously know a lot more about the disambiguation process than me.
I understand what you are saying about using (book) and (2003 book). I guess there are two levels to disambiguation - first to do with all articles with similar titles on Citizendium, the other to do with all possible uses of the term. By suggesting Language Evolution as the title I was thinking more of the former.
If I Google "Language Evolution" I get first two articles about the evolution of language, and then this book. If we have a disambiguation page listing (in redlinks) all the books of the same title I am not sure that they will ever be bluelinks, so in this case it might be too much to put (2003 book) rather than (book). Besides, if we start disambiguating amongst only what we have we can always add the extra layer as and when someone writes about one of the other books.
As far as what the reader expects from "Language Evolution" if they type that in - well, Google turns up this book pretty quick like I said, if you use inverted commas. Even without I still get pretty much the same main results. I am simply not an expert in linguistics so I can't surmise any further than this what someone who types Language Evolution expects, probably Anthony has better ideas on this.
An example Anthony used was Looking Backward (not Looking Backward (book)). To me Looking Backward means checking who is chasing me, so when I see those words the last thing on my mind is a book. But yet there is no real encyclopedia article about the art of looking over ones shoulder, unless there is a scientific term for how owls work. I guess my point is that for the people looking for information about the evolution of language the term Language Evolution might be well known to them already as belonging to this book.
I'm ready to move to whatever title is chosen as best! David Finn 09:07, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Here is the way WP does it: italicize title and put (book) in parens. John R. Brews 13:50, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
I doubt that, for example, students searching for 'language evolution' have mainly this book in mind because it is a current and expanding field in linguistics, so there is more to it than just this particular book. Yes, this volume is one of the most significant if you are a language evolution researcher, but I don't think it merits just '(book)' in the title as it's not the definitive book on the subject. Furthermore, within research on language evolution, the term is quite broad, taking in research on computational linguistics, biolinguistics, anthropology, and so on, i.e. it is very cross-disciplinary. It would be inappropriate to confine the term to one book. And as soon as someone uploads another article on a book with a similar title, we'd have to move it.
However, I'm not sure that renaming is necessary. I had not originally appreciated that this article was an unmodified version of work found elsewhere under a Creative Commons licence. As such, it is an external article, and thus a candidate for deletion as it stands. It is also over-subjective as written. If it were an original article, I would still say to subpaginate or failing that place it at Language Evolution (2003 book), with expansion to discuss not just its content but its niche in the field. John Stephenson 14:47, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
The issue that a title: ‘Language Evolution (book)’ may run into future difficulty is a possibility. A Google book search on "Language Evolution" in quotes produces over 6000 results for books with this phrase in the title. Most of them involve other words in the title as well, or a subtitle, suggesting they might be distinguished from this one in some fashion. Probably the matter can be fixed should it arise, but perhaps adding the year of publication would make for less work later on. John R. Brews 19:50, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Inasmuch as the phrase, 'language evolution', would likely be put into CZ's search box for someone looking for information on the topic of language evolution, I suggest, for the readers' convenience, we extend the writ of the disambiguation page to list all articles that pertain significantly to the topic of language evolution, such as Evolutionary linguistics, this article (however we name it), and any other article that ever gets written in CZ that pertains, e.g., 'Origin of speech', 'The universal protolanguage', etc. With each item, besides its definition, one could optionally include a brief description of the article's content. For the readers' convenience.
We might also consider starting an organized list-page, Book articles, redirecting from Book reviews, Book synopses, etc. Organized by Parent topic sections.
Regarding this book article, I prefer Language evolution (book_01), and let the disambiguation page direct the reader to the particular Language evolution (book_0x) he/she wants. For the readers' convenience.
Since this article was written pre-importation-rule, and since it is from a quality source, it should not be removed. "No, remove me instead", he cried. Anthony.Sebastian 21:48, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
BTW: I know of six books with main title simply, Language Evolution.
fixed typo above. Anthony.Sebastian

(unindent) Anthony, yes, the importation was allowed when it happened. However, the rule applies for older articles, too, where each case has to be (re)considered separately. In main space only an article about this book is suitable, A synopsis (if at all) belongs on a subpage and should be written for CZ. Moreover, take into account John's critical comments concerning the synopsis. --Peter Schmitt 23:59, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Peter, in re-reading the Main Article, I do not think it is much of a synopsis, rather more of a discussion about the book, necessarily indicating what some of the chapters are about. It even contains an editorial commentary section. Any reader would have to read the book to really grasp its content. Do you think as is it would pass EC muster on individual case (re)consideration? It probably should go to EC anyway.
On a different note, I would like to submit a proposal EC that PLoS journal articles be importable, an exception to the rule banning all imports. An argument for that would have to be made, of course. Imports would have to be CZ-ified, but not rewritten, unless the importer wants to make additions/subtractions. PLoS is quality,they allow reuse, and they do survey-type articles that CZ could embellish and add value. Do you think I would be wasting my time? Anthony.Sebastian 05:11, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
Anthony, whether you call it synopsis or review -- I do not consider it as "encylopedic" and adequate for a main space article.
I do not doubt that PLoS is a quality reference, but a link to the review is sufficient, an import is not necessary. There is no danger that the content "disappears" from the Internet.
However, as already said, an article on the book as a significant "milestone" in the development of field seems appropriate. This does not that all books should get a separate article. Normally, books belong only into the bibliography for the topic.
This is my personal opinion, of course. --Peter Schmitt 11:25, 23 November 2011 (UTC)


How do I add an unused subpage to this article, e.g., Addendum? Anthony.Sebastian 22:03, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

You can type Language Evolution (book synopsis)/Addendum into our search box and you will get an option to start the subpage. You could also edit the metadata which gives an option to add subpages. Or click this link, which is the same as typing the new pagename into your browser. David Finn 22:40, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Thanks, David. Anthony.Sebastian 23:17, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Criteria for book articles to qualify for main space as Main Articles

I would like to write a series of articles about books that deal with the issues related to the evolutionary origins of speech and language, books mostly written during the past ten years or so, a period of intense interest in the question, resulting in novel ideas and experimental approaches. The articles would be orginal articles, not imports, and would be intended for main space as Main Articles, accompanied by full use of the subpages.

I will start a Forum topic to obtain community input,especially to see if criteria could be established for Main Article qualification and for use of the subpages. Preliminarily, I would like to hear the thoughts of you all who have been contributing on this Talk Page.

My preference would be to restrict the Main Article to describing things like the aim of the book, its roots, its novelty if any, the impact it has made, how well it has been received—things like that, that put the book in perspective.

The subpages could be used to give more summary information about the content of the various chapters or sections of the book (e.g., the Addendum subpage); an annotated list of other works of the author(s); suggestions for further reading; related CZ articles and external links, etc.

Thoughts? Anthony.Sebastian 16:09, 23 November 2011 (UTC)

This sounds reasonable to me. As an inclusionist, I would use rather loose criteria for inclusion of a book. In fact, if a book has some significance then it will be a candidate. I would exclude mere textbooks (one of many similar ones), and use subpages for borderline cases. However, don't forget that a/the bibliography is the best place for reading recommendations. (The title of the subpage can be chosen to fit its content -- it need not be /Addendum.) --Peter Schmitt 17:41, 23 November 2011 (UTC)
The best solution would be a subpage dedicated to the book Language Evolution, linked to the "Evolutionary linguistics" article . Otherwise, if an article has to be made about the book, it should bear a totally unambiguous title such as Language Evolution (2003 book) since other books bear a similar title.--Domergue Sumien 23:24, 23 November 2011 (UTC)