Translation in Wikipedia: A Praxeological Study of Normativity, Negotiation and Automation across Four Language Communities

  • Jose Gustavo Gongora Goloubintseff

Student thesis: Phd


Launched in 2001, Wikipedia is a long-standing multilingual user-driven encyclopaedia and one of the most popular sources of first-hand information in the world. Although its previously neglected multilingual nature has awakened scholarly interest in recent years, most studies have vastly overlooked the norms and materials that underpin and configure the practice of translation in Wikipedia. Consequently, this doctoral thesis first sets out to investigate the extent to which translation standards have been regulated, negotiated and ultimately incorporated into the practices of 16 translators of the Spanish, French, Dutch and Swedish language communities of the encyclopaedia. This investigation is then followed by an examination of the translators' views on and deployment of automated devices such as software robots (bots) and Wikipedia's bespoke Content Translation Tool (CX). Drawing primarily upon Wenger's (1998) 'communities of practice', Warde's (2016) 'standards of performance', and Shove's (2017) concept of 'devices as practice configurators', this project seeks to ascertain the role of local (community-based) translation standards and automated devices in configuring the practice of translation in Wikipedia, with the focus placed on the last lustrum. The thematic analysis of documented standards revealed that despite being tangible differences in how the four communities regulated translation, most guidelines gave similar advice on core editing principles such as verifiability of the sources. The data collected from translation-related comments on the ancillary 'talk pages' further suggest that although certain aspects of the standards have been vehemently contested, such norms have not undergone substantial changes over the years. This stagnation was later corroborated by a cohort of experienced translators that took part in the study, most of whom attached little, if any, relevance to local standards. The findings also show a widespread tendency among participants to comply with more 'enforceable' policies commonly found in editing, thus lending support to previously formulated claims that translation and editing in Wikipedia form a continuum. Finally, the study has also brought to light the impact of devices such as bots and CX in configuring translation in the encyclopaedia. The latter, in particular, has enabled translators to ease their workload and optimise their productivity.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMaeve Olohan (Supervisor) & Julio Villa-GarcĂ­a (Supervisor)


  • Practice theory
  • Wikipedia
  • Communities of practice
  • Translation
  • Translation tools

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