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Andrey Kurkov writes in Russian, but identifies his books as Ukrainian literature. He strongly feels that it's reductionist to only identify books originally written in the Ukrainian language as Ukrainian literature. However, tag guidance requires his books to be tagged as .

In cases where the author has indicated a strong preference for identifying their literature in a way that's contrary to our usual tagging rules, is it appropriate to respect the author's wishes? Or should we stick to our usual conventions?

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  • Update: the process proposed in my answer below (which seems to have got a good enough consensus) is now done.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 8:59
  • @Randal'Thor Should the question be tagged [status-complete]? Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 15:57
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    I didn't because the implemented decision isn't exactly what the question says: the answer goes off at a slightly different angle.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 16:26

1 Answer 1

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Let's reanimate a forgotten proposal: how about renaming language tags to ? For example, tagging things as or instead of or .

  • Since they are effectively language tags, it's a more precise term for what the tag is for.
  • The new names would make sense as tag names: it wouldn't be weird to see a question about the Shahnameh tagged as or about Borges stories tagged as , for example. (The names suggested on the previous meta post are very long and unwieldy, and it's not really necessary to include "literature" in the tag name.)
  • It would eliminate the confusion that exists for some tags where the language adjective coincides with a country's adjective. (Why is there but no ? Maybe not obvious to a new user.)
  • It would also eliminate the problem you raise in this meta post. Perhaps a Ukrainian author writing in Russian wouldn't like to see their works tagged as , for political reasons unrelated to the language (and more related to the previous bullet point, conflating countries with languages). But surely they wouldn't mind seeing them tagged as : this is an objective fact about the books, and helps sites such as ours with organisation.

I think "let's respect the wishes of the author" is a fine sentiment, but it has the potential to get complicated in the future. How do we find out the wishes of the author? What if the author has said different contradictory things in the past? What about long-dead authors from times when languages were different? Tagging according to language is more objective than country/culture/identity, which are a bit harder to define. (I know languages aren't always clear-cut to define either - hello, and - but at least clearer than ethnic identity.)


For our site, tagging according to language makes sense. It's not a political statement, just a bookkeeping decision. But to make clear that that's what we are doing - e.g. that the Russian tag is only about the language of the piece of literature, rather than the Russian Federation or its predecessor states - we can put "language" right there in the tag name for unambiguity.

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    The problem I see with this is that it puts too much emphasis on the language and less so on the culture expressed within the literature. While literature is largely about language, it might suggest the question to actually be about specific aspects or usage of the French language and less so about French literature in general. It would also seem awkward to put french-language on a question about a book I read in German and about anything but the intricacies of French writing. Maybe french-language-literature might be the most accurate, but that's way too clunky. Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 19:15
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    The dilemma is that you actually neither want a country of origin nor a language, but a culture, which unfortunately is an inherently fuzzy concept. Knowing that a book was written in Russian is equally irrelevant when the point is that it is Ukrainian literature. Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 19:18
  • @Cahir We're not saying that language is always one of the most important aspects of a piece of literature - as you say, culture and country of origin often both say more about the nature of the story, although they're both fuzzier to define - only that it's the metric we've happened to use for our tagging system. I do see your point about naming the tag x-language vs x-language-literature, which I hadn't thought of before, but on balance I still feel like including "literature" in the tag name isn't necessary, especially since it's the topic of the whole site.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 20:48
  • Plus, knowing the original language of a story often is relevant, regardless of what language you read it in. Sometimes the answer to a question about some particular passage is "it's a translation error" or "this grammatical construct only works in the original language", and such answers (even knowing to look for such answers) do rely heavily on what language the story was originally written in.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 20:52
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    @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach "The dilemma is that you actually neither want a country of origin nor a language, but a culture, ..." When you study literature at university, it's usually the literature written in a specific language, since it's common to study that language alongside it. This is probably the main reason why the language tags are useful. If you can read Russian literature written in Russian, you can also read Ukrainian literature written in Russian.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 21:28

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