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 Definition Country in Southeast Asia, officially called Myanmar. [d] [e]
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 Workgroup categories Geography and Politics [Editors asked to check categories]
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Initial naming discussion

I think we should follow Wikipedia's lead, and use this name (I participated in the discussion there). I saw the junta's name in an article (sorry, forget which) during the Big Write & thought it was time to raise this point. Ro Thorpe 19:19, 5 March 2008 (CST)

Why is it being called Burma in the article? David Finn 10:12, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

Neutrality is not an option. There is a redirect from the SLORC's name - and I've corrected their name... Ro Thorpe 13:56, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

I don't get it - is Citizendium taking a political stance on the naming of this article? The United Nations members index lists the country as Myanmar. If that is what the UN call it, what reason does CZ have for an opposite approach - there is nothing in the article itself that elaborates on this point. David Finn 14:08, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

You seem to be saying that the UN should decide CZ policy. As I say, neutrality is not an option. Ro Thorpe 15:11, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

No, I asked what reason does CZ have for an opposite approach, which is a different question. I don't seem to be getting a straightforward answer here, I'll post the question on the forums and ask for community input. Cheers. David Finn 15:15, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

As a linguist, I think we should prefer Burma in CZ. The traditional, usual name, in the English language, is Burma, not Myanmar. This is an objective fact that we have to reflect in the article's title. The name Myanmar is nothing but a bad transcription (although oficially supported by the SLORC) of the formal Burmese name of the country, which is in reality Myanma, not even Myanmar. Myanma (Myanmar*) is a Burmese name, convenient for an encyclopedia written in Burmese; it is not a genuine English name and therefore it is not suitable as a prioritary name in an encyclopedia written in English. The bureaucratic use of the UN, which uses Myanmar in English, is not a valid reference for a correct redaction in plain English.--Domergue Sumien 17:46, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

We would need some kind of reference establishing that. Please see the thread in the Content section of the Forums for a discussion about this. David Finn 18:17, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
Use the current name established by the country. As always it's what the people want to be known as. I'd also reference previous names for the same country in the article. You can add this to the history.Mary Ash 18:48, 11 October 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that the people have nothing to do with it, in a military dictatorship. However, I am making an editorial decision that we use UN names as a standard, with older or alternative names in brackets if needed. It is actually non-neutral to use the name Burma, and inconsistent with CZ's Neutrality Policy (which applies until the EC makes new policy). Sorry to those who want Burma, but it is not the legal name. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 01:32, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

I strongly oppose this editor's decision. This is firstly a question of language use. When you speak English, you say normally, spontaneousaly and traditionally "Burma", "I went to Burma", "I learned to speak Burmese when I was in Burma", "I went to Spain", "I went to Germany", "I went to Japan", etc. You rarely say in English "I went to Myanmar" and you never say in English "I went to España", "I went to Deutschland", "I went to Nippon"... "Burma" is not a former name, it is simply the name of the country in the English language, in a neutral register.

  • The Burmese junta has never changed the short form of the name. It's hard to explain, but this is an objective fact. The short Burmese name has always been, and is still today, Myanma (formal Burmese) or Bama (colloquial Burmese), before and after the junta.
  • The junta only tries to change the use of the English language by promoting a new translation from Burmese to English (Burmese Myanma > English Myanmar). But this junta has no legal power nor legitimacy to say what is correct or incorrect in English. Nor the UN.
  • There is absolutely no etymologic difference between English Burma and Burmese Bama or Myanma: this is just the same name and the same meaning, but with different forms adapted to different languages. You can't compare this with a real name change like Ceylon > Sri Lanka, where different etymologies and meanings are involved.

Therefore, imposing "Myanmar" in CZ is non-neutral, presenting "Burma" as a "former" name is clearly non-neutral: this presentation is a misunderstanding of a linguistic issue. A neutral position would be the following:

  • Burma presented as the general, English name of the country.
  • Bama/Myanma presented as the Burmese name of the country.
  • Myanmar presented as an official translation promoted by the junta (and suppported by the UN), from Burmese to English, in spite of the English use.

--Domergue Sumien 12:09, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Domergue: this is a matter of international law. The official name of the country is established, and I cannot change that. The current government does not accept the name "Burma" and we do not have the right to tell them what they should do. Your comments are noted, but not relevant. If you wish, you may appeal my decision to the Editorial Council when it is appointed.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 13:10, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Or anyone can ask another Geography editor or Politics editor. D. Matt Innis 13:27, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
If you want to destroy CZ with editorial wars, that is an excellent idea. There is no CZ policy on editorial conflicts, they have to go to the Editorial Council. I will not accept another editor's decision on this matter, so you can predict the consequences for CZ. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 14:16, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Whether I agree with this statement or not, the consequences of asking another editor aren't my concern when outlining the choices. It's up to the individual to determine if the potential outcome it is worth the potential risk. D. Matt Innis 14:41, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
That seems curiosly inflexible. I think most of us are hoping, if not praying, that the people elected to the new editorial council will be willing to co-operate, especially editors. David Finn 14:44, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Yes, the composition of the EC is crucial for CZ. I am being inflexible on this now, because otherwise we will have anarchy. The new EC can adjudicate on all these things when it is ready.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 15:02, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

The topic is the conception of neutrality. CZ is an encyclopedia which informs readers about objective facts, with a policy of strict neutrality. We agree about this principle. So I hope you will agree with the following arguments.
1. Reality and objective information are not limited to legal statements, they also encompass language use. We don't have the right to mislead readers about this. I'm afraid you can't claim neutrality if you only want to see one legal aspect of one government which legal legitimacy is severely contested (including inside, in Burma) and which linguistic legitimacy concerning English language planning is totally nonexistent.
2. If we name the article "Burma", we inform the reader that "Burma" is the general name in English and, by doing so, we respect the facts and give the reader an objective information about the real, objective, general use of the English language.
3. If we name the article "Myanmar", we give the impression that "Myanmar" would be the general use of the English language, which is not true; this is non-neutral.
4. When you put in the article's name the mention "formerly Burma", you give the impression that "Burma" would be an outdated word, which is objectively untrue and misleading; this is non-neutral.
5. Even if we name the article "Burma" (according to the objective, current and stylistically neutral English use) we'll have to add in the introduction that the junta claims the name "Myanmar" for official use in English, which is also a fact.
6. Please note that linguistics—the science of language—has proven that language use is not decided only by law, but mostly by speakers. If you want to be neutral, you should listen to linguists, not only to UN bureaucrats.
Before invoking an appeal, maybe we can find a solution which reflects the multiple faces (the linguistic ones and the legal ones) of this complex reality.-Domergue Sumien 21:32, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Domergue: personally I have no desire for this country to be called Myanmar, or for this article to be titled as such. The fact is that we live in a world dominated by law and nation states. According to these rules, the government of a country (subject to acceptance by other nation states) determines tha name of that country for as long as it is in power. These countries are admitted to the United Nations under their chosen names, and the names are recorded in international law for the purpose of signing treaties etc.
It is just not relevant what people call a country in normal speech. You can argue that the UK is more normally called Britain by the British, but that is not its legal name. Its full legal name is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, abbreviated to United Kingdom or UK. Now, the reason I mention this is that we get this argument over almost every country in the world! I am not prepared to argue about this for every country. Where there is one legal name, that is the one we use. Where there is doubt, we can debate it. There is no doubt in this case, and the biggest concession I can think of has already been made in the current page title. Sorry.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 21:53, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Martin, you simply refuse to answer to my precise arguments concerning neutrality and fact accuracy. Your attitude isn't suitable for CZ policy. And that's over, I have no more time to waste.--Domergue Sumien 23:46, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
If you do not like my editorial decision, you may appeal it. Your last remark is in breach of CZ policy concerning civility on the wiki and indicates perhaps that you do not respect expertise.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 00:20, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Other needs

I have no particular position on the title of this article, at least as a Politics Editor.

As a Military and History Editor, we cannot simply banish the term Burma, as in the China-Myanmar-India Theater of WWII, under Lord Louis Mountbatten. There needs to be a rational system of redirects.

Remember that an article title should be that which works best in search arguments. Without prejudging whether it's a single or qualified word, the article lede can and should explain the names in use.

Should we have "Thailand, Siam (for a while)"? "United States of America (formerly the colonies of...)"? Howard C. Berkowitz 02:12, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Absolutely, Burma is and properly should be a term to be defined by CZ; it has historical and political relevance; as does Myanmar, or Myanma, or whatever the dictator would have us call it. Russell D. Jones 03:42, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
Nobody is opposing the use of the name Burma where it is appropriate. However, it is not appropriate to call the existing country by that name when it is not its name. As I have stated above, this sort of problem applies to very many countries, and the only clear solution is to use the name used in international law at the current time. Failing that, its constitutionally defined name is acceptable. We have had an interminable debate about this several years ago, and it is the main reason that there are so few countries of the world with proper articles on them on CZ. I personally walked away from the endless arguments with authors, and I will walk away again if you all insist on arguing about something as definitive as names.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 04:06, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
So we have one name that some people use, Burma, and we have another name that some people use, Myanmar. And you have picked a third name that nobody uses - perhaps you don't see this yet, but all this argument could have been (should have been) resolved before the article was renamed. David Finn 06:59, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
I am well aware from past experience that people argue until the cows come home about these things. Nobody will ever be happy, and I don't care. This is an editorial decision, and that's it. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 12:15, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
I see. Well, thanks for taking my opinion into account. Good luck with the collaboration. David Finn 13:14, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Slight silliness, but there is a lesson

I was involved in one of the first failures to set up Internet infrastructure in China. As most of you know, International Organization for Standardization (ISO)* 3166 country codes are two letter, as used in Domain Name Service (DNS) top-level domains (TLD). Somehow, China got a waiver, thankfully never exercised, to use .china as an exception.

One of my colleagues looked at that and was concerned by the precedent, which could lead the email address username@secondleveldomain.former-yugoslav-republic-of-bosnia-and-herzogovina. As he put it, the business card would have to read (email continued on next card).

A humorous way to illustrate Dave's point that the purpose of internationally accepted names, and good article titles when searching is being considered, are not always the same.

  • No, the abbreviation is not IOS. One international agreement, when standards bodies more extensively were bilingual in French and English, were to have the primary spelled-out-name be in English, but the official abbreviation being the initial letters of the full French name.

Howard C. Berkowitz 03:55, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

I do not understand your point, Howard. Names are identity tags that are partially inherited, partially self-selected, and partially negotiated with other nation states. The names registered with the UN are all accepted by the other nation states: there remain a few countries outside the UN system, and their legal names and statuses are more difficult to identify. I can give you two European examples. One is the country with the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia, but only a provisional (since 1993) name with the UN of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and no short name for its nationals. The other is the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which is recognised by no country of the world other than Turkey. Now, do these countries exist? What are their names? These are serious problems for the international community as well as CZ.
In contrast, the name of Burma has been formally replaced by Myanmar and it is contrary to CZ policy to deny this as a fact. It would be nice if we focused on genuinely difficult cases, rather than this one. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 04:22, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
My point is that CZ, first and foremost, is a software system that must provide the best possible user experience. Do not conflate that with the need for complete information in the article. The use of an article title to reach article content is an example of indirection, an important concept in designing systems for usability. National names are not necessarily the best titles. Titles and names do not have the same semantics.
I have no strong feeling if the article name is Myanmar or Burma, but there is no country called "Myanmar (formerly Burma)", which is a counterintuitive title in a search. In this case, however, there is a rather practical solution. Since Burma is historical and needs to be present, have that article, but then something along the lines of State of Myanmar or a more appropriate version of the government name. Two articles, with appropriate wikilinks between them.
No one who has not going to be involved with the article will search for the string "Myanmar (formerly Burma)". No international agreement suggests such a textual convention.
Not as a challenge, but as a matter of interest, where is it written that "the name of Burma has been formally replaced by Myanmar and it is contrary to CZ policy to deny this as a fact"? Howard C. Berkowitz 04:46, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
More articles, simpler titles, I like it. I would be interested to read Siam, for example, as I have always been aware of the name, and don't remember why Thailand is now preferred. We can imagine roughly what FYROM and Macedonia (disambiguation), or two different articles Burma and Myanmar would be like. Ro Thorpe 12:08, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
I'll have to find a reference, but Thailand has a mantra that it's the only Southeast Asian country that has never been a colony. What about when Japan was dominant? "Oh, that was Siam". Nevertheless, it's a country I greatly admired. The wife of one of my professors, wrote the book from which The King and I was derived. I think highly of Thai food, although it took a while to convince some Thai friends that I might take it hotter than they do -- just not Laotian hot. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:03, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
Apropos Macedonia, I must share an additional ambiguity. Now, who said (I can't remember and won't check to look good) "If you think you understand war, then go to Macedonia?" Nevertheless, this line became even more confusing when Colonel Ray Macedonia became director of the Pentagon's Joint War Games Agency, either before or after Wes Ungerleider -- nice people. Col Macedonia was occasionally and amusingly needed to calm confused young lieutenants who had been told to go to Macedonia. --Howard C. Berkowitz 22:06, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Constable suggestion

The purpose of having editorial guidance is to be able to settle these types of issues without having to rely on popular consensus of people that may not know all of the factors involved in an issue and to prevent long and protracted arguments on the article talk pages. We have Geography and Politics workgroups posted as the workgroups of these articles. There may even be some argument that the Linguistics and Internet Workgroups have a stake in this, but until they put their names in the metadata template, editors in those workgroups are authors on this page. Martin is the only relevant editor and has made a decision. Authors may move on and continue to work on the article.

What that means is that, if there is continued concern, it needs to go to the workgroup level. Each workgroup has a talk page. Open a discussion there and invite those concerned to that page where further rational debate can perhaps reach a consensus among editors, not only for this article, but for others as well. The EC would become involved if a decision can't be reached among workgroups, but the point is that discussion stops here so those interested in the article, and not so interested in what it's called can move on. D. Matt Innis 12:40, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Discussion on the naming of this article has moved to the Politics Workgroup Talk page. Please feel free to continue the discussion there. D. Matt Innis 13:59, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Excuse me, but two other Editors have been commenting, Russell and myself. I object to the move, because the discussion also affects the History Workgroup and even Military ("Burma Road"? "China-Burma-India Theater"?).
Further comments in private email to Matt. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:22, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
I look forward to your email. D. Matt Innis 20:45, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
Perhpas we can include the article in the Healing Arts wg too. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 20:58, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Added History Workgroup

Since there are clear issues here about the long-term history of this country, by various names, I have added the History Workgroup See, for example, the comments about WWII Burma.

Note that I'm giving myself no additional authority here because I already am a Politics Editor.

Again, I will note, my comments have principally been directed at the human interface problems that may come from the fact that ther is no country named "Myanmar (formerly Burma)". Do consider resolutions such as having Burma and Government of Myanmar, with abundant crosslinks and see-also. I personally take no position on the name of the country, only of the article. --Howard C. Berkowitz 20:47, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

It was decided some time ago, before Howard came to CZ, that as History could potentially cover all articles then it will be added only when it is clearly a central aspect of the article in question. I have removed the workgroup, until the article has more content. Sociology and anthropology may be more relevant workgroups, so this decision cannot be made now.Martin Baldwin-Edwards 20:56, 13 October 2010 (UTC)


I have placed a message here.Gareth Leng 09:07, 14 October 2010 (UTC)

The Ombudsman's ruling has now been implemented. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:43, 15 October 2010 (UTC)


What is the adjective for a "citizen of Myanmar"? Howard C. Berkowitz 04:58, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

Burmese? Sandy Harris 07:24, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
I was going to say that!
It all depends who you talk to. I just watched a news piece about Myanmar refugees attempting to settle in Japan, and when speaking English they referred to themselves as Myanmar, and also the country itself. However, Googling Myanmarese turns up many uses of that term. Myanmar sounds better than Myanmarese, but I can't find anything that says that is definitely the way. Against 37,200 instances of the word Myanmar on the UN website, there are only 8 uses of the word Myanmarese. David Finn 08:07, 17 October 2010 (UTC)
The word Myanmarese is nearly nonexistent and doesn't belong to any common, acceptable English use. Even when you say Myanmar for the country, you usually say Burmese as an adjective. So there are nowadays two common solutions in English language use: (1) Burma & Burmese, (2) Myanmar & Burmese. This is one of the many good reasons to keep the traditional English name Burma.--Domergue Sumien 14:34, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
The English Webster dictionary only accepts Myanmar, Burma and Burmese, and nothing else... You can check it here.--Domergue Sumien 14:40, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
I don't argue with "Burmese" as the name for citizenship, but it does not imply anything at all about the name for the country. My nationality is British, but the name of my country is not legally Britain, but United Kingdom. There are several other countries with this disjuncture between citizenship and country names, so you cannot conclude anything from the name Burmese. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 15:24, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
Martin, I don't exclude the formal name Myanmar. I only explain, with logical, linguistic arguments, that the usual name Burma can't be wiped out. And we've found an acceptable agreement about this topic thanks to our ombudsman.--Domergue Sumien 18:00, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
Domergue: I never wanted to wipe out the name Burma, which is why I included it in the page title as "formerly". This was then misinterpreted as meaning the name is no longer used by anyone, which is not correct. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:15, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

New, official name

Hey fellows, look at this, today the junta has just adopted a brand, new, official name: the Republic of the Union of Myanmar... How funny! It's like they had read our current talks on Citizendium...--Domergue Sumien 18:55, 21 October 2010 (UTC)

Haha, dang, we're good! D. Matt Innis 19:00, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
A worrying idea...Martin Baldwin-Edwards 20:27, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
I just noticed that the acronym formed is RUM. Cheers! Howard C. Berkowitz 02:11, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

A very good lesson for us all

I have followed this with interest.

I think there is a good object lesson here. Or a few of them. One is accepting and supporting expert's or experts' advice in the subject(s) of their expertise. I think Martin's analysis was sound from the beginning.

But Domergue also made lucid arguments, with respect to language and proper English usage. These issues are important. I look forward to your input, Domergue, when we have to deal with the shaping of policy.

Finally, but most importantly, this is an illustration of something we all need to get better at, which is, actually reading and analysing what our fellow collaborators are saying, rather than being so keen on our own arguments and on making our points that we leap to assumptions based on a cursory reading (or misreading!) of the first sentence or two. This has happened many, many times. Case in point: at no time did Martin discount the historical significance of the name 'Burma', and many words of argument simply shouldn't have been written. We should not have to plough through reading arguments that need not have been made in the first place. We don't have that kind of energy to spare - at least, I don't!

Aleta Curry 21:14, 21 October 2010 (UTC)


Burmese has its own script, so for all I know there may be multiple romanisations as for Chinese. Any experts want to clarify that point?

The article gives "Bama or formally Myanma" as the Burmese names. Is it worth noting that when "Burma" or "Myanmar" are pronounced by an English speaker whose dialect does not pronounce post-vocalic "r" (England, Oz, NZ, ..), the sound comes out reasonably close to Burmese pronunciation, but those who pronounce those r's (Scots, Irish, Canada, most of US, ...) will be much further from Burmese?

More generally, should we be using IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) rather than or as well as romanisations? Sandy Harris 04:28, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Domergue seems to be our resident expert on these things. Although I disagree with him on some naming issues, his expertise on linguistic matters is invaluable to CZ. We probably need a policy on Romanization of scripts, so at some point the EC will probably issue a call for Citizen and expert input on the matter. Just give us some time to get set up! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 05:21, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
We are fortunate to have additional knowledgeable people, including at least John Stephenson and Daniel Mietchen, as well as Domergue and Sandy. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:22, 1 November 2010 (UTC)