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Languages 'supersite'

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Update: launched


A Q&A for all languages, both natural languages and constructed languages (not programming languages though). Because of the potential overlap with linguistics, linguistics can be included in the scope of the site.

The idea for this is inspired by the Languages.SE proposal on SE's Area51. The intent to have this 'supersite' is to have a place for less popular languages.

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14 comments

Are you involved in that A51 proposal or in contact with the people who are working on it? If you can ask them (without being spammy) if they'd be interested in a site here, that'd help us understand if we have enough people interested enough to build it. I see 8 upvotes here (one of them is mine), but I don't know how many of those are "yeah that would be interesting" versus "I actively want to help build this". Monica Cellio‭ 9 months ago

I'm here already (and I authored the SE Area51 post). I'm probably a "yeah, that would be interesting" user, as nowadays I'm focusing on Chinese. The people at Islam.SE have proposed and re-proposed Arabic.SE for maybe 10 years; I think it's been rejected 7+ times. becky82‭ 9 months ago

Hi @becky82 and thanks for commenting! Wow, I wonder what the problem is with the Arabic proposal. They're welcome to come here and join this proposal. (We'll need to add Arabic font support, but we added Hebrew for the Judaism site so we're not starting from square 1.) Monica Cellio‭ 9 months ago

Arabic (لكن لا بد أن أوضح لك أن كل هذه الأفكار): is it not already supported? becky82‭ 9 months ago

@MonicaCellio Count me in for actively building it, at least for English, German and a bit of Spanish. Zerotime‭ 9 months ago

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7 answers

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Are questions only allowed in English?

At the Area51 proposal, I tried to imagine how such a site could be moderated. And the only reasonable way I could think of doing this was making a hard rule that questions are written in English. (I'm imagining snippets in other languages.)

It might also be worth considering the same thing for answers and comments.

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3 comments

Snippets in other languages have to be allowed as there are often situations where you can convey meaning only in the respective language. However, questions should be translated or at least be accessible by providing information in English. Zerotime‭ 9 months ago

I agree with Zerotime's comment in that at minimum a translation should be provided if not entirely in English. However, as mentioned in your Area51 proposal, once a language sub-site has graduated non-English posts (for that language) should be allowed. user53100‭ 9 months ago

Another option is to use categories to distinguish between the languages of the posts (and not the language discussed in the post), i.e. one category for posts in a certain language about any language, which would only be created if there is a significant community speaking the language. (Probably unlikely at this stage, since there has been no effort yet to bring in non-English speaking communities.) user8078‭ 9 months ago

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I think such a site can be viable, can include with its scope all sorts of questions about specific languages or about linguistics (with specific details about scope TBD). I think all the Q&A can be in one category, with tags for specific languages, for language families, for subfamilies, and for areas of study within linguistics. It can include questions of the sort found on the linguistics, English, and ESL Stack Exchange sites, along with questions about other languages like the aforementioned English ones. The main problem I can think of with this is the very varied expertise levels, ESL questions alongside professional linguists'. We see this at Judaism SE and it leads to a few problems. (a) Tyros don't tag questions correctly. They simply don't know that the question is a morphology question. (b) People answer at the wrong level, including too much jargon or too little info for a tyro. (c) It's hard to find questions at the level you want unless there's a tag (or, here, category) for level, which there can't really be because it's a spectrum rather than a binary assignment.

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2 comments

While the problems you list certainly exist, they also exist on other sites with varied backgrounds and topics that can be very detail-oriented and precise. There's only so much that tooling and configuration can do, so this is an area where community curators need to help guide people, edit, retag, and so on. Monica Cellio‭ 9 months ago

Right, @MonicaCellio. That's why, even though it's an issue and worth mentioning, my answer here is this one. msh210‭ 9 months ago

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URL suggestion: languages.codidact.com

Adding "linguistics" will make it too long.

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2 comments

I think language.codidact.com may be better: it refers to language itself (what linguistics studies) and sort-of to languages. msh210‭ 9 months ago

@msh210 I think the connection of linguistics to "languages" is stronger than languages to "language", but maybe that's just me. Either way, I have no strong preference for either user53100‭ 9 months ago

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Site name suggestion: Languages and Linguistics

I believe there is little overlap in expertise of the two, so both terms should be included.

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0 comments

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Separating Languages

As noted elsewhere, one possible setup for the site is to have a main Q&A for "everything" and as individual languages build up they can progress to:

  • Category - named for the language, standard Q&A, all existing questions moved based on tags.
  • Separate Community - named for the language, standard Q&A + Meta + possibly other categories as appropriate, all existing questions moved by category.

Exact parameters will vary, with number of active users and number of new questions per day being the biggest factor. It might be something like 2 questions per day gets a Category and 10 questions per day gets a new Community (provided there are people interested in moderating, etc.)

Extra Functionality

This community will need RTL language support for Hebrew and other languages, and possibly other special CSS, font or other features depending on specific features needed to properly handle different languages.

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4 comments

My primary concern here is that if we end up with 10+ categories, that poses both UI and UX challenges we did not plan for when designing categories. I like this idea in principle but I'm not sure how to approach it. Do language families make sense as an organizing principle, or is that no better than having everything together in Q&A? Monica Cellio‭ 9 months ago

The specifics will depend on how things evolve. I know in many places (in the real world), for example, Hebrew gets lumped with some Asian languages. Why? Because they're written funny? Because they are not European? I don't know. Sometimes groupings come out of strange places. I think the best thing is to start with a main category and see what kinds of questions show up and figure it out as we go along. manassehkatz‭ 9 months ago

Another consideration: questions that compare more than one language. I think we want a single Q&A category, with strong tagging. Monica Cellio‭ 9 months ago

@MonicaCellio there are 142 language families, according to https://www.ethnologue.com/guides/largest-families msh210‭ 9 months ago

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How Broad Is Your Scope?

Broad categorization of the types of questions one might expect on a languages+linguistics site, from someone who knows very little about linguistics except what he's been able to gather from skimming the tags on the Linguistics and some Language SEs.

These are presented in no particular order, and the lists of potential sub-categories is by no means exhaustive.

  1. Word grammar. On morphology, conjugation and declension, intonation, and lexicology.

  2. Sentence grammar. On syntax and word order.

  3. Phonetics. On IPA representation, pronunciation, tonality, phonology, and accents.

  4. Orthography. On spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and typography.

  5. Study of Linguistics. On studying linguistics, and on studying how linguistics affects other fields. Includes typology, computational linguistics, theoretical linguistics, sociolinguistics, and language philosophy. Would also include questions like "does any language have feature X?".

  6. Physiology of Language. On the anatomy and physiology of the brain, throat, and oral and nasal cavities in how they relate to speech.

  7. Historical Linguistics. On etymology, language change, semantic development, comparative linguistics, dialect formation, and language construction and origination.

  8. Language Learning. On tips and techniques related to learning a new language (in particular or in general).

  9. Semantics. On the meaning of words as expressed through context and subtext.

  10. Onomasiology. Or in English, "What's the word for...?"

  11. Translation and Identification. "What does this mean?" or "I can't make out X word in what from context appears to be Y language."

  12. Research and Terminology. On "what is X linguistic/grammatical concept called" or "where can I find more resources on Y" type questions.

  13. Informal Language. On idioms, slang, and informal usages and words.

So step one is going to have to be: how broad a scope would a theoretical language and linguistics site have? Of these broad categories, which ones are going to be entirely on-topic, which ones entirely off-topic, and which ones restricted?

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4 comments

Re your category list: There's phonology, e.g., which you omit. And then you have morphology and sign languages as separate categories, even though there's morphology of SLs. Some of your categories are by subject, some are by style of question. And frankly some are insulting ("science of language" for biology as if the rest of linguistics isn't science? lumping signed languages in with animal speech?). Also I don't see how your categories can be slotted into the the three slots you name. msh210‭ 9 months ago

Re your proposed siteside categories "at a minimum two categories, one for language and one for linguistics": Can you explain the difference? Where would a question go that requires advanced linguistics study to even understand but is about only Dutch? msh210‭ 9 months ago

@msh210 Re omissions: Phonology I'd throw in with phonetics; like I said, the list's not complete. Re the others I'm editing to clarify, and for now I think I'll take out the categories section and focus on scope. DonielF‭ 9 months ago

I am inclined to believe questions asking for resources should be on-topic. From the categories in your list, I'd say the physiology of language is definitely off-topic. I wrote a comment regarding translation on Sigma's answer (is there a way to link comments yet?). Now for identification (assuming you mean identification of text on an image), I believe these should be off-topic, because the answering of one such question does not necessarily prevent more such questions being asked. user53100‭ 9 months ago

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Scope Question

Is language learning and acquisition within scope? Presumably many community members will be learning a language; are questions about resources, learning routines, etc. on-topic? In a Discord discussion the question of translation and vocabulary came up - what would be in / out of scope there?

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9 comments

Clearly the Q&A format is not an ideal one for site proposals and I acknowledge rhetorical questions can have a role but I have down voted this post since I believe it is phrased in a far less constructive way than it might easily have been. pnuts‭ 9 months ago

Can you suggest an edit to improve the phrasing? I think it is an important point of clarification to have consensus on before opening such a site. Sigma‭ 9 months ago

My opinion is that language learning, acquisition resources and the like would be on-topic. As for translation, I am not sure, I can see a place for questions on the translation/meaning of idioms or "untranslatable" words and the like, but straightforward dictionary definitions should not be on-topic as the site should not be replacing a dictionary. user53100‭ 9 months ago

IMO user53100's Comment is enough by way of 'improved' phrasing. That Comment and Q and other As express opinions (that move consideration forward), whereas 'sitting on the fence' adds next to no value. You don't have to be adamant, but what are your views on the issues you mention? I'd prefer an A to look at least vaguely like an answer - not three more Qs. pnuts‭ 9 months ago

@user53100 I agree we shouldn't try and replace any dictionaries (it's far too big a task, for one). What about linking to a dictionary in a similar way to the Sefaria linker on Judaism? Also, what about a 'is my translation correct?' category? Mithrandir24601‭ 9 months ago

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