Does your language misuse grammatical case or gender to make a rhetorical point?

I’m glad you asked, OP.

Language is a system, as the structuralists of yore argued. And if there is a paradigm of cases, then people will exploit choices in the paradigm to communicate different kinds of meaning.

Even when those choices should be grammatically incorrect.

The example I have in mind is from Modern Greek. Modern Greek has a vocative, which is still distinct from the nominative in one declension.

The vocative is used to address people. The nominative is used to name the subject of a sentence, which is who you are taking about.

If you use the nominative instead of the vocative, you are choosing to name someone instead of addressing them. That is pretty much the distinction between talking to someone, and talking at them.

Which is, of course, rude.

It is also ungrammatical, but there are two contexts where it is commonplace. The first is the expression ep, kyrios! Which corresponds closely to hey mister! That’s kyrios, not the vocative Kyrie. It is not meant to be deferential.

The second context? It is a context where no deference is meant to be shown to people. Where people are forced to accept that they are part of a machine, and not autonomous agents. And for that reason, people are not addressed, for a request to comply to instruction: they are named, as those who will carry out the instruction automatically.

Being addressed in the nominative is rather popular in the Greek army. Papadopoulos! Three days confined to barracks! Papadopoulos is not going to be shown the courtesy of the vocative Papadopoule. That would involve acknowledging him as an individual…

Could Google Translate maintain a central codex “language” therefore bypassing artifacts that come from English-as-central-language issue?

Google Translate, like many machine translation projects, does not maintain [math]n^2[/math] language pairs when adding languages to its bank; it appears to maintain just n:English mappings—so that a translation from, say, Greek to Persian is pretty clearly via English as an interlanguage. That is a clear scalability issue, if you’re going to maintain the number of languages that Google does.

Is there a better interlanguage than English? Maybe, if you’ve got the resources to handcraft one. Esperantists are familiar with the Distributed Language Translation project in the 80s and 90s, which was using Esperanto as an interlanguage for European Union translating. (An Esperanto with a fair few tweaks, and with rule-based translation.) Predictably, it ran out of funding in 1997.

And if you’re using statistical methods rather than handcrafting rules (which has been the mainstream in machine translation for a very long time now), then any target language is going to have to be a human language, for which you can get a big enough corpus to do statistics to begin with. That means, unfortunately, that English as an interlanguage for machine translation between a large number of pairs of languages actually is as good as you’re going to get.

What you’d hope is that other language pairs, not involving English, get their own statistical training; for all I know, that is happening. But that will still have to be prioritised by demand: Japanese–Chinese or French–German is more likely to be realised than Greek–Persian.

Without looking it up, what do you think a “birtheist” is?

Without looking it up?

Yes, yes, misspelling of birthist, but what would a birthist be?

Birthist. Latin counterpart: natalist.

It’s an –ist, so it’s either a profession or a profession of ideology, and with a Germanic stem preceding it, it’s likelier to be an ideology.

I’d guess someone who advocates being born as something special. The closest we have to that in the real world is nativist: being born in the country should give you priority over immigrants to the country.

There’s also birther, someone who advocates the conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the US; that could easily have ended up as birthist instead, but it hasn’t.

Why did the Byzantine record the name of Osman Ghazi as Otoman?

Here’s some data, from Gyula Moravcsik’s Byzantinoturcica, a dictionary of all Turkic names and words that ended up in Byzantine Greek. The names are in roughly chronological order.

Osman is named as:

  • Atman (George Pachymeres, Nicephorus Gregoras)
  • Atouman Atoumanos Atoumanes (Notitiae Chronicae, Chronicon Turcorum)
  • Otmanos Otmanes (Hierax, Chronica Minora)
  • Otoumanos (Chalcocondyles)
  • Othmanos Othman Otthmanos Otthmanes Otthamanes
  • Osouman

From Turkish Atman, Ataman, Azman, Tuman? ~ Arabic Otmān.

So Moravcsik accepts that the name originated as Atman, with abundant bibliography, and the very earliest mentions are as Atman. The versions with an initial O- and with a -th- are 15th and 16th century.

Why are people allowed to use obscene language on Quora?

Can’t find the link, and I don’t want to awaken any demons in invoking it, but Tatiana Estevez did once say that obscene language is not encouraged on Quora, even if it wasn’t directed aggressively at anyone in particular. The rationale given was that Quora did not want third parties to get the impression that that kind of language and tone was welcome on Quora.

User, I think the context was your edit-blocking, but I could be wrong.

Quora is decidedly not a free-speech zone; moderation here is quite heavy (when your transgression is brought to their attention). But I, and many others, would object to the policing on Quora of obscene language that is expressive, rather than aggressive. Dan Holliday would be left speechless, for one. 🙂

Quora has a community norm of language. As in much of the world, that community norm allows obscene language, and it disallows aggressive language. Tatiana has voiced the opinion that both are discouraged, and people may have even been blocked on occasion for it (how can you tell?); but I haven’t seen it as an ex cathedra policy that it is disallowed, and any policing is clearly unenthusiastic.

The World has moved on in its taboos. The World certainly has taboos, but they are different now; in the US, for example, racism rather than sexuality.

In participating in Quora, you are engaging with the World. Its norms may well not be your norms; and more power to you for having your norms. But your norms are not its norms either. And I’d really rather Quora not get into trigger warnings.

Other than that, what McKayla Kennedy said. As ever.

Which vice(s) do you most struggle with, e.g. one of the seven deadly sins?

  • Wrath: I enjoy it a little too much, though it really is more as a performance piece than a reality. The Magister Optimus Michael Masiello circulated the rage performance pieces of Eddie Pepitone recently (Michael Masiello’s answer to Who’s the best stand-up comedian whose act is awkward and funny?); they had me in stitches. Gratias tibi, bene enim me docuisti.
  • Greed: Nah.
  • Envy: Nah.
  • Gluttony: 1.68 m tall, 95 kg. Some of that is muscle. Most of it isn’t.
  • Sloth: Comes and goes, but more than I’m happy about.
  • Lust: It’s annoying to be turning middle-aged, but, well, yeah, and let’s leave it at that.
  • Pride: just look at my bios on language topics. And DO NOT call me “Mr Nicholas”. I did not spend six years in Evil Medical School, etc, etc…

I stand with Jake Williams. Pride: boom, there it is.

What’s the Latin translation of “Fun or money? (I’ll work for one or the other; optimally, both)”?

Pro ludo aut pro lucro? Pro alterutro laboro; pro utroque malim.

Alberto Yagos?

What is the meaning and transliteration of Ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι?

What is the etymology of “Laconia”?

Well, Chad Turner, Frisk and Chantraine are on the internet…

Frisk (Lakōn): Krahe, in Indogermanische Forschungen 57:119, relates the name as suspected Illyrian to Lacinium, a promontory in Southern Italy, and Juno Lacinia.

Chantraine (Lakedaimōn): Etymology unknown. There have been unsuccessful attempts to use the gloss in Hesychius “lakedama: bitter water made in the sea [poured out in salt flats] which the peasants of Macedonia drink”. […] Szereményi, Glotta 38 (1960): 14–17 invokes the Mycenaean anthroponym Rakedano, dative Rakedanore, which he reads as LakedanōrLaked-man”, which would yield the same first part of the compound Laken-daimōn: ingenious, but still dubious. One can also interpret Lakedaimōn as an indigenous prehellenic term.

What is the etymology of Helios?

OP, get a hold of Frisk’s and Chantraine’s etymological dictionaries of Ancient Greek. Which may or may not currently be at—although they are both under copyright, so of course, you should be going to your local university library instead.

Hēlios is simply a reflex of the Indo-European word for Sun, via proto-Greek *sāwélios. See sóh₂wl̥ at Wiktionary. Since Indo-European already had a word for Sun, the etymology of Zeus as a sky god is irrelevant: the bright sun is not the same as the bright sky.