What does a linguist think of Albanian as he first starts to study it?

Vote #1 Sam Ahmed: Sam Ahmed’s answer to What does a linguist think of Albanian as he first starts to study it?

As someone who’s both Greek and who was looking for things about the Balkan Sprachbund, I had the same reactions. With the added component of “… God, this is just like Greek” a lot of the time.

(That can be superficial. I know that Macedonian and Greek both use clitics redundantly as topicalisation—”I know it, the answer.” If you look at the fine print though, the pragmatic nuances are rather different. Still, superficialities are what a typologist deals with.)

What else? Lots of moods and cases and inflections: it looks very old-school Indo-European morphologically. Lots of Latin in the vocabulary, but it’s very well hidden through sound change. Interesting sociolinguistics, with the defeat of southern Geg by southern Tosk. (But then, I read Martin Camaj’s grammar, and Camaj never got over Hoxha imposing Gjirokastër Albanian as the norm.) Fair bit of dialectal diversity, with some quite noticeable deviations in Arvanitika, and to a lesser extent (I think) Arbëresh.

I think for a Greek the bit that’s hardest to accept is that ll and l, gj and g, q and k, are really distinct phonemes: we have the phones for <l, gj, q> in Standard Greek as palatalised allophones of <ll, g, k>, so we just assume they’re allophones everywhere.

(Which is why I kept mispronouncing the Spanish for Los Angeles as [los ançeles]. Very hard for a Greek to say [anxeles].)

What are the distorsions in the various (French, German, etc.) versions of the Erasmian Ancient Greek pronunciation?

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek in teaching – Wikipedia

Wikipedia enumerates English, French, German, Italian. I’ll list the pronunciations that I would deem wrong from the currently accepted reconstruction of Ancient Greek.

I’m not even going to list the traditional distortions of Erasmian in English courtesy of the Great English Vowel Shift, and some bizarre notions of how accentuation worked. If you’ve ever heard a Classical Greek word borrowed into English, you know what ended up happening.

The situation got bad enough that it was utterly abandoned in the teaching of Greek in the Anglosphere at the end of the 19th century; Athenaze for English (from Comparison of Greek Pronunciation Systems), as a popular modern textbook, sticks pretty much to the modern reconstruction.

For the other three languages:

  • No pitch accent. Italian, French, German
  • No vowel length. French.
  • No geminate consonants. French, German.
  • No distinction between genuine and spurious diphthongs. Italian, French.
  • αυ as [o]. French
  • ευ as [œ]. French.
  • ευ, ηυ, οι as [ɔʏ]. German.
  • ει as [ai]. German.
  • Zeta as [dz]. Italian, French.
  • Zeta as [ts]. German.
  • Sigma prevocalically as [z]. German.
  • Theta as [θ]. Italian.
  • Theta as [t]. French, German (Italian in practice)
  • Phi as [f]. Italian, German, French.
  • Chi as [x]. Italian, German.
  • Chi as [k]. French (Italian in practice)
  • Ignoring rough breathing. French.

Italian is the closest to reconstructed Classical Greek (and indeed to Erasmus’ Erasmian), with only a few distortions. German is punctiliously correct in some aspects, annoyingly wrongheaded in others. French is… wow. Just wow.

What are the best public high schools with high ATARs in Melbourne (co-ed or girls only)?

School League Tables.

Mpf. They’re not all they’re cracked up to be. Is the point of education to get you into a top ranking uni course? Or to make a decent citizen of you?

At any rate, the current rankings for Victoria are out at:

VCE School Ranking – 2016

If we exclude boys’ schools, then that nukes my own alma mater, Melbourne High School, as well as Yeshivah College. That alone earns you my undying resentment. 🙂

The top ten this year are:

  1. Bialik College. Jewish, Co-ed.
  2. MacRobertson Girls’ High. Selective Public, Girls’. (Sister school to Melbourne High)
  3. Mount Scopus. Jewish, Co-ed.
  4. (Yeshivah, Jewish, Boys: nuked.)
  5. (Melbourne High, Selective Public, Boys: nuked.)
  6. Loreto Mandeville Hall. Catholic, Girls’. (Btw, the denomination doesn’t mean that much for Christian schools: my Greek Orthodox third cousin went there.)
  7. Shelford Girls’ Grammar. Anglican, Girls’.
  8. Ruyton Girls’ School. Non-denominational Private, Girls’.
  9. Ballarat Clarendon College. Uniting Church, Co-ed. (Not in Melbourne)
  10. Haileybury Girls’ College. Anglican, Girls’.

The traditionally prestige Boys’ schools are actually a long way down the list: Scotch College is #28, Melbourne Grammar is #33.

The top government co-ed school is Nossal High at #34, but it is selective like Melbourne High. The top government normal neighbourhood school is Balwyn High, at #41.

And yes, girls’ are outperforming boys’ schools. To a far greater extent than I’d anticipated.

What are some strategies of anaphor binding/coindexation in languages and other strategies to resolve or compensate referent ambiguity?

I should know a good answer to this, as part of my apprenticeship (being a research assistant) was tracking referents in Acehnese discourse for Mark Durie.

The obvious answers I think have already been given. Gender in all its manifold forms, extending to noun classes. Deixis. Politeness strategies and social deixis. Reflexives, including long-distance reflexives and logophors, where a special pronoun refers out from an embedded clause back out to the top clause subject. (Logophoricity). English really struggles with this—

After being acquitted of Veseth’s murder, Red Dog testified at Lilly’s retrial that he, Red Dog, was responsible for shooting Veseth, and that he, Red Dog, had previously lied under oath. Red Dog v. State

I was actually googling for an instance in Red Dog (film), where it was even more awkward.

One thing worth pointing out, which came out of the Acehnese work and the work by Thomas Givon that had inspired it: topicality helps too. Discourse establishes what referents are the main topics being talked about. They tend to be referred to by pronoun rather than full noun phrase, and in fact the use of pronouns confirms that they are the main topics. So pronouns pragmatically are their own disambiguation.

Lojban, as you might well expect, has some whackadoodle strategies, which probably shouldn’t count. It’s an artificial language with an artificial language’s obsession about ambiguity, but it’s taken that a lot further than many. Letters as anaphors is one, which it gets from algebra. I wrote up the perverse motivation there for defaulting to long-distance reflexivity in Folk Functionalism in Artificial Languages: The Long Distance Reflexive vo’a in Lojban.

My answers were deleted from Quora because they appeared to violate Quora’s policy on Spam. How can I get back my answers?

As Katherine Rossiter said: you appeal.

I got dinged once for Spamming. After appealing, I got the question restored after a few days.

But critically, I amended the answer to make sure it was not seen to be spamming: I removed all the hyperlinking which had triggered the Spambot (and which were not essential to the question). You too, OP, should look at the question critically, and remove anything that looks like it would trigger the Spambot. The Spambot is there for a reason. And in your appeal, explain how you edited the answer to comply.

Linguistically speaking, why is the relationship between the signifier and signified mostly arbitrary?

Vote #1 Michael Minnich: Michael Minnich’s answer to Linguistically speaking, why is the relationship between the signifier and signified mostly arbitrary? It brings up several pertinent reasons.

My answer’s simpler: restricting ourselves to lexicon, non-arbitrary signifier–signified relations in a spoken language are going to be limited to referents that make a sound. Most verbs and adjectives and abstract nouns defy onomatopoeia. Even with concrete nouns, what’s the onomatopoeia for “hair”? “sun”? “fish”?

Even if we broaden things to include indexical signs and sound symbolism, there are real limits to how much can be signified by a non-arbitrtary signifier in a sound-based language. The limits will be enough to prevent you having a real communicative language—even if you don’t move up from lexicon to syntax.

In one sentence, can you give a good reason why Quora should not auto-collapse short answers?

Because Quora writers know what they’re doing.

Of course, rank beginners don’t know what they’re doing. Partly because Quora has never onboarded well, but it is a reasonable and laudable requirement of the community, that a question with explanation and illustration is more useful (and frankly much more fun to write), than a one-liner I could have found on Google. As indeed McKayla Kennedy said in her answer.

But Quora can’t read writers’ minds. If only there were some sort of probation mechanism, whereby Quora would stop collapsing short answers, once writers had established their bona fides as experienced writers…

… which of course, is exactly what happens. See How long has it been since a bot has collapsed one of your answers for shortness (Sept 2016)?

There’s a lot about Quora UX I think is stupid, but this isn’t one of them.

If the word “homo religiosus” used by scholars mean a ‘religious human,’ what would be an equivalent Latin term for a “meaning seeking human”?

Homo significans, “human who makes meaning”, is already a well established expression. So is homo interpres, “interpreting human”, human who makes sense of things.

You’re doing something more subtle: “seeking meaning in the universe, anticipating that there will be meaning”. It’s very close to homo interpres. But if you want to be more explicit: homo signa quaerens, or homo significationem quaerens.

No single word for “meaning-seeking”. You asked for Latin, not Greek.

How many windows are open on whatever device you’re using to answer this question? What are they?

Wow. 2015 MacBook Pro.

Safari open with 11 windows, 73 tabs.

9 Windows in Finder. I tend to leave search windows open.

12 Terminal windows. I only need 4 at a given programming task.

16 tabs in my BBEdit text editor. I only need one or two.


System settings.


Mac Mail, with 5 emails open.

I’m on vacation. There’s normally also two or three Microsoft Office documents, at least one Excel Spreadsheet, often one or two Powerpoints, iTunes, Slack, Skype, and maybe the Eclipse programming environment.

I know you want to know about the tabs open while on Quora in particular. I’ll have multiple tabs open with notifications (because I keep forgetting, and because notifications is how I navigate what to do), answer requests (which this was one of), a couple of Wikipedia pages to help with answers, half a dozen answers I should get around to reading or commenting on. When I don’t have as big an A2A backlog, and at least one instance of a Quora feed.

If I end up opening a new window for Quora because of tab overload, the “I’ll get around to them” tabs end up forgotten in the old window.

How has sport shaped Australia’s national identity?

I read Geoffrey Blainey: A Shorter History of Australia by Nick Nicholas on Aphypnēsis Amichaiou , which actually posed this question. And if I hadn’t left the book in the hotel… well, I still wouldn’t look it up.

But in brief:

  • Australians defined themselves early on (like, 1820s) against the British, for being more fit and active, in their new country.
  • Australians had a lot more leisure time than Dickensian Britons did; remember that the eight-hour day was pioneered in Australia in the 1850s. So sporting fixtures became a prominent part of the community already at that time: not just racecourses, satisfying their need for gambling, but also sports ovals, satisfying their need to watch sport and participate in sport.
  • That participation thing is key: sport establishes itself more readily as part of your identity if you and most people you know actually play one.
  • Sport gave a very early opportunity for Australians to assert a distinct identity against Britain, and even to beat Britain at its own game (particularly at cricket).
  • Once those elements were in place, they just kept going. After cricket as an international spectator sport, athletics and tennis. Cricket and the football codes, as both participatory and spectator sports. The football codes as a new tribalism (something familiar elsewhere of course). The Ashes, rugby, tennis, the Olympics, the Empire and then Commonwealth games, as ways Australia gained international prominence.