Bot hates Greek

As I expect you know, Collapse Bot hates Non-Roman scripts.

I’ve had several bouts with the bot over the question Which conjugation is Gnōthi ‘know’, as in Gnōthi sauton ‘know thyself’?

The Greek used to be in Greek characters, and without glosses. Shifting to transliteration and italics, and adding glosses, sometimes works; this time it hasn’t.

Some of you will have put non-English in questions. How do you get the bot to shut up?

Why do all languages sound different?

I’m going to answer a different interpretation of this question. If all languages have access to the same, finite repertoire of segments (phonemes), then why do they sound as different as they do?

There are several answers to this.

  • The repertoire of phonemes may be finite, but the realisation can be phonetically different. A Dutch /x/ is much more fortis than a Greek /x/.
  • Different languages employ quite different subsets of the available phonemic inventory.
  • Languages differ in sound, not only at the level of individual segments, but also in how they arrange those segments, their phonotactics. People are very attuned to phonotactic differences, because that’s what they are listening for when they are trying to make sense of strings of segments as words.
  • Languages, dialects, and for that matter idiolects differ hugely in their suprasegmental phenomena, the aspects of speech that range beyond the individual segments. That includes intonation, loudness, and timbre.

Which correct word for “posh” and “preppy” in modern Greek: κομψός, κυριλέ or σικ?

Panos Skoulidas‘ answer is right. To elaborate:

  • Κομψός means “elegant, clean cut”. It has ancient lineage. It does not explicitly mean that someone is fashionable; it can correspond to “classic”, and it can certainly be used approvingly by an 80 year old.
  • Σικ, from French chic, explicitly refers to being up to date with fashion.
  • Both posh and preppy are negative evaluations, posh more so. The closest of the three is κυριλέ, which is derisive slang about someone with upper class affectation in how they present themselves (so posh, but without the British connotations, and more about parvenues). It is derived from κύριος, (in this context) “gentleman”, plus the French fashion style suffix .
    • The /l/ is a random consonant, inserted so the word wouldn’t end up ambiguous with κύριε “sir!”

What language was used to connect Europe and Byzantium?

Latin confirmed with a check in the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Latin was clearly on the wane from the 7th century, but it seems not completely lost:

Lawyers preserved some knowledge of Latin, often superficial, from the 8th to 11th C., and Constantine IX’s novel establishing a law school in Constantinople prescribes the teaching of Latin. From the 11th C. onward, closer, if sometimes hostile, contact with the West led to increasing knowledge of Latin in leading Byz. circles; Romanos III spoke Latin and Psellos claimed some knowledge of it. Still, cultural arrogance usually marked Byz. attitudes to the West and its language.

Knowledge of Latin was even greater after the Fourth Crusade, and Maximus Planudes and the Cydones brothers even translated Latin works into Greek in the 14th century.

Nonetheless, Mehmed II’s diplomatic correspondence with the West was in fact in Modern Greek.

What do you dislike about Quora’s rules?

I seem to answer a question like this every few months. This is this trimester’s iteration:

  • No transparency
  • Low clarity
    • The policies are often as vague as any article of the US constitution
  • Low visibility
  • No equity (consideration of circumstances)
  • No accountability
    • Worse still, if you aren’t aware of Tatiana’s email address or role as a user: random accountability. There are any number of moderation decisions that Tatiana has publicly repealed and apologised for, but only when they were pointed out to her in public. Most users don’t know who Tatiana is; and less do now than did 6 months ago. Whatever is happening with appeal, the normal avenues are clearly not always working or getting escalated up to her.
  • Infantilising tone-policing, as part of BNBR
  • Enforcement by robots
  • Robotic enforcement (even if they aren’t robots)
    • Culminating in Bodnick’s Bodnickism that moderation does not consider content when judging infractions. Not context. Content.
  • Low community confidence in enforcement
  • Widespread suspicion of selective enforcement
    • I think we can all name the TWs who seem to repeatedly get away with murder. I’ve blocked most of them already.
  • Breathtaking arrogance on the part of their defenders
    • No, just because Quora is a private company does not mean it is morally neutral.
    • No, just because Quora is a private company does not mean I should joyfully accept their constraints on my speech or others’.
    • No, just because you follow the letter and not the spirit of BNBR does not make you a better person, argumentative and arrogant TW from my home town that I have already chosen to block, and who has expressed shock that people don’t do BNBR in real life. Thank God they don’t do BNBR the way you choose to, anyway.
  • Breathtaking radio silence on the part of their implementers
    • Although it’s not much better when they aren’t silent

… How would I fix it?

Going back to 2013 would be a start. There are things Achilleas Vortselas or Christopher VanLang or Tracey Bryan or Marcus Geduld have written here over the years as community moderators, that I’ve disagreed with. But when Marcus says that community mods used to agonise over decisions to ban people, I believed him, because I trust people who’ll show their face in public, and take accountability for what they do.

Trust in-sourced Quora Moderation, on the other hand? Whatever unholy mix of bots, contractors, and employees behind the curtain it may be? With so many visible errors and so little effort to restore trust in its processes? And with even former leads quite happy to throw them under the bus, as has happened on the pages of Cordially Resistant?

I’d fix Quora Moderation by having Quora be the kind of organisation that feels it is important to rebuild trust from its users. In fact, by having Quora be the kind of organisation that pays any attention to its users at all. Over and above giving a few of them a jacket and snacks, circulating the occasional SurveyMonkey form, or measuring their clicks when Quora makes the notifications menu piss-coloured.

Were the ancient Greeks aware that Latin and Persian were related to their own language?

Is a phonosematic matching word domestic in origin?

I’m having a lot of difficulty understanding your question, but what I think you’re asking is: can a word be both onomatopoeic (or otherwise iconic in some way), and borrowed?

The lazy answer, which is in fact the default answer from what I can tell, is no: if a name is an onomatopoeia, then its form is non-arbitrary, and you don’t need to go to the country next door to make sense of it. Dogs in English go “woof woof”, and you don’t need to look at German or Russian to know that; you just need to listen to a dog. Same for “splash” or “bang” or “bleep”.

Except that this is not true. An onomatopoeic form is not completely arbitrary, but it is still somewhat arbitrary; that’s why dogs in Greek go ɣav ɣav and dogs in Korean go meong meong and dogs in English go arf arf and yip yip and bark bark. Add to that that onomatopoeic forms can often end up inflected, and the inflections are certainly arbitrary and rooted to a place.

And the partially-arbitrary form one language picks for its onomatopoeia can travel to another.

I had my own epiphany about this just this year. The Greek onomatopoeia for sneezing is apsu (cf. English a-tishoo).

The Turkish onomatopoeia, I learned on Quora, is hapşuu.

If you pronounce hapşuu in a language with no /h/ and no /ʃ/, you get apsu. That is not a coincidence. The Greek word is an onomatopoeia, but it is still borrowed from Turkish.

How does someone carry the spirit of Quora with them into the offline world?

That presupposes of course that there is a single spirit of Quora. There isn’t, any more than there is a single community on Quora; plenty of people here I can’t break bread with. For that matter, that presupposes that there is a spirit that is distinctively Quoran, which I’m unsure of; and I definitely think that Quora Inc has not had much to do with cultivating it. (It doesn’t get cultivated in a buffet.)

I’ll identify the spirit of Quora that I choose to subscribe to, as curiosity, helpfulness, and willingness to go beyond the superficial. That, you would hope, is the mark of the well-equipped citizen, and not just the user of a Q&A site. But we live on shifting sands now, and we get our Bildung where we can.

How do you carry it offline? Well, the helpfulness is sadly harder to pull off to your neighbour than to the anonymous peer online; but that, you can get to by having access to a group of people who ask questions, and don’t demand a Google-search one-liner for an answer. (A goal even D’Angelo has walked away from for Quora.)

The curiosity and the non-superficiality? Question things. Question what you see in the news. Question the givens of your culture. Question the easy answers. Suspect what narratives and interests and delusions underpin them. And come up with a framework to make sense of them, that works for you.

That isn’t about the spirit of Quora even, primarily. That’s about being a well-equipped citizen.

Given Greeks’ talent for entrepreneurship, why is Greece itself so hostile to business?

I had a wonderful comment about this in a similar post, and because it was a comment and not a post, and because Quora has a very recalcitrant notion of what should be searchable, I can’t find it.

My fellow Greeks Nikos Anagnostou, Yiannis Papadopoulos, Bob Hannent, Konstantinos Konstantinides, Pieter van der Wilt, have all illuminated different facets of this question:

  • Greeks are small-scale entrepreneurs: they get family-sized operations, not big business (Nikos, Bob, Pieter)
  • Greeks are culturally suspicious of big business (Nikos)
  • Greece is choking in bureaucracy, which is self-perpetuating (Bob)
  • Greeks want a cushy public sector job rather than a risky private enterprise job, and patronage rather than risk (Konstantinos)
  • The Greeks who were truly enterprising left the country (Yiannis)

The Greeks who get out of Greece, and aren’t dragged down by the unenterprising culture of their fellow Greeks, do prosper. But they don’t prosper immediately: it takes a generational shift. In Australia, I have a cousin who is doing haute couture and has just moved to LA, and a cousin who owns a chain of McDonalds franchises; but they are second generation. Their parents? Small business owners, the lot of them.

(And yes, I’m an academic manqué turned civil servant, but God knows, my parents were pushing me to be a lawyer.)

In Greece? My uncle in Salonica, who has passed on, was a civil servant in the Electricity Company. One of his sons has been unemployed for six years; his estranged brother is an accountant. As an accountant, he’s one of the few of my cousins who’s financially on the way up.

When he got into the private sector, my uncles’ and aunts’ reaction was one of dismay. (You got it: more than half are civil servants, and the rest are small businesspeople.) “Oh, poor [Redacted]! Having to slave away 9–5! Why couldn’t his father have provided for him while he was still alive, and gotten him a decent job in the public sector!”

I’ve discussed where that attitude came from with friends, and I think even with Dimitra Triantafyllidou here. (Would that I could find that comment here.) Some of it is longstanding, but some of it is more recent—the gates into the civil service were flung open by the Socialists in the ’80s, and made it a default choice in society.

I may have been impressionable in my view of this (I know Achilleas Vortselas was more sceptical in that comment thread); but a revelation to me, during my last two visits to Greece, was that the only relative I met who expressed any interest in what my life was like in Australia was my cousin’s husband, who was the one remaining farmer in the family. It made sense to me that a farmer (who was doing well out of subsidies, and had bought up more land and property) would have kept that sense of enterprise which his civil servant relatives had lost. And that that sense of enterprise should be aligned to a sense of curiosity about the world, which his more complacent relatives had lost.

Do most Greek speakers articulate the distinction between single (άμα, αλά) and double consonants (γράμμα, άλλα) in careful, enunciated speech?

No. Gemination is preserved, but only in the South-Eastern group of dialects (the most prominent member of which is Cypriot). And the gemination of those dialects does not always coincide with the orthographic gemination preserved from Ancient Greek. In all other dialects, and in Standard Greek, double consonants are for spelling only. (Just like in Modern English.)