Nick Nicholas: Is there a difference between asking which language is older and asking which species is older?

May 2017 TWs

Congratulations to Vicky Prest and John Gragson, both of whom are scratching their heads right now about getting the Quill despite their BNBR run-ins. 🙂

Having compiled the answer wiki for Who should be in the final batch of Top Writers 2017?, I will limit myself to the comment that the question ended up being just as accurate a predictor about who would be booted out of Quora, as who would get the Quill…

(7 nominees from the community got the Quill, 4 got banned, 3 got deleted.)

Why do Australians prefer plain easy English over rich English?

The other answers are good, but I like to step back with questions like these, to the cultural context.

In former times, expertise and professional use of language were elite activities; people who would use language professionally had an education that encompassed the literary canon and rhetoric; and the dominant literary aesthetic prioritised an extensive, nuanced vocabulary and shows of erudition.

Currently the literary aesthetic has changed, to something more sparse and less preoccupied with nuance and flourish. Professional use of language has been decoupled from literature and erudition. And Plain English has been elevated as a priority in that professional use of language, particularly given the amount of information professionals are expected to digest daily. People write in dot points, not in paragraphs. People write for other people who would rather not be reading your stuff at all, and certainly don’t look to be entertained by it.

That’s not just in Australia. That is throughout the Anglosphere.

It does not extend to the entire world, though. In particular, it does not extend to the Subcontinent (if I can surmise correctly from OP’s name), at least not in the education system. Babu English may be a nasty colonialist term, but it does continue to reflect a disconnect in values around language aesthetics and utilitarianism, between the subcontinent and the rest of the Anglosphere. There is a concern about using rich vocabulary and structure, which other countries have simply abandoned in their education systems, in favour of efficiency and clarity.

I’m trying to avoid value judgements here. Some things were lost in the transition, other things were gained. I am certainly not proud of point form becoming my native discourse. And in fact, I have used words here that have made me feature in Masiello’s Mega Words.

But I don’t use those words in my day job. And I don’t expect to read them there either.

OP is certainly right about one thing. This is indeed a cultural difference.

Why are the taxes so high in Greece?

Excellent answer from Alket Cecaj, Alket Cecaj’s answer to Why are the taxes so high in Greece?

  • Clientelism is how it started
    • The government must provide; there isn’t a native notion of ground roots enterprise and small government. If the government must provide, well, that costs money. So far, as Alket argued, that’s no different from Scandinavia.
  • Mistrust of institutions is how it is indulged
    • This is the unhealthy flipside to clientelism, and that’s the kind of thing you don’t see in Scandinavia. Malcolm Gladwell actually used Greece as an example a decade ago. Greeks don’t dodge taxes because there’s lack of enforcement. Greeks dodge taxes because they don’t trust their government. Any more than their government trusts them. (Or rather, they only trust it to dispense clientelism.) The more they dodge taxes, the more the government taxes the dupes who still pay taxes.
  • Inefficiency and profligacy is how it is perpetuated
    • We’re a long, long way from Scandinavia now…
    • Μαζί τα φάγαμε, as Pangalos said. “We wasted it together.” A genuine government–people collaboration.
    • From time to time, even on Quora, someone brings up the reparations that Germany should have paid Greece for WWII—reparations that the Greek government had agreed to forego in the early 60s. If only those reparations had been paid, the argument goes, Greece wouldn’t be in the mess it is now. I was overjoyed to see a blog commenter snark once, “Right. Because we would have wisely invested that money, and not thrown it around to buy votes.”
  • Neoliberal EU orthodoxy is how it has gone haywire.
    • The Greek government can’t deflate its currency, and it needs to keep repaying impossible loans to its creditors; so it desperately raises whatever revenue it can, including taxing anyone left in Greece who still has any money. That of course guarantees that tradespeople are driven out of business or even further into the cash economy (has barter started there yet?); and any business that could have invested in Greece flees to Bulgaria instead.

What other races have the Greeks absorbed?

Here’s a laundry list. Some to a greater extent, some to a lesser. Some as cultural assimilation, some as more straightforward displacement.

  • Pelasgians (or whatever the pre-Hellenic population of Greece was)
  • Minoans (who are presumably the same as the Eteocretans)
  • Eteocypriots
  • Lemnians (assuming that their language, which looks related to Etruscan, is not Pelasgian)
  • The indigenous peoples of Western Asia Minor (probably): Phrygians, Lydians, Carians, and all the others
  • Celts/Galatians (there are red-headed Greeks and Turks)
  • Jews (Romaniote, Sephardic, Italkian)
  • Romans of sundry provenance
  • Goths
  • Avars
  • Arabs (the Cypriots are more sanguine about admitting this than Greece Greeks are)
  • Slavs (certainly the ones that went down south all the way to Mani)
  • Albanians (as Arvanites)
  • Vlachs
  • Probably not the Roma, given the ongoing prejudice against them
  • French
  • Italians of sundry city states (Venetians, Genoese, Florentines)
  • Catalans
  • Probably not the Turks; it was likely the other way round, through conversion
  • Bavarians (the ones who came down with King Otto)
  • Armenians
  • The modern-day migrants, whose assimilation is ongoing

What languages accept the use of mesoclisis and/or endoclisis?

Part of the problem is going to be that the terminology can get idiosyncratic to a language. I was not familiar with the terms endoclisis and mesoclisis, though I’m sure I’ve seen somewhere a description of an Italian dialect that sounds like what you’re describing as mesoclisis.

If we treat the Indo-European preverb as a separate word and not a prefix (which it seems to have been originally), some instances of mesoclisis show up in old Indo-European languages; Indo-European Language and Culture lists Old Irish, Gothic, and Avestan examples where a clitic comes between the preverb and the verb. In German now, just as in Homeric Greek, you can put a whole sentence between the preverb and the verb.

Endoclisis is an instance of Tmesis, where the interrupting word breaking up a word happens to be a clitic. Per Clitic – Wikipedia,

The endoclitic splits apart the root and is inserted between the two pieces. Endoclitics defy the Lexical Integrity Hypothesis (or Lexicalist Hypothesis) and so were long claimed to be impossible. However, evidence from the Udi language suggests that they exist. Endoclitics are also found in Pashto and are reported to exist in Degema.

What is the English translation for Greek ενέλιξη?

Well, I had no idea what the answer was.

But I did know that evolution in Greek is εξέλιξη, as an element-for-element calque: both mean “out-twisting”.

And ενέλιξη means “in-twisting”, which should correspond to Latin(-derived) involution.

And I looked up the definition of ενέλιξη, and it gave me a bunch of geometrical stuff: ενέλιξη (from the Papyros dictionary):

Στην προβολική γεωμετρία ε. ονομάζεται κάθε μη ταυτοτική προβολικότητα μεταξύ σχηματισμών α’ βαθμίδας και με τον ίδιο φορέα, που συμπίπτει με την αντίστροφή της. Αν μία προβολικότητα έχει ένα ενελικτικό ζεύγος, τότε είναι μία ε.

In projective geometry, an i. is every non-identity projection between first-grade formations with the same bearer, which coincides with its inverse. If a projectivity has an involutionary pair, it is an i.

(Approximate translation, since I don’t know any Greek geometric terminology.)

I then looked up the definition of involution, and it gave me a bunch of geometrical stuff: Involution (mathematics) – Wikipedia

In mathematics, an (anti-)involution, or an involutory function, is a function f that is its own inverse, f(f(x)) = x for all x in the domain of f.

2.3 Projective geometry

An involution is a projectivity of period 2, that is, a projectivity that interchanges pairs of points. Coxeter relates three theorems on involutions:

  • Any projectivity that interchanges two points is an involution.

I don’t understand geometric terminology in English either, but I hereby decree that they are same difference.

What is rakia (the homemade alcohol)?

Rakia – Wikipedia:

Rakia or Rakija (/rɑːkiːɑː/ RA-ki-ya) is the collective term for fruit brandy popular in Southeastern Europe. The alcohol content of rakia is normally 40% ABV, but home-produced rakia can be stronger (typically 50% to 80%, even going as high as 90% at times).

Fruit brandies are commonly known as Rakia in Greece (Ρακί, Ρακή/Raki or Τσικουδιά/Tsikoudia), Bulgaria (ракия), Croatia (rakija), Bosnia and Herzegovina (ракија/rakija), Albania (rakia), Macedonia (ракија), Serbia (ракија/rakija), Montenegro (ракија/rakija). In Romania, the terms ţuică and palincă are used over rachiu, răchie. In Hungary it is known as pálinka, while in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia the concept is known as pálenka. In Slovenia, it is known as sadjevec or šnops.

Greek ouzo (from grape) and tsipouro (from pomace), Turkish rakı (from sun dried grapes) and arak at Arabic and Middle Eastern countries differ from rakia as they are redistilled with some herbs (commonly anise). Some tsipouro in Greece is made without anise in the same manner as pomace rakia (or pomace brandy). “Boğma rakı” in Turkey (common name of the domestic raki which is produced at homes and villages) is similar to rakia in the Balkans.