Is it mathematically possible to create a language where terms describing complex ideas can be made up starting from simpler ideas, with simple logical reasoning in real time, so that knowing vocabulary is not necessary?

I’m sceptical to what extent mathematics enters into any reasoning about human language (and Lojbanists actually highlight that language is not reducible to truth-conditional logic). But much of what you’re saying is the bet behind Natural semantic metalanguage, which tries to define every concept ever in a language that looks like English, but that has only an extremely small number of primitive words.

NSM was a thing of cruel, adamantine beauty back in the 70s and 80s, when it had just 14 primitives. It was also of course utterly unusable as a practical tool for eliciting meaning. It’s now up to 63.

A favourite party trick of Anna Wierzbicka’s undergrads, at least in my day, was to try to hold conversations in NSM. It can be done. It can’t be done efficiently enough to count as a real conversation; but it does meet a generous definition of “in real time”.

If Quora were a human being, how healthy do you think it would be?

Oh, of course I’m going to give you an Insurgency-tinged answer, Martin!

If Quora Inc were a human, they’d be one of those infuriating people who eat seven meals a day and are still stick-thin, and that chain smoke but will still live to be a hundred. It keeps doing things that the normal laws of nature would have you predict would lead to them being quite sick, but they keep getting away with murder. (Where, for murder, read VC capital.)

How many popular (1K+ followers) Quorans are you blocked by?

I think half a dozen, and one of them on this thread.


It hasn’t been a mystery for any of them, though in one case the blocking seemed to me a massively disproportionate reaction to the offence. But that gets to be their call to make, not mine.

I’ve been blocked and unblocked once on the matters *I* regard as my core domain, the union of Greek and Language. Most of the blocks relate to the matters everyone else likely assumes are my core domain: assuming the mantle of being a Quora critic.

In my estimation, I’ve gained more from those I’ve come to associate through assuming that mantle than I’ve lost.

And that gets to be my call to make.

How important are gender presentation and gender pronouns to you as a cis person?

I gather the question is about how I receive them rather than how I give them, given that this question is related to How important are gender presentation and different pronouns to you as a transgender person?

I’m a bloke. I don’t want to be told I’m not a bloke, and I’ll be rather surprised if someone thinks I’m not a bloke.

I present as a bloke. I’m quite happy to present as a bloke, and despite the occasional “no, I’m secure in my sexuality” joke, I haven’t particularly delved into gender ambiguity.

I have identities that are more pressing and conscious to me than masculinity; then again, masculinity is the kind of identity that fades into the all-encompassing background readily.

Like Kimberly Alexander’s answer says, cis people don’t particularly reflect on gender the way trans people are forced to. Ditto any privileged identity group: the privilege is in not being Othered.

(That’s why I call you Westerners beef-eaters on Quora all the time.)

How do you say ‘the thing about the eagle’ in ancient Greek?

I have been edified by the margent:

I have found out that the Iliad means ‘The thing about the lion’ and I was just wondering how one would say, ‘The thing about the eagle’.

No. No it doesn’t, and you need to slap whoever told you that in the face. Iliad means ‘The thing about Ilium’, where Ilium was an alternate name of Troy. ‘The thing about the lion’ would be Leontiad, Λεοντιάς, -άδος, ἡ.

And ‘the thing about the eagle’ would accordingly be Aeëtiad or Aëtiad, Αἰετιάς/ Ἀετιάς, -άδος, ἡ.

Yes, I use Latinate transliterations. Deal. 🙂