Why is it that most of the brilliant philosophers are Germans if the history tells us that philosophy came from Greece?

Why are the best tomato-based pasta sauces Italian, if history tells us that tomatoes came from the Americas?

2500 years is a long time; and in at least some ways, what the Germans were doing with philosophy in the 18th and 19th century was far from what the Greeks did in the 5th century BC (though unlike other disciplines, maybe not far enough!) At any rate, just because a people invent a field of endeavour, does not mean they get to dominate it forevermore. Cultural artefacts aren’t genetic.

What is the most difficult non-English tongue twister you know?

A couple from Modern Greek:

  • Μια πάπια μα ποια πάπια. mja papja ma pja papja. “A duck, but which duck?” Surprisingly difficult.
  • Άσπρη πέτρα ξέξασπρη κι απ’ τον ήλιο ξεξασπρότερη. aspri petra kseksaspri c ap ton iʎo kseksasproteri. “White stone, utterly white, even more utterly white than the sun.”
  • Ο παπάς ο παχύς έφαγε παχιά φακή. Γιατί παπά παχύ έφαγες παχιά φακή; o papas o paçis efaʝe paça faci. ʝati papa paçi efaʝes paça faci? “The fat priest ate thick lentil soup. Why, fat priest, did you eat thick lentil soup?”

What is language?

Originally Answered:

Hah. Having lectured Intro To Linguistics, I should be able to come up with a definition without going to Wikipedia.

Ok: a language is a system of signs that are associated with meaning, and which can be combined to express more complex meanings.

That doesn’t limit language to spoken languages, hearing languages, or human languages; it also lets in maths, logic, and computer languages. Which I think is fair. It does however insist on compositionality: signs in isolation don’t make a language. And it insists on them being a system: a wonderfully powerful yet vague term…