Is it fair to unconditionally downvote answers that have comments disabled?

Is it fair for comments to be disabled, to begin with?

Fairness is about reciprocity.

My longstanding policy is to ignore such answers rather than downvote them; then again, I don’t downvote anyone unless the answer is misleading or offensive. But I sympathise with those like Frank Dauenhauer who do.

Note also that, given how blunt Quora’s UI is, the true meaning of upvote and downvote is not “this is an objectively good answer” and “this is an objectively bad answer”. It is “this is an answer that I want to see more of” and “this is an answer I want to see less of”.

(I tried to find chapter and verse in Laura Hale’s writings to back this up, because that’s what I recall her saying, and I can’t. Laura, feel free to chime in. And hey, aren’t you meant to be in town?)

Is it correct that the Isle of Wight and Albion owe their name inGoddess of Barley?

Any Goddess of Barley in Greek would be named for the Greek for barley: alphi. That derives from proto-Indo-European *albhi- , and Albanian elp is a cognate.

Albion is the Celtic name of Britain, which survives as the Gaelic for Scotland, Alba. Its cognates are Welsh elfydd < *elbid ‘world, land’ and Gaulish albio– ‘world’. Per Albion – Wikipedia, there are two possible etymologies in proto-Indo-European: *albho- ‘white’ or *alb ‘hill’. I think Pokorny conflates them.

Per Pokorny, one guy (Specht) has speculated that *albhi ‘barley’ and *albho ‘white’ are related. *shrug* Who knows, maybe they are. But given how the Albh– stem shows up all over the place in place names (including the Alfeios river—and the Alps), I’d have thought that any Barley/White connection would be old—and would certainly predate the naming of Albion.

Is Braille Alphabet universal, or is it specific and different for each language?

Braille – Wikipedia; English Braille – Wikipedia; Unified English Braille – Wikipedia

Braille is an encoding of alphabets; since the alphabetic repertoire is going to be different within Roman script, let alone other alphabets, there will be differences in the repertoire. Not all Braille alphabets will have a W, or a É, or a Ч. Moreover, Braille includes ligatures of letters and abbreviations; those are very much language-specific, depending on frequency within the language. The English character for <th> corresponds to the German character for <ch>, and the Albanian character for <dh>.

Ideally, each alphabet should have the same sign for A (or equivalent), B (or equivalent) and so forth, using phonetic correspondences where possible, and lining up with French Braille. So at least the core letters are meant to be the same. That has not always been the case, though it has become increasingly the case. American Braille, used until 1918, had not even half the same letters as French Braille in the alphabet.

The non-alphabetic characters of Braille, such as punctuation and symbols, have diverged even within English-language Brailles; hence the very recent adoption of Unified English Braille.

So the answer is no, although it has gotten better in the past century.

If the scientific study of language is by its very own nature descriptive not prescriptive, why is linguistics a science?

Well, as Zeibura S. Kathau has commented, Science is by nature descriptive. And linguistics is a science. A very soft science, I’ll grant you, but no less of one than geology or astronomy.

There’s a word for fields of study that say how things should be, rather than how things are. That word is not science. It’s engineering.

No value judgement hither or thither, btw. There is a role for language prescription in the world. Linguists dislike it because it gets in the way of their job; but then again, linguists are often prejudiced against looking at the social context of their object of study.

I find that some of the answers and questions I wrote a few years ago were quite naive and even silly, should I delete them?

I wouldn’t, because I’m a warts and all kinda guy. I agree with Simone Runyan that adding a postscript is probably a good thing. I’m quite uncomfortable with deleting things in general—although Quora is very comfortable with it, which is why they reject crawlers from

Bear in mind that Quora does not often pop old material up in people’s feed. If you have a reasonable volume of answers, people likely have to go hunting to find it.

And, well, as W said: “When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.”

How does Icelandic sound to you?

Continuing my long tradition of superficial answers to this kind of question:

Like a extra-mumbly Swedish with an inexplicable Welsh infusion.

Of the two vids I’ve inserted, the Swedish Chef intonation is more obvious in the news clip, which is more formal and fluent. The Wikitongues vid is more stop–start and hesitant, but the phonetic detail is clearer, which is why the [ɬ] <ll> is much more obvious.

Does how a language sound represent the character of the nation?

When I was lecturing historical linguistics, I addressed this notion as follows:

“Just picture the 19th century German linguist, captured by cannibals and boiling away in a cauldron, saying: [German accent] ‘Hah! Zis is ein joke! You people are all pussies! You do not even haff ein alveolar affrikat!’”

And beware of cause and effect in cultural judgements. It’s not necessarily that the sound of French motivated the French to be connoiseurs and romantique. It’s more that the cultural stereotype of the French as connoiseurs and romantique has led to people think of French that way. If you’re not getting a similar vibe out of Turkish (which to my mind sounds pretty similar), then it’s not the sounds you’re reacting to.

That, and I’m pretty sure the recruits in the French Foreign Legion don’t find anything romantique about their sergeant screaming at them en français.

Do you feel differently about A2A questions, compared to questions you find on your own?

The questions I find on my own, I answer quickly and enthusiastically.

I’ve become enough of a MVW that I get a fair few A2As, something like 10 a day. The quality is variable, and I don’t pass on A2As as aggressively as I should, so I’ve got a sizeable backlog, with some A2As just staring back at me annoyingly for weeks.

So A2As that I don’t answer immediately feel a lot more like a chore; and enough of a backlog becomes really demotivating. I try to keep the backlog down to 10–15.

That said, A2As are more on topic for your core topics of interest than questions you find randomly; so answering some of this, in fact, good for your stats. (There are also some askers who keep asking me questions I’ve already told them I don’t have competence in. Those I now quickly pass on.)

There are some A2As that I answer “only ’cause it’s you”. They can in fact end up being fun, because I have a bit more of an excuse to make them humorous.

Do Ancient Greek verbs in the Simple Present tense ever imply grammatical modality?

Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges : §1876 on

οὗτος μὲν γὰρ ὕδωρ, ἐγὼ δ᾽ οἶνον πίνω for this man drinks water, whereas I drink wine. (habitual)

ἄγει δὲ πρὸς φῶς τὴν ἀλήθειαν χρόνος “time brings the truth to light” (gnomic)

“προδίδοτον τὴν Ἑλλάδα” they are trying to betray Greece (conative = attempt: “The idea of attempt or intention is an inference from the context and lies in the present only so far as the present does not denote completion”)

ἀπόλλυμαι “I am on the verge of ruin” (anticipation)

“εἰ αὕτη ἡ πόλις ληφθήσεται, ἔχεται καὶ ἡ πᾶσα Σικελία” if this city is taken, the whole of Sicily as well is in their power (anticipation)

χρόνῳ ἀγρεῖ Πριάμου πόλιν ἅδε κέλευθος in time this expedition will capture Priam’s city (prophecy)

I won’t count the historical/annalistic present, that isn’t modal.