Why are sports in Australia important?

Because, for better or worse, Sports in Australia has contributed to Australians’ sense of who they are. And it has done so since easily the 1870s.

For the answer to why that has happened: See How has sport shaped Australia’s national identity?

What were your first question and answer on Quora?

First question, Nov 23 2015:

How is the UK version of Drunk History different from the US version?

No answers. That taught me something valuable about Quora. 🙂 As Yishan Wong once memorably said: Quora is a great place to answer questions. It’s not a great place to get your own questions answered. 🙂

First answer, 20 Aug 2015:

Nick Nicholas’ answer to How much writing from ancient Greece is preserved? Is it a finite amount that someone could potentially read?

A question that I had direct professional knowledge of. It embarked me on a good road on Quora; the sociable answers and the later answers came later.

What is your reason for having a goatee?

As I said in Nick Nicholas’ answer to How are men with goatees perceived, and how do they think they are perceived? : they were very fashionable in the mid 90s. I took it up after some facial hair experimentation, and Australians nowadays seem to have big problems with moustaches (because of overexposure in the 70s). I’m a stability-seeking kind of person, I liked it, and I stuck with it even after it became a lot less fashionable.

What is the twenty-third letter of the Latin alphabet?

I see what you did there, OP.

Yes, the 23rd letter of the Latin alphabet depends on which version of the Latin alphabet you’re using: there’s no universal 23rd letter, because there’s no universal repertoire of Latin letters. Some languages have fewer letters than English. Some have more letters than English. Some languages count letters with diacritics as distinct letters. Some languages count digraphs as distinct letters as well.

In English, it’s W. In Latin, it’s Z. In Turkish, it’s Ş. In Spanish up to 2010 (which counted <ll> and <ch> as separate letters), it was T. In Albanian, it’s Q.

What is the point of life if you just die and most of us are forgotten in time?

Ah, Jeremy. This is not a trivial question. And most of the non-religious people have converged on the same answer; I liked Bobby Strick’s formulation.

When I was in my 20s, I yearned to cheat death by joining that 0.1%. Hence the whole “get my scientific papers laminated and sent to Svalbard” thing, which I was actually in earnest about.

And you know, it is wonderful to change the world, and it is wonderful to invent something. It is wonderful to have your name outlive you. But it won’t be for that long. Even if we survive as a civilisation another century, which is a big if, who gets to be remembered from 2000 years ago? Not that many. Who from 10000 years ago? Nobody. That’s not just the invention of literacy; that’s the way it goes. All that we are about, all our inventions and innovations and art and science and glory on this earth, all of it will be dust one day, and will be forgotten even before it is dust. At best, your greatest deed buys a century.

So. Ignore that 0.1%. Do not ignore the urge to create, or to change the world, or to make a difference; just don’t think it buys you more than a century. It has meaning, not because of what people will think of it 10 millennia hence: they won’t (even if there are people around by then). It has meaning, because the meaning is with us, right now, with our society, with our fellow humans, with our community of understanding.

Meaning, as any semiotician will tell you, is pointless without someone there to do the interpreting of the meaning. And who’s doing the interpreting? You’re looking at them. You’re it. And your fellow humans are it.

And that goes for the remaining 99.9% as well. The meaning of life? It’s with those who do the interpreting. It’s with us, your fellow humans. Right now. Live now in us. Live now for us. Live now with us. And we’ll do the same with you.

… Wow, Jeremy. Who knew semiotics could be so life-affirming!

What does a linguist think of Albanian as he first starts to study it?

Vote #1 Sam Ahmed: Sam Ahmed’s answer to What does a linguist think of Albanian as he first starts to study it?

As someone who’s both Greek and who was looking for things about the Balkan Sprachbund, I had the same reactions. With the added component of “… God, this is just like Greek” a lot of the time.

(That can be superficial. I know that Macedonian and Greek both use clitics redundantly as topicalisation—”I know it, the answer.” If you look at the fine print though, the pragmatic nuances are rather different. Still, superficialities are what a typologist deals with.)

What else? Lots of moods and cases and inflections: it looks very old-school Indo-European morphologically. Lots of Latin in the vocabulary, but it’s very well hidden through sound change. Interesting sociolinguistics, with the defeat of southern Geg by southern Tosk. (But then, I read Martin Camaj’s grammar, and Camaj never got over Hoxha imposing Gjirokastër Albanian as the norm.) Fair bit of dialectal diversity, with some quite noticeable deviations in Arvanitika, and to a lesser extent (I think) Arbëresh.

I think for a Greek the bit that’s hardest to accept is that ll and l, gj and g, q and k, are really distinct phonemes: we have the phones for <l, gj, q> in Standard Greek as palatalised allophones of <ll, g, k>, so we just assume they’re allophones everywhere.

(Which is why I kept mispronouncing the Spanish for Los Angeles as [los ançeles]. Very hard for a Greek to say [anxeles].)

What are the distorsions in the various (French, German, etc.) versions of the Erasmian Ancient Greek pronunciation?

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek in teaching – Wikipedia

Wikipedia enumerates English, French, German, Italian. I’ll list the pronunciations that I would deem wrong from the currently accepted reconstruction of Ancient Greek.

I’m not even going to list the traditional distortions of Erasmian in English courtesy of the Great English Vowel Shift, and some bizarre notions of how accentuation worked. If you’ve ever heard a Classical Greek word borrowed into English, you know what ended up happening.

The situation got bad enough that it was utterly abandoned in the teaching of Greek in the Anglosphere at the end of the 19th century; Athenaze for English (from Comparison of Greek Pronunciation Systems), as a popular modern textbook, sticks pretty much to the modern reconstruction.

For the other three languages:

  • No pitch accent. Italian, French, German
  • No vowel length. French.
  • No geminate consonants. French, German.
  • No distinction between genuine and spurious diphthongs. Italian, French.
  • αυ as [o]. French
  • ευ as [Ĺ“]. French.
  • ευ, ηυ, οι as [ɔʏ]. German.
  • ει as [ai]. German.
  • Zeta as [dz]. Italian, French.
  • Zeta as [ts]. German.
  • Sigma prevocalically as [z]. German.
  • Theta as [θ]. Italian.
  • Theta as [t]. French, German (Italian in practice)
  • Phi as [f]. Italian, German, French.
  • Chi as [x]. Italian, German.
  • Chi as [k]. French (Italian in practice)
  • Ignoring rough breathing. French.

Italian is the closest to reconstructed Classical Greek (and indeed to Erasmus’ Erasmian), with only a few distortions. German is punctiliously correct in some aspects, annoyingly wrongheaded in others. French is… wow. Just wow.

What are the best public high schools with high ATARs in Melbourne (co-ed or girls only)?

School League Tables.

Mpf. They’re not all they’re cracked up to be. Is the point of education to get you into a top ranking uni course? Or to make a decent citizen of you?

At any rate, the current rankings for Victoria are out at:

VCE School Ranking – 2016

If we exclude boys’ schools, then that nukes my own alma mater, Melbourne High School, as well as Yeshivah College. That alone earns you my undying resentment. 🙂

The top ten this year are:

  1. Bialik College. Jewish, Co-ed.
  2. MacRobertson Girls’ High. Selective Public, Girls’. (Sister school to Melbourne High)
  3. Mount Scopus. Jewish, Co-ed.
  4. (Yeshivah, Jewish, Boys: nuked.)
  5. (Melbourne High, Selective Public, Boys: nuked.)
  6. Loreto Mandeville Hall. Catholic, Girls’. (Btw, the denomination doesn’t mean that much for Christian schools: my Greek Orthodox third cousin went there.)
  7. Shelford Girls’ Grammar. Anglican, Girls’.
  8. Ruyton Girls’ School. Non-denominational Private, Girls’.
  9. Ballarat Clarendon College. Uniting Church, Co-ed. (Not in Melbourne)
  10. Haileybury Girls’ College. Anglican, Girls’.

The traditionally prestige Boys’ schools are actually a long way down the list: Scotch College is #28, Melbourne Grammar is #33.

The top government co-ed school is Nossal High at #34, but it is selective like Melbourne High. The top government normal neighbourhood school is Balwyn High, at #41.

And yes, girls’ are outperforming boys’ schools. To a far greater extent than I’d anticipated.

What are some strategies of anaphor binding/coindexation in languages and other strategies to resolve or compensate referent ambiguity?

I should know a good answer to this, as part of my apprenticeship (being a research assistant) was tracking referents in Acehnese discourse for Mark Durie.

The obvious answers I think have already been given. Gender in all its manifold forms, extending to noun classes. Deixis. Politeness strategies and social deixis. Reflexives, including long-distance reflexives and logophors, where a special pronoun refers out from an embedded clause back out to the top clause subject. (Logophoricity). English really struggles with this—

After being acquitted of Veseth’s murder, Red Dog testified at Lilly’s retrial that he, Red Dog, was responsible for shooting Veseth, and that he, Red Dog, had previously lied under oath. Red Dog v. State

I was actually googling for an instance in Red Dog (film), where it was even more awkward.

One thing worth pointing out, which came out of the Acehnese work and the work by Thomas Givon that had inspired it: topicality helps too. Discourse establishes what referents are the main topics being talked about. They tend to be referred to by pronoun rather than full noun phrase, and in fact the use of pronouns confirms that they are the main topics. So pronouns pragmatically are their own disambiguation.

Lojban, as you might well expect, has some whackadoodle strategies, which probably shouldn’t count. It’s an artificial language with an artificial language’s obsession about ambiguity, but it’s taken that a lot further than many. Letters as anaphors is one, which it gets from algebra. I wrote up the perverse motivation there for defaulting to long-distance reflexivity in Folk Functionalism in Artificial Languages: The Long Distance Reflexive vo’a in Lojban.

My answers were deleted from Quora because they appeared to violate Quora’s policy on Spam. How can I get back my answers?

As Katherine Rossiter said: you appeal.

I got dinged once for Spamming. After appealing, I got the question restored after a few days.

But critically, I amended the answer to make sure it was not seen to be spamming: I removed all the hyperlinking which had triggered the Spambot (and which were not essential to the question). You too, OP, should look at the question critically, and remove anything that looks like it would trigger the Spambot. The Spambot is there for a reason. And in your appeal, explain how you edited the answer to comply.