Why doesn’t Google offer an English-Ancient Greek translation when there is an English-Latin translation?

Google translation does not work by rules and grammars. Machine translation gave up on that decades ago. Pity, because I spent well over a decade coding morphological rules for Greek, and it was a lot of fun.

Machine translation works on statistics. To gather the statistics, you need a large amount of bilingual texts.

Now, there is an order of magnitude more ancient Greek than ancient Latin texts, much of it translated. And there are a substantial number of mediaeval Greek texts as well.

But even if the interest was there in ancient Greek machine translation, the material would not be.

  • Optical character recognition for the squiggles of polytonic Greek is not great, and would degrade the quality of any bilingual corpus substantially, unless someone had typed the text in. (Both Perseus and the TLG have; Google did talk to the TLG once while I was working there, but it was about teaching materials, not machine translation.)
  • The classical corpus is probably not big enough to be useful for statistical machine translation; and there is a lot more bilingual text for mediaeval Latin available than for mediaeval Greek.
  • Unlike Latin, the classical Greek corpus is multidialectal, which would compromise any statistics even more.

So machine translating ancient Greek would be a lot more hassle than for Latin. And because of the cultural history of Western Europe, there is much less demand for it than there would be for Latin.

Compare the number of translation requests for tattoos on this site, in Latin and in ancient Greek.

What’s the Quora language and content policy regarding blogs?

Content policy: more lax than for questions and answers:

Quora’s answer to Does Quora enforce its moderation policies on blog content and comments?

Blogs on Quora are generally unmoderated. Most policies that apply to question-and-answer pages do not apply to blogs. However, there are several rules for blogs and posts:

(The exceptions are spam, and a much higher barrier than BNBR for “niceness”.)

Language policy: Question already asked, with no official reply: What is Quora’s language policy regarding blogs on Quora?

Unresolved, but *probably* English-only, given the wording of Quora’s answer to Does content on Quora need to be written in English?

Quora requires that content on English Quora (quora.com) be written in English.

That’s “content”, not just “questions and answers”.

I have seen a couple of blog posts not in English, but I haven’t gone looking, nor known of instances where Quora requested a blog not in English be taken down. I don’t get the impression Quora moderation is that engaged with blogs to begin with.

What do Greeks think about the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”?

It depends on where the Greeks are.

Greeks in the diaspora loved it. It is a movie that pokes caricatured fun at the antiquated notions that the first generation of migrants had, and how they did not assimilate and retained a rural worldview. That kind of caricature is a commonplace of second-generation members of diaspora when they get into comedy; it’s hardly unique to the Greek diaspora. (Compare for example the comedy done by the Indian and Pakistani diaspora in the UK.) Greeks in the US, Canada, and Australia were in on the joke, and they lapped it up.

Greeks in Greece and Cyprus… dunno, and I’d be interested to hear. What’s critical is that the worldview caricatured in the movie is a worldview that has long died out in Greece itself: the first generation of migrants remained in a 1950s rural timewarp. Greeks in Greece are likely to feel extremely detached from it: it’s not their modern-day reality, and its not their country. There’s that underlying truth at work, painful for anyone in the diaspora: those who left and those who stayed behind are no longer the same people.

For what it’s worth, the Greek title of the movie was Γάμος αλά Ελληνικά, “Wedding, Greek-Style”. It was a title reminiscent of the madcap comedies of the Greek comedy film industry of the ’50s and ’60s, and that was not a coincidence.

The most interesting reaction, which I monitored at the time, was that of emigre Greeks. I’m using the distinction between migrant and emigre Greeks on purpose: by the latter, I mean the much smaller, much better educated, affluent and urbane wave of Greek professionals who have moved to work in Western Europe and America over the last 20 or 30 years, as opposed to the peasants who moved to become factory fodder and small-businesspeople in the early to mid 20th century.

The two waves have very little in common, and don’t particularly associate. The clash has been most prominent in Canada, where the “emigres” are earlier, political dissidents from the ’70s, and in much greater numbers. The ’50s migrants and the ’70s migrants have formed separate community clubs: they can’t be in the same room with each other. There’s a wave of Greeks coming to Australia now, where Greeks are into their third generation (they are most of the waiters in Greektown, where I live). I’m not paying attention, but I’m sure there’s some cultural friction here too.

Anyway. I was subscribed to the HELLAS-L mailing list at the time, which was the mailing list for those emigres, in Greeklish: it was the main vehicle of Greek online until the Web became a mass presence in Greece and Cyprus.

Many of the emigres on the list were dripping with contempt for the film, and not a few of them demanded that it should have been called My Big Fat Greek-American Wedding. Because they wanted nothing to do with the hicks that film depicted. (I was gratified to see the main complainer being needled by someone else: “You’ve already been in the US for a decade; watch out you don’t get de-Hellenised yourself!”

The vehemence is because the film does not depict a reality the emigres have grown up with—but it does depict a reality they are adjacent to, living in America and Canada and Britain; so they couldn’t feel the same detachment I imagine Greeks in Greece would have experienced. It was more pressing for them to dissociate themselves from it.

Some of the threads on that mailing list are available here: Google Groups—provided you can read Greeklish.

How is Nihilism relevant to the Modern world?

Bit of a big question there, and nihilism is a big concept—that often gets used quite loosely, to mean “relativistic” or “cynical”.

We are in a time in the West, of course, when a lot of longstanding moral absolutes have been increasingly questioned or scrutinised, and the outcome has been called nihilistic by both proponents and adversaries. (Adversaries more than proponents: the term is something of a cudgel.)

Nihilism – Wikipedia

Nihilism has also been described as conspicuous in or constitutive of certain historical periods: for example, Jean Baudrillardand others have called postmodernity a nihilistic epoch; and some religious theologians and figures of religious authority have asserted that postmodernity and many aspects of modernity represent a rejection of theism, and that such rejection of theistic doctrine entails nihilism.

So one primary point of relevance is that it is a shorthand for the modern-day questioning of absolute values, which is prevalent, and which you need to be aware of to work out how the modern West ticks. Or fails to tick.

The second primary point of relevance is not as time-bound. Nihilism, like solipsism, is a useful intellectual exercise. It is a useful phase to go through, if you like. The teen or undergrad who stumbles across solipsism in their intellectual development is something of a cliche: “Woah, man, like what if I told you everything was, like, an illusion!”

But it is useful because, when you come out the other end, you acknowledge better the contingency and fragility of your construction of the world: you know to be on the lookout for misconstrual and bias better.

Same with nihilism. It’s good to have values. It’s better if you’ve scrutinised those values, and worked out why they are a good thing, rather than to just passively accept what you have been handed down. And a phase of questioning everything, of early nihilism, is useful to help you build them back up again—and convince yourself that there are things really worth holding on to, after all.