Of recent I've been seeing some questions pop up saying only laymen responses to questions. Now while i know we have discussed this before, I worry that the majority of the questions are going to get this tag line and that linguists are just going to stop using the site. What are specifically doing to keep this site interesting for linguists to use it?

  • Definitely worthy of discussion, but better suited for an addition to: meta.japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/378/…
    – Dave
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 9:19
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    In my opinion, telling them not to use their linguistic terms is very smilar to the question we had/disagreed before "to only answer if you are native person".
    – YOU
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 10:28
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    I'm certainly holding back on using the site as much as I was before this stuff started. Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 12:46
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    Which questions are you talking about? I know that Dave M G often writes “Please avoid too technical terms in answers” or something like that (toward which I have a mixed feeling, but I will not talk about it now), but that is different from “only laymen can answer.” Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 14:55
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    There's a difference between "don't use any linguistic terms" and "please explain what you mean by <these terms> because I'm not a linguist."
    – Troyen
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 20:01
  • @Troyen: That difference is what I did not write about in my previous comment :), but I am not sure if that is what Mark is talking about. As I understand this post, Mark is claiming that some questions say something like “Linguists, please do not answer.” If it happens, that would be absurd, but I cannot recall seeing a question like that. Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 20:56
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    sorry, i should clarify, what Troyen said is correct in that there are comments like "don't use linguistic terms" which i have been interpreting as "no linguists" Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 0:42
  • @You: The requests are totally different. Asking that only native speakers answer is specifying who can answer, whereas requestong that linguistic terms be avoided is specifying how to answer.
    – Questioner
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 4:37

2 Answers 2


Being a student of linguistics myself, I often find that my personal writing style includes many of such "overly linguistic terminology". I try to explain them or steer away from them where possible simply to broaden the scope of users that will understand it without too much investigation into terminology -- but that's my style.

I think we've all noticed those little notes on questions, but really, how much do they even matter? I don't think that avoiding writing an answer to a question simply because the terminology you use is not suited to the asker's particular specification on vocabulary is much in the spirit of Stack Exchange; it isn't all about the asker, as counter-intuitive as that may seem on a Q&A site. Answers are much more important. Just because your answer isn't the right one for the asker doesn't mean that it won't be the right one for someone else -- maybe many someone elses.

So in sum, I say you should just answer the question however you want to, as long as you answer the question. If the asker requests no specialized terminology, and you use it, you shouldn't expect to have your answer accepted, but that's okay, too. Accepted doesn't mean it's the best answer, just the one the asker found most useful.

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    Very much agreed on all points. If I'm not mistaken, you once answered one of my questions with a couple of linguistic terms I didn't get, and when I asked for clarification, you edited to make your answer more accessible to a layman. That was really helpful, because I could recognize that you were trying to make your knowledge accessible, and so I just needed to let you know where we weren't connecting. The type of linguistic answer that drove me to my request were so high up in the ivory tower that I didn't even know how to form questions to find common ground.
    – Questioner
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 4:32
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    I very much agree as well. Which is why I am personally not convinced by Dave MG's perennial addition to all his questions: people will answer in the style they can answer in, and free to him to pick the one answer that speaks to him the most (I think by now every user of the site, particularly the linguists, know better than providing him with a linguistic answer). As it is, these notes come out more passive-aggressive than anything... That being said: this is a free community, and free to him to specify the type of answer he is looking for.
    – Dave
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 5:37

Being the one who writes the tag request in question, I should point that I never, ever, write "no linguists", just "no linguistic terms". A world of difference, which a linguist, I might point out with a slightly ironic tone, should be able to fully grasp.

I'm perfectly happy to have linguists answer, but how can I use the answer if I can't understand it?

The problem I am avoiding, which has happened once or twice earlier on, is that if I don't say that, then I sometimes get a purely linguistic answer, and then further answers don't come because people assume the question has been answered.

Lastly, I'm not even saying linguists should not provide some analysis if that's what they want to do. I'm only saying I'll hold out on awarding a green check until I have an answer that I can use to help me get better at Japanese.

In short, I am saying nothing about who is welcome, I am only being clear about how I would like to be answered.

If a linguist added a tag saying "Please answer using technical linguistic terms so as to be precise about answer", I would say that's fair, and I would know to move on.

  • As an outside observer, I think all parties in the technical term debate have come off sounding harsher than they probably intended or even realized. It's unfortunate, because I feel both sides really do want what's best for the site.
    – Troyen
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 5:50
  • @Troyen: I find chat to be the best antidote to this sounding harsher than intended issue. Sadly on all the SE sites I'm active in right now most people avoid chat )-: I'm there almost every day if anyone wants to drop by and discuss Japanese, linguistic, or other stuff in a friendly way and without limited numbers of characters to fully express thoughts. Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 6:56
  • As a related question, my kana skills are still awful. Would it be ok for me to add such disclaimer to my questions but asking that all answers should complement their Japanese script with romaji? Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 6:58
  • @hippietrail: I think that is a completely understandable request. Personally, I think it's good for all questions and answers, as much as possible, to provide kana because kanji is often the toughest barrier for new learners. However, if someone were to say they need that little extra help of having romaji... that seems perfectly fair. In general, I think it's always fair to request things be made simpler, it's making things more complicated that requires special justification.
    – Questioner
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 7:27
  • @Tryoen: I have not perceived anything happening other than discussion. I haven't felt any hostility or anything untoward. For comparison, look at the discussion "language hacker" has generated with his requests for tweet translations. I think it would be a mistake to regard this topic as being harsh or in some way confrontational simply because there is frank openness and honesty in it.
    – Questioner
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 7:50

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