Proposal: Latin Language

Now, I may get a lot of initial skepticism for this, but since most Classicists know both Latin and Ancient Greek, and since the Greek proposal is going nowhere, and since ancient Greek is closer to Latin—not in the genetic sense, but in the cultural sense—why not do a Classical Languages community? Or even a Classics community, for all questions related to the Ancient Mediterranean (perhaps also the Near East?).

This way, people could ask questions not just about Latin, but all Roman literature, even that in Greek, and the literature from which the Romans drew, i.e. Greek, and the contexts of the texts. As of now, history.stackexchange does not do well with questions relating to classical antiquity, and presumably people who have Latin and Ancient Greek questions also are likely to have questions of ancient Greece and Rome (and the reverse is true, that people who know Latin and Greek are the best experts in knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome).

Thoughts?

Edit: Just wanted to add one more point that hasn't really been addressed, but Latin + Ancient Greek + cultural and literary questions about ancient Greece, Rome, and their neighbors stands to have a better chance number-wise than being all split up, no? This is similar to history.SE being all history, not just history of one particular nation, region, or even continent.

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How do you know that History.SE "does not do well with questions relating to classical antiquity"? There are 136 questions (13 closed questions) in the tag [ancient-rome], which is the 13th most popular tag there. The tag next to it [political-history] has 134 questions with 23 closed questions. Similarly, [ancient-greece] has 90 questions with 8 closed questions. Moreover, [ancient-history] is the fourth most popular tag after [united-states], [ww2] and [20th-century]. To an outsider it looks like questions about ancient rome and greece are welcome and answered. – Earthliŋ Jun 20 '15 at 10:52
    
Yes, sorry, I did not mean that topic of Greek and Roman history aren't welcome. However, I've looked at the questions at hand, and a couple things come to mind. First, almost none are about the literature. In fact, it seems questions about the literature are off-topic. Requests for primary sources are off-topic (as evidenced: history.stackexchange.com/questions/20910/…). – C. M. Weimer Jun 20 '15 at 17:06
    
Second, it's answers are more likely to come from non-experts (e.g. history.stackexchange.com/questions/10903/…), people who are unfamiliar with the Classics discipline. Despite there being plenty of studies on Mycenaean population, the "best answer" on this question (history.stackexchange.com/questions/17643/…) merely cites the Iliad, a fictional poem, and then proceeds to make bad assumptions based on that. – C. M. Weimer Jun 20 '15 at 17:07
    
I'm chatting with some colleagues to bring in a level of expertise badly needed. A particularly egregious example, one I did not dig hard for, is this one (history.stackexchange.com/questions/7601/…), in which the top comment is telling a user to Google, and no comment at all mentions henotheism, a very important concept when discussing ancient ideas of monotheism. The people most likely able to read Latin and Greek are the ones most likely to know the sources behind these things. Thus a combined community seems necessary. – C. M. Weimer Jun 20 '15 at 17:07
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@C.M.Weimer unfortunately, Stack Exchange doesn't really have a process for dealing with wrong answers (summery: downvote and leave a comment, and maybe a bounty to draw attention, even if the answer is old, has a lot of upvotes, and would be hard to correct. However, I think Stack Exchange would be receptive to you creating a classics site: it would be distinct from history (as it would have a strong emphasis on primary sources). Go for it. – Hamlet Jun 21 '15 at 15:40

I would not like to see the Latin Language StackExchange co-opted into a Classics StackExchange. As much as I'd like to see a Classics StackExchange succeed, many of us, including me, have a backlog of hard questions about medieval, renaissance, and even contemporary Latin, and the Latin Language StackExchange promises to be the best place on the Internet to ask them.

Here are some example questions that got at least 10 votes:

Here are a couple more, which didn't get 10 votes before we reached the commitment phase, but which I think are excellent questions for the Latin Language StackExchange, and they illustrate the vastness of the topic of post-Classical Latin:

Please see also this discussion question and this answer.

Probably the best thing to do is just propose a Classics StackExchange. Nihil obstat.

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Thanks for the reply—the first real one in almost a week! You're absolutely right that those wouldn't properly be on topic in a Classics SE (though personally I wouldn't mind them). I'm also thinking that perhaps a Classics SE isn't really appropriate for the SE format of Q&A. I'm not giving up hope yet that this proposal might go somewhere, but it looks likely that the support is rather toward Latin.SE and Greek.SE. Eheu. – C. M. Weimer Jun 26 '15 at 2:51
    
@C.M.Weimer I've been writing at an answer for the past week, but still am not confident in posting it. You just asked a difficult question at a difficult time. As Ben explained in this answer, there are many things to consider and it's not quite clear (to me) how to pull them all together under one hat. Although most people will certainly read Classical Latin, not everyone interested in Latin is necessarily a classicist. – Earthliŋ Jun 26 '15 at 11:14
    
I've actually been thinking if maybe "Ancient Indo-European languages" (as in Latin, Ancient Greek & Sanskrit) would be such a hat, considering that words & grammar share a common origin (Proto-Indo-European). These three languages are all studied in their own right, but all have few or no native speakers, so splitting them into individual proposals might not work, since even modern languages average only 5 questions per day and that's with all sorts of "daily use", "homework", "internet slang" etc. questions. But I don't know how many people actually study more than one of these languages. – Earthliŋ Jun 26 '15 at 11:17
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I’d like not to see the ancient Greek and Latin literature separated, so I support the notion of a “Classics.SE”, but I also agree that medieval and later Latin should not be removed from the scope of the site. This may mean that a different/better name is needed. The other question is where to draw the line for Greek: Include or exclude Byzantine Greek (i.e. until 1453)? – chirlu Jun 26 '15 at 18:08
    
@Earthliŋ: I feel that there is little overlap between Sanskrit and Greek/Latin, or the communities studying each area; except for people doing Indoeuropean linguistics, but that is already covered by Linguistics.SE. – chirlu Jun 26 '15 at 18:12
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@chirlu Why don't you post a separate answer "Let's do Ancient Greek and Latin", so people can vote on it. – Earthliŋ Jun 26 '15 at 19:05
    
Yes, agreed, chirlu. And more answers = more likely someone else will answer. I'd love to hear your thoughts. – C. M. Weimer Jun 27 '15 at 4:46
    
@Earthliŋ - same with you, too, whenever you get to finishing it, of course! – C. M. Weimer Jun 27 '15 at 4:48

I'm a very basic Latin "beginner" but even so I'm already seeing that Classical Latin language and literature are inextricably interwoven with Ancient Greek (my next learning project lol). I would like to see both on topic, personally. As an example, I have been involved both on HistorySE and WordReference as to the usage of domine or ere as the common term a Roman slave would use to address his/her master. One view was that ere was "very colloquial" Greek, roughly translatable as boss or guv. Another was that it was "definitely not Greek". Wider latitude on the proposed site would give space for such discussions.

It may be relevant to add that there is already a WordReference Forum which just deals with Latin language - like "Why the subjunctive here?" I suggest we need to broaden our scope if we're to attract sufficient users.

http://forum.wordreference.com/forums/lingua-latina-latin.64/

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I would just like to post my thoughts on how many questions we can expect.

Currently most languages sites are hovering at around 2-3 questions per day:

questions per day — days in beta

(ordered by beta launch date, youngest first)

2.1 — 600 days Italian.SE
2.1 — 1110 days Russian.SE
3.1 — 1293 days Chinese.SE
2.6 — 1321 days Spanish.SE
3.1 — 1411 days French.SE
10.1 — 1489 days Japanese.SE
5.7 — 1496 days German.SE

(According to the new graduation guidelines, graduation is considered at 10 questions per day.)

Currently all these sites are about modern languages. In fact, currently SE hosts language sites exactly for the top 8 business languages (ordered by Gross World Product according to IMF data, second table here). (Next in line being Portuguese and Arabic at 100% commitment.) That is, these languages are widely studied and widely used and the corresponding language sites have lots of questions like

  • My boss told me to X. What does he mean?
  • Is [word] internet slang?
  • How do you say "homebrew beer" in [language]?
  • I heard [word] in this song [YouTube link]. What does it mean?

While all of these probably should have an answer in Latin, too, I don't think we can expect the same number of questions pouring in, because Latin is not widely used. There is little popular literature in Latin, there are few TV shows or radio shows in Latin, etc., so I expect there to be fewer questions and comparing to the other language sites probably fewer than 2 questions per day. In fact, after a cursory glance at questions on Japanese.SE & German.SE, it looks like more than half of the questions are from people using the languages, not studying them.

If that means we can expect at most one question per 1-2 days, the community needs to find a way to stay motivated. It's not like we can visit the page every few hours and expect much new information. But users shouldn't forget about it either, because that will lead first to death and then closure. (Example: Literature closed at 0.4 questions per day.)

I don't know if adding Ancient Greek will improve the situation, because more unrelated questions might actually be detrimental to the health of the proposal. I think it would be good to have a show of hands of how many committers actually know or study Ancient Greek.

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As a rule, most Classicists will. Even many undergraduate departments encourage both. One thing it will allow us to do is to talk about Latin words that came from Greek, talk about how Latin borrowed and reused many Greek stories and themes in their literature, talk about context of Roman literature, which is the Greek literary precedents, and finally talk about those modern medical terms which come not from Latin but from Greek. It seems unecessary to redirect to Greek.SE when they ask the origin of e.g. "cranium." – C. M. Weimer Jun 30 '15 at 14:38
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Then again, maybe an etymology SE would be useful, too. Bigger and broader, or smaller and more focused? – C. M. Weimer Jun 30 '15 at 14:50
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Maybe most classicists will, but we don't know how many of current/future followers/committers to the proposal are classicists. So far none of the classicists have come forward to say "Let's do Ancient Greek", but 6 people have voted to focus on Latin alone. I think we just need a show of hands, probably best in a separate "discussion". – Earthliŋ Jun 30 '15 at 14:52
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I hadn’t understood the 6-vote answer as “We should not add anything beyond Latin”. Its main point, to me, is “We should not remove medieval and modern Latin”, which the term Classics might imply. – Here is my hand for the show of hands. :-) – chirlu Jul 1 '15 at 18:11
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@chirlu "I hadn’t understood the 6-vote answer as “We should not add anything beyond Latin”". Well, it does say "I would not like to see the Latin Language StackExchange co-opted into a Classics StackExchange". I think this discussion will only move forward if either an answer is posted here or a separate discussion is opened, preferably from someone who can speak for people knowing Ancient Greek (i.e. not me). – Earthliŋ Jul 1 '15 at 21:00
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@TheHonRose Please post your comments as an answer. So far no one has. – Earthliŋ Jan 7 '16 at 17:19

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