This post pertains only to questions that ask only about and engage one language.
I already read this and the following reason which has been alleged of many of my own questions:

"Language-specific grammar and usage questions are off-topic unless primarily concerned with linguistics rather than usage. There are many language-specific sites where such questions are welcomed; see: http://stackexchange.com/sites"

I comprehend that prescriptive questions (eg: of usage) are off-topic, but what of questions necessitating linguistics knowledge about a specific language?

For example, though language-specific sites feature native speakers, they may not be linguists and so would be unable to answer a question as helpfully or meaningfully as here. For example, this question presupposes knowledge of the linguistic definition of 'tone' and 'intonation', and so would necessitate a linguist's attention, not simply anyone who knows Latin. The same problem exists for questions of Historical Linguistics for one language X; for example, most native speakers of X cannot connect an English or French Word to Proto-X as only a linguist can.

Example Question as a Test:

Title: How else might the Latin 'torrere' have drifted semantically to mean 'rushing, roaring (of streams)'?


[Etymonline] [...] from Latin torrentem (nominative torrens) "rushing, roaring" (of streams), also "a rushing stream," originally as an adjective "roaring, boiling, burning, parching, hot, inflamed," present participle of torrere "to parch" (see terrain).

Google revealed only one conjecture:

So, what could be the connection between a rushing stream and something which is dried out, thirsting for some water?

Supposedly, the contrasting meanings are linked by the image of a mountain creek or river which may be a raging current in spring, but dries out in summer.

Somehow the above is unpersuasive, probably because:

  1. most raging streams do not dry;

  2. it is factually false to refer to a dried raging stream still as a `raging stream``; one would have said 'dried raging stream'. 'dry' and 'rushing, roaring' are polar opposites;

I know that etymology is subjective and speculative, but are there any other conjectures that might possess more conviction?


4 Answers 4


In my mind, if a question is about some aspect of a language which is essentially arbitrary, then it's off topic. Meaning, usage, semantic drift of particular words, etc should all be off topic.

If a question is about a system, then it's on topic. Systems could cover phonetics, morphology, syntax, semantics, sociology, or any other field of linguistics, and questions about them can be synchronic or diachronic. You may only ask about one language, and the specific system may only be known to exist in one language, that's fine.


I take my chance to answer here because I've seen many questions asked by the OP, and, to my opinion, many of these questions are language-specific.

Closing questions as "Language-specific" has pretty straightforward reasons. This reason is, whether or not this question is answerable in this very site.

In order to answer questions that only apply one language, this requires having someone who's also familiar with this very language. Which is not given for granted.

In addition, these narrow questions seem to be hardly useful for further visitors who come here in the future.

So, to avoid our questions being closed as "language-specific", we maybe should ask ourselves:

  • Is there anyone in Linguistics.SE who may answer this question?
  • How possible it is that this very question would also serve future visitors to the site?

P.S. As I mentioned in another answer, we the users shape this community. If you can find several prominent people who would be able to answer your questions, the community may turn much more loyal to this kind of questions.

  • 1. You wrote Closing questions as "Language-specific" has pretty straightforward reasons. but the reasons do not appear straightforward at all, given the number of questions particular to French here. 2. In addition, these narrow questions seem to be hardly useful for further visitors who come here in the future. : This appears biased, subjective, and even false. Why are the other questions specific to French open permitted and open?
    – user5306
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 23:56

You should read this thread. As you can see, I believe that the characterization of what is "language specific" needs to be sharpened up. There is some disagreement among participants as to the extension of "not language-specific". I propose that the present question will not yield any new information. However, if you propose a statement of the language-specific criterion and ask for commentary on the proposal, you might move the discussion forward. The previous discussion should help you to avoid beating your head on the wall.


Anyhow, a question should be about facts or theories and not what is proper or similar normative questions. It should be generalizable, so for example "What is the accusative singular of 'chicken' in Russian?" would be off-topic, but "How is the accusative singular formed in Russian?" would be appropriate (though it reveals a false presupposition). Asking such questions about two or three languages doesn't avoid the problem.

  • Thanks, but I think that I already read that article, which I already cited in my OP?
    – user5306
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 1:24

Every question should have a place to ask it. If there is a better place to ask a language specific question than here, then ask it there. Otherwise, come here.

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