Do you think Noam Chomsky would get any answers in this forum, or would his questions be closed by moderators as off-topic, because they have more to do with math and computer science than with linguistics?

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    I don't think I've ever gotten to use the "migrate to Meta" close reason before! – Draconis Mar 2 '20 at 17:35
  • It was not a formal mathematical question, but rather a general inquiry about the technique, pioneered by Chomsky, being used beyond linguistics. – Vadim Mar 2 '20 at 17:55
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    @Atamiri: That is a bit unnecessary. I'm no mathematician, but I do have some background in mathematics. That doesn't have anything to do with my votes to close those questions, which are based only on the fact that they do not deal with natural language. – WavesWashSands Mar 2 '20 at 18:02
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    @Vadim: For us plebs, we're only allowed to vote to migrate to meta (there may have been an option to migrate to ELL / ELU before, or maybe not - it might be a false memory of mine). I think lemontree used some of her mod powers (that most of us don't have) when she moved one of the formal semantics person's questions to Philosophy. – WavesWashSands Mar 2 '20 at 18:04
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    @Vadim I think it’s quite logical that questions beyond the scope of linguistics get closed/moved. Your question about CFG was actually really interesting and you provided one nice example yourself (from biology), but it really belonged to another forum (probably CS or AI). – Atamiri Mar 2 '20 at 18:08
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    @WavesWashSands The problem is there’s no forum on this site to ask questions about computational/mathematical linguistics. Many relevant questions get closed or receive poor/irrelevant answers. – Atamiri Mar 2 '20 at 18:12
  • @Atamiri: I agree that comp questions don't get as many good answers, though they might still get better answers on Cross Validated, AI or Data Science. I don't recall many good questions being simply closed though; sometimes people will be close vote-happy, but it usually doesn't get to the required five for actual closing. (Of course our experiences may well be different, since there are times when I'm active on the site and you aren't, and likely vice versa as well.) – WavesWashSands Mar 2 '20 at 18:21
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    @WavesWashSands There wasn't an option to migrate to ELU before, as far as I know—beta sites only get migration paths to their respective metas. We've graduated now, but still don't get the full suite of migration options yet. See linguistics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/1857/10559 – Draconis Mar 2 '20 at 18:28
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    @Vadim It's not about a lack of intellectual curiosity, it's about this site having a specific scope, by design. That's just how StackExchange works. – Draconis Mar 2 '20 at 18:29
  • The narrowness of moderators in preventing people from asking about what interests them is pretty hard to take. I don't see why anyone should denied the opportunity to ask. Whose interest does that serve? Linguists'? I don't think so. I have never downvoted a question, and I never will. – Greg Lee Mar 2 '20 at 18:30
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    @Draconis many interesting questions are interdisciplinary ones. – Vadim Mar 2 '20 at 18:33
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    @Vadim: The thing is, unfortunately, that your question didn't really have much to do with linguistics itself. Context-free grammars are not part of linguistics per se; they are only relevant insofar as they are applied to natural language. It's a bit like the relationship between calculus and physics; calculus was developed with physical motivations in mind, but I don't think the physics SE would accept a question about non-physical applications of calc. – WavesWashSands Mar 2 '20 at 18:41
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    @Vadim: If I may ask, what would be your basis for thinking that this forum is more parochial than CV? I've looked up your questions on CV, and they're all are pretty clearly on-topic. – WavesWashSands Mar 2 '20 at 22:34
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    @Atamiri: I'm all for interdisciplinarity, coming from an interdisciplinary background myself. But I don't think that should come at the cost of our focus on the empirical study of natural languages. There are many interesting for interdisciplinary collaboration that can be and are explored, without abandoning natural language as the main focus or at least one of the main foci. But I don't see how accepting questions that are explicitly not about natural language will be beneficial to our community. – WavesWashSands Mar 2 '20 at 22:47
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    @Vadim: Those are not really comparable though. There are a lot more people studying and applying stats and ML than linguistics, so of course CV is going to have way more activity. I believe CV closes low-effort 'do my homework' questions as well, just as we do, although questions that show effort, have a specific question and aren't duplicates remain up, which is the same policy as for here. OTOH, R programming questions that belong on SO aren't allowed on CV, even if they're relevant to a computational statistics audience and the question would likely be answerable by CV users. – WavesWashSands Mar 3 '20 at 9:21

What a ridiculous thing to ask. If Noam Chomsky came here and asked a clear and focused question about linguistics, of course he'd get answers.

But if he asked a question about politics or computer science, then the questions would be closed, as it would be if anyone else asked it.

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    I guess that in the 50s there were plenty of people who told Chomsky that math and logic had nothing to do with linguistics. In fact, the history of science has quite a few examples when breakthrough papers were not published in leading journals, because they were off-subject. – Vadim Mar 2 '20 at 21:57
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    That may be true, but your situation is not remotely like his. – curiousdannii Mar 2 '20 at 21:58
  • You never know who you may run into in SE, don't you? :D – Vadim Mar 2 '20 at 22:18
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    I don't know where this is coming from, but in fact the 1950s was the golden era of people (including Chomsky and his mentor Harris) saying that math and logic had everything to do with syntax and semantics. And Chomsky's Syntactic Structures (1957) was a runaway best-seller. I don't think he was oppressed much at the time. – jlawler Mar 2 '20 at 23:31

Chomsky would not ask any questions here, so the question has an invalid presupposition. Indeed, I cannot discern what the "real" underlying question is. I suppose it might be "if we had users who were experts in their field, would they ask technical questions in their field here?". Or, "to what extent is SE a useful form for top-tier experts in an area to gain further knowledge of their field?" is a possible question – though it's going to be answered purely with personal opinion.

Another question you might ask is "what should the intended audience of SE be?". A third question is "why should the dissemination of knowledge via SE be limited to well-defined questions that have definite answers; why do we not have a provision for open-ended serial discussions?". Or, "how is SE different from Redit?". Finally, you could ask "what function does closing, deleting, editing and voting serve: should these functions be disabled (what would be the consequence of doing so, what are the arguments for and against doing so)?".

A further question, directed to a specific point you raise, is "Should SE eliminate the diamond hammer?". I am not totally unsympathetic to that proposition, but that would be a pretty brutally Darwinian burden on smaller SEs. "Best practice" is for moderators to wait on VTC until there are already 4 votes to close.

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    I was talking about Chomsky in 50s. The premise was that some of the SE forums discourage interdisciplinary questions. E.g., formal grammars were extensively developed within linguistics - even the computer science books obediently cite Chomsky and his hierarchy. So a curious linguist may well wonder about other uses of his/her favorite methods (curious about formalism, historical aspects or simply the impact of his field). And it is natural to address this questions to other linguists who have probably posed it themselves. Yet, such question would be judged off-topic. – Vadim Mar 2 '20 at 20:31
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    Just because Chomsky wrote something doesn't mean it's related to linguistics. Chomsky has written about many non-linguistic topics, including computer science, philosophy, politics, etc. In fact, arguably almost none of his writings in the past thirty years are relevant to linguistics. It's totally possible (and common) for people to write outside the fields they primarily affiliate with; Gell-Mann, for example, has written a linguistics paper that you probably would not classify as physics. – WavesWashSands Mar 2 '20 at 22:00
  • It is not uncommon for physics journals to publish non-physics papers. Los Alamos arXiv began as a physics collection and branched much later, to accommodate growing amount of non-physics material. – Vadim Mar 2 '20 at 22:21
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    Sure, but we're talking about SE sites, not journals. I've seen linguistics papers in statistics journals like JRSS(C) as well, though they would of course have to be heavy in statistical content, and not just showing ANOVAs. – WavesWashSands Mar 2 '20 at 22:22

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