4

One of the main reasons for question-closure (someone else can figure out the stats) is "questions about drawing trees". Two rationales have been given for this rule: (1) we don't do people's homework and (2) there are too many theories of syntax to be able to answer that question. I agree with those premises. However, I disagree with how the rule is stated, and have more than once advocated restating the rule. This question approaches the problem that I see. We have a question that would in principle be a good and answerable question, except that we have no idea what framework is assumes. The vast majority of tree questions are bad for both reasons (theory over-breadth and homework-solving). This one only suffers from the breadth problem, which I think is solvable.

In light of the fact that the existing "no tree" rule is dysfunction in not communicating the underlying reason, and the rule(s) could be easily repaired by articulating a "no homework" rule (thereby also properly including other kinds of homework questions like phonology and morphology problems not covered by the tree rule), and connecting the lack-of-framework problem to the existing breadth / focus rule, is there a good reason to maintain the current rule?

An example of a tree question which does specify framework is this one. In this case, and given that the OP needs to do "fact checking", I think this is a straightforward case of "please do my homework". This is an example of how a "no homework" rule would be independently necessary (and constitutes a lacuna).

| |
  • I agree with all of your points. – lemontree Mar 4 at 19:17
  • Just to make sure I understand—you're proposing removing the "we don't make syntax trees" close reason, replacing it with a "we don't do homework" close reason, and using the "too broad" close reason for questions like the linked one (potentially answerable except we don't know what framework they're using)? – Draconis Mar 4 at 21:44
  • 1
    Yes, exactly that. – user6726 Mar 4 at 23:07
  • Are you proposing we change just the close reasons or are you proposing modifications to linguistics.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic too? – prash Mar 5 at 2:06
  • 1
    There may be an additional issue: Stack Exchange questions are supposed to help people other than the OP as well. If a tree question is so specific that nobody else is likely to gain from reading the question, it may not be suitable for SE. This isn't explicitly stated in the close reason, but I think it's at least an additional reason for not allowing syntax tree questions. – WavesWashSands Mar 6 at 5:36
  • 1
    I think that defect would motivate closing most questions that we get. E.g. "why is the etymology of 'blah' 'bleep'?", "What does this author mean". Most questions are written from the OPs perspective; a skillful answer overcomes that and implicitly identifies what the essential question is. For example, "Merge takes exactly two arguments". – user6726 Mar 6 at 16:33
  • You'd better add "including requests about tree structures" to the "We don't do homework" message. It's important, I think, to continue to point that out. – jlawler Mar 26 at 22:33
  • One of the main reasons for question-closure (someone else can figure out the stats) is "questions about drawing trees". I did the stats -- and curiously, no, it's not. See linguistics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1931/13238 (but mind also the disclaimer). – lemontree Mar 30 at 23:21
2

Reason 2 is the main reason. While there are an astounding number of people who apparently have never had the idea of asking for help from the teacher they are paying to let them ask for help from (or else, what, they're too scared to?), if a "homework" question is well phrased and adequately scoped we should allow the question to be asked. It just so happens that most syntax tree homework questions are not.

I don't think we should retire the close reason, though I think it could do with a better explanation of the problem with syntax trees. How about something like the following?

Because there are so many different approaches to syntax, questions on syntax or syntax trees must specify the theory of syntax under consideration, show an attempt at analysis using that theory, and explain what in particular you are having problems analysing with that theory.

Btw, I don't think the question you linked to is a good fit for this site. Even if the asker had explained what theory of syntax they're using, they wouldn't be able to explain what in particular they are having trouble with. They should talk to their professor, not us.

| |
  • 3
    I would phrase it differently: Because there are so many different approaches to syntax and its graphic representation, questions about syntax trees have no answers acceptable to everyone. In addition, most questions about such trees are homework, specific to one class, and homework questions are off-topic here -- ask your teacher, not strangers. – jlawler Mar 8 at 23:10
0

I have updated https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic based on @curiousdannii's/@jlawler's suggested wording. Thanks, @curiousdannii's/@jlawler!

The changed wording:

  • "Please make me a syntax tree" — Because there are so many different approaches to syntax and its graphic representation, questions about syntax trees have no answers acceptable to everyone. In addition, most questions about such trees are homework, specific to one class, and homework questions are off-topic here. Your teacher would be the best person to ask. You can ask for help here if you show an attempt at analysis using the syntactic theory you're interested in, and explain what in particular you are having problems analyzing with that theory.
  • | |
    • This still makes it look like there are no acceptable syntax tree questions. Is that what we want? – curiousdannii Mar 20 at 3:45
    • 1
      @curiousdannii I think it would be a good idea to emphasize that we'll not do their homework. I could append You can ask for help here if you show an attempt at analysis using that theory, and explain what in particular you are having problems analysing with that theory. – prash Mar 20 at 14:39
    • I'm still seeing the original wording, is that because it still needs to be confirmed by another mod? – curiousdannii Mar 30 at 1:17
    • @curiousdannii I am not aware of any such approvals. I updated it on Mar 23. I don't know what's going on. – prash Mar 30 at 4:22
    • A second mod has to go to the custom close reasons page and approve it. – curiousdannii Mar 30 at 4:33
    • 1
      @curiousdannii I did not change the custom close reasons. The changes are only at linguistics.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic – prash Mar 30 at 7:13
    • Oohhh. I thought you were also going to change the close reason. – curiousdannii Mar 30 at 7:22
    • @curiousdannii When we close the question using the "syntax tree" close reason, we give them the aforementioned link to the document that explains what kinds of questions are on-topic. I'll get around to changing the text in the close reason too once the discussion here stabilizes around a solution. It's inconvenient to fiddle around with the close-reasons items and text. – prash Mar 30 at 20:27
    • The rules concerning syntax trees are vague. Either giving an answer containing a tree is against the rules or it isn't. – BillJ Apr 25 at 17:53
    • @BillJ Regarding your first point: you are welcome to propose a phrasing that makes it clearer. And your second point: No, the vast majority of people here are against that. – prash Apr 26 at 15:47

    You must log in to answer this question.

    Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .