My observation is that we get a number of sub-optimal questions, and I don't think having poor questions at all enhances the value of this site. However, the grounds for closing questions is very narrowly circumscribed. I don't understand the working os these SE sites, so it may be that once you've initially determined what is on topic vs. off, that dictates the possible grounds for closure. Suppose, though, that, "the users" identify a thing to be avoided -- can the grounds for closure be changed / expanded? If it can be changed, how is it changed? Apart from the question of whether a change is at all possible, is there a reason to avoid changing the off-topic list except in the most extreme of circumstances? (Obviously, willy-nilly weekly changes would not be a good thing).


No. We can't add more off-topic categories as long as Linguistics is still in beta. The config page says "Custom Off-Topic Close Reasons 3 / 3 active". When we add an additional reason, it says "Before this reason can be approved, one of the currently active reasons must be deactivated."

Right now, the following three reasons are active:

  • 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
  • Questions seeking help with translation and localization are off-topic here unless specifically concerning the linguistic reasons for different translations.
  • Questions requesting to make syntax trees are not within the scope defined in the help center. For any doubt, please ask on Meta.

But we can modify these close reasons. If you would like to suggest modifications to make them more descriptive and yet, broader, you are welcome to do so.

  • We can't make more custom close reasons, but we could have a more specific list on the on-topic page which is what I thought user6726 was asking about. For example, I think the single word item is very unclear. – curiousdannii Aug 11 '15 at 6:27
  • I actually had in mind something more than clarification, but I didn't know about the 3-item quota. However, I separately agree that the existing list is unclear. – user6726 Aug 13 '15 at 20:42
  • The "syntax trees" reason should be made broader to include other sorts of homework questions as well as requests to help with a topic for project paper. Smth like "Questions requesting to make syntax trees, solve linguistic dataset problems or formulate (suggest, approve, etc.) project paper topics are not within the scope defined in the help center. For any doubt, please ask on Meta." – Ivan Kapitonov Oct 4 '15 at 0:43

I admit the fact that all three Custom Off-topic Reasons are taken, and all three make perfect sense (because people keep asking questions falling under these Reasons). But I also believe that this site lacks the "default" one:

This question does not appear to be about Linguistics, a scientific study of natural languages, its phenomena, currents, theories, or its history, within the scope defined in the help center.

Whenever SE lets us have additional Reasons, please consider this one as well.

  • I'd propose sacrificing "no syntax trees" for this one. While we do get some questions asking for syntax trees, they can be covered pretty easily by a custom reason; I don't think they're prevalent enough to be worth an entire one of our three reasons. – Draconis Sep 30 '20 at 21:25

I am new to StackExchange, but my experience here on Linguistics StackExchange so far is that the off-topic list is actually too broad. My opinion is that if someone has a linguistics or a language question that cannot be better answered by another StackExchange community, then it should be allowed on Linguistics StackExchange. In particular, language-specific questions regarding historical, hypothetical, and artificial languages may be best served by creating sub-exchanges within Linguistics StackExchange, or by creating an altogether new Language StackExchange having a sub-exchange for each language (including artificial languages and protolanguages).

  • What do you mean by "narrow"? A literal reading is that you mean that too few things are deemed off-topic, and the definition of off-topic should be expended. That doesn't seem to mesh with the rest of your comments. – user6726 May 11 '16 at 4:38
  • Very sorry! Was an antonymic typo. Thank you for pointing that out. Error corrected above. – NLS May 11 '16 at 5:31
  • So in your opinion, would questions like "What's the Korean word for 'chicken'?", or "How do you say 'I want the spaghetti with pork' in Norwegian?" be suitable? How about literary figures of speech? – user6726 May 11 '16 at 22:49
  • There are thousands of languages of course. While there already is a StackExchange community for general language-learning (which the questions above would be suitable for), I think that the Linguistics StackExchange should still be able to accept language-specific questions (including translation requests) that are not better situated in the other StackExchange communities, e.g. historical and/or hypothetical translations for etymology and conlanging, comparative grammar, etc. – NLS May 13 '16 at 2:30
  • That's why I used Korean and Norwegian. I take it that your answer is "yes". – user6726 May 13 '16 at 2:43
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    I strongly disagree–language specific questions and translation requests should stay off-topic no matter whether there is a language specific stackexchange or not. They do not shape a site interesting for professional linguists. – jk - Reinstate Monica May 19 '16 at 15:20

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