(The moderator team has drafted this question and two answers together, with help from SE staff.)

There was a meta discussion about allowing Greek on the site some time ago, but the conclusion was somewhat unclear. It was a fruitful first discussion, but it would be good to have an actual policy towards Greek.

We have had two purely Greek questions so far:

What should be our policy towards Greek questions? If you answer, please give a "full policy". If you have partial ideas, leave them as comments instead, either under this question or under the answers.

I think all agree that questions related to Greek are on-topic as long as they have a connection to Latin, too. But that would be a very incomplete policy, since it does not say what to do with Greek questions without Latin connection.

If you suggest allowing Greek questions, please give a one-line description of what is allowed to be included in our on-topic help page and our tour.

One option is to wait for more Greek questions to come in and judge each one separately. After some amount of judging we will have a policy which we can write down. Some people will act according to what they perceive to be the present policy (which is good!), which makes it difficult for the policy to change due to precedent. Therefore it is better to form an opinion with a public discussion at a general level. Some details can and will have to be left open, but not all.

We have drafted two possible policies, but you can also suggest new ones. Notice that the policy need not be final; we can change our mind if things turn out differently than anticipated.

The name of the site is not going to change from "Latin Language Stack Exchange". If Greek is allowed, it will have to be a side topic of some kind.

Update, November 6, 2016. The current scores strongly favor accepting Greek, so I have accepted the top answer. The policy suggested there is our preliminary policy, but we can change our mind later. The two pro-Greek answers are almost tied. As always, the most important method of steering our scope is voting at the main site. I hope Greek questions will not disturb those who are against them.

Like all policies, this one is not carved in stone. Discussion is welcome, either here, in a new meta question or in chat.

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    Would a "classics" name work better? A warning about restriction to Classical Greek and Latin should fend off irrelevant questions. – jarnosz Oct 21 '16 at 20:09
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    @erreka, my understanding is that a change of name would be technically impossible. Currently we include Latin of all times and places, and I believe many (myself included) would oppose to restricting ourselves to classical Latin, whether or not Greek is included. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 21 '16 at 20:15
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    Then i believe discarding all pure Greek questions should be disallowed. Even questions about Greek <-> Latin translation/interpretation should be considered off-topic, though, since the site is in English (why allowing questions of Latin <-> Spanish translation, for instance?). – jarnosz Oct 21 '16 at 20:20
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    @erreka, the focus of the site is on Latin, not Latin–English relations and translations. English is our main working language, yes, but questions may connect Latin to any other language. It would be less interesting to study Latin in isolation. And sometimes it is difficult or impossible to take the translations through English, so I wouldn't disallow Spanish–Latin translations. (Personally I wouldn't mind if the UI was in Latin, but I doubt that will be possible any time soon.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 21 '16 at 20:37
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    No: I meant to say that, if the working language is English, and the object language is Latin, questions concerning translation/interpretation to other languages (Greek included) may be deemed as off-topic. That was my reading of the proposal to mark pure Greek questions off-topic. – jarnosz Oct 21 '16 at 20:43
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    @erreka, the point of that proposal is that all questions should have a link to Latin. If a question concerns only Greek (and not Latin at all), it would be off-topic. Questions about connections between Greek and Latin would still be on-topic. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 21 '16 at 21:03
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    If so many people here do like and know Greek then it really shouldn't be too hard to get the Greek proposal up and running! – curiousdannii Oct 24 '16 at 0:47
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Out of curiosity: are we treating the top answer as the standing policy or waiting for some kind of official decision? – brianpck Oct 28 '16 at 14:01
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    @brianpck, order alone is not enough. With sufficient score difference we can be more confident that we have reached a consensus. A single user can change the score difference by 2, so the winner is not clear yet. I think it is clear enough now that we want to allow Greek but not New Testament Greek. The exact policy (time limit for Greek) is under debate. The difference between the two leading policies is quite small, though. If the situation is anywhere near the current one, I might accept the top answer in a week or so. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 28 '16 at 18:39
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    Btw since we seem to be allowing Greek questions (at least at the moment), I would suggest that every such question should have the word "Greek" in the subject line for clarity, since the default assumption is that questions are about Latin. – TKR Nov 5 '16 at 16:19
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    @TKR, good point! I'll do something about it. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 5 '16 at 17:08
  • I'm a very basic Latin learner, but with an interest in its links with Greek - that's the next challenge ;) Could I suggest/request that for non-Greek speakers like myself, Greek examples, if allowed, are transliterated? I can usually work it out, but it takes a while for a tiro. – TheHonRose Nov 12 '16 at 14:36
  • @TheHonRose, interesting suggestion. I guess people who know Greek are unwilling to go the extra mile and manually transliterate everything. I have nothing against users adding transliterations to other peoples posts, but I don't know what others think. I wonder if there is a good online tool that would make transliteration easy. If you want, you can make a meta question about that issue. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 12 '16 at 20:02
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    "Stronlgy favours" seems to be an exaggeration: What are a net result of 6 upvotes compared to 60 followers and 200 committers in the Area51 process? BTW, The current Greek proposal on Area51 area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/101509/greek-language now really gains traction towards the commitment phase and should not be demaged by extending this site. – jk - Reinstate Monica Jan 17 '17 at 13:40
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    @jknappen We have no choice but to judge by the votes given on meta. The overall vote numbers at our meta are small, but for practical reasons only those users have a say on these matters who vote, comment and answer at meta. The conclusion was not entirely based on the winning score. For example, banning all Greek got a relatively bad score (7-5=+2) and the top answer allowing Greek got only one downvote. // If there is anything our site could do to help the current or some future Greek proposal, suggestions are welcome. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jan 18 '17 at 1:55

This answer is based on my other answer proposing we allow Greek questions up to the end of classical antiquity, but is for option #2 of that answer, i.e. excluding New Testament Greek. It proposes that:

We allow all Greek questions up to the end of classical antiquity, but exclude New Testament Greek.

Please upvote if you're in favor of that specific option. If you prefer option #1 (include New Testament Greek), please upvote my answer above proposing that option.

  • I can't upvote my own answer, but if we're counting votes, this is the proposal I would personally choose. – TKR Oct 23 '16 at 21:37
  • I voted for you. I cannot vote for my own proposals (which were written together with the other moderators) so I will refrain from voting in this meta question, but I can give you the vote you wanted to give yourself. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 23 '16 at 21:43
  • Thanks, @Joonas :) Your vote should count too, though, so you should specify somewhere what your own preferred proposal is. – TKR Oct 23 '16 at 21:48
  • From the current options I would vote up two (and down none): This one and the one excluding all Greek. I want to keep things simple, so my strongest preference is for no Greek at all, despite my being interested in Greek. My opinion has not reached an equilibrium, so I might disagree on the preferred order of the two tomorrow... – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 23 '16 at 21:57
  • By all means re-direct an enquirer to a better site for koine or patristic or modern Greek. Recently however an Gk question was dismissed with no answer. Instead 300 words were written to justify this refusal on the grounds of site purity. That seems uncivilised compared with yesterday's 311 word answer on eta and ei diphthong. Upvoting this answer. – Hugh Oct 23 '16 at 23:41
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    Would this answer include Greek patristic writings, e.g. the Cappadocian Fathers and Alexandrian school? – brianpck Oct 26 '16 at 15:18
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    @brianpck, that could be something to discuss. Personally I think it might be simplest to simply say "excluding the New Testament" and leave it at that; after all, thinking about the kinds of questions we're realistically likely to get, I doubt the issue is likely to come up in practice. – TKR Oct 26 '16 at 15:40

I'd like to propose a modification of Joonas's answer limiting Greek to the pre-Koine period, namely: we allow Greek questions but draw the temporal line at a later date, namely the end of classical antiquity as commonly understood. To put an inevitably somewhat arbitrary precise date on it, the boundary line would be the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476. Here is my reasoning:

First, as Joonas points out in his answer, the Greek- and Latin-speaking communities of antiquity were closely culturally intertwined, in fact living in the same polity for several centuries. But this is all the more true after 300BC: the period of greatest interaction between Greeks and Romans was under the Roman Empire. If cultural affinity is our main reason for including Greek, it doesn't make sense to exclude the very period in which that affinity was closest.

Second, most Greek literature of the Roman period (with an important exception discussed below) is, in large part, deliberately very close in language to Classical Attic. Many of the authors of the period wrote in a consciously Atticizing style, avoiding any usages that were not found in canonical Attic authors. Linguistically, there isn't a significant amount of difference between a second-century CE writer like Lucian and a fourth-century BC writer like Plato.

An objection to this line of reasoning is that many later Greek works, too, are written in an Atticizing style, well into the late Byzantine period -- why not include those? This is true, but I think it's unlikely to come up in practice. Hardly anyone reads Anna Comnena and the chances of our getting such questions are slim. In fact, even my proposed expansion of Joonas's time period will probably not make much practical difference -- we're likely to get at least ten questions about Homer or Plato for every one about Lucian or Plutarch.

The exception, however, is Christian writers and especially the New Testament. These are indeed quite non-classical in their language, and are understandably of interest to lots of people on SE, so the question is what to do with them. I see two options:

  1. Allow questions about Christian Greek texts. This would be the simplest option, but we might get quite a lot of such questions -- it's hard to know in advance how many. Whether this would be a problem or not depends on your point of view, of course.
  2. Specifically disallow New Testament questions. As Joonas mentions, there is already a Biblical Hermeneutics SE site and a Christianity SE site, and we could decide that such questions belong there rather than here. The scope of the site would then be "Greek up to the end of antiquity but not the New Testament", which I think meets Joonas's "can be stated on one line and understood correctly by newcomers" test.

I'm going to split this answer into two separate answers so that people who are in favor of one of the two options can specifically vote on that. So: this answer is for option #1. It proposes that:

We allow all Greek questions up to the end of classical antiquity, including New Testament Greek.

Please upvote if you're in favor of that specific option. If you prefer option #2, please upvote my other answer proposing that option.

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    I'm voting for this because it includes New Testament Greek. Did I understand that right? – cmw Nov 21 '16 at 19:57
  • @C.M.Weimer, yes, that's right. – TKR Nov 22 '16 at 1:09
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    I'm voting for this one as well because it includes NT Greek. – ktm5124 Apr 19 '17 at 3:51
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    It has become clearer to me that most NT Greek questions that could be asked here wouldn't actually be on topic on Christianity.SE or BH.SE, so this is now my preferred option. – Nathaniel is protesting Aug 24 '17 at 16:38
  • @Nathaniel Precisely ! Those sites have their very own, very specific reasons for existing and subsequent restrictions. They are not language sites. – Johan88 Nov 11 '17 at 14:43

This site is for Latin, and all questions should be related to Latin. Therefore questions about Greek alone are off-topic.

Sufficient amount of connection to Latin is debatable. Instead of giving a detailed set of rules, we should simply require all questions to have a genuine connection to Latin. What it means will have to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

There is one exception, though: Small Italic languages related to Latin: Oscan, Umbrian, and Faliscan. (And maybe some others?) These languages are very small, and they are very rarely (if ever) studied without a strong connection to Latin. They are also closely related to Latin. Greek, on the other hand, can be studied separately, it is far less related, and it is a large language.

If we were to accept Greek, we would have to limit it anyway. Modern Greek could totally overwhelm us, so it has to be restricted. But can we really, really draw the line? Can any line be sufficiently clear and enforceable? What about questions mainly about modern Greek but connected to Ancient Greek? And if we were to accept Greek as content, it would make a confusing policy to disallow asking questions in Greek.

Allowing Greek would open a can of worms. We want to keep things simple.

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    Reluctantly, I tend to side with this policy. The line between pre-Koine and later Greek is much more tenuous than the line between Greek and Latin: I think it's clear to everyone that Greek is off-topic, it's just that... "Most of us like it and study it!" What about Aramaic and Syriac, or Sanskrit? As it is, we're just relying on an intersection of groups, but it is technically only a coincidence that a true Greek scholar (who should be providing answers) happens to be a member of a Latin community. – brianpck Oct 12 '16 at 16:35
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    That last point I think is worth emphasizing: who will guarantee the quality of answers to Greek questions? In the two referenced questions, the first was very low quality and the second is good, but only talks about Greek specifically in the last paragraph, without a technical explanation. – brianpck Oct 12 '16 at 16:39
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    @brianpck, I kind of feel that this is the policy we should take, while the other is the one we want to take. We want to find Greek a home, but that should not require sacrificing a well-defined Latin site. Quality control requires that there is a sufficient subcommunity around Greek, and we might have that. We spent a good while looking for a good definition of "Ancient Greek" that could define the scope, and pre-Koine was the best we had. My biggest (but not only) problem with it is that it's complicated. But part of me still wants to allow Greek... – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 12 '16 at 17:10
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    @brianpck, I don't really see how guaranteeing the quality of answers is a problem specific to Greek. People would vote on those answers like any others; there might be a smaller number of us who can evaluate those answers, but the relative number of votes for each answer should still point to the better ones, and more importantly, if we do allow Greek, that number is likely to grow. – TKR Oct 23 '16 at 21:53
  • On stack exchange meta, I once got the answer Life is not easy on the long tail of SO (see meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/319437/…). Long tails of questions with low quality and lacking answers are a bad thing. – jk - Reinstate Monica Oct 24 '16 at 17:21
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    @jknappen, indeed. Long tails are unlikely to be a problem for us, though, since we can give attention to all incoming questions. By "we" I mean both the site as a whole and the moderators. We might have a "long tail problem" if we include a topic which our moderators cannot moderate. As far as I know, ancient Greek will not be problematic in this respect. And there seem to be people with skill and will to answer Greek questions. (I hope I interpret your comment correctly.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 24 '16 at 17:31

Ancient Greek is related to Latin, both culturally and linguistically. Moreover, the communities studying the two languages today are closely related. The two languages interacted significantly in ancient times and continue to do so now. Therefore we would benefit from having them on the same site.

Ancient Greek has so far proven to be too small to support its own SE site: earlier proposals have failed to reach the threshold. There is a Greek proposal at Area 51, but it includes Greek of all eras and it is not clear if it will be successful. And even if it is, older Greek might not get a prominent position.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of including Greek here is deciding what kind of Greek is allowed. We suggest that we limit ourselves to pre-Koine Greek only. That is, Greek before roughly 300 BC is fine, but later forms are not. This limit should be easy enough to recognize and enforce.

The description of the tag should be changed accordingly. The help pages should include this line:

Questions about Ancient Greek are also allowed, but only older than Koine Greek (before about 300 BC).

Why that particular line? A few reasons:

  • As described above, Ancient Greek and Latin are culturally and linguistically related.
  • Koine Greek represents a step in the evolution of Greek in which the link between Greek and Latin is significantly diminished.
  • Many Koine Greek questions are associated with the Bible or Christianity, so many are already on topic on the Christianity and Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange sites.
  • Including Koine and especially Modern Greek might lead to a significant influx of questions completely unrelated to Latin, diluting our focus and increasing confusion of new users.

It's important to note that this could be considered something of a "trial run." If in the future we find that allowing questions on Ancient Greek are causing problems on the site, we can modify our practice and stop allowing them (while preserving the existing Ancient Greek questions).

In the meantime, however, we here suggest treating Greek as a "side language," like Oscan or Umbrian. Questions should still be asked and answered in English or Latin. We expect that questions related to Ancient Greek will be relatively few compared to those about Latin, and those who have no interest in Ancient Greek would be able to ignore in order to not be bothered by such questions, if desired. Thus those who prefer "Latin only" thus should not be significantly affected by this change.

A minority (or even more?) will enjoy Greek questions greatly, and the majority will not be disturbed.

  • It is already the third Greek proposal on Area 51, and the both preceeding proposals failed for lack of activity: There were more than enough followers, but the remained passive. Barely 40 questions were asked in the definition phase and many of them didn't get an upvote. Seeing this lack of activity I am afraid that there is no self-maintaining Greek community on stackexchange yet. With this fact in mind, we should not admit Greek questions here, it will dilute a well-running site. – jk - Reinstate Monica Oct 13 '16 at 13:42
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    @jknappen, remember that if you are strongly opposed to one of the options, you can vote down. At meta there is no reputation cost. Several users have already done so. // I agree that a Greek-only site does not look viable, especially if modern Greek is excluded. I don't think we should accept Greek because there is no other place for it in SE; we should do it only if we think it contributes positively to this site. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 13 '16 at 14:57
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    The conections between Latin and Greek are a sound argument, but they also favor that the questions themselves link Greek issues to Latin. Besides, as put in the comments to the other proporsal, why Greek and not others? Why draw a line at a different point in time that the one for Latin? Another problem, not less important, is the name: it should reflect the site's nature for a number of good reasons (e.g., attracting users, make it as self-explanatory as possible, etc.) – Rafael Oct 14 '16 at 12:29
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    I like this proposal, but (at the risk of introducing another point of contention) I'd draw the line later than 300BC, to include all Greek written in classical antiquity as commonly understood (up to the fall of the Western Roman Empire). The reason is (a) most literature of that period was still written in a Greek that is very close to Classical Attic, and (b) if a main argument for including Greek is its cultural affinity with the Latin-speaking world, that affinity continued through this period and was in fact much greater then than pre-300BC. Can post this as a separate answer if helpful. – TKR Oct 23 '16 at 20:53
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    @TKR, I would be happy if you could add that as a separate answer. If you do, try to address these questions in addition to the two points you listed: (1) What is the exact limit you propose? (2) Is this limit simple enough to be stated on one line and to be understood correctly by newcomers? (3) Is the limit enforceable? That is, can we really tell which Greek questions are allowed and which ones not? (4) Are special considerations needed regarding Christian Greek? // The reason we ended up with this proposal is that it seemed to be the simplest way to include Greek. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 23 '16 at 21:11

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