Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2008 September 20

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September 20[edit]

synthesis of the state of the art[edit]

what is the definition of the synthesis of the state of the art —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:13, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Without context, it's meaningless, related to a given field of knowledge, and to rephrase, it roughly means an overview of advanced knowledge of that field (not very accurate, but should give you the idea). Equendil Talk 12:50, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Picking a minor nit here - despite the article State of the art, what I learned years ago, at least in conjunction with the FCC and FAA, "State of the art" means essentially "typical", rather than cutting edge. So a requirement that a transmitter be state-of-the-art means that it be in good operating condition, without having obsolete components, but with no requirement that it be the best possible construction. In other words, the common meaning is wrong (so I learned), much like "Quantum Leap" is commonly thought to mean a giant movement, but is actually the smallest possible movement. Or something like that. Of course, meaning changee over the years, so this minor diatribe might be sorely out of date Bunthorne (talk) 02:41, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

The State of the Union Address[edit]

Does it have a nonliteral equivalent in other languages? Any comment apprecited. --Omidinist (talk) 07:25, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Do you mean when referring to the particular American event, or to equivalent or similar things in other countries and political systems? In Swedish, the American event is commonly referred to in news and media as the yearly tal till nationen i.e. address/speech to the nation, which is obviously not a literal translation of its English name./Coffeeshivers (talk) 12:02, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, Coffeeshivers. You're on right track. More comments, please. In other languages. --Omidinist (talk) 14:24, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

It is comparable to the Queen's Speech at the opening of the Westminster parliament; what other states have such a ceremony? —Tamfang (talk) 06:44, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

Have you tried looking at the interwiki links on the left hand side of the State of the Union Address article? I see there's no link to a Polish article, but I think the Polish equvalent would be orędzie do narodu (address to the nation). — Kpalion(talk) 13:44, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for useful suggestions. --Omidinist (talk) 16:42, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

Grammar question regarding "help"[edit]

Hi, this is something pretty simple I guess, but it's for something important so I have to get it exactly right. In a sentence like "Help us to improve Wikipedia", should the "to" be included or not? That is, should it be "Help us to improve Wikipedia" or "Help us improve Wikipedia"? Thanks in advance. Chamal Talk ± 09:06, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Either is fine. I'd go without myself. This may be subject to regional variation. Algebraist 09:11, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for the answer and for the quick response. I have seen both variations so I wondered which was correct :) Chamal Talk ± 09:19, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
Both are correct. Perhaps in literature you would write, 'help us to improve Wikipedia' since the infinitive should mostly follow a phrase in the imperative mood (there are exceptions but these exceptions are mostly trivial).

For instance, in the same context, 'please let me to go' is grammatically incorrect and 'please let me go' is more appropriate. On the other hand, saying 'ask your dog to go outside' is more appropriate than 'ask your dog go outside'! This is because of the possesive 'your'. In general, the imperative mood followed by a possesive pronoun must always be followed by the infinitive.

Hope this helps (sorry for the rather wordy response).

Topology Expert (talk) 11:56, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Say what?? The presence or absence of to in these sentences has nothing to do with the imperative mood and nothing to do with the possessive pronoun. It's entirely about the main verb of the sentence: "help", "let", and "ask". "Let" is accompanied by a bare infinitive (without "to") and "ask" is accompanied by an infinitive with "to", even when they're not in the imperative and even when there's no possessive pronoun anywhere in sight ("I will let him accompany me", "I will ask him to accompany me"). As for "help", I would always use it with a bare infinitive ("I will help him improve himself"); using the "to" sounds wrong to me, but it may sound acceptable to others. —Angr 13:30, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
When I am speaking to non-native English speakers (e.g. when teaching), I would usually use the 'to' (in addition to speaking more clearly and slowly) in order that the sentence becomes more readily understandable, as the object pronouns can often be so short they are barely audible to untrained ears and can appear as part of the following verb, leading the to be searching in vain in the dictionary for words like 'simprove' or 'maccompany'. When I speak to native English speakers, however, I may use it nor not, depending simply on euphony.--ChokinBako (talk) 19:32, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

Video Podcasts in ASL (American Sign Language)[edit]

I'm trying to teach myself American Sign Language and have a question:

Does anyone know of some video podcasts in ASL? I've been able to find only a handful, and all of them religious, such as If there are more ASL video podcasts that involve more natural speaking, I'd be very appreciative. Google searches so far have turned up very little.


--Grey1618 (talk) 18:11, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

First, you might want to see the list of external links at American Sign Language.
Then, you might want to see the following.
-- Wavelength (talk) 23:01, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

about the notice[edit]

what is the write format of a notice on school level —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ravi-teach (talkcontribs) 18:56, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Can you give us some more information? It's hard to know whether you mean "the right format", meaning "the correct format"; or whether you mean the best way of formatting a written notice. Not sure what "on school level" means, either. -- JackofOz (talk) 20:22, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
WOw, I can see 3 possible meanings for "on aschool level" in an instant:
1. On the level one would write it for a school project, as opposed to a professional bid on something, etc.. (With the collateral for a school assignment, but then the asnwer would be "Do your homework.")
2. The notice is concerning the level at which a school functions, in regard to student test scores, etc. (Or how level the building is, which would be rare but possible, so there's another as I type.)
3. The person could have mistyped "right" as "write" and therefore could have mistyped "levee" as Level," meaning a tax levee/levy for the voters to vote on.

"Take note, all, combined with JackofOz's comments above, this is the perfect situatin for showing why correct spelling is vital. Feel free to use this example. (talk) 23:59, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

And if (1) is correct, then there's the question of what school we're talking about. I think four-year-old pupils are given more leeway on formatting issues than eighteen-year-olds. Algebraist 00:04, 21 September 2008 (UTC)
Feel free to use's examples of good spelling, except for "aschool", "asnwer" and "situatin". I wouldn't normally nitpick, but he/she's recommending his/her spelling as a model for others to follow, and we can't be seen to be misleading our beloved clients.  :) -- JackofOz (talk) 00:32, 21 September 2008 (UTC)
I can't say I've ever seen Jack nipick. DuncanHill (talk) 00:44, 21 September 2008 (UTC)
Ouch. Touché. Fixed. Thank you, Duncan. -- JackofOz (talk) 02:06, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

"Grammatically correct"[edit]

My friend just told me that it is incorrect to call something, like a sentence or a phrase, etc. "grammatically correct". He said that those things would only be "grammatical". I disagreed with him, because sentences can either be grammatically correct or grammatically incorrect. Has anyone ever heard of this, and if so, can you explain to me to what he was referring? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:34, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

So he's saying that it's grammatically incorrect to refer to something as "grammatically incorrect"? :)
Seriously, what he's probably on about is that there are 2 ways to think about grammar:
Prescriptive grammar is about establishing rules that others are judged by. A particular sentence is either correct or incorrect, according to the rules. That's usually the kind of grammar we're taught at school; which is fair enough, because kids have to understand the basic structures and conventions before they can go off creating their own linguistic world. Hence, our first training in grammar is the "right/wrong" paradigm, and it can be tempting to believe this is the only correct approach to grammar (assuming one has ever heard of any other approach; if not, then it would be seen as the only approach to grammar).
Then there's descriptive grammar, which is about recording the usages that people in the real world actually employ, and noting how these usages change over time. What was commonly heard 20 years may be old hat today. An expression that would have caused hearers to do a double take 20 years ago may be very common today. That is, if some utterance uses commonly used forms of expression - whether or not these would pass a test set by the people mentioned above - then it is in line with the grammar that derives from the people rather than the rule makers. From this perspective, such an utterance is neither "correct" nor "incorrect", it is simply "grammatical".
Most (probably all) grammarians are prescriptivists to a degree, and descriptivists to a degree. It sounds like he's more of a descriptivist than a prescriptivist. That's OK, we love them all unconditionally. -- JackofOz (talk) 20:17, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
"Grammatical" is defined as "correct" in the sense of the rules of grammar. As such, "grammatically correct" is a tautology. Some clause / sentence can only be "ungrammatical" but not "grammatically incorrect". Bear in mind that this also holds true to similar terms. There is no such thing as a "logical fallacy", even if we got a blue link. A fallacy (of which this post may be an example) is illogical by definition. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 20:27, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
I think you're being excessively narrow in what you're allowing these adjectives and adverbs to mean. "Grammatically incorrect" doesn't mean "grammatical and yet incorrect", it means "incorrect with respect to grammar"; a sentence could be grammatically incorrect but factually correct, for example. (By your logic, the phrase "factually incorrect" would also be meaningless.) Likewise a logical fallacy is not a fallacy that is nevertheless logical, it is a fallacy with respect to logic. (In this case, though, it might well be tautologous since I don't what else a fallacy can be with respect to besides logic.) —Angr 20:44, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
Wouldn't "logical fallacy" be an oxymoron rather than a tautology? -- JackofOz (talk) 20:57, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
"Fallacy" doesn't just mean what the logicians would have it mean. DuncanHill (talk) 21:00, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
Jack, that's the point. Cookatoo says it's an oxymoron because if it's a fallacy it can't be logical. I say it's a tautology because what "logical fallacy" actually means is "fallacy with respect to logic", but there's no other kind of fallacy with respect to something other than logic; therefore "logical fallacy" means exactly the same thing as "fallacy" and as such is tautologous (like "unmarried bachelor" is). And I guess what DuncanHill is saying is that there are in fact fallacies with respect to other things than logic (and if that's the case, then "logical fallacy" isn't tautologous after all), but he didn't give any examples. —Angr 21:34, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
A fallacy may be a deceptive appearance, a deception, a prevalent but wrong notion - the word has more to it than its use in the realms of logic. DuncanHill (talk) 21:37, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
Cookatoo didn't make any reference to oxymorons (oxymora?). I was the first to use the term in this thread. -- JackofOz (talk) 22:03, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
I did not make a reference to an oxymoron, largely because I have been one or the other, and frequently both at the same time on numerous occasions. Regulars will agree to this humble statement outlining my relative qualities. Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi, as Europa pointed out postcoitally. --Cookatoo.ergo.ZooM (talk) 22:20, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
"He who likes love does not like cows"? I guess that would be the motto of the Vaccaphobia Society. -- JackofOz (talk) 09:02, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
You need to use a less ambiguous font, Jack. That's Iovi with a capital eye, not lovi with a lower-case el. "What is permitted to Jupiter is not permitted to an ox" (namely, banging Europa). —Angr 09:09, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
Oh, I knew that, silly. Apparently the dryness of my humour has attained desert-like proportions. It should correct itself soon. The meteorologists are predicting rain inside my head.  :) -- JackofOz (talk) 20:29, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
I thought Australia will be without rain for the forseeable future? Algebraist 21:14, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
Not completely true, but it's bad enough. However, fortunately, my head does not live in Australia. In fact, most of the time I'd say it's not of this world (or any other planet, for that matter). -- JackofOz (talk) 21:29, 22 September 2008 (UTC)

Russian Decimals[edit]

I was wondering how best to render decimal numbers in Russian. Thus, how would one say a long decimal number such as 3.141592 without resorting to "три целых и миллион четыреста..."?

Thanks very much for your help, (talk) 22:30, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

Remembering that Russians use a comma (запятая) where we would have the decimal point, I believe the accepted practice for such long (and in this case, interminable) decimal expansions is to say "три запятая один четыре один пять девять два ....". -- JackofOz (talk) 22:47, 20 September 2008 (UTC)
How about "Пи"? ;) —Lowellian (reply) 05:45, 24 September 2008 (UTC)