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This is motivated by the question here: How to solve the final round of 2020 China National Linguistics Olympiad?

Question: Is Tangut on-topic?

Chinese.SE Meta (here) is the appropriate place to have this discussion. Having these discussions in the comments of random questions and expect them to be found.

Honestly, I don't even know what Tangut is. Wikipedia says:

Tangut (Tangut: 𗼇𗟲; Chinese: 西夏语; pinyin: Xī Xià Yǔ; lit.: 'Western Xia language') is an ancient northeastern Tibeto-Burman language once spoken in the Western Xia, also known as the Tangut Empire. It is classified by some linguists as a Qiangic language, which includes the Northern and Southern Qiang languages and the Rgyalrong languages, among others.


The comments at the question (I deleted them---we need these conversations to take place on meta):

I’m voting to close this question because it is not about the Chinese language. This is an interesting question though. – fefe 6 hours ago

@fefe I believe Tangut fits under the umbrella of Chinese language, the name of our site. – Mo.♦ 6 hours ago

@Mo. It might be a language that existed in China. But not Chinese language. – fefe 5 hours ago

@fefe “Chinese” could mean many things, we don’t specify what it means on the site. – Mo.♦ 5 hours ago

I agree with @fefe. Tangut is a dead language, whose relation with Chinese is that it belongs to the same family (Sino-Tibetan). By this logic, we should allow Illirian in French.SE. We can't even tag this [topolect]. – blackgreen 4 hours ago

@blackgreen Tangut is also part of the Qiang family, a language that still is alive and kicking. – Mo.♦ 4 hours ago

And also the relation between Qiang and Chinese is that they are both Sino-Tibetan languages. So are you going to allow Galician in a forum about Dutch? They're both Indo-European... – blackgreen 4 hours ago


When answering, it is important to interpret "Chinese" generously, like how Christianity is viewed broadly at Christianity.SE:

For the purpose of this site, please assume that the answer to "is X Christian?" is always the same as "does X self-identify as Christian?"
HedgeMage, Christianity.SE Meta, 2011

It's also noteworthy that we have very few such questions. The particular question also asks for a translation of Tangut into 汉语 (using the term in the image).


There are two Tangut-related questions:

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  • I agree with fefe and blackgreen, this question should be off-topic. It has three close votes.If I wasn't a mod, I would have cast the fourth
    – Tang Ho Mod
    Aug 9 '20 at 0:24
  • Could it be considered a glyph-origin question? (The history of Chinese characters.)
    – Becky 李蓓 Mod
    Aug 9 '20 at 0:25
  • 2
    The question is not off topic. This isn’t to do with the fact that it’s Tangut, as it’s not asking for a translation of a random Tangut text. The question requires the usage of Chinese character and language principles to figure out the most likely matches between the Tangut fragments and Chinese equivalents. Without an understanding of how these principles are applied to figure out the matches, it’s easy to dismiss this question as off-topic.
    – dROOOze
    Aug 9 '20 at 0:35
  • One pro argument might be that the old territory of 西夏 is covered by the current one of China (i.e. 西夏 was a local regime of China). But I feel that the question suits better in linguistic.SE (I don't know their criteria, nor our policy on linguistic questions). Aug 9 '20 at 8:51
  • I'm not aware of a policy about linguistics; but for now it's probably safe to assume "linguistics∩Chinese" questions are on-topic until there's a consensus otherwise. In fact, we have very few policies about anything; we'll need to ask lots of "is XYZ on-topic?" on meta before we'll have a mature site.
    – Becky 李蓓 Mod
    Aug 9 '20 at 9:43
  • @TangHo the linked question now has 4 votes, you can cast yours as the fifth person, without mod-hammering, if you agree with it being closed
    – blackgreen
    Aug 11 '20 at 13:55
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tl;dr Tangut is not on-topic, because it's not sufficiently related to Chinese. The two languages only belong to the same family, Sino-Tibetan.


The linked question is off-topic, because it's not about the Chinese language. It is that simple. The best place to ask that question is probably Linguistics.SE.

The main arguments brought in favor of the on-topic-ness by Mo. and dROOOze can be refuted as follows:

I believe Tangut fits under the umbrella of Chinese language, the name of our site

Tangut and Chinese belong to the Sino-Tibetan family. There's no other direct relation in terms of language tree. By this logic, Illirian would be on-topic on French.SE. Questions about Tangut can't be tagged using what tags we have available here, e.g. [topolect].

Tangut is also part of the Qiang family, a language that still is alive and kicking

Also refuted by the above. Qiang is just a Sino-Tibetan language.

The question requires the usage of Chinese character and language principles to figure out the most likely matches between the Tangut fragments and Chinese equivalents

The fact that Tangut is being somehow compared to Chinese doesn't make it on-topic! I can also compare Korean Hanja to Chinese and that doesn't make Korean on topic.

Is Ancient Greek on-topic on an Italian forum? Well, they're both indo-european and etruscan and latin script derived from the greek alphabet, many latin words have greek roots...

An additional argument which I didn't see but was maybe implied:

This website refers to languages spoken in China (the Chinese macro-region?) (the historical Chinese macro-region?)

I don't think it's a fair interpretation. It would be simply called "Languages of China" then (with a whole slew of bad political implications about what China actually is...)


The reason why I feel so strongly about this is because the question comes from a mod, who is supposed to set the example for others to follow. If it came from anybody else I would simply cast a close vote and move on, awhile the democratic process unfolds. But in this case, I feel the duty to take a stance.

My personal appeal to the post author is: please be disciplined, or self-migrate the question to Linguistics.SE

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  • Makes me wonder if my old question Is there any relation between the Cyrillic Ш (sha) and the Chinese 山 (shān)? is on topic.
    – Becky 李蓓 Mod
    Aug 9 '20 at 9:50
  • @Becky李蓓 I remember that question, it's so specific and focused on such a narrow element that it might as well be, but yeah... strictly speaking, it kinda treads on the edge
    – blackgreen
    Aug 9 '20 at 9:53
  • I wonder if there are languages (perhaps Japanese) which are definitely not Chinese, but are more closely related to Chinese than Tangut.
    – Becky 李蓓 Mod
    Aug 9 '20 at 10:23
  • @Becky李蓓 yes, all the topolects, which are not mutually intelligible with Mandarin but belong to the same language branch. Though mutual intelligibility (or lack thereof) alone is not enough to distinguish between dialects and languages, for the purposes of this issue, (otherwise Norwegian and Swedish should be dialects of each other), it's often a decent measure.
    – blackgreen
    Aug 9 '20 at 10:29
  • The fact that Tangut is being somehow compared to Chinese doesn't make it on-topic! I can also compare Korean Hanja to Chinese and that doesn't make Korean on topic. Eh? We're talking about different things here. I never said Tangut was on topic, I said that questions which need to use principles in Chinese language or characters, such as the question in question, is on topic. Korean in general is not on topic, but if it was a question on the glyph origins of a Hanja, I don't see how you could argue for it being off-topic.
    – dROOOze
    Aug 9 '20 at 10:39
  • @dROOOze if it was a question on the glyph origins of a Hanja it would of course be off-topic on Chinese.SE and on-topic on Korean.SE. This question is off-topic on Chinese.SE and on-topic on Linguistics.SE
    – blackgreen
    Aug 9 '20 at 10:42
  • You'd need to take this up with the Japanese and Korean SE communities to get a consensus about this, then. There have been multiple migrations from those sites in the past to Chinese SE for glyph-origin questions (admittedly they're rare).
    – dROOOze
    Aug 9 '20 at 10:45
  • @dROOOze if it was a question on the glyph origins of a Hanja this is different from what is being discussed here. A lot of Hanjas are also Chinese character, especially when "origin" is being asked. If it is not, (I know there are "kanji" created by Japanese ...), then it is off-topic.
    – fefe
    Aug 10 '20 at 12:11

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