Currently, we have a tag that, to me, seems fundamentally flawed. The reason for this is because a language that is uncommon to some of us may not be uncommon to others, making it difficult for us to determine when this tag should be used.

This is the tag usage guidance excerpt:

Use this for languages which have few if any native speakers, or which are rarely studied in the place you live in.

Looking at the actual types of questions that are tagged with this tag, this is a list of languages that are asked about:

  • Mongolian
  • Esperanto
  • Croatian
  • Aramaic
  • Toki Pona
  • Old English
  • Middle English
  • Fuzhounese
  • Slovianto
  • Interslavic

While some of these languages certainly could be considered uncommon, others, like Croatian have 5-6 million speakers. Because of this, I propose we modify the tag usage guidance excerpt:

Use this for languages which have at most 2 million [or any other number we decide on] native speakers.

What are your thoughts on this?

5 Answers 5


Without the current definition, which mentions "rarely studied in the place you live in", the tag sounds a bit like "rare languages", but as this question on Linguistics SE made clear, that is not a linguistic term either.

I think that the tag can be replaced with a few others:

What many of these languages have in common is that native speakers are hard to find and that resources are generally scarce (except for Latin, Ancient Greek, Esperanto and a few others). So it's primarily an issue of resources rather than methods.

Update: The tag would be too long, so we would need an alternative. See my meta question What would be an appropriate tag for historical language variants?.

Update 2: The tag would not be too long after all.

Update 3: After reading К. Келлогг Смиф's response, I still think "uncommon languages" is a bad tag. A more meaningful alternative would be , with the following definition:

Languages with few resources (including native speakers) in the place where you live and/or in the language(s) you use a base language for learning other languages.

"Under-resourced language(s) is a term that is actually used, especially in research and development on language tools.

  • So do you think that the tag serves a purpose or do you think it should be removed?
    – fi12
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:25
  • 3
    @fi12 My position can be summarised as "Repeal and replace" ;-)
    – Tsundoku Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:28
  • 1
    historical-language-variants would also work with Primitive Irish, Old Persian, Norman French and Old High German.
    – Robert Columbia Mod
    Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 12:26

I beg to differ.

The whole reason of SE tags is to help structuring and categorizing the questions.
adds no value — neither for learning purposes (LL.SE) nor, for example, Linguistics.SE, nor any other site.

  • Would anyone click the link on this tag to browse for questions of this, supposedly, category? — No;
  • Would anyone subscribe for this tag (e.g., via RSS) because they feel professional in this area of expertise and eagerly waiting for challenging questions they may wish to answer first and show off themselves? — No;
  • Are the methods of teaching and learning of any different to methods of learning of, bespoke, ? — No;

Also (a bit of rant), how can we qualify "rarely studied in the place you live in"? Say, Mandarin Chinese is definitely not in the Top 5 languages studied in my homeland, Ukraine (and, presumably, even not in Top 10). Would this qualify a language with 1.5bn speakers "rare"?


This tag adds no value neither to questions' classification nor to methodology of learning.
Burn it with fire.

  • I do quite like this actually. We'll see what the rest of the community has to say.
    – fi12
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 1:27
  • To anyone who will see this — don't forget that downvoting on Meta is fine as it shows one's (dis-)agreement with the ideas expressed in questions or answers. So don't hesitate to downvote my post if you disagree with it. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 1:31
  • 1
    "Would anyone subscribe for this tag (...)? —No" That's pure speculation. Interestingly, that tag has no unanswered question.
    – Tsundoku Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 14:56

The question has been mooted. Clicking on the tag will get you a blank screen. So someone having the authority to do so has already deleted the tag in question -- and has done so after less than two weeks of what I thought was supposed to be a "community" discussion.

  • 1
    Do you have any arguments for keeping (or restoring) the tag? Nobody else wanted to keep it.
    – Tsundoku Mod
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 19:15
  • Yes, I do have a good argument for keeping the tag, as I believe it is very apt and very descriptive of some of the languages that I've studied. Take for example "Bugotu", a language spoken on the southern coastal part of the island of Santa Isabel in the British Solomon Islands, where much of the initial U.S. combat in that part of the world took place. Or New Guinea Pidgin English, a "lingua franca" acceptable in N.G. legal documents. Or "Chamorro", a language of Micronesia that was almost obliterated by the Spanish conquerors. Or "Ponapean", the language of the Republic of Pohnpei? Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 1:59
  • @Christophe Strobbe: (con't) Without an overall tag for uncommon languages which I've listed ( I have grammars and dictionaries for all of them) it's impossible to identify these and other "uncommon" languages under a single tag. Without the "uncommon" tag, there has to be a unique tag for every 'uncommon' language; en.Wikipedia.org lists 312 world languages, a great many of which can be grouped under the "uncommon languages" tag you deleted. But every one of those 312 Wikipedias have users and authors, and editor/managers whose functions are similar to SE's moderators' functions. (con't) Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 2:16
  • @Christophe Strobbe (con't): And every one of those 312 Wikipedias are written, maintained, and supported in a specific written language by people who speak, read, and write in that language. And so, even with a fraction of that count (10%) it would take 31 separate SE-LL language-specific tags to cover them in the LL tag list. And that would be just a start. Take a look at that list and you'll see what I mean. Go to en.Wikipedia.org, search term "List of Wikipedias" to view the list. You might be surprised at some of the languages you find Wikipedias for. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 2:28
  • Please turn these comments into an answer. Please also add how one would objectively establish whether a language is "uncommon".
    – Tsundoku Mod
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 7:56
  • @Christophe Strobbe: (con't) In my proposed answer I wrote/offered a "long" definition instead of the usual "short" (terse) definition. In my experience in working with SE-GL and SE-LL tags, when a definition exceeds the allotted space on a tag listing the linking word "more" is added; clicking on that link calls a page which has more information about the tag, including a box where the "long" definition is stated in full. Although my answer clearly has been mooted by your removal of the tag, I'll answer your question (and provide an objective definition) as you have asked me to do. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 12:33

I think attempting to quantify the word “uncommon” in this tag isn’t very productive, as was noted in the question itself.

For what its worth, the English language Wikipedia lists 312 languages for which Wikipedias have been written (see en.Wikipedia.org, search term “List of Wikipedias”). In that list there is listed for each of the Wikipedas the number of editors/authors who have written at least one article in that Wikipedia during the past month i.e., that is a usage data statistic that can be used as a reference to gauge as to how many SE-LL members might use an “uncommon languages” tag.

I for one believe the tag name “uncommon languages” is descriptive and accurate for what I think it implies. However, in answer to the question, my suggestions are:

  1. the tag title should remain “uncommon languages” and,
  2. the current definition should be changed to a longer and more descriptive one.

That being said, long definitions are also common in the SE-LL tag list. A longer definition for this tag (one I would prefer to see) could be something along the lines of:

Queries about one or more languages that are

a) rarely spoken or written by non-native speakers, e.g. Bugotu, Tok Pisin,

b) languages that have unusual spoken or written characteristics, such as lack of vowels in written words, e.g., Arabic, or

c) languages which are no longer used for communicating with others, e.g. Latin, Anglo-Saxon.

Note that in my suggested definition I make a distinction between “languages no longer used for communication” and the so-called “dead” languages, some of which (e.g., Latin) have a large geographic distribution of those who are learning to read and write the Latin language, but are rarely using it for communicating with others.

I noted that the stumbling block to re-defining the tag is the attempt to quantify the meaning of the word “uncommon” when the quality of the definition is the keyword to keep in mind. Some rare or unusual languages, such as the many different languages spoken in the islands of the South Pacific may have only a few native users of a language, or a relatively large number of users, such as Maori and Tahitian.

Geographic distribution is important, yes. But actually it is a lesser factor in determining whether or not a language is “uncommon”. Hawaiian, as spoken by native speakers, is a distinct language having a small number of native speakers, with a geographic distribution of those speakers limited to just one of the fifty U.S. states and U.S. territories. That being said, however, Hawaiian is included as a member of the Polynesian language family, which has a far broader distribution geographically and has more than two million native speakers and writers. Quite similarly, “Plattdeitsch” (Mennonite German) has a limited distribution geographically, but it is also included in the geographic distribution of the Germanic languages family, in which English is also member; that language group obviously has a geographic distribution of much more than two million native speakers. The point of this is that I believe trying to statistically quantifying a language is a dead end street.

The current definition in the “uncommon” tag lists ‘dead’ languages as falling under the “uncommon” tag; SE-LL already has a “dead languages” tag, so that part of the “uncommon” definition is redundant and can be eliminated.

  • Thanks for converting your comments into an answer.
    – Tsundoku Mod
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 14:13
  • I understand the points you make, but what is your proposed solution for classifying languages as being uncommon or not?
    – fi12
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 19:45
  • @fi12: Please read the italicized part of paragraph four, and also paragraph five, as my answer to your comment. The italicized statement is my suggested definition for what the tag "uncommon languages" would mean to a user looking for a tag to attach to a question about one or more 'uncommon' languages. The examples I used in my suggested definition are there only to illustrate what I consider to be 'uncommon' languages, but points a), b), and c) in my definition are really what I consider to be the criterion which anyone can use to self-classify a language as being "uncommon" or not. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 21:24
  • The definition would stand out more if it was a separate paragraph and in bold (since italics reduce readability) or a blockquote. Please also look at my updated answer, which proposes under-resourced-languages as a replacement for uncommon-languages.
    – Tsundoku Mod
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 11:16
  • @Christophe Strobbe: "under-resourced" is to "languages" as "under-nourished" is to "starvation". My 1,361-page Rosdale's "The Synonym Finder (1978), lists a great many synonyms for the North American English words "uncommon", "common", and "rare", among which is the adjective "Rechershe". Under that word one finds "Way-out", which has a sub-list which includes "bizarre", "kinky", "off-the-wall" ... and "uncommon". As the word "uncommon" is ubiquitous in all the synonyms I found, if a new poll were to be taken for the tag's name I would naturally raise my hand for "uncommon-languages". Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 15:48

Use this for languages which have few if any native speakers, or which are rarely studied in the place you live in.

And I already see reason to remove the tag. The usage of this tag would be very subjective due to the words, "few" and "rarely". What do you mean by few native speakers or rarely studied? I can argue that Chinese has few native speakers. Super stupid but you can't argue back because you are trying to use common sense rather than facts. This tag is subjective and needs to be removed before any confusion happens.

I'm not going to add anymore because the other answers have covered the rest of the bases. I hope that the tag gets burned to the ground via unicorn strike and the affected questions be properly retagged.

You must log in to answer this question.

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