There is one kind of questions which we thus far have not seen on the site, but which I expect will eventually crop up. This is the kind of questions which goes: “I have X and Y feature in my conlang, and I have noticed that they cause Z problem. What can I do to fix this?” or also “In the context of my language, there is feature X. Because of this, I cannot find a nice way of expressing Y. I have tried Z, W, V, but they cause various problems. What are other options I have?” and so on. Basically, questions which have a rather narrow field of answers, but where answers are necessarily subjective in some way.

An example question of this kind could be “My language has no overt pronouns, only pronomial inflections. How can I express prepositional phrases with a pronomial NP?”, to which a possible answer might recommend inflected prepositions.

In my opinion, these questions should absolutely be allowed and even encouraged. Thoughts?

  • 1
    Is subjective the right/best term to use for this? I used it in my answer as well, but I feel you can be rather objective even if ostensibly you are offering an opinion.
    – Hotkeys
    Feb 7, 2018 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


Good Subjective, Bad Subjective is the canonical blog post in this situation. Subjectivity by itself is not a bad thing; unreasonable subjectivity is. The ideal "Good Subjective" question lends itself to answers that are backed up with something - reasoning, logic, a solid explanation. We deal with the same thing on Worldbuilding. I once explained our application of the Good Subjective policy as follows:

  • It's fine to have questions that are a bit subjective or opinionated . . .
  • . . . but answers to those questions must be supported in some way - they can't just be pure opinions.

You should be able to constructively, objectively (paradoxically!) say why an answer works (or doesn't work). That is, you should be able to point to X, Y, and Z, things that make the answer good or bad. That's why we try to close questions that ask things like "What color would make my humanoids the most beautiful?" You can't really objectively support an answer to that, can you?

Alternatively, as the help center puts it,

Some subjective questions are allowed, but “subjective” does not mean “anything goes”. All subjective questions are expected to be constructive. What does that mean? Constructive subjective questions:

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”
  • tend to have long, not short, answers
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone
  • invite sharing experiences over opinions
  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references
  • are more than just mindless social fun

We need to take this thing on a case-by-case basis. As Hotkeys said, "Should I do [X]?" questions aren't always overly opinion-based (but they sure can be!). I'm not comfortable with blanket-banning them, or, conversely, saying that this sort of question is always okay.

In the same vein, a question like

I have X and Y feature in my conlang, and I have noticed that they cause Z problem. What can I do to fix this?

might be too broad - a different issue than subjectivity - or it might be okay. Again, this is a case-by-case decision.

  • I would just like to add that one thing that a question author can do that is really helpful is clearly state what their goal is, giving a clear way to rank answers. For example, one goal could be conciseness: "How do I deal with this problem in the most concise way, preferably without adding any grammatical structures that require lengthening speech", or another could be simplicity: "How do I deal with this problem in a way that keeps the language easy to learn, and without adding complexity". This tends to help a lot with keeping questions from being opinion based.
    – Gryphon
    Mar 6, 2018 at 15:53


I agree. While subjective I feel like these are still very useful questions which are essentially asking for strategies for dealing with certain circumstances. An answer could still be given in a fairly rigorous manner "Well, natural languages like x are similar and they deal with it by doing y" or "In my conlang I faced this issue and I chose to deal with it in z way because of v and w". I feel this is categorically different from more purely opinion based questions like "Should I do x?".

Even "Should I do x?" questions can be appropriate in some cases such as they are asking about a feature or strategy in terms of a naturalistic conlang and said feature doesn't quite make sense naturally. This again is not quite purely opinion as one can answer relatively rigorously to explain that for example "This does not make sense from a naturalism perspective, there are no attestations of this in natural language and this would be implausible given how natural languages tend to deal with x y z" which I feel can still be useful. Though, perhaps these questions would be more appropriately worded as "Is it naturalistic to do x" (or whatever the goal is) rather than "Should I do x".

To summarize: Subjective doesn't necessarily mean purely opinion based, so yes, I think questions like this should be allowed.

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