I voted to close this question as too broad:

What are language concepts that are considered to be based on human anatomy?

because it is really endless in possibilities, and I think it is unanswerable at all. I also see no way to make this question more focussed and fitting to a question and answer format.

It was closed, but after that, it was reopened without any substantial edit. Should this question remain open?


I don't believe this question is as broad as you make it out to be. Its wording could perhaps be improved, but asking for examples of facets of human language that are so tied to human anatomy as to be unlikely to appear in the languages of creatures with a very different anatomy is not, in my opinion, too broad. The existing accepted answer is well-reasoned and informative, so it certainly isn't unanswerable.

I could understand why others would disagree -- I'd say it's probably an edge case -- but it seems to me that this sort of question (perhaps worded differently) is the type we would want to see on the site and that closing it despite the existence of a well-written accepted answer and productive discussion in the comments doesn't accomplish anything and serves to make the site seem hostile towards questions I, at least, would be interested in seeing more of.


While I'm biased—being the OP of the question in question—I think the question is only broad but not too broad.

I'm not asking how an alien language could look (or sound) like—that would indeed lead to "really endless [..] possibilities". On the contrary, I'm precisely asking about features in human languages that are based on our anatomy. A reasonable restriction about the anatomical parts is not very helpful—if I had restricted it to our ears or eyes of number of limbs it would void the usefulness of the question, which is to find out which are concepts I hadn't thought about myself. It is also to be kept in mind that all might be a correct answer to somehow open questions.

Furthermore, the overall setting does set certain barriers, the amount of language concepts is certainly a limited number and not necessarily a very high one of that. Moreover, the focus on anatomy does restrict the influence vectors on language quite considerably. It excludes for example more environmental, societal and cultural factors which we are also discussing on this site.

Finally, the already given answer shows that the question is indeed answerable.

  • Also too broad questions are answerable. The difference is how many different answers there would be. In this case, the answers are two, and they seem to be complete. I would not call the question too broad.
    – apaderno
    Mar 17 '18 at 16:21

I think it's just on the border of being too broad, and am happy for the community to decide through its votes. (If anyone feels it is still too broad, please do vote to close it now. Questions can be closed for a second time. And reopened again if needed.)

One thing that would help IMO is to change it to ask for concepts that "could be considered", rather than "are considered", as the current phrasing suggests this is a matter that can be definitively answered without dispute. It wouldn't hurt to ask answers to give references supporting their claims too.

  • Good idea, I included that into my question.
    – Helmar
    Feb 23 '18 at 14:56

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