The question What is the address format I should use for sending a letter/mail? asked how to lay out the address on a letter for mailing from some unspecified foreign country to Germany. It was closed as off-topic, then reopened. (Nine users participated in those decisions, because one user voted in favour of both closing and reopening.)

The close reason given was that it was not about the German language. Answering the question mostly requires knowledge about recommendations from Deutsche Post and the Universal Postal Union, and possibly the administrative structure of Germany (although no answer went into that much detail).

The argument for reopening, as written in a comment (with four upvotes), was:

In my opinion it’s on-topic in so far as the syntax used for letters is connected with the cultural language space.

Now I wonder: What is a “cultural language space”? And do we consider questions pertaining to it on-topic?


They are on topic.

In my world, the cultural language space is the realm of all aspects of all variants of the usage of language-related communication, as long as the particular issue does not pertain to something universal to all languages, but can be shown to be specific (but not necessarily unique) to the realm of the target language.

Issues are in it, if they are about something interesting or helpful with respect to something in the realm of the primary mission of this SE. This is from what they derive their on-topicness and create some kind of secondary mission of this SE.

I.e. if a particular Q&A helps or informs you to communicate in a German-speaking culture, e.g. helps you to speak/write/learn/learn about German or helps you to navigate processes connected to speaking/writing/learning/learning about German, then it is in the cultural language space and on-topic.

Examples (preconditions have not been verified or have been forcibly fabricated):

  • Sign-language is a form of communication. In German-speaking countries, it contains differences to the sign-language of other language spaces. Questions about sign-language in German-speaking countries are on-topic because it helps you communicate in sign-language when in German-speaking countries.
  • Dictionaries in German-speaking countries are organized differently from dictionaries in other language spaces. Questions about German dictionaries are on-topic because these questions help you parse German dictionaries which in turn improves your ability to communicate in German.
  • In order to initiate written communication to someone within DE/AT/CH via Postal Services, you're required to know about and follow the syntax specific to addressing a letter, because this is something that is specific to DE/AT/CH. Not knowing about this might render your attempt at written communication via Postal services a failure.
  • Gestures do mean different things when comparing between German-speaking countries and other countries. You might get hurt when trying to communicate via gestures and not being aware of these differences.

I can already see some objections raised, so a possible restriction to all this might be to limit the on-topicness to issues for which no other, objectively better fitting SE exists. This is an inclusionistic view, which is based on the will to never turn away a reasonable question from the SE network.

  • May I add that if the community wanted to be strict on what questions are allowed and not allowed on the site, perhaps SE should have different communities for beginners and advanced learners of German language. Looking at the definition for this community ("For speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation") it became obvious to me that this is not the place for beginners and self-learners like me. Yet, where on SE can beginners go to ask questions about learning German, German resources, etc.? Is SE network only for experts, or are noobs welcome? – braaains Mar 28 '16 at 5:03

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