I recently asked this question: Parts of speech and functions: "Bob made a book collector happy the other day"

The question asks for the structure of the sentence:

  • Bob made a book collector happy the other day.

In particular, it asks for the relevant parts of speech and functions of the words in the sentence. It also asks for some evidence for the relevant categories. Apparently this question is too broad, and has been closed. I am a bit puzzled by this, as it seem to me an answer would be relatively straightforward, and look something like this:

  • Bob [POS function]; made [POS function];
  • a [POS function]; book [POS function]; collector [POS function]
  • happy [POS function];
  • the [POS function]; other [POS function]; day [POS function].

Evidence: book here is an X, we can see this because we can modify it with Ys, it can't be modified by Zs. Happy is a W because it's Q-able, and T-able. XYZ is clearly an adjunct because we can move it to the following positions.

This doesn't seem ridiculously broad to me, and seems an eminently appropriate question for an English Language and Usage site for linguists, etymologists and serious English language enthusiasts. Here is a question in which I gave an analysis of three different sentences: "has scientists excited" or "has excited scientists"?.

I wonder if people could clarify for me how I might improve the question or explain exactly why it is too broad. Or, if I have persuaded any gentle readers here that this question is reasonable, then your reopen votes would be useful to help this, imo, interesting question be reopened.

1 Answer 1


I actually thought it was an interesting question, but I voted to close it for several reasons.

  1. The comment I made early on:

I think you need to establish the boundaries for how you want things to be categorized. As your referenced question (specifically tchrist's answer) indicates, there are numerous Part of Speech tag sets, ranging from the classic 7 to the 241 NUPOS tags.

An answer limiting oneself to only the 7 classic parts of speech tags would be far different - and potentially just as "correct" - as an answer that categorized the question by the NUPOS tags, or the Stanford parser or the Penn Treebank set, etc. As tchrist said in What exactly is an adverb?:

You will find that the POS tag-sets used by various reference works vary a bit, sometimes a good bit. Even the OED changed a little in how it assigns parts of speech to senses between v2 and v3. ... This is especially noticeable when doing syntactic analysis for natural language processing. The parser will make POS assignments to each word in the sentence analysed, and you have to know what each POS tag means.

  1. It felt like categorizing by POS and function and providing detailed explanations as to each reason would be a rather lengthy answer - especially when it seems folks can't even agree as to the difference between the two.

So given the wide range of potential answers and differing definition sets, and the length of any potential response, it seemed to fit the very definition of the "Too Broad" close reason:

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.

It also lacked any research, as SrJoven pointed out. And it seemed to cover a lot of the same basic ground as the adverb and function questions, presumably (extrapolating from your chat comments) because you were dissatisfied by the answers there. This made it feel more than a little like a duplicate.

  • 3
    There's 46, 438 questions on ELU. Not one of the answers to these questions has ever used the NUPOS tags to analyse a sentence. To the best of my knowledge not a single answer on the site has ever used the Penn tree tags. If that's really your main concern, I think you're worries are unwarranted, and it would only be fair if you retracted your close vote. It's also been clearly demonstrated that the question can be answered in a few paragraphs. Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 11:26
  • 2
    @Araucaria - I'm not interested in debating about it. You asked why it was closed and I gave you four reasons why I felt it was in need of improvement. Obviously you are free to disagree, as are other people who may vote to reopen the question.
    – Lynn
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 11:43

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