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What does "this" refer to in the following quote from the Wikipedia article on Learning Curve?

The learning curve can also represent at a glance the initial difficulty of learning something and, to an extent, how much there is to learn after initial familiarity. For example, the Windows program Notepad is extremely simple to learn, but offers little after this. On the other extreme is the UNIX terminal editor vi, which is difficult to learn, but offers a wide array of features to master after the user has figured out how to work it. It is possible for something to be easy to learn, but difficult to master or hard to learn with little beyond this.

Edited to highlight the original sentence as given, to distinguish it from the context that was supplied later. —Robusto

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I don't understand "... or hard to learn with little beyond this" at all. Perhaps more context would help. –  Cerberus Mar 10 '11 at 0:59
    
The sentence is coming from the first paragraph of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_curve "... For example, the Windows program Notepad is extremely simple to learn, but offers little after this. On the other extreme is the UNIX terminal editor vi, which is difficult to learn, but offers a wide array of features to master after the user has figured out how to work it. It is possible for something to be easy to learn, but difficult to master or hard to learn with little beyond this." –  czh Mar 10 '11 at 1:05

3 Answers 3

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The 'this' I take to refer to 'hard to learn'. I believe the meaning would be the same if it were reorganized as It is possible for something to be hard to learn with little beyond this or easy to learn, but difficult to master. The part hard to learn with little beyond this seems to be saying that once all the effort is expended in learning the "something" then one has also mastered it, and there is little further expertise to be gained.

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Agreed. It could be rephrased like this: something can be hard to learn, with little [to be learned] beyond this [level you have reached after this hard learning]. –  Cerberus Mar 10 '11 at 1:13
    
Having now looked at the context, I feel it supports that interpretation. Despite being able to figure out the intended meaning, I must say the prose is terrible. –  mgkrebbs Mar 10 '11 at 1:24
    
I appreciate your answer. Thank you! I'm going to vote up your answer once I've collected enough point to do so. Demanding 15 points to vote up is a little bit expensive in my opinion. –  czh Mar 10 '11 at 1:54
    
@czh: As the asker of the question, you can "accept" one of the offered answers as your preferred one. This is done by clicking on the check-box outline to the left of the chosen answer. Apparently the system will give you a couple of reputation points besides giving the answerer some. I agree the 15-point requirement for up-votes seems a bit high, but they do need to have something to fight robots and spam. –  mgkrebbs Mar 10 '11 at 6:34

It sounds like this sentence needs more context. It is possible that the demonstrative pronoun this may refer to something mentioned elsewhere. Otherwise, the reference is unclear in the sentence itself. The only thing I can imagine it can possibly refer to in the sentence as given is that it may refer to the state of being hard to learn as one alternative in the sentence.

To make this meaning clear would require punctuating the sentence differently:

It is possible for something to be easy to learn but difficult to master, or hard to learn with little beyond this.

Moving the comma to split the sentence before the alternative would mean that on the one hand you can have something that is easy to learn but hard to master, and on the other hand something that is hard to learn which leaves the idea of mastery entirely out of the question.

easy to learn but hard to master vs. hard to lean, period

That is my best attempt to make sense of this. If you could provide more context, maybe that would shed more light on the subject.

EDIT

Now that I've seen the context that preceded the sentence, it is clear that the sentence itself is very poorly worded and thus confusing. The paragraph is much clearer and more informative without it.

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I think this refers back to hard to learn. In other words, some things, like the game of chess, are easy to learn but can take a lifetime to become great at, whereas other things, perhaps like learning a new language, may take a long time to do but once done, are done.

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Yeah. Man I am so glad I am done learning English. On to a new language. –  Cerberus Mar 10 '11 at 1:20
    
@Cerberus, OK, poorly worded. I meant more like learning a language to a fluency level. –  Callithumpian Mar 10 '11 at 1:35
    
I was merely trying to be funny and joking with you a bit, since we are in fact on a language site! –  Cerberus Mar 10 '11 at 1:37
    
@Cerberus: I know. Just felt the need to clarify since I hurried my answer. –  Callithumpian Mar 10 '11 at 1:40

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