The study of structural features, diversity and commonalities of the world's languages.

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Across languages that have adjectives, what are the most common grammatical inflections for adjectives?

Not all languages have adjectives; some use adjectival nouns ("red.one" instead of "red") and/or stative verbs ("be.red" instead of "red"). Among languages that have adjectives, not all allow ...
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1answer
95 views

Root reduplication to mean singular

In different languages reduplication of the root serves as a means to express plurality (Malay 'orang' - 'a person', 'orang-orang' - 'people') or a greater degree (Russian 'много' - 'many, much', ...
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1answer
187 views

Is Thai a stress- or syllable-timed language, and does it matter?

We are gearing up for the new semester at the Thai university where I teach English. One course I’ll be helping out with is on English pronunciation. In the unit on sentence stress, the course ...
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1answer
117 views

Languages with subordinate imperatives?

English does not allow an imperative to be used in a subordinate clause: Eat that pizza! *There's a pizza on the table, which eat! (="which I order you to eat") *I told you eat that pizza! (A ...
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2answers
109 views

The “affectee-subject HAVE” construction in English

English has a somewhat unusual construction exemplified by sentences like the following: He had his car stolen. He had his house repossessed. He's had three books published. These are different ...
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1answer
130 views

Classification of Relative Clauses in English

While reading the wikipedia article on relative clauses, I was puzzled somewhat by a description of a relative clause in English. It asserts that in the relative clause "that I saw yesterday", as in ...
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2answers
134 views

Are ditransitives (or tritransitives?) cross-linguistically attested?

I'm only really familiar with English and a few European languages, so to my mind it is normal for a language to have a double object construction and/or an NP-PP construction, as in John gave ...
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69 views

Constituent Order and Alignment

Seeing What might "S/A-V-O" and "A/S-V-O" mean? reminded me of something I've wondered at various points in the past. I'm familiar with the different clause constituent orders ...
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1answer
86 views

What might “S/A-V-O” and “A/S-V-O” mean?

In looking through Google Books's preview of A Grammar of Lao by N. J. Enfield, I came across these two terms, which I'm assuming are equivalent to one another (possibly one is even a typo) and some ...
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91 views

Help with BA dissertation topic related to ergativity and/or valency

I'm looking to write my undergraduate dissertation (10,000 words) within the topics of ergativity and/or valency but currently stuck for ideas. My first idea was to take a sample from around 20 - 30 ...
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1answer
92 views

Singular versus plural in certain locutions: Is there a name for this?

I wouldn't touch that idea with a ten-foot pole. He's a tool maker. In Germany, Catholics and Lutherans pay a church tax. The zebra stripes indicate a pedestrian crossing. He is a resident of an ...
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3answers
163 views

In what ways does English syntax compensate for its low number of inflectional morphemes?

Two native German speakers have each told me that conversational English is easy to learn because its number of case-endings, agreement morphemes, and other grammatical morphemes is small. However, ...
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1answer
117 views

Linguistics, a discipline or a field?

This is a two-fold level questions. Question about linguistics from the view point of linguistics. I am interested whether linguistics is a field of science/research or is it a discipline? The next ...
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2answers
128 views

What are the most common reasons for (synchronic) word-order changes in isolating languages?

What are the most common reasons for (synchronic) word-order changes in isolating languages? From what I’ve read, word order in isolating languages can be changed even when the constituents in the ...
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2answers
89 views

How many moras in [steak]? I produced two moras.

I drew the syllable structure for steak, and I deduced that 'st' is one cluster and forms part of the onset instead of the rhyme. So that leaves the rhyme with eI and k which will give me two moras. ...
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127 views

Why the english past tense -ed pronounced differently in some words?

Why is the suffix for [looked] and [hugged] pronounced differently. How can I explain this process via Feature Geometry? [EDIT] I know the following words respectively sound as follows lʊkt and ...
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88 views

How common is phonemic vowel length across languages?

Including different kinds of length distinctions, such as in stressed syllables only, or stressed and unstressed, etc.
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55 views

Languages with vowel-based “radicals” inflected or derived by changing consonants?

Semitic languages are known for doing quite a bit of their inflection and derivation not via adfixes but via modifications around a triliteral radical of three consonants. But I'm wondering if ...
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82 views

Which prefixing language has the most speakers?

Most if not all national or widely spoken languages with an inflecting or agglutinating typology do all of their inflecting at the end of the word. These are called "suffixing languages". This is ...
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3answers
145 views

Are there any specific traits in Italian which make it different from other Romance languages?

Although Wikipedia says 'the grammar is typical of the grammar of Romance languages', I suppose some ancient Italic (or perhaps even pre-italic) traits might prevail. I am especially curious about ...
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0answers
47 views

Is there a correspondence between contextual semantics and the type of language?

Most of the isolating languages I am familiar with have context-bound semantics either in division into parts of speech (e.g. Chinese) or word meaning (Yoruba), or both (Chinese, again). E.g., in ...
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1answer
86 views

Constituents of language

Suppose we take the view that language is a tool for communication. What would be the basic, or essential, constituents of a language? Some examples that come to mind: a set of words a set ...
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52 views

Are languages of different types described by different structures in language trees?

This thought occured to me after having a closed question read here. I drew five language trees for a same sentence rendered in five different languages, and the result was quite interesting. ...
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1answer
165 views

Are there any languages with verbs that require more than three arguments?

Are there any languages some of whose verbs require more than three arguments? I was thinking of causative constructions, such that "Mike had John give Sally the ring" could be expressed with one ...
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67 views

Is there any universal semantic coding for noun cases similar to verb aspectology?

I am aware of the argument/actant theories, but perhaps there is something like universal semantical coding for the nouns as well. For Argument concepts,you can see the relevant Wikipedia page for ...
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1answer
102 views

How do we know how many languages exist?

I've read that between 3000 and 6000 languages are spoken on Earth. My question is the following: how do people calculate that number?
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2answers
601 views

Are there any languages that are more analytic than English other than Afrikaans in the Indo-European family?

Are there any languages that are more analytic than (or as analytic as) English other than Afrikaans in the Indo-European family?
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1answer
276 views

What are the job opportunities in linguistics? [closed]

I like learning new languages so I am curious in getting a degree in linguistics. What kind of jobs are available as a linguist? What are the opportunities available in this field? From what I am ...
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2answers
166 views

Which indigenous languages have marked Ancestral/Mythological Past in grammars?

I have found a mention on such a system among some South American native languages in Adam Jacot de Boinod's book I Never Knew There's A Word For It. Non-academic reading, which doesn't make it less ...
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6answers
694 views

In languages with grammatical gender, how do they determine the gender when a new word has been created?

In languages with grammatical gender that has (almost) no morphological relation between the words and the genders(e.g. French), how do they determine the gender of a new word that has been ...
2
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1answer
154 views

A syntactic approach to possessives

I am currently writing an essay in linguistic typology on possessives. I got stuck in the last part, in which I am supposed to present a syntactic approach to the structure of possessives. I should ...
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1answer
197 views

Word order typology in Germanic

I am not a native speaker of English, but I study English and Dutch. I have noticed that the two languages differ in their degree of flexibility. The following sentence, for example, is not acceptable ...
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193 views

What does the abreviation INFLNFL stand for and what is the difference between INFLNFL and INFL?

What does the abreviation INFLNFL stand for? What is the meaning of INFLNFL and where does it appear in the syntactic tree-construction?
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103 views

Dimensions of a verb

A single verb usually describes an action or state --the common dimension of verb among languages. But in addition to that it may convey more information e.g. tense, person, gender of subjective, ...
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2answers
953 views

What languages are the most similar to English?

I speak English and Bengali with similar proficiency, at least in the 'lower' registers of the languages. Since I was a small child in a bilingual home I've been struck by how, despite having ...
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1answer
1k views

What is the difference between syllable-timing and stress-timing?

From what I've heard, syllable-timed languages have syllables of equal length throughout each breath-group (i.e. bit of spoken discourse said in one breath), and stress-timed languages have ...
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0answers
167 views

What are some theoretical motivations for do-support?

I've been attempting to put together an overview of the various theoretical motivations that have been proposed for do-support in the literature, but the topic has been frustratingly difficult to ...
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1answer
140 views

Citations for morpheme/word counts?

(Edited to provide context and clarify what I'm interested in) Context: I am reading a paper that involves comparing German, Dutch, and English. German is the outlier for the phenomena and measures ...
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2answers
174 views

About how much does language typology correlate with genetic relationships among languages?

About how much does language typology correlate with genetic relationships among languages? For example, should we expect most Sino-Tibetan languages to be isolating, or most Indo-European languages ...
7
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4answers
362 views

How usual is it for languages to have both prepositions and postpositions?

It has seemed to me (though I might be wrong) that languages usually take either prepositions (English, German, Spanish) or postpositions (Japanese, Hungarian, Turkish). (Yes I know sometimes a ...
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2answers
267 views

Where is Welsh on the analytic/synthetic spectrum?

I believe it's traditionally been held to be more on the synthetic side of the spectrum, but why? Are there any quantitative analyses to back this up?
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2answers
537 views

Gender of mixed groups defaulting to masculine – how common?

French has that rule that whenever a masculine entity is part of a group, the whole NP will default to masculine as far as agreement goes. My native language, German, also defaults gender to ...
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1answer
592 views

Distinction between definiteness and specificity

May I have an example of a language which separately marks definiteness and specificity (or indefiniteness and non-specificity), and also a principled way for deciding which of the two sets of terms ...
7
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1answer
336 views

Consonant length-differences by prominence

In a language I am studying I have just noticed a significant but subtle difference in the length of [f] segments in tonic versus atonic syllables (an ~50ms difference which is statistically ...
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2answers
327 views

Are there any “universal” aspects to “adjective sequence”

Whilst it's by no means a "fixed rule", it seems to me the normal sequence for multiple adjectives applied to a single noun/verb in English does indeed tend to correspond to the top answer given in ...
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9answers
1k views

What is word order used for in “free word order” languages?

Consider languages whose case-systems allow the order of arguments to be changed without changing the arguments’ grammatical relations. (Note the 189 languages noted as having “no dominant ...
6
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1answer
208 views

Is there a proposed parameter of 'copula-drop'?

There is a property of languages with respect to copula (a verb 'to be' to mark equivalent thing): the copula may be necessary, or prohibited (and more complex mixtures of necessary and prohibited. ...
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2answers
239 views

Uniformitarianism in diachronic typology

Croft 2003 argues that "the typological universals discovered in contemporary languages should also apply to ancient and reconstructed languages" (the so called uniformitarian hypothesis, p. 233). How ...
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5answers
210 views

Traits that are common in the Americas and rare elsewhere

I'm looking for examples of typological traits that are common in languages of the Americas and rare in languages elsewhere. Traits could be at any level of description — phonological, ...
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1answer
71 views

Do we have any idea how widespread NPIs are?

Most languages have words that function as negative polarity items. Is this believed to be true of all human languages? Are there specific languages that have been plausibly claimed not to have any ...