Questions tagged [comparative-linguistics]

A study of the relationships or correspondences between the languages that have a common origin. Formerly known as Comparative Grammar, Comparative Philology.

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2answers
58 views

In which languages could a phrase like “We went to lunch with Bob” signify an event in which exactly two people took place?

I'm sorry for the perhaps weirdly worded question, but here's my attempt to explain better what I mean: In English, if I say "We went to lunch with Bob" means that the people involved are me, Bob, ...
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Does the study of linguistics help one to be a good speaker and good writer of languages?

Linguistics is the systematic study of languages. Some people say "What chemistry is to medicine, linguistics is to language." It is a fact that linguistics helps one to study languages ...
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Can computational techniques solve historical problems that couldn't otherwise be solved?

Recently I've read that machine learning has been used to apply the Comparative Method (example with references here). Also, there are other mathematical approaches that have been applied to the ...
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What are some interesting features that are common cross-linguistically but don't exist in English?

This is on purpose not a very concrete question, I simply want to know some interesting properties other languages have that English doesn't, or features you even think English ought to have, this can ...
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237 views

Why do “house” and “mouse” have “s” on the end?

I know, that English "t" and German "s" may be a cognate it -> es out -> aus what -> was that -> das? Why do "house" and "mouse" have "s" on the end?
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What are the “cardinal sins” in historical linguistics? [closed]

Are there any explicit examples of poor methodology or application of the historical comparative method that most, if not all, can agree on?
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329 views

Proto-Polynesian reconstruction and ambiguities in Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan and Tongan

given that: Hawaiian (H) Maori (M) Samoan (S) Tongan (T) /l/ in H S T = /r/ in M /t/ in M S T = /k/ in H why do we find words with /l/ /r/ /n/ alternations instead of the common attested /l/ /r/ ...
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127 views

Is it scientific to throw all previous work on language families and instead take two random languages and apply the historical comparative method?

Does it make any sense or rather is it scientific to take random languages that have no prior evidence of kinship and apply the historical comparative method?
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Bengali analogical and phonetic changes. Vowel alternations in verbs

How do we get verbs as “lekhe” and “nebe” in Bengali, instead of “likhe” and “nibe”? If we apply sound changes that have occurred from Pre-Bengali to Bengali, those should be the correct forms.
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Sound Changes From Proto Bengali to Bengali

What are the sound changes that occur from Proto Bengali to Bengali? In which order did they occur historically? Ex. PB Būdhā became B Buro PB Karisi became B koriš PB dahī became B doi
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Are there languages where this “is” phrase is reversed?

"A cat is an animal". "Is a cat an animal?" I have a theory that the word order here is important. One must first put the image of a "cat" in your brain BEFORE recognising if it is an "animal". For ...
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Does high-context manifest in Japanese grammar and syntax?

Supposedly being a high-context culture, do modern Japanese text genres also sport a higher prevalence of ellipsis? Do Japanese texts, by and large, sport more kinds of high-context manifestations ...
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Does 'on' mean the same as 'a' or 'à'?

unless (conj.) mid-15c., earlier onlesse, from (not) on lesse (than) "(not) on a less compelling condition (than);" see less. The first syllable originally on, but the negative connotation and the ...
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194 views

If *h1 were a glottal stop, and virtually all German word initial vowels have an implicit glottal stop

If *h1 were a glottal stop, and virtually all German word initial vowels have implicit glottal stop then would the claim about regular laryngeal loss have to be revised? There's a rather recent ...
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Is there a connection between the Sumerian En and the Semite El?

En means lord in Sumerian and El god or deity in Semitic. Semitic peoples use the word lord as a synonym of god, it seems that the same happens with Sumerian and its gods like Enlil, Enki, Enzu etc. ...
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How can I obtain a list / cross-comparison table of function / closed-class words in the world's languages? (preferably in softcopy, online etc.)

How can I obtain a list / cross-comparison table of function / closed-class words in the world's languages? (preferably in softcopy, online etc.) I am looking for something like: ...
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Nazis considered Slavs as non-Aryans, but did Nazi linguists classified the Slavic languages as “non-Indo-European”?

Nazis considered Slavs as non-Aryans, but did Nazi linguists classified the Slavic languages as "non-Indo-European"? What was the Nazi theory about historical linguistics?
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Why proto-languages?

Nowadays all the leading works on historical linguistics consider Proto-Slavic (you can put here anything you wish but I will talk about Slavonic studies) language as a fact (yes, there can be said ...
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1answer
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Is “small numbers inflect, large numbers don't” a universal?

In many languages, adjectives have some sort of noun-like inflection. In Latin (Indo-European) and Lingála (Bantu), just off the top of my head, adjectives are marked to agree with the nouns they ...
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151 views

From which language was the Finnish word for “language” derived?

I have noticed that several "Altaic" languages have similar words for "language," but I do not know whether this is a coincidence, or due to historical language contact. The word "kieli" in Finnish ...
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“program” Equivalent in Arabic [closed]

Program and programming language don't have a known translation in Arabic. برمجة and برنامج are used, even though they aren't Arabic. Is there a native word that can be used instead?
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“Ring species” as dialect continuum?

In biology, ring species is a population of subspecies in a geographically ring-shaped region, where individuals are close (in terms of interbreeding) if they live close to each other, but between the ...
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134 views

Why do some (usually, first ones) ordinal numbers seem completely different from corresponding cardinals?

I've noticed that in some (all? most?) languages, ordinal for 1 and 2 are completely different (i.e., not derived) from corresponding cardinals: English One/Two/Three vs First/Second/Third is a bad ...
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219 views

Latin “niger” from *negʷ-?

Could Latin niger "black", of uncertain origin, come from *negʷ- "bare, naked"? For an analogy, compare black, blank, Spanish blanco "white, argent", and their roots PGem *blakaz "burnt", PGem *...
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European loans in Bantu

This question is inspired by this answer. I wondered whether bod in the Beti language translates human and/or being just because it's reminiscent of body like everybody. Then I remembered Bantu means ...
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Why is phonemic labialization often found only on dorsal consonants?

According to Merritt Ruhlen, over 50% of occurrences of phonemic labialization are applied to dorsal (velar and uvular) consonants, while coronals are usually left out. There are a few families where ...
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Are Hungarian and Turkish related?

I was told by somebody who has lived near Hungary that she thought that Hungarian and Turkish were related, and that their languages are very similar. A brief google search seems to support this. ...
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In what ways did the Insular Indic languages morphologically diverge from Maharashthri Prakrit?

Maharashtri Prakrit is the antecedent southern zone language to all insular Indic languages. What are some characteristics, morphologically speaking, which differentiate these insular languages from ...
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Statistical Methods in Etymology

Etymologists tend to categorize the probability of theories under formulaic labels. These range from "uncertain" over "tentative" or "not convincing" to "established", "accepted" or "nonsense". P ...
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Halegannada/Proto-South Dravidian Phonological Changes

What is the explanation behind the /p/ to /h/ phonological change from Halegannada to Kannada?
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156 views

Are there languages that don't have “mom”?

English: Mother/mom, Russian: mama, Chinese: ma, Nepalese: (m)ama. Is there a language that doesn't have some sort of "ma" for mother? To make it clear. I am not asking if there is a language that ...
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Nicknames in Various Historical Cultures

There are a variety of ways to form casual address terms. Using family terms is common ('brother'), shortening/modifying a given name ('Teddy' from Theodore), or something based on the person's ...
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Does the English “Garden” come from the French “Jardin” or the German “Garten”?

I always assumed that the English word "Garden" was similar to the German "Garten" due to the Germanic roots of English. But according to Wikipedia, "Garden" in English is related to the French "...
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207 views

How often are dictionary etymologies wrong?

How often are the etymologies in dictionaries incorect? Sometimes when reading a dictionary I see a derivation of a word which contradicts my intuition. For example I read that "ball" comes from ...
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76 views

How common is it for languages to be head-first as often as they are head-final?

English, I've heard, is rather odd for not leaning one way or another towards a head-final order, or a head first. Verbs gravitate towards the beginning of sentences and it uses prepositions, which ...
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What are some of the most divergent cognate word forms?

I'm looking for examples like this pair: Russian for 'grass snake' — уж, [uʂ] Classical Latin for 'snake' — anguis, likely [ˈaŋ.ɡᶣɪs] These word forms are both masculine nouns in the nominative, and ...
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353 views

What is the oldest language that we know enough about to construct a plausible sentence in it?

One exciting way to track the evolution of our understanding of Proto-Indo-European is to look at the different versions of Schleicher's fable from different years. The more time we spend studying the ...
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60 views

Where do I find datasets for linguistic phylogenetics?

Where can I find machine readable datasets for use in phylogenetic estimation? I am looking for anything---lexical cognate data, phonological data, morphosyntactic data---in any language family.
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Calculating conceptual similarity of distinct languages

I'm new to linguistics (fresh off the boat) and am curious if there is some type of equation/field/sub-field that tries to quantify the conceptual similarity between distinct languages. Not just the ...
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Is there any evidence of language contact between the Inuit and Ainu languages?

The Eskimo-Aleut and Ainu languages were historically spoken in the same region (near the Kamchatka Peninsula), and they share some features that are common in Paleo-Siberian languages, including ...
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1answer
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How to proceed with this Maasai translation?

The problem statement is as follows: Question: Indicate which translation goes with each Maasai sentence. My current approach: The word {word1} appears a total of 8 times in the Maasai sentences ...
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1answer
106 views

Similar demonstrative pronouns in several different East Asian language families

Looking at a list of synonyms in several different East Asian language families, I found that many languages have a similar-sounding word for "this": English: This Khmer: នេះ (nih) Korean: 이 (i) ...
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Do more closely related languages, have more similar Zipfian distributions?

"Zipf's law" is just a pretentious way of saying that many types of data, in various sciences, fit certain kinds of power law distribution. E.g. in linguistics, for a corpus of English word frequency ...
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What is the relation of PIE *wers (“to confuse, mix up; to beat, thresh, grind”), *wert (“to turn, to rotate”), and *werb (“to bend, to turn”)?

From *wers we get English war, worse, worst. From *wert we get English versus, verse, version, vertex, vortex, vertical, revert, invert, divert,..., worth, -ward, weird. From *werb/p we get ...
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Is there a language that's as trialistic as English is dualistic?

In the modern English discourse there are a lot of dualistic distinctions. An object is either located on the right or the left. That dualistic conception then gets translated into a lot of other ...
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Besides Proto-Indo-European, does any language have separate words for “one alone” and “one united”?

In PIE, e̯oinos meant "one alone", "one separated", it has the same root as in the word for "goes", e̯eiti. Semantically it meant the one that went away. At the same time, som meant "one united", "...
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Measuring oral comprehensibility between different language

Recently I was wondering whether some languages are inherently more comprehensible when spoken, than others. Has this been measured in any way? To make things more precise, let's define a "please say ...
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Which language expresses aspect most similarly to English?

I suppose there are at least two ways to read this question (forgive me, I'm not a linguist, just a struggling practical language student): 1) Which languages' aspects map onto those in English most ...
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1answer
210 views

Is the Indo-Austronesian Hypothesis an example of a pseudoscientific language comparison?

So, is this an example of a pseudoscientific language comparison: Indo-Austronesian In short, the webpage on the link claims that there are a few regular sound correspondences between Proto-Indo-...
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165 views

Is there a measure for grammatical similarity?

Something I see from time to time is the proportion of words from various sources, e.g. English has about 29% French, 29% Latin, 26% Germanic and 6% Greek words. I've never seen anything similar with ...