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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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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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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 [on hold]

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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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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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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248 views

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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108 views

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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139 views

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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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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49 views

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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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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64 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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258 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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1answer
50 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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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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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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Is there any topological foundations for biosemiotics?

I'm currently studying Biosemiotics from the school of barbeiri. I stumbled upon this article, "topological aspects of biosemiotics". In this article, the author argues that, there are ...
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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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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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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 ...
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Are Hindi “Bigul” (बिगुल) and English “Bugle” cognates?

In Hindi, Bigul (बिगुल) (IPA /bigul/) is a bugle-like instrument, if they are cognates can someone also tell me how they might have been formed.!
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Dissecting an unknown language sample with nothing but an interpretation thereof?

So let's just say that one acquired a sample of an unknown tongue (let's just pretend it's Japanese,) and they wanted to dissect it word for word without knowing anything about it based off an ...
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Which Indo European language best preserves the features of Proto Indo-European?

Among all attested Indo European languages, which one best preserves the features of Proto Indo-European? Which is most useful in the reconstruction of PIE?
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Parallel English-Spanish corpora?

I would like to know of parallel corpora for English-Spanish (that is, texts or language originally in English translated into Spanish and aligned by excerpts of texts) other than those on the Opus ...
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360 views

Are Latin “virīlis”, Punjabi “vīr”, Old Irish “fer” , Wels “gwr” and Hindi “var” related?

Are all the words above from the same root (PIE)? Or are these a bunch of false cognates like behtar (Farsi) better (English).
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906 views

Relationship between Japanese and Austronesian languages

Linguists have generally accepted that Japanese belongs to the Japonic family, and the only extant "sibling" language of Japanese are the Ryukyuan languages. It is also conjectured that Japanese is ...
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236 views

Which language code set (WALS, Linguasphere, ISO 639‑3 or Glottolog) should be the basis for a comparative linguistic project?

To compile a word-list database which includes the available scattered word lists (mainly Swadesh lists), which language code should one use? WALS with 2679 entries, lots of linguistic data included....
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390 views

How are Baltic and Slavic languages related?

What are their common characteristics? I was reading about it on Wikipedia but didn't understand much since I have no background in linguistics. I would appreciate if someone could just name some ...
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Are there any known natural languages in which tense is never (or very rarely) expressed through the modification of verbs?

I should probably confess up front that I don't have a great deal of knowledge of foreign languages, but I have lately taken a strong interest in the structure and nature of language, and have spent a ...
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527 views

Are different varieties of German closer to each other than different Slav languages?

Are different varieties of German (e.g. Bavarian and Low German) closer to each other than different Slav languages (e.g. Russian and Polish)? The lexical distance map from https://elms.wordpress.com/...
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What is the origin of the Arabic word دزينة (dazina)?

As a Semitic language, one would expect the word dozen to be rooted in Aramaic (such as תריסר in Hebrew). This is obviously not the case, as the word appears similar to "dozen", rooted in Latin. Is ...
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How different were Proto-Italic and Proto-Germanic?

It's (generally) accepted that Proto-Indo-European (PIE) evolved into the subfamilies Proto-Italic, Proto-Germanic, and Proto-Iranian among others. English uses a Latin Writing system which evolved ...
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What is the etymology of Tibetan ཁང་ [khang]?

I've just discovered that ཁང་ [Wylie: khang], the Tibetan word for 'building' used as a part in many everyday vocabulary items sounds strangely familiar to the word of the same meaning in Farsi, which ...
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Potential gaps in the pIE phonological system?

The phonological system of proto-Indo-European (and of any other proto-language without written records) is reconstructed via the comparative method, which inevitably leaves some questions open. One ...
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Lexical Distance, is there a table?

I was looking (for a statistics project) to the Lexical Distance between languages and I came across this post Worldwide map or data for linguistic distance? I was wondering if there is any "...
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“I don't know if they escaped” / “If they escaped, they're long gone” - Conditional protases and interrogative clauses

English, conditional protases [ read "antecedents" ] bear a close resemblance to interrogative clauses. For example, they are often identical to subordinate closed interrogative clauses: If Bertha ...
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290 views

What can be said about the evolution of syllable stress in related languages?

Remembering a Czech song I once learnt I remembered a short Czech crash course I had and the teacher who said: In Czech, stress is always on the first syllable. This got me thinking and I ...