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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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26 votes
4 answers
22k views

Worldwide map or data for linguistic distance?

I came upon an excellent graphical representation of the linguistic distance between a number of European languages. I'm looking for a similar worldwide map of currently spoken languages. Or at least ...
Fiksdal's user avatar
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10 votes
2 answers
2k views

Oldest proto-languages

Dating proto-languages is obviously something we can't do precisely, but we can offer reasonable ranges. For example, Proto-Indo-European can't really be much younger than 5 millennia, and let's say ...
user54748's user avatar
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32 votes
11 answers
5k views

Articles before the name of a person

In the question “La” or “le” before a person's name? on the French SE site, the asker refers to the phenomenon that in some rural/dialect settings the first name of a person is preceded by the ...
Phira's user avatar
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17 votes
1 answer
1k views

Is it possible to analyse Māori grammar without contrasting nouns and verbs?

In order to prepare myself for a glorious sports event this weekend, I've bought and read a book about Māori. If my sources are to be believed, Māori is relatively close to other Polynesian languages, ...
JPP's user avatar
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16 votes
5 answers
2k views

Do linguists measure the relation distance between languages? How?

Sometimes, I read passages like: Languages X, Y and Z in region A are closely related to each other, comparable to French, Italian and Spanish in Western Europe. The discussion in the question "Do ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
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36 votes
5 answers
9k views

How similar are Ukrainian and Russian?

How similar are the Ukrainian and Russian languages? For example, can I reasonably expect that anybody from Ukraine would be able to understand spoken Russian or be able to read a Russian text?
Martin's user avatar
  • 461
23 votes
9 answers
1k views

Are there grammatical analyses of languages that are extremely different from IE grammar?

It's a fact that the grammar core of most European languages (not only IE ones) can be analysed in a relatively precise common framework. Of course I do not know much of these languages, but the basic ...
JPP's user avatar
  • 720
14 votes
4 answers
3k views

How to explain differences in mutual intelligibility?

Suppose language A and language B belong to the same language family. And suppose the speakers of language A understand language B a lot better than the speakers of language B understand language A. ...
dobrze's user avatar
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12 votes
3 answers
3k views

Database of Swadesh lists

Do anyone know where to find the most extensive collection of Swadesh lists? And with how many different languages in the collection?
Flying's user avatar
  • 651
11 votes
0 answers
357 views

What kind of features support the claim that Slavic languages are closer to Germanic languages than to Indo-Iranian languages?

Inspired by this answer to a different question, I ask what kind of features justify a claim that Balto-Slavic languages are closer to Germanic languages than to Indo-Iranian languages. The features ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
8 votes
6 answers
7k views

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?
Valandil's user avatar
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7 votes
3 answers
873 views

What is the difference between "Linguistic distance" and "Lexical distance"?

The question arose in the comments here.
Fiksdal's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
1k views

How common is word order change?

During the course of their development, the word order of some languages change. Examples include Latin (SOV) that changed to SVO in the Romance languages, Proto-Austronesian (verb initial) that ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
6 votes
4 answers
718 views

From Italian to Spanish, consonant + "i" goes to consonant + "l"?

Why is it, that in words like plaza / piazza, or blanca / bianca, the "l" in Spanish corresponds to an "i" in Italian? Is there a preference for this kind of sound in Italian, or ...
user avatar
20 votes
8 answers
5k views

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 ...
Andrea Rowlatt's user avatar
17 votes
1 answer
3k views

Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French number words from eleven to nineteen - history of a bizarre, inconsistent construction

Following Sklivvz's advice, I propose here a question I made in Italian Language. Because I am not sure how I should do this, I will just copy/paste the whole lot. Let's count in Latin from one to ...
randomatlabuser's user avatar
16 votes
4 answers
21k views

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. ...
user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
2k views

Why do languages have different syllable complexity from each other?

Assuming human vocal tracts are similar and equally capable of articulating different syllable structures, why is it that languages develop different syllable complexity? Why is it that it is not ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
396 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 ...
Metamorphic's user avatar
8 votes
1 answer
336 views

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 ...
Dominic van der Zypen's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why do many French and Spanish noun cognates have opposing grammatical gender?

While most French/Spanish noun cognates share the same gender (both descending from the same vulgar latin root), there are many exceptions having opposing genders (e.g. la couleur / el color; la ...
user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
646 views

Why are the plural and singular first person forms of the verb "go" so different in the Romance languages?

In many Romance languages, the first person plural and singular forms are completely different: French (aller): je vais, nous allons Italian (andare): io vado, noi andiamo Catalan (anar): jo vaig, ...
terdon's user avatar
  • 335
6 votes
3 answers
990 views

Is there a known rule of correspondence between Latin and Greek *p and *kʷ - in other languages?

It seems to me that some words that have -p- in stem in Latin have clearly reconstructible -ku̯- based on other Indo-European languages. Some examples include *u̯lpes - *u̯lku̯os ("wolf") *u̯esper - *...
Anixx's user avatar
  • 6,683
6 votes
2 answers
414 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 ...
62mkv's user avatar
  • 173
5 votes
2 answers
455 views

The shout symbol?

wikipedia : Devnagari :- : "The avagraha ऽ (usually transliterated with an apostrophe) is a Sanskrit punctuation mark for the elision of a vowel in sandhi: एकोऽयम् ekoyam (< ekas + ayam) "this one"...
ARi's user avatar
  • 580
4 votes
3 answers
683 views

Forming an imperative mood by using other grammatical moods or aspects across the languages

I'm looking for some comparative analysis that would indicate how imperative meaning can be built in various languages by using grammatical moods other than imperative. The reason is that in many ...
Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
1k views

Do the Thai masculine & feminine "polite particles" have counterparts in Lao?

In Thai there are particles which can be used at the end of many sentences to make them more polite. Different particles are used by male and female speakers: "ครับ" (kráp) : male "ค่ะ" (kâ) : female ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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3 votes
4 answers
15k views

Linguistic relationship between Hebrew and Greek

In the modern linguistic school of thought, are Ancient Hebrew and Ancient Greek related? Hebrew is classified as Afroasiatic->Semitic, while Greek is Indo-European->Hellenic. However, in Jewish ...
Scimonster's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
274 views

Besides Proto-Indoeuropean, what would be the list of the 10 most acurately reconstructed Proto-languages?

Proto-Indoeuropean language (p-IE) has been the subject of study for more than 200 years, and a great deal of work has been published has been written about p-IE reconstruction. In addition, there are ...
Davius's user avatar
  • 570
0 votes
0 answers
202 views

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 ...
Matthew T. Scarbrough's user avatar
-3 votes
1 answer
120 views

Could the initial d- in the word for tongue be originally a prefix?

I am looking for the most ancient proto-world lemmas and it seems, the word for tongue is shared by many families from over the world. Here are some selected examples: Niger-Congo: * Proto-Heiban: ...
Anixx's user avatar
  • 6,683
-4 votes
2 answers
160 views

What's the reconstruction of the word for fire in proto-Australian?

The word for fire in some modern Australian languages: Tiwi yikwani Djinang junggi Maung yungku Walmajarri yakun This is strikingly similar to that in PIE: PIE h₁...
Anixx's user avatar
  • 6,683