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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17
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3answers
13k 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 ...
16
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1answer
913 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, ...
11
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3answers
2k 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?
22
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9answers
977 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 ...
29
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11answers
4k 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 ...
8
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6answers
3k 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?
6
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4answers
446 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 ...
8
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0answers
130 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 ...
6
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2answers
509 views

What is the difference between “Linguistic distance” and “Lexical distance”?

The question arose in the comments here.
20
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8answers
4k 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 ...
20
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12answers
5k views

Which languages have different words for “maternal uncle” and “paternal uncle”?

According to some early Hebrew grammarians, the Biblical Hebrew word דוד (dod) specifically means "paternal uncle," while the term מסרף (misraf) means "maternal uncle" (for example,...
17
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1answer
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 ...
16
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5answers
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 ...
7
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3answers
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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 ...
7
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1answer
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 ...
7
votes
1answer
236 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
169 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 ...
0
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0answers
181 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 ...
8
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1answer
353 views

How can I distinguish modern Scandinavian languages at a glance?

I don't know Danish, Nynorsk, or Bokmål, but will sometimes, on coming across a writing sample of one of them, wish to know which it is. How do I distinguish them in their written forms? (I'd include ...
7
votes
1answer
494 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, ...
5
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2answers
858 views

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.!
5
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2answers
386 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"...
10
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2answers
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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 ...
4
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2answers
844 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 ...
-4
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1answer
79 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...