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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9
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4answers
444 views

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
69 views

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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2answers
288 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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99 views

“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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458 views

“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 ...
6
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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 ...
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1answer
660 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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2answers
446 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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2answers
177 views

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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4answers
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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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1answer
222 views

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 ...
5
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1answer
231 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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290 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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365 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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56 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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3answers
810 views

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 "...
7
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2answers
262 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 ...
0
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1answer
193 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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2answers
384 views

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 ...
7
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2answers
458 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 ...
2
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1answer
73 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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33 views

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 ...
7
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960 views

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 ...
3
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1answer
174 views

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 ...
2
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1answer
131 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) ...
3
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1answer
76 views

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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1answer
190 views

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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1answer
130 views

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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125 views

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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1answer
85 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 ...
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1answer
99 views

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 ...
3
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1answer
270 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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1answer
375 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 ...
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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.!
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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 ...
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6answers
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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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487 views

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 ...
4
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1answer
488 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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1answer
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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 ...
5
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1answer
293 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....
6
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1answer
641 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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5answers
296 views

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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4answers
1k 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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2answers
127 views

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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2answers
3k views

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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0answers
147 views

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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3answers
241 views

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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2answers
496 views

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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5answers
223 views

“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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2answers
697 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 ...