Questions tagged [cross-linguistic]

Comparisons across (as opposed to within) languages or language families.

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37
votes
9answers
10k views

What is word order used for in “free word order” languages?

Consider languages whose case-systems allow the order of arguments to be changed without changing the arguments’ grammatical relations. (Note the 189 languages noted as having “no dominant word-...
34
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4answers
3k views

Why does speech speed seem to vary between different languages?

I feel that French and Spanish speakers speak their languages faster than English speakers do. Is this difference real, or is it just a mistake in my observation (note: I am much less familiar with ...
24
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4answers
24k views

What are the historical origins of terms for north, south, east and west?

In the course of researching the etymology of the word "Australia", I was trying to find the Latin words for north and south (the cardinal directions). I found some websites that translate north as "...
23
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9answers
9k views

The relationship between “orange” the colour and “orange” the fruit

This is something that bugged me before I studied linguists, and it still does - why is the word "orange" so often used for both the colour and the fruit cross-linguistically? Every language I've ...
22
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2answers
1k views

Do onomatopoeias resist sound change?

Regular sound changes can of course affect phonemes used in onomatopoeias. For example, consider a language containing /mjaw/, referring to the call of a cat. Suppose that final /w/ is sound-changed ...
19
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3answers
542 views

Reversal of kinship terms when speaking to a child

When Turkish people speak to children, they often address them with the kinship term that the child is supposed to use for the speaker. For example a mother may call her child "anneciğim" ("my dear ...
19
votes
3answers
759 views

How are mathematical operators like “plus” and “cos” analyzed?

Consider the mathematical statement 1 + 2 = 3 It is read in English as One plus two equals three. One plus two is equal to three. In English at least, equals is obviously an ordinary verb, ...
18
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6answers
2k views

Are the Japanese and Korean subject particles known to be related in any way, including by Sprachbund?

Japanese and Korean have strikingly similar grammars but whether they are related or not is an open question. Both languages have a particle to mark the grammatical subject of a sentence and in fact ...
18
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3answers
4k views

Why does stop VOT duration vary depending on place of articulation?

From the (albeit citation needed) section of the Wikipedia article on aspiration: Spanish /p t k/, for example, have voice onset times (VOTs) of about 5, 10, and 30 milliseconds, whereas English /p ...
16
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4answers
767 views

Why do rhotics pattern together?

Looking at the IPA, many different types of sounds are given symbols based of of the Latin R,r: approximants, trills, taps/flaps; both coronal and uvular segments. Sometimes, these sounds are ...
14
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14answers
4k views

What languages use numbers to name the week days and months?

I know in Chinese, the days in a week from Monday to Sunday are called 星期一, 星期二, ..., 星期六, 星期日, which are verbatim translated as weekday one (or 1st weekday), weekday two (or 2nd weekday), ..., ...
13
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4answers
487 views

Does any language use bound morphology to express the concept “less”?

In English, many adjectives support the -er ending to express a notion of exceeding: John is taller than Mary (is). Mary is smarter than John (is). Of course, you can also have the more analytic ...
12
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6answers
556 views

Are there any languages where the genitive case changes according to its object?

In forms like Claudio's house or Claudio's dogs, are there languages in which the Claudio's would change depending on gender and number of the houses or dogs?
12
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7answers
2k views

Are the Finnish pronouns related to their Indo-European counterparts?

Although not belonging to the Indo-European family, Finnish has personal pronouns that resemble (to a layperson, at least) the corresponding pronouns in Indo-European languages. For example, the ...
12
votes
2answers
1k views

Non-African Click Languages

Paralinguistic clicks are quite common across world's languages. But paralinguistic clicks usually appears as ideophones. But why is Africa the only continent that uses click consonants? Are there any ...
12
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1answer
372 views

Are there studies of difficulty to learn particular language depending on learner's native language?

Do you know if any studies were made to classify the difficulty to learn a particular language depending on learner's native language? There are a lot of discussions about what is the easiest or the ...
12
votes
1answer
341 views

Why do onsets not count for syllable weight in phonological processes?

Whether a syllable has a heavy or light rime is often important in whether it will participate in phonological processes, and whether it will receive stress. For example, in Latin, stress is on the ...
12
votes
3answers
769 views

Is there any language that doesn't express Tense but allows “aspectual coercion”?

Mandarin Chinese appears to be a language that may not express tense (at least in the way I will define below), and it does not seem to allow aspectual coercion. By not expressing Tense I mean, such ...
11
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4answers
595 views

Hierarchy of morphology, auxiliaries, and suppletion of verbal accidents?

I would like to make a hierarchy of verbal accidents that would have the following features. For any two accidents in the hierarchy, if a language marks only one of them by lexical suppletion, it ...
11
votes
3answers
291 views

About how much does language typology correlate with genetic relationships among languages?

About how much does language typology correlate with genetic relationships among languages? For example, should we expect most Sino-Tibetan languages to be isolating, or most Indo-European languages ...
11
votes
6answers
4k views

What languages are the most similar to English?

I speak English and Bengali with similar proficiency, at least in the 'lower' registers of the languages. Since I was a small child in a bilingual home I've been struck by how, despite having ...
11
votes
4answers
3k views

Using the word “dream” as hope for the future across languages

Many languages seem to use the same word for "dream" (psychological phenomenon) and "dream" (hope for the future). Quick scanning on Wiktionary gives the list: Germanic languages: Danish (drøm), ...
11
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2answers
2k views

Gender of mixed groups defaulting to masculine – how common?

French has that rule that whenever a masculine entity is part of a group, the whole NP will default to masculine as far as agreement goes. My native language, German, also defaults gender to masculine,...
11
votes
1answer
368 views

Are there languages which use the negation of 'odd' to denote 'even'?

This question is influenced by another one I found on the German SE, "Warum nennt man in Deutsch die Zahlen 0, 2, 4 … “gerade” Zahlen?". It asks "Why call Germans the numbers 0, 2, 2 "even". The ...
11
votes
2answers
554 views

Why do so many languages have a phase like “so-so”?

Many languages seem to have some sort of repeating and/or singsong equivalent of the phrase so-so: Arabic: نصف نصف (nisf nisf) Chinese: 馬馬虎虎 (mǎma hūhu) Greek: έτσι κι έτσι Hebrew: ככה ...
10
votes
1answer
703 views

How does expressing possession vary across language families?

Related: https://english.stackexchange.com/q/126519/17952 Backstory: I recently was explaining a couple of Marathi phrases to my friend, and I realized that the language doesn't have the word "...
10
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4answers
1k views

Are there any languages with the equivalent of “both” for three items?

Referring to this question it seems that English does not have the equivalent of "both" for three items. Although it would seem to be a useful word, I am unaware of its existence in any languages. Is ...
9
votes
5answers
368 views

What are the different ways in which languages express the notion of passivity?

In English, the passive is expressed by the use of an auxiliary and past participle. The agent is demoted to an optional by-phrase, and the theme/patient is promoted to the subject position. Rome ...
9
votes
2answers
401 views

Do distantly related languages have a lower incidence of false friends?

Are false friends less common between distantly related languages compared to closely related languages? If so, is it merely because there's fewer words that sound similar, or is it also that when ...
9
votes
2answers
445 views

What is the historical basis for the use of this type of phrasal verb in English but less so in Spanish?

For example, English uses phrases like to look for and to look at, which (I believe) are considered phrasal verbs. Spanish, however, would under normal circumstances use some derivation of buscar and ...
9
votes
3answers
673 views

What motivates / allows preposition stranding in English, but disallows it in other languages, like Mandarin?

If someone could direct me to papers/sites that describe this, and a summary or something, that would be great. It is just a parameter for languages? What do linguists think so far? Example: "Which ...
9
votes
1answer
201 views

Are /tl/ and /dl/ rare onsets worldwide?

Onsets of stop+liquid are very common, but it seems like /tl/ and /dl/ are much rarer than other stop+liquid onsets, like /gl/ or /pr/. Are /tl/ and /dl/ especially rare compared to other stop+liquid ...
9
votes
1answer
2k views

Morphology of proper names

I'm wondering if there are any general morphological properties of proper names. If a word is used as a name, it will be constrained by whatever syntactic constraints that language uses from proper ...
8
votes
4answers
943 views

Does English language stand special in terms of phonology?

I am a native Russian speaker. When I am listening to songs and music in other languages, which I do not know, such as Italian, Romanian, Greek, Bulgarian, and even Japanese, Finnish, Kyrgyz and ...
8
votes
6answers
16k views

Is learning German easier for people who know Sanskrit, and vice versa?

I've heard many times that learning German is easier for those who speak Sanskrit, and vice versa. Is there any linguistic basis for this? What similarities exist between the two languages that may be ...
8
votes
2answers
902 views

How are phones distributed across languages?

By making a quick comparison among several language phonologies (from various language families), I could observe that some phones occur very frequently, such as [m], [p], [b], [h], [a] and [i]. ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Are there languages with more than three degrees of comparison?

In English and other languages there are three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative and superlative (e.g. tall, taller, tallest). Are there languages with more than three degrees, expressed ...
8
votes
3answers
296 views

The hunger for single words

Over on English Language and Usage, there are many, many questions of the form "What is a single word for [phrase]". The poster usually seems to be very keen to use a single word — which may be ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Rules for glottal stop insertion across languages

Many languages lack phonemic glottal stops, but regularly insert them. For example: English invariably inserts glottal stops before utterance-initial vowels, and often before word-initial vowels when ...
8
votes
1answer
707 views

Lexical similarity among languages used in Southeast Asia

Among many languages used in Southeast Asia (especially I want to talk about Malay, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Thai), is there any study about which pair of languages is close to each other in ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

Where do we find the highest “language density”?

At Travel.SE it was pointed out that in Georgia (the country), a visitor would have use of learning Georgian, Russian, and Armenian. That's three very different languages, with three quite different ...
7
votes
4answers
690 views

What language takes the longest to text?

It takes X seconds for the average English user to send an average-length text message via phone. What language is the most effort-intensive to text? How about to write? Is there one language that ...
7
votes
2answers
376 views

Are there any online databases of kinship terms across languages?

Related to a question at ELU, I am interested in doing a comparative analysis of kinship terms in various languages. What would help me with this is an inventory of terms for individual languages. ...
7
votes
2answers
812 views

Are “nine” and “new” etymologically or historically connected?

Is there a connection between the word "nine" and "new"? The two words are similar in many languages.
7
votes
2answers
858 views

Are There Ancient Greek Words Descended From Sumerian?

Does the lexicon of Ancient Greek contain words believed to be of Sumerian origin? If so, can some estimate of their number be provided? Thanks
7
votes
9answers
17k views

Which language has the biggest vocabulary?

I am thinking that it is English because it has so many borrowed words and most you French, Italian, or German words can be written in English as is. Am I right?
7
votes
3answers
325 views

Relationship between possession (“to have”) and tenses (“I have seen”)

In several Indo-European languages the verb that denotes possession (to have) is also used to construct verb tenses. Some examples: I have seen ... I have a dog. (English) Am văzut ... Am un ...
7
votes
2answers
938 views

How common is phonemic vowel length across languages?

Including different kinds of length distinctions, such as in stressed syllables only, or stressed and unstressed, etc.
7
votes
2answers
540 views

Cross-linguistic association between velarization and pharyngealization

Articulatorily, velarization and pharyngealization are distinct, but they are often conflated in linguistic analyses I've seen: Conflating them is common enough, I presume, that the IPA allocates the ...
7
votes
1answer
496 views

Which languages have zero markers of comparative degree that coexist with non-zero comparative markers?

The zero comparative marker and the non-zero one should be more or less interchangeable. (The etymology of the non-zero marker doesn't matter.) (A message asking to list such languages was originally ...