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Questions tagged [english]

A Germanic language, which originated from England, and is considered the leading language in international communication. For non-linguistic questions about the English language, visit one of our sister sites English Language & Usage or English Language Learners.

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25 votes
9 answers
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Why did English lose declensions while German retained them?

Why did (or more specifically what caused) English lose declensions whilst they were retained in German? I ask as I have recently been reading into the various Germanic languages and it struck me that ...
user2521439's user avatar
9 votes
4 answers
1k 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 ...
Anixx's user avatar
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3 votes
4 answers
2k views

Are modal verbs lexical or grammatical categories?

Are modal verbs, such as must and can, considered lexical or grammatical categories?
V.Lydia's user avatar
  • 579
2 votes
2 answers
199 views

Name of rule for whether compounds should be written with a space or not

What is the name of the rule that describes why some words are written together (e.g. "strawberry") and others apart (e.g. "street name")?
Matthias Schreiber's user avatar
31 votes
5 answers
9k views

Is future tense in English really a myth?

Does English really have two tenses - present and past? Some linguists argue that it is a Latinate fallacy to think that English has three tenses. Some English professors and even some native ...
Jvlnarasimharao's user avatar
29 votes
5 answers
7k views

Why does English not have a cognate of words like heter, in Swedish, or llama, in Spanish, etc?

This is something that I think is present in most languages. If I were to present my self in English, I might say: My name is DisplayName. Where as in other languages I can both say: Mitt namn ...
DisplayName's user avatar
15 votes
2 answers
91k views

The Origin of the Word 'God'

I originally posted this a while ago on my blog, but someone recently suggested that I pose it as a question here. A brief Wikipedia search on the origin of the word ‘god’ reveals the following: ...
Dov F's user avatar
  • 309
9 votes
4 answers
7k views

Correct syllabification in (American) English

I need to figure out what the proper syllabification of words in American English is and why. PLEASE NOTE: I am interested in syllabification from a phonetic point of view, not in terms of hyphenation/...
Fabien Snauwaert's user avatar
9 votes
4 answers
3k views

Why are only yes/no questions asked with a rising tone?

There is a rule used almost subconsciously by almost all English speakers (and I'm sure it applies to many other languages too) which is that yes/no questions are asked ending with a rising tone, and ...
Jez's user avatar
  • 201
6 votes
5 answers
2k views

Are sound changes regular?

Are sound changes regular now or not? I mean it seems to me that it's accepted that sound change is pretty regular, because of how sound changes are treated in etymology/historical linguistics. I even ...
Arhama's user avatar
  • 81
5 votes
2 answers
942 views

Why is 'be' sometimes the auxiliary verb for the present perfect?

1. Why do these 16 verbs require être as the auxiliary verb, to form the passé composé in French? 2. Abbreviated as DMPRRS, these 6 (of the 16) are ambitransitive. When transitive, their auxiliary ...
user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
281 views

What were allophone rules for [r] in Old English and Middle English?

I gather that [r] (trill) was realized as [ɹ] in different dialects of Old English and Middle English, but when [r] was used, was it an allophone? In other words, did [r] vary predictably with [ɹ] (...
Martha's user avatar
  • 53
5 votes
5 answers
1k views

Are English modal verbs tensed or non-tensed?

My assumption: English modal verbs are non-tensed (i.e. we don't say shoulds or shoulded). Yet, in X' bar theory, modal verbs appear under the inflection node I', precisely where we find the ...
Puzzled's user avatar
  • 133
4 votes
2 answers
738 views

Why is there no Subject-Auxilliary inversion in Subject questions?

In questions where a wh-element refers to the object, we can observe SAI (Subject-Auxilliary inversion). [Who did [you see]]? As far as I'm aware, C-head has a [+Q] feature and it's occupied by a ...
TheTobruk's user avatar
  • 197
4 votes
3 answers
4k views

English words which are both verbs and adjectives

A question about UI design led me to speculate about English words which are both a verb and an adjective. My answer to the question addresses this linguistics issue as the root of the UI issue. I ...
dotancohen's user avatar
  • 1,296
4 votes
4 answers
2k views

How many of all possible English words are actually in use (have meaning)?

If we consider that there are phonological observations as to what is an English word and what probably isn't, one could come up with a dictionary of "all possible" English words, i.e. all words that ...
tmh's user avatar
  • 191
4 votes
3 answers
5k views

Ergative Verbs and some discussion about them

I know what ergative verb is - Consider the following sentences - I opened the door. The door was opened (by me). The door opened. The verb open is a transitive verb in sentence #1, and sentence #...
Man_From_India's user avatar
2 votes
3 answers
501 views

Why are some (coda) clusters hard to pronounce in onsets?

Consider the following examples: Fact -> /fækt/ Hard -> /hɑːrd/ Paint -> /peɪnt/ In all these words, the clusters in the coda are easy to pronounce. However, when these clusters come in the onset ...
Mellifluous's user avatar
  • 1,389
2 votes
5 answers
3k views

Grammatical Aspect and Lexical Aspect

This is my first question here. I normally participate in ELU. This question was posted yesterday https://english.stackexchange.com/q/289903/129806. The OP asks why They build a house next to mine. ...
michael_timofeev's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
815 views

Homographs non-homophones

Homophones that are not homographs are common in languages like English. This arises because several letters (or diphthongs) can have the same pronunciation. But where do the (less common) homographs ...
Mathieu Bouville's user avatar
0 votes
3 answers
587 views

How does 'unless' mean 'or' or 'if not'? [closed]

Source: p 139, Introduction to Logic (2 ed, 2010) by Harry J. Gensler. [1.] Translate “unless” as “or.” ...     [eg: A unless B =  B unless A = Either A or B]. [2.] “Unless” is also ...
user avatar
0 votes
4 answers
2k views

Why is the "long i" sound in English written /aɪ/?

The "long i" sound in English, as in "fight" is usually written /aɪ/, so fight = /faɪt/. But /a/ is the sound in "hat", and /ɪ/ is the sound in "hit". When I say the two together it doesn't sound ...
Jack M's user avatar
  • 321
75 votes
12 answers
30k views

What characteristics are unique to English (or at least rare among language as a whole)?

After wondering about this today at work, I turned to the Internet. A short piece that focuses on pronunciation points toward "none". I've scoured ELU and Google (perhaps not as thoroughly or ...
Zairja's user avatar
  • 1,178
46 votes
3 answers
15k views

Is English tonal for some words, like "permit"?

I have heard the difference between tone and intonation described in the following way: Tone is when the pitch of a word determines its meaning. Intonation is when the pitch of a word conveys its ...
WillG's user avatar
  • 703
30 votes
1 answer
6k views

Is it unusual that English uses possessive for past tense?

When learning some basic French, I was somewhat surprised to learn that phrases of the form "I have found the cat" generally translate almost word-for-word from English (J'ai trouvé le chat). To me, ...
llama's user avatar
  • 403
30 votes
2 answers
52k views

English text corpus for download

I need a free English language corpus with at least 15 million words. The corpus should contain one or more plain text files. There should be no tagging, just raw text. The corpus should be free. I ...
Baz's user avatar
  • 1,082
23 votes
8 answers
18k views

Do absolute synonyms exist?

By absolute synonyms, I mean words (in the same language) that are interchangeable in all situations. There can't be differences in register, meaning, or emotional value. Is there material that ...
beton's user avatar
  • 340
21 votes
1 answer
587 views

Are there any studies on some English passive verb constructions currently being replaced by new intransitive senses?

In the past couple of years I've noticed a new trend in younger generations of native English speakers, at least in American English and Australian English. But I can't find it discussed anywhere on ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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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
19 votes
7 answers
7k views

Is spoken English more efficient than other languages?

Oftentimes while watching a subtitled foreign film, I find that reading the subtitles aloud (usually in my head) at the same1 pace as the speaker takes less time than what's spoken in the native ...
Zairja's user avatar
  • 1,178
18 votes
10 answers
10k views

What makes a non-native English speaker sound foreign?

I'm not a native speaker. However, I have tried a lot during last 10 years to learn English at a high level of proficiency and to become fluent in conversation. However, when I talk to some of my ...
Saeed Neamati's user avatar
16 votes
5 answers
2k views

Are Written and Spoken English distinct languages?

First of all, I am not a linguist, but I was thinking the other night that being literate was almost the same as being bilingual. My reasoning is that sign language is distinct from written and ...
John Gietzen's user avatar
14 votes
5 answers
18k views

What is the past tense of 'yeet'?

Yeet (/ji:t/) is a recently coined verb in English that seems to have taken on the characteristics of a strong verb, as seen in this hilarious urban dictionary definition. In English, the strong ...
ⰲⱁⰴⰰ's user avatar
13 votes
8 answers
4k views

Do non-tonal languages evolve into tonal languages?

I have read that the language in China did not always use tones or was less reliant on them. Native speakers have emphasized to me how much more compactly the same idea can be expressed in Mandarin ...
releseabe's user avatar
  • 555
12 votes
5 answers
2k views

Why does ISO 639-3 have many language codes for Arabic but only one for English?

ISO 639-3 has many language codes for Arabic, but only one for English. I'm an Arab who is familiar with multiple Arabic dialects. We do not call it anything but "لهجات" which is translated to "...
uak's user avatar
  • 229
11 votes
3 answers
10k views

Impossible bigrams in the English Language

Is there a list that contains every two letter combination that is not found in any English words? I have searched for a very long time and found nothing. It would also be useful if I had three letter ...
Nicholas Pipitone's user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
2k views

Distinguishing between epistemic and circumstantial readings (without recourse to temporality)?

How can you/should you empirically distinguish between epistemic and circumstantial readings of modals? I (at least think I) understand how the two readings are supposed to be distinguished ...
user177's user avatar
  • 616
10 votes
7 answers
7k views

Biggest freely available English corpus?

Any help on finding the biggest freely available English corpus that can be used on research? So far I have found OANC with 15 M words.
Tt22's user avatar
  • 111
10 votes
3 answers
16k views

Does sample text exist that includes most English sounds represented by the International Phonetic Alphabet?

My understanding of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is that it aims to provide a set of letter-based values that represent and map to fundamental sounds present in human languages. My ...
chris50's user avatar
  • 113
10 votes
1 answer
937 views

Feminisation of men's language?

I was wondering whether there has been (generally) a feminisation of "men's language". Lakoff's claims in "women's and men's language" are almost half a century old and there have been contradictory ...
blackcurrant's user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
2k views

Is the concept of 'long vowel' still relevant in modern English phonology?

It seems to me that despite the fact that Middle English long vowels have long since shifted dramatically, their descendants still pattern like long vowels in modern English. Since there's really very ...
Sjiveru's user avatar
  • 1,088
9 votes
2 answers
2k views

Are there any statistics or web services for n-grams of frequent English words?

I found this for six common subjects. But it doesn't contain the complete statistics about all common English words.
ARZ's user avatar
  • 233
8 votes
2 answers
926 views

Why does "begin" have /g/ instead of /j/ if it's from PG *ginnan?

My understanding is that the reflexes of Proto-Germanic velar consonants before front vowels were usually palatal consonants in Old English, which in turn generally yield palatal or palato-alveolar ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.3k
8 votes
3 answers
5k views

The "writer / rider" distinction

In some dialects of English (for example: General American), “writer” is said to be pronounced differently from “rider” due to the following two phonological rules (done in this order): Vowels are ...
Adil Khan's user avatar
8 votes
4 answers
2k views

Why in English words is [o] followed by [ʊ]?

The close-mid back rounded vowel is usually diphthongized to [oʊ] or [əʊ] in North America and respectively, Britain. Examples: row, also. In fact, in the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary I ...
Bogdan Lataianu's user avatar
8 votes
0 answers
212 views

What are the current views on the existence of a "zero article" in English?

As is well known, under certain circumstances in English, there can be acceptable noun phrases (NPs) that lack a determiner. Some cases include: (i) "indefinite uncountable nominals" (There ...
linguisticturn's user avatar
8 votes
4 answers
7k views

What's the difference between [ɚ], [ɹ̩], and [əɹ]?

I've seen the "-er" sound in English (like in butter) transcribed in all three of the above ways, but I've heard there are subtle differences between them. What are these differences, if there are ...
Joe Z.'s user avatar
  • 347
7 votes
2 answers
6k views

Is the word "here" a preposition?

In a related question, I got entangled in a debate whether the word "here" (which I would classify readily as an adverb) is in reality a preposition. I am curious which modern analyses find ...
Eleshar's user avatar
  • 2,363
7 votes
1 answer
2k views

Apical postalveolar approximant [ɹ̺] and retroflex approximant [ɻ]: What is the difference?

English [ɹ] has two realizations: apical and bunched (aka molar). ExtIPA (extensions to the IPA) thus recommends the use of [ɹ̺] and [ɹ̈] to differentiate the two. But I also often see English /r/ ...
Nardog's user avatar
  • 4,951
7 votes
1 answer
4k views

Was the change in spelling from "cw" to "qu" in English associated with any difference in pronunciation?

I always thought that "cw" in Old English represented /kw/, and the same for modern English "qu", and that the change from one to the other was purely orthographic, since the "qu" digraph was more ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.3k