Questions tagged [english]

A Germanic language, which originated from England, and is considered the leading language in international communication.

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68
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12answers
20k 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 ...
45
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3answers
12k views

Why do English transliterations of Arabic names have so many Qs in them?

I remember when the Muslim holy book was the Koran when I was in middle school, but now it's the Quran. But it's always been Qatar and Iraq (but still Kuwait.) Who decided that 'Q' was going to be ...
38
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2answers
8k 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 ...
35
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4answers
2k views

Why are certain there-sentences infelicitous in English?

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language states that the first three of the following four excerpts are semantically or pragmatically anomalous (to give that term some context, it cites We ...
34
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4answers
6k views

Why isn't “I've” a proper response?

Suppose someone asked me the question, "Have you completed the project?". A standard response would be "I have". Why does the equivalent "I've" sound so strange and never used as a replacement? I am ...
31
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1answer
5k 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, ...
31
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3answers
897 views

Why the prevalence of “ph” in transliteration?

Why is "ph" used so often (as opposed to "f") to transliterate the Hebrew "fei" sound into English? Examples: Alef - 17.5 million Google hits (MGh) Aleph - 13.8 MGh Seraf - 0.9 MGh Seraph - 23.4 MGh
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8answers
18k views

Why do Japanese people have difficulties in pronouncing English?

When I watch Anime, I notice that Japanese English pronunciation is really bad, they twist all the sounds, and they can't pronounce sounds like "L". I think English is the easiest language when it ...
29
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5answers
6k 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 ...
28
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5answers
7k 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 ...
24
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2answers
40k 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 ...
23
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8answers
11k views

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 ...
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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8answers
13k 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 ...
20
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1answer
12k views

When does copula absence occur in African-American Vernacular English?

In what contexts can the zero copula occur in African-American Vernacular English? What rules govern its use—for example, what makes she runnin' more likely to be acceptable than ?she a runner? Some ...
19
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4answers
2k views

Is the schwa sound consistent?

The first syllable in "about" (ə'baʊt) is schwa, so is the second one in the "salad" ('sæləd), but iv'e never heard them pronounced the same way. in salad it sounds more like the i in "trick". ...
18
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10answers
8k 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 ...
18
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7answers
5k 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 ...
15
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6answers
41k views

Why did England not maintain French as a spoken language?

In many countries around the world, especially in Africa, the people natively speak both an indigenous language and French due to French colonization. The Norman conquest of England left us with many,...
15
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2answers
63k 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: ...
15
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5answers
1k 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 ...
15
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2answers
748 views

Are American English and British English growing closer together or drifting further apart?

I'm mostly wondering about vocabulary (e.g. truck vs. lorry; apartment vs. flat) but I suppose I'd be interested to learn about pronunciation too. Intuitively I feel like this could go either way. ...
12
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5answers
1k 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 "...
12
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1answer
2k views

Do the words “angst” and “anxiety” share a common root?

The English word angst, taken from German Angst, seems to ultimately originate from Proto-Germanic *angustiz. This word has descendants in many Germanic languages, including, but not limited to, ...
12
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2answers
332 views

The current status of Irish Gaelic in Ireland

In addition to all the usual phonology, grammar, and vocabulary one has to learn for a new language there is the social situation, among many things when is it appropriate to speak in one register or ...
11
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2answers
2k views

Why IPA does not indicate “soft” consonants in English?

I am a native Russian speaker. Sometimes I encounter English speakers who are trying to learn Russian and wonder how to pronounce "soft" consonants. At the same time while learning English I noticed ...
11
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9answers
3k views

Why are there inflections?

I'm from a Chinese background. I wonder why there are inflections in many languages, as compared with no inflections in Chinese. I personally suppose that a language should originate simple and easy ...
11
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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
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1answer
665 views

Diachronic devoicing of initial lenis plosives in English

I get the impression that in the "classical Received Pronunciation" of English during phonetician Jones's era, the lenis plosives /b/, /d/, /g/ (and probably the affricate /dʒ/ as well) in initial ...
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2answers
3k views

Why can “autarchy” be spelled with an “k” while other words not? [closed]

English has a set of words with "ch", coming — more or less directly — from the Greek language. They all have a /k/ sound. character charisma psychology choreography archive Just to name a few. All ...
10
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3answers
2k views

What's the difference between /ɪ/ and /i(ː)/?

In English there's the vowel sound /ɪ/ as in "bin" and /i(ː)/ as in "been". My girlfriend, who is Greek, cannot perceive the difference, but to me they sound very different. Is the difference ...
10
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1answer
1k views

What is this feature of British English called?

In British English you'll often hear them post-fixing expressions that American English tends to keep up front. For example, I've heard British English speakers (golf commentators in particular) say ...
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4answers
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Can prepositional phrases with “of” ever be adjuncts to nouns, or only complements in English? If they can't be adjuncts, why?

This question came up while doing syntax homework. It seems to me that prepositional phrases with "of" can only ever be complements to nouns, not adjuncts. The basis for my conclusion was that, while ...
10
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3answers
30k views

Why is “Aurora Borealis” from Greek, but “Aurora Australis” from Latin?

In astronomy we have the Aurora Australis in the south and the Aurora Borealis in the north. According to Wikipedia, auster is in fact the Latin equivalent of the Greek νότος, or southern wind. ...
10
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1answer
219 views

Analysis of 'fuck off has he', 'bollocks do they', and the like

Is anybody aware of published analysis of this interesting construction, which seems to require what I will loosely term swear words to work? I believe I've only heard it in British English: A1 - ...
10
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2answers
1k 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 ...
10
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1answer
527 views

Why exactly is *“I Am America (And So Can You!)” ungrammatical?

Stephen Colbert wrote a book entitled “I Am America (And So Can You!)”. As discussed in a question on English Language and Usage, the title is an intentionally strange way of saying "I am America, and ...
10
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1answer
484 views

Universals and emphatic pronouns

In (spoken) English, the object pronouns "me/you/her/him/us/them" are, in some sense, the "unmarked" pronouns. (I only claim native knowledge of English as it is spoken in parts of the US). By this I ...
10
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1answer
680 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 ...
10
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2answers
659 views

Do dialects without the meet-meat merger neutralize the distinction in some contexts?

For many dialects of English (including my own) multiple historical lexical sets are merged into one "FLEECE" set (this diaphoneme can be represented with IPA /iː/). I've read about the basics of the ...
9
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3answers
3k views

Why was apostrophe so vaguely used in Early Modern English?

So I have noticed in many of Shakespeare's poems that he used apostrophes in places where we don't usually see them now. For Example: In the poem 'Fear No More' the first line is "Fear no more the ...
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7answers
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Is there a reason behind the phenomenon of English becoming more vulgar with time?

In the last few years I have noticed both with colleagues and from online discussions a tendency for English language writing and speech to become more and more vulgar. That is, I see explicatives ...
9
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4answers
1k views

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

The close-mid back rounded vowel is, according to Wikipedia, "usually diphthongized to [oʊ]". Examples: row, also. In fact, in the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary I didn't see o ...
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4answers
5k views

Why did English stop using thou?

In Shakespearean English, thou/thee/thy/thine were used for second person singular, and you/your/yours were used for second person plural. In modern English, you is used for both singular and plural. ...
9
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2answers
588 views

How did the present continuous in English get to be such a dominant present tense?

In French if I write the sentence Je mange le déjeuner it would/could be the same as if I am saying I am eating lunch. What is going on in French goes on in a number of the other Romance ...
9
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3answers
1k views

Why can't these English sentences passivize?

The active sentences (1a) and (2a) below can be passivized just like most English active clauses, resulting in (1b) and (2b): 1a. His candor struck me. 1b. I was struck by his candor. 2a. Her ideas ...
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4answers
1k views

Is there a term for when words that sound like antonyms are actually synonyms?

Seeded grapes are actually seedless An inflammable object is really flammable It seems to me that, superficially, the use of those affixes make the words sound like they should be antonyms, but ...
9
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1answer
477 views

How come I cannot get my “oral” English to a native speaker level after 25 years of trying?

I was born in Russia and moved to the US at the adolescent and prepubescent age of 12. Before my relocation to the US I had never really been exposed to the English language at large, and after my ...
9
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2answers
7k views

Why “Kampuchea” → “Cambodia”?

Many place names in English are anglicizations/transliterations of their native names. Of those, many place names in Asia seem to have undergone a change over the past few decades: they've gone from a ...
9
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4answers
2k 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 ...

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