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Questions tagged [evolution]

Development of languages, language families, etc, through time with influences by other languages or pre-existing ones.

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How can all languages be considered equally “good” at expressing ideas when language had to evolve from something more primitive?

At the moment I am reading Guy Deutscher's "The Unfolding of Language", in which he hypothesises that modern human language began as sequences of individual words (e.g. "girl run climb tree" or "do ...
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88 views

Why not just use demonstratives instead of determiners

Along the same lines as Understanding the purpose of determiners/articles/demonstratives in language, wondering why not just use demonstratives everywhere instead of determiners. It looks like the is ...
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1answer
84 views

Why and how do some words come to mean multiple completely unrelated things?

Take an example of the English word 'just'. While it means 'morally fair' in "a just social system", it also means 'a little' in "just less than 8%". For a myriad of colourful meanings of 'just', ...
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3answers
258 views

Possible diachronic developments of th sounds

What are possible diachronic developments of th sounds? Of course, I am aware of th-stopping /ð/,/θ/ -> /d/ and of th-fronting/θ/ -> /f/. Are there other developments of ð/ and /θ/ attested in the ...
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At what point does a language become its descendant?

With the possible exceptions of constructed languages, languages seem to evolve. As a real-world example, we note that Latin has evolved into Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, etc. What ...
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143 views

Absence of vowel combination /ou/ in Spanish

Spanish has many words containing the diphthongs /au/, /eu/ and /iu/, but the only instances of words containing /ou/ (as a diphthong or in hiatus) are a very small set of foreign loanwords: bou, ...
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1answer
138 views

Why are the Sinitic languages so different from the rest of Sino-Tibetan?

Compared to other Sino-Tibetan languages, the Chinese languages have a lot less inflection. Why is that? Did Old Chinese lose affixes and agreement systems? Or did other languages in the family get ...
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86 views

Are modern chuch Latin and classical Latin different languages?

From a (probably now-deleted comment) elsewhere on SE: [Church Latin and Classical Latin] are more or less the same languages. Some new words were added and the pronunciation changed over the years,...
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292 views

How fast is the number of languages spoken today decreasing/increasing?

Speciation and extinction From one ancestral language (e.g. latin), several languages are born (e.g. spanish, portuguese, french, italian, romanian, ...). Languages therefore speciate. Such ...
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140 views

How is it possible to reconstruct old accents of a language?

I just a video of a guy who delivered the opening lines of Romeo and Juliet in the modern received pronunciation of (British) English and then the same lines in what he claimed was the original accent ...
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1answer
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What is the relationship between perfectivity and the Classical Japanese conjunctive particle “-て” (“-te”)?

In Classical Japanese, the auxiliary verb "-つ" ("-tsu") has a perfective function, indicating the completion of an action or process. According to Haruo Shirane's Classical Japanese: A Grammar, "-て" ("...
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Is this what English/Mandarin Chinese or other 21st century dominant langauges would eventually do too? (details below)(yup that's opinion based) [closed]

Umbrians, for example, continued to make inscriptions in their language for centuries after Roman annexation. But eventually the power and status of Latin prevailed, particularly after all residents ...
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What is it called when a word is used based on an extant definition which no longer actually applies? e.g. “dial” with phones

It was difficult to phrase what I mean in an accurate and precise way here. This is similar to a fossil word, but fossil words are words which have fallen out of general use except where they are ...
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3answers
239 views

Can two close languages be merged?

For example: Norwegian and Danish are very close. If for some reason, Norwegian and Danish people live together in the same place, after a certain time, they'll speak the same language, will they? ...
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714 views

Origin of Present Perfect in Romance Languages

Since in Latin no compound form of verb tense exists, AFAIK, I thought that origin of Present Perfect should be sought in Proto-Germanic also for Romance languages, but I found out that Present ...
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2answers
319 views

When does language “evolve” and when is it just wrong grammar?

Lately I seem to get into a lot of discussions about stuff that is "wrong" in a language and whether it's really wrong. In my last discussion there was a native Japanese saying you can use "verb x" ...
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721 views

Language Change over Distance

I'm building a world where I'm tracking the languages and people throughout time. So I'm starting from a single point with a single language and then expanding that out as time progresses. My basic ...
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3answers
183 views

Why does the name for Germany vary so much between languages?

I understand that there are occasionally one or two different origins for the same word, but for Germany there are at least six distinct roots found in languages of nearby countries. Why so for ...
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69 views

What do you call a visual language based on color frequency?

I was thinking about this question and answer about how cephalopods might develop a language, in this case a visual one. How would linguistics term a language that is communicated visually as a ...
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2answers
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Why did English evolve to have so little inflection? [duplicate]

Consider the sentence, The boy hit the ball out of the yard. If we think of the words which make up the sentence, we realize that none of them have much inflectional possibility. The conjugation ...
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1answer
120 views

Fronting of /u/ from Latin to French

When Latin evolved to French, the vowel /u/ fronted to become /y/... except in Latin "VRSVS" /ur.sus/ > French "ours" /uʁs/, in which the vowel /u/ was kept. I do not think that the /rs/ environment ...
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Past participle agreement in French

Background (skip if you know French) In French, to generate the past tense, you use the past participle of the verb, attaching in front a conjugated form of avoir or être. For example: J'ai mangé. ...
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1answer
187 views

Latin to French - evolution of certain forms of “FACERE > faire”

All forms of the Latin verb "FACERE" that went to French had a "c", but it has disappeared in all forms of the French verb "faire". In FACIS > fais, the "c" completely disappeared. In FACIUNT > font,...
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Romance languages - “to mean” as “to want to say”

I have noticed this phenomenon in quite a few Romance languages, that the verb "to mean" can also be conveyed by the phrase "to want to say", regardless of the origin of the verb "to want". For ...
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1answer
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Name of phenomenon of wrong segmentation

I think it would be best to illustrate by examples instead of by words: an + other → another → a + nother → a whole nother myn + Edward → my Ned les enfants /le.zɑ̃.fɑ̃/ (French) → les *zenfants → ...
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156 views

How did West Germanic languages evolve?

I'm trying to make a comprehensive phylogenetic tree of Germanic languages, with dates of divergence, and I have been unable to find details on West Germanic languages and how they diverged. I have ...
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464 views

Where does the spelling <ea> and <ee> in English come from?

I am referring to <ea> as in "meat" and <ee> as in "meet". Apparently, <ea> comes from Middle English [ɛ] and <ee> comes from Middle English [e], which come from Old English ...
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770 views

Is it realistic for the Grounders' language as depicted in “The 100” to have developed within 97 years?

In the show "The 100", the Grounders speak a language called "Trigedasleng". This language is intended to be a descendant of modern English, and we are to understand that it arose through natural ...
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1answer
278 views

How did the letter “v” come to represent the voiced labio dental fricative?

When I learned Latin we were taught classical pronunciation. When it came to the letter "v" we were taught to pronounce it as /w/. It was also explained that many people (my parents, for example) had ...
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4answers
4k views

Why there are no grammatical cases in the French language?

As far as I know, the French language is considered as a Romance language, which is derived, in its turn, from the Latin language. The last one has a rich grammatical cases system. I am interested to ...
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490 views

Where did the discussion of the language faculty between Fitch, Hauser, Chomsky and Pinker and Jackendoff terminate?

Many of you may be familiar with the debate between FHC and PJ on the language faculty. The "discussion", which became quite heated, first appeared as PJ's response to an article in Science that was ...
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276 views

Globalized mass-media deterring language or dialects differentiation

I was wondering about how strong are the region-wide or country-wide mass-media institutions (be them newspapers or TV channels) as deterrent of language or dialects differentiation. For example, a ...
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224 views

Is there a trend toward more homophones over time? What can counteract that trend?

It is my understanding (correct me if I am wrong) that many homophones develop as a result of phonemic mergers. For instance, I, like many Americans, have a "cot-caught" merger where I do not make a ...
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Are Biological and Linguistic Evolution Similar? [duplicate]

Natural selection, based on Darwin's theories, states that organisms with characteristics that benefit survival survive while the weaker, less adapted individuals are weeded out. Languages also ...
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Examples of Borrowing Languages

In the Wikipedia page History of the English language it is mentioned that English is a "borrowing language", with the implication that there are many loan words in English. What other languages may ...
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1answer
143 views

Was there an evolution of the greek alphabet in the middle-east?

I recently visited Jordan and noticed that many mosaic are commented with included text. The text seems mostly ancien greek alphabet, but it also contains non greek characters such as C, obviously ...
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Did a “cave man-style” language ever exist?

I recently had a discussion with a friend about whether a "cave man-style" language was likely to have ever existed. You know, the stereotypical "Fire bad! Need hunt, go tree-place now!" sort of ...
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200 views

What parts of speech do professional jargons tend to mint?

Many English-based jargons include newly created nouns, verbs and adjectives; and re-appropriate existing English nouns, verbs, and adjectives to new ends. I can't come up with an example of a newly ...
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484 views

What is the origin of 't-' and 's-' words for second and third person possesive adjectives?

Many languages associate the t sound with the second person and the s with the third. For example Spanish (tu/tuyo, su/suyo), French (tu,ton/ta/tes,son/sa/ses), Italian (tu,tuo/tua/tuoi,suo/sua/suoi) ...
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2k views

Does language improve over time, or does it just change?

Obviously none of the languages that existed 5000 years ago are still in use today. Rather, we use their descendants. Over time, the lexicon and grammar change and transform, subtly, so that the ...
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2answers
159 views

Is the evolution & development of language better described by Deleuze concept of the rhizome than the traditional tree?

I originally asked this question on philosophy.stackexchange, but the consensus was that this was better asked here Deleuze & Guattari introduce the idea of the rhizome in their text A thousand ...
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153 views

Influence of the regulatory bodies in the English language

Where could I find/read about studies about the influence in English of the lack of regulatory bodies of its use and lexicon? It is easy to google and find long arguments on the topic. I am ...
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2answers
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Do languages evolve via community usage or via influential individuals?

In the modern world, it's clear that some very influential people have a small effect on the evolution of a language by popularizing certain linguistic constructions as slang, which eventually evolve ...
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1answer
411 views

Impact of widespread literacy and global communication on language evolution

We live in a world that is incredibly different to the one that was here 200 years ago. Literacy, in the developed world at least, is no longer an elite privilege, but rather almost taken for granted. ...
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3answers
580 views

Should emoticons be considered punctuation?

Folowing on from my previous question Are "txt-speak" and "emoticons" examples of normal language evolution? I would like to propose that emoticons are simply now symbols of punctuation, rather than ...
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1answer
234 views

Is usage of 'SMS language' or 'textspeak' changing in any direction?

'SMS language' or 'textspeak' was popularised due in the 90s due to the use of phones with numeric keypads. However, most smartphones these days come with autocorrect / autocomplete which outputs ...
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188 views

Evolutionary advantage of descriptive statements

I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask, but I may as well try. The evolutionary benefit of warnings, all-clear signals, communication on where to find food and so on is quite clear. But what ...
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2answers
682 views

Are “txt-speak” and “emoticons” examples of normal language evolution?

"txt-speak" appeared because of the need to fit a communication into 160 characters. "Emoticons" appeared due to the need to convey an emotional context with your message so that it is read correctly ...
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1answer
301 views

Why do languages retain or re-create complexity?

It seems to me (but I may be wrong), that languages tend to evolve towards simplification. Some examples I can think of: loss of declinations in Romance languages or in English, loss of 2nd person ...
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874 views

Do atonal languages have a tonal ancestor?

One of the distinctions among languages is the tonal/atonal distinction. Dediu & Ladd (2007) suggest that this split between tonal and atonal languages is related to a recent mutation in the ASPM ...