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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 did English end up with a voiced "z" at the end of words?

How did English end up with a voiced "z" at the end of words, for example in "is", "was", "those"? Does this phenomenon exist in any Indio-European language ...
MWB's user avatar
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3 votes
0 answers
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How does tense evolve from a tenseless parent language?

Whenever someone asks something about TAM evolution, they seem to inevitably be pointed towards the World Lexicon of Grammaticalization (Kuteva et al., 2e, 2019) and The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, ...
Arcaeca's user avatar
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Related words persisting longer in a language than their etymology would otherwise suggest

I was considering the “a” prefix as in afoot, aflame, alight. That prefix is largely in disuse in conversational English. But two notable exceptions, “asleep” and “awake” make me wonder if there’s a ...
Rand's user avatar
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2 votes
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How and when do polygenesis advocates think new primary language families arose?

I've been reading about linguistics and have read that most linguists are harshly critical of proposals of genetic relationships between primary language families, and that the predominant theory of ...
Xiang Yu's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
84 views

Why does Danish have more short-long vowel pairs than Swedish?

In Danish, the pair /ø/ and /ø:/ are distinguished from the pair /œ/ and /œ:/. In Swedish, the phonemes /ø:/ and /œ/ are treated as a short-long pair. In Danish, the pair /ɔ/ and /ɔ:/ are ...
Quinali Solaji's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
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What are the slowest changing languages?

What are the slowest changing languages (as measured by, e.g., a "glottochronological constant" or other methods)?
Geremia's user avatar
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38 votes
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Is there any evidence that the modern word for "bear" is an euphemism which replaced the original taboo word?

I have read and heard many times the old linguistic story about the modern word for "bear": Slavic: medvěd, niedźwiedź, ведмідь, ... "honey-eater" Germanic: bär, bear, björn, ... &...
Honza Zidek's user avatar
1 vote
2 answers
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Is there any reliable way to organize phonemes that aren't in the IPA?

I'm coming up with an idea for a game that simulates the evolution of languages, but to do that and make it the most realistic, I would need to put in the sounds that the IPA says are possible but we ...
Anonymous's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
479 views

Looking for examples of natural languages with affricates but no corresponding fricatives/plosives

I was thinking about how Spanish has a /t̠ʃ/ but (in most dialects) no /ʃ/, and how many native Spanish speakers have trouble producing the sound ʃ by itself. I don't see why this couldn't apply to ...
pigi5's user avatar
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2 answers
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Why is "knife" in Ukrainian different from other Slavic languages?

I saw this image on reddit, and it made me wonder why the way Ukrainians say "knife" is different from all other Slavic languages? Is this part of a more general trend ("i" ...
MWB's user avatar
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State of language in the hunter-gatherer era of Europe / Levant?

I would like to piece together a picture for a blog article (in essence) of what the state of the world was in the "hunter gatherer stage" just before the origin of agriculture. I would like ...
Lance's user avatar
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List of anatomical features required to produce each type of speech sound, from an evolutionary perspective?

Is there a resource which lists each IPA vowel/consonant (or many of them), and the anatomical features required to produce each sound? I guess I can go to each Wikipedia page and figure it out ...
Lance's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
2k views

Vanishing of cases: general trend or specific to indo-European family?

Does vanishing of cases reflect a general trend across the languages or is this a false impression that one gets from the most Indo-European languages, like English and the Romance languages? A ...
Roger V.'s user avatar
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Is there any solid evidence for the agglutinative->fusional->analytic->agglutinative roundabout?

I've heard it mentioned that languages tend to evolve in a kind of merry-go-round pattern where a language that's agglutinative slowly turns fusional, that fusional language's inflections slowly break ...
Kalle Kulma's user avatar
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1 answer
100 views

Resources on stress, tone and pitch evolution

I am interested in the stress, tone and pitch (STP) aspects of historical linguistics. How do phonetic and other types of changes affect STP changes? How do languages end up with entirely different ...
Selewirre's user avatar
2 votes
3 answers
510 views

Two questions about language evolution (primarily PIE and proto-nostratic)

Okay, so a little background information: Recently I've been thinking about how quite a few languages (talking mostly about IE languages here) appear to be 'simplifying' themselves over time, getting ...
Quintus Caesius - RM's user avatar
3 votes
0 answers
563 views

Why did the Old English 'eo' diphthong disappear?

If I am not mistaken, the 'eo' diphthong was very common in Old English, and occurred in a lot of words, however this diphthong disappeared by the Modern English period, why was that? Notice that in ...
Quintus Caesius - RM's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
133 views

Are there any known linguistic patterns that cause the verb "have" to take on this additional function?

I'm a native English speaker that has been learning Mandarin. The Mandarin equivalent to the English verb "to have" is "有". As far as I can tell these two words are a 1 to 1 ...
小奥利奥's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
151 views

Is it possible to produce a list of syntactic rules for a language?

I recently started a new job as an applied linguist engineer and one of the first tasks I was ask to do was to provide a list of syntactic rules that can produce French sentences (for an ...
user30830's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
401 views

When and how did the Japanese honorific system evolve?

I know that languages, in general, can denote honorifics, especially with second person pronouns (T/V distinction, etc), and I imagine that the Japanese system of honorifics is probably an extension ...
Breaking Bioinformatics's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
61 views

Are sound fronting and raising more common in evolution than their opposites?

Fronting: Back -> Central -> Front Raising: Open -> Open-mid -> Close-mid -> Close In Great Vowel Shift, it seems that almost every vowel was replaced by a further or higher vowel (or their ...
MCCCS's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
480 views

Has the Russian way of pronunciation been affected by frost?

I am a student learning both English and Russian, and I find the Russian pronunciation to be very different from the English one. A few months ago I made a detailed post on the Linguistics SE to ...
Mitsuko's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
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Do we have any evidence or research on the linguistic evolution of idioms?

Do we have any evidence or research on the linguistic evolution of idioms? For example, if two languages in the same language family have idioms with a similar meaning, is it likely that such an ...
joe's user avatar
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0 votes
1 answer
120 views

By what means would the root "let" evolve to "ly" in a naturalistic conlang?

I apologize for how this question may be perceived. I am casually learning linguistics with no curriculum. I can understand that this question may have many possible answers, but I am not quite sure ...
user2738698's user avatar
14 votes
1 answer
555 views

Is linguistic change pushed by humor?

Through "meme culture," young people are inventing all sorts of new linguistic constructions purely because they think they sound funny. The interesting thing is that these jokes don't end at a ...
Raf Vosté's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
221 views

Why is it thought that definite articles develop from deictic markers, and not the other way around?

I read here that "it is cross-linguistically common for definite articles to develop from deictic markers"; "deictic" referring to words such as "I" or "here" whose meaning is dependent on context. ...
Metamorphic's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
3k views

Why has the neuter gender disappeared from almost all the modern Romance languages?

Why has the neuter gender disappeared from almost all the modern Romance languages? It was completely common in Latin. And when exactly did this happen? Did it happen in Latin itself, or only after ...
Honza Zidek's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
214 views

How is the rate of evolution of a language measured?

Have linguists measured the rate of evolution of a language by analyzing the rate of change of the language's words' usages over time? Is there a term for this sort of measurement? For example, ...
Geremia's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
1k views

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 ...
M. Powell's user avatar
3 votes
3 answers
207 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 ...
Lance's user avatar
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0 votes
1 answer
362 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', ...
Ritesh Singh's user avatar
2 votes
3 answers
374 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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
15 votes
5 answers
1k views

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 ...
Jeff Zeitlin's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
656 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, ...
iacobo's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
389 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 ...
MechVarg's user avatar
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1 vote
2 answers
622 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,...
Jeutnarg's user avatar
  • 111
5 votes
3 answers
1k 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 ...
Remi.b's user avatar
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4 votes
2 answers
290 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 ...
Alex Kinman's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
161 views

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" ("...
Catahecassa's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
95 views

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 ...
WiccanKarnak's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
151 views

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 ...
Some_Guy's user avatar
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8 votes
3 answers
408 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? ...
Huy Ngo's user avatar
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8 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
Gary MacKenna's user avatar
9 votes
3 answers
1k 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" ...
sollniss's user avatar
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2 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
Durakken's user avatar
  • 207
7 votes
3 answers
346 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 ...
rootmeanclaire's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
82 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 ...
Thom Blair III's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
5k views

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 ...
ktm5124's user avatar
  • 449
0 votes
2 answers
484 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 ...
Kenny Lau's user avatar
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4 votes
0 answers
472 views

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. (I ...
Kenny Lau's user avatar
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