Questions tagged [evolution]

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

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22
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4answers
3k views

Why do Polish and Belarusian have an atypical greeting if compared to other Slavic languages?

While chatting with a polish penpal, I've discovered that in Polish the expression for "good morning/good day/hello/good afternoon" varies if compared to the other Slavic languages; later I saw that ...
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6answers
47k views

Weird behavior of two fruits' names (ananas/pineapple, banana/plátano)

Some time ago I found two tables that reported the names for two fruits, which were supposed to be funny, because they specifically reported a single exception among those several languages, where ...
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5answers
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 ...
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2answers
514 views

How do computational linguists abstractly represent a language?

When building models of the evolution of languages or similar phenomena where many different languages are involved and change over time, how do computational linguists abstractly model a language? ...
13
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2answers
571 views

Is there any case of a "convergent language family"?

As far as I know, language families originate from a process of divergent, tree-like evolution. All the languages within a family or subfamily can be traced back to the same proto-language, which was ...
13
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0answers
313 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 ...
12
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5answers
3k views

Are there any "simple" languages?

In all the languages I know, at least one of the following aspects is complex/difficult: Alphabet: Complex meaning a large alphabet like in Chinese. Pronunciation: Complex meaning that, for example, ...
12
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2answers
1k 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 ...
12
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5answers
2k views

Examples of convergent evolution?

As an English-speaking student of Yiddish, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the indefinite article was an before vowels and a before consonants, just like in English. But as far as I can ...
11
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3answers
17k 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 ...
11
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1answer
323 views

Are there creoles of three languages?

Are there examples of creole languages that have had three or more other languages as parents without intermediate two-language creoles? If they exist, then how high is the 'or more', i.e. what is the ...
11
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1answer
228 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 ...
11
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1answer
747 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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6answers
3k views

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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2answers
795 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 ...
10
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4answers
9k 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 ...
10
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1answer
398 views

How do linguists tell areal features and genetic relations apart?

Languages belonging to the same family obviously share many features, most of which were inherited from their common ancestor. But, considering that languages of the same family also are usually ...
9
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2answers
771 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" ...
8
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5answers
482 views

What evolution framework best describes the change between languages over time?

Language change and the evolution of languages can be seen as an evolutionary process. Human brains form the environment that constrains language. Language acquisition provides the replication, ...
8
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2answers
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 ...
8
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2answers
251 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 ...
8
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1answer
440 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 ...
8
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3answers
324 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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5answers
1k views

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 ...
8
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1answer
127 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 ...
8
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1answer
175 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 ...
8
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1answer
248 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 ...
7
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4answers
689 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 ...
7
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3answers
268 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 ...
7
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0answers
150 views

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 ...
6
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2answers
1k 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 ...
6
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6answers
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 ...
6
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4answers
306 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 ...
6
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2answers
778 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 ...
6
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1answer
1k views

Did Hebrew writing evolve from Egyptian hieroglyphs?

I read somewhere that the Hebrew writing system evolved from Egyptian pictographs. If that's the case, have anyone read about records that trace exact evolution from a pictograph to a Hebrew letter, ...
6
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1answer
109 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, ...
6
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1answer
469 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. ...
5
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3answers
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 ...
5
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1answer
257 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 ...
5
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2answers
662 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) ...
4
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2answers
236 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 ...
4
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2answers
268 views

When some people spoke proto-XX, what did other people speak?

Tracing back in time through the language hierarchy, I imagine that geographical areas where ancestors of existing "alive" languages were spoken will narrow in, leaving lots of gaps (Since for ...
4
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1answer
493 views

Vanishing phonemes, nasalization of vowels, tones

Looking at modern French in light of vulgar Latin, or Chinese compared with Proto-Sino-Tibetan (if that can even be reconstructed), there seems to be quite a few contexts in which phonemes are ...
4
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1answer
665 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 ...
4
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2answers
1k views

Why do marked terms exist at all?

According to the definition of markedness, unmarked terms can be consider the "norm". So if there is something more "normal" about using unmarked terms, why would a language have marked terms at all? ...
4
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1answer
138 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 ...
4
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1answer
378 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,...
4
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1answer
417 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 ...
4
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0answers
440 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 ...
3
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1answer
265 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 ancient Greek alphabet, but it also contains non Greek characters such as C, obviously ...