Questions tagged [evolutionary-linguistics]

Study of the origin and development of languages.

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Who says that words historically evolve from concrete meanings to more abstract meanings?

Conventional wisdom says that when a word has two meanings -- one concrete/tangible and one abstract -- the concrete meanings is the older one, and the more abstract one is the newer meaning that ...
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Timescale for language divergence at ~10,000 years: Polynesian languages vs languages of the Americas?

I want to make it clear from the start that I'm not any kind of expert in linguistics or history, which is why I'm asking this question here. (Perhaps it's because of my physics background that I'm ...
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Comparing two cognate lists, how do I determine validity?

A man created a list of 406 words, place and tribe names that he transcribed into English (Roman alphabet) and placed them side-by-side with ancient Hebrew names (that were likewise transcribed) to ...
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Was the word "Jew" originally a racial slur?

The English ethnonyms "Jew" and "Jewish" originate from the Biblical Hebrew "Yehudi" (יהודי, meaning "Judahite," "Judean," or "one from the ...
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Phoneme production metrics

(Apologies in advance for the expected misuse of terminology; I am not a linguist. Please correct as appropriate.) I am considering a Deep Learning language evolution experiment and would like to ...
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How does lexical replacement occur?

For example, in Mycenaean Greek, the word for king was Wanax or Anax, whereas the Modern Greek word for king is Basileus, nothing at all like Wanax. How did this happen & how do these kinds of ...
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Where do nominal sentences (null/lacking verb sentences) come from and what does their existence imply?

Nominal sentence is a grammatical feature of some languages that a grammatical correct sentence can have no explicit verb. The implicit verb at least in Arabic is simple present form of 'to be', e.g. ...
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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 ...
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Onomatopoeia origin of language?

Are there any "modern scholars" that support the onomatopoeia origin of language hypothesis?
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Charles Hockett - 'F' article?

In the Guardian, there is an article on cultural determinants of phonological feature choice. A recent article in Science supposedly supports the hypothesis that the existence of labiodental ...
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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, ...
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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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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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If speech language was before written language, isn't non verbal before speech?

I'm reading "Introducing Phonetic Science" by Michael Ashby and John Maidment and they say: Speech is the original channel for which human language evolved and all written languages have (or once ...
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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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What's this punctuating feature of some peoples' English?

What exactly is the name and nature of this odd bit of consistent yet seemingly redundant English found in many forms of colloquial English: "She gave me dates, she did!" "The little lads ran home, ...
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New Scientist Article on Spoken Language? [closed]

I wondered if anyone had seen this article on Relational Frame Theory in the most recent edition of the New Scientist? It reports an active laboratory based research programme: https://www....
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From an evolutionary (language) standpoint, of what use are homonyms?

A homonym is a word which shares the same pronunciation as another word or words, but has a different spelling, e.g. "to", "too", "two". I wonder why languages have homonyms in the first place. What ...
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What is the origin of declension/conjugation classes?

Languages with declension and conjugation usually have multiple declension and conjugation classes. If one were to invent a language with declension or conjugation, one would probably introduce only ...
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11 votes
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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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Are some languages more advanced than others?

I have read about animal communication, particularly in mammals and historical evidence in early hominoids. Naturally, I am always amazed how much information species like dolphins and orcas can ...
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What stages of emergence of linguistic features are proposed among the world of scholars?

In biology, there is a simple two stages distinction of the emergence of life: Abiogenesis, the emergence of a (very simple) life form from non-living matter. Evolution, the further emergence of ...
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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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Is language/grammar (mathematically?) scientific (like Math)? Is a grammar construct a delineation = to a math formula? [closed]

Is language itself scientific? Can the way language is used/abused be scientifically evaluated like a Math problem? Can an English sentence be mathematical? Are grammar constructs defined like (100% ...
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5 votes
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Boustrophedonism effects

From the looks of it Boustrophedon texts should be more efficient to read. However, I can't find any modern day research regarding its effects and reasons why it would have fallen out of use in ...
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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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Considering languages evolved over time, what could be the initial dataset?

If I assume evolution of language took place over time, I am curious as to what can be the initial population of words or syllable or anything. Lets say I am about to write a algorithm to evolve ...
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What are the counterpart of Genotype and phenotype in a language?

Considering that languages evolved just as species did complying with Darwin Natural Selection, what are the Genotype and phenotype when it comes to languages?
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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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10 votes
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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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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 ...
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9 votes
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What is the "first language"?

I vaguely remember reading an article about a book that talked about what the "first language" would have consisted of, but I can't seem to recall what the book was or what the language was called. ...
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7 votes
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Why are spoken languages more common than signed languages?

As I understand, there is no essential difference between spoken and signed languages. Both have the same kinds of phonetic, morphological, syntactical and semantic complexities, both are prone to ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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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, ...
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17 votes
4 answers
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Monogenesis vs. Polygenesis

By following the comments to another question about the evolution of Khoisan languages, I learned that there is a heated debate in Evolutionary Linguistics about the origin of language. Some quick ...
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