Questions tagged [historical-linguistics]

The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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1answer
2k views

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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1answer
66 views

Cognates for men, non cognates for women

Most romance languages and most Germanic languages words for men belong to a single cognate class for each language family (home, ome, homme, uomo, hombre... for romance languages and man, Mann, mann.....
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5answers
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Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

Is there a word we lost the definition to? A word whose definition we lost to history? Something that is a part of our history but we forgot the meaning with time
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1answer
117 views

Difference pronunciation of the word cometh in Middle English and Early Modern English?

Does anyone know how you pronounce the root vowel of the word cometh in ME and EModE? What is this particular sound change called?
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1answer
109 views

When evaluating a language, can we say that this language is probably natural or artificial?

In other words, Is there an internal measure/index of "cohesion" of language? I was thinking of the contrast between artificial languages that machines or humans produce, and natural ...
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1answer
63 views

When was proto indo iranian spoken?

Can we tell when was PII spoken ? I read somewhere that it has to be before indo iranian split and the The two things which really anchor it are the common words for chariots and camels. Proto-chariot ...
3
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1answer
171 views

How did multiple European languages start using future tense to refer to the present?

I recently noticed that German, English and Spanish seem to have a parallel colloquial use of their future tense, in which it's used to express a hypothesis about the present: Literal meaning: I think ...
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0answers
97 views

Did Classical Latin lack tenseness contrast in long and short vowels?

Contrary to the traditional supposition of /ɪ ʊ ɛ ɔ/ vs /iː uː eː oː/, the idea that Classical Latin contrasted the short and long versions of high and mid (or just mid) vowels only quantitatively, ...
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1answer
99 views

How could Vulgar Latin divide in so many branches in the Balkans in a such small timespan?

From the literature I've read ( Al.Rosetti History of Romanian for example ) it looks like we can talk about Vulgar Latin until the 4th or 5th century in the Balkans, and further than that many ...
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2answers
359 views

Are there traces of lost PIE laryngeals in Sanskrit?

I read on wiki that "Hittite retains laryngeals that disappeared entirely in Sanskrit (but left plenty of traces showing that it must once have existed). In Proto-Indo-Iranian, the laryngeals ...
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1answer
54 views

Why is this 𓏭 Egyptian hieroglyph associated with the Hebrew letter ז [Zayin] and not the word וָו [VaV]?

Why is this 𓏭 Egyptian Hieroglyph associated with the Hebrew letter ז [Zayin] and not the word וו [VaV]? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleo-Hebrew_alphabet] claims the 𓏭 pictogram is the origin ...
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What were the pronunciations of PIE velar stops?

What might be the pronunciations of PIE "plain velar" series *k *g *gʰ, the "palatovelar" series *ḱ *ǵ *ǵʰ, and the "labiovelar" series *kʷ *gʷ *gʷʰ ? Was the *gʰ same as ...
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questions regarding satemisation in sanskrit

I have some questions regarding satemisation in sanskrit. why there are still k in sanskrit if pie k tunred into sanskrit s ? It seems to me that pie *kʷ turned into k in sanskrit. is that right ? If ...
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2answers
667 views

Validity of aging estimation for Proto-Afro-Asiatic

Tl;dr: What reasons do we have--besides glottochronology--to think that Proto-Afro-Asiatic is actually 14,000 years old? So, if you know much about proto-languages, you might know that Proto-Afro-...
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1answer
47 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 ...
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4answers
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Why were writing systems invented independently during roughly the same period across multiple civilizations?

Homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 years, and spoken language is believed to have been around for 50,000 to 150,000 years. Writing is a relatively new phenomenon. According to this source, ...
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1answer
82 views

How do we know that Mitanni Indo-Aryan loan words are derived from Proto-Indo-Aryan and not Vedic Sanskrit?

This question is similer to my previous question. I came across a person who makes the following claims: The names of Previous Kings of Mitannis that are mentioned on inscriptions belongs to period ...
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2answers
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How did Greek loanwords with 'ae' come to be pronounced [i] in modern English?

There are a bunch of Greek loanwords in English that orthographically include the vowel sequence 'ae'. Examples include: aegis aether aeon The 'ae' vowel here is pronounced [i] in English, but at ...
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1answer
146 views

Where did the Sanskrit language originate from?

Where did the Sanskrit language originate from? Did it originate from Persia or Greece? Where did Sanskrit evolve into a classic language: India or Persia or Greece? Origin of Sanskrit The above ...
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0answers
99 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 ...
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2answers
243 views

How do we know that Avestan is sister of Vedic Sanskrit and not its daughter?

I am new here and to linguistics. Recently I have developed a passion and an interest for linguistics, but I am not familiar with it. So I got into debate with a person from India. He was claiming ...
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3answers
148 views

Was so-called “early PIE” a single language without dialects or a wide continuum of dialects?

Was so-called “early PIE” a single language without dialects or a wide continuum of dialects? If it was a dialect continuum, then probably when did the “common” PIE split up into dialects?
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2answers
98 views

Is Welsh an isolating, an inflectional or an agglutinative language?

I saw that it can be classified both as an analytic and a synthetic langauage, so which one is it?
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1answer
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Historical explanations for soft/hard declensions in Czech

Declension patterns in Czech is traditionally categorized into hard and soft ones based on the final consonant of the stem. Materials for learners, e.g., Lída's Czech Step by Step or Michael's ...
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3answers
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What is the origin if the “i” in “Sanskrit”?

What is the origin if the "i" in the language name "Sanskrit" (instead of "Sanskṛt"). Is this an epenthetic vowel inserted by English-speaking authors or by Hindi-...
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1answer
112 views

Indo-European cognate calculator

There are Indo-European cognate pairs that are phonetically exact and regular in the sense that their phonematic make-up is completely explained by systematic application of the relevant sound rules ...
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1answer
174 views

What is the difference in usage of the word “root” in PIE and its daughter languages?

Now I understand that the conceptions of "root" in PIE and its descendant languages don't fully overlap. However what is the exact difference between them? What confuses me is the ...
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1answer
146 views

Merger of perfect and aorist in Italic and Celtic

One of the common features of the Italic and Celtic branches is the merger of perfect and aorist. So, in the surviving "perfect" forms we find a mixture of old aorist stems and old perfect ...
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1answer
128 views

Why in Belarusian Arabic script was ه used for Гг and غ for Ґґ?

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belarusian_Arabic_alphabet It is quite strange because in Turkic arabic غ is used for Гг, and گ -- for Ґґ. Kitabs were written by Lipka-Tatars and they definitely ...
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1answer
105 views

paradox of PIE nomenclatur

It is generally accepted that traditional Proto-Indo-European reconstructs late PIE to the exclusion of Anatolian, whether intentionally or not. We may call this PIE for simplicities sake. Some ...
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1answer
204 views

Why did 'r' disappear in English “speak” (compare German “sprechen”) and in German “Welt” (compare English “world”)?

I cannot help but notice some 'r'-s seem to have randomly disappeared in both German and English. What is going on there?
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The connection between ركن and corner [closed]

The arabic word ركن /rukn/ and the English word corner /ˈkɔɹnɚ/. Is there any connections between them?
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2answers
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Reconstruction of PIE consonants

So, I have a question about the reconstruction of PIE consonants. According to the Etymological Dictionaries, the words "rape" and "raven" have the same PIE root *ker- however how ...
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1answer
195 views

Evolution of [v] to [b] and vice versa

There are many examples that show that two phones [v] and [b] are related: b v Meaning Old English to New English * habban have have Middle Persian to New Persian varan baran rain Middle Persian ...
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0answers
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What is the origin of the pronunciation difference between 'replicate' (noun) and 'replicate' (verb)?

In English, the noun 'replicate' is pronounced with a schwa (ə) at the end while the verb is pronounced with the diphthong 'eɪ'. The same is true for the word 'duplicate'. Is there a more general ...
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1answer
158 views

Examples of ě₁ palatalization

"The distinction between *ě₁ and *ě₂ is based on etymology and have different effects on a preceding consonant: *ě₁ triggers the first palatalization and then becomes *a, while *ě₂ triggers the ...
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2answers
591 views

How to best clean a large historical corpus ridden with OCR errors

Overview: I have a very large corpus of historical news papers (17th-20th cent.). The word count is about 20 bln. It's raw OCR-ed data in txt-files of about 150 GB. One newspaper issue per file (some ...
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2answers
868 views

Is there a form descending from Latin genitive plural somewhere in modern Romance languages?

The Latin genitive plurals in -rum are very noticeable in the paradigm. Be it first declension in -ārum, second in -ōrum, or fifth in -ērum, they are heavyweight, attract accent and basicall stand out ...
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1answer
46 views

In what century did people start using the word “profession”?

I need to find out in what century the word "profession" appeared. My final goal: to understand whether this word could be used in the Middle Ages in everyday communication, in the meaning ...
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3answers
526 views

Did Proto-Indo-European put the adjective before or behind the noun?

Did PIE put the adjective behind the noun (like Romance languages usually do) or before the noun (like Germanic languages)?
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2answers
384 views

Apparent exceptions to the sound law f -> h in old Spanish

At some point during the evolution of Spanish, several initial [f] became silent (this is represented with an h in modern Spanish). This explains words such as hacer, harina, herir and many more. ...
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1answer
107 views

Is the Greek ζ related to the Chinese 子?

I wonder whether there is any connections between the two letters. After all, they are both similar to the Phoenician Sade letter, and the Phoenicians were the dominant culture of the Mediterranean ...
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1answer
60 views

Why do some historical linguists use the phrasing 'can have' rather than 'could/may have' when talking of changes of uncertain provenance?

And is it a modern thing? My intuition is that this is more frequent in contemporary writers. I have seen it throughout Ringe's two volumes on English, in Owens on Arabic, and (though I can't bring ...
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Advances in Glottochronology

I have read some old works on lexicostatistics and glottochronology, like Swadesh's original articles or this work, where using Swadesh's basic assumptions, the author obtains a temporal estimation ...
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Why do some Indo-European languages have genders and some don't?

In some languages, like German and French, every noun has a gender and each gender has its article. Whereas languages like English and Persian do not have genders. Why is that? Even though these ...
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How is a language's classification decided upon ? (or modified)

If a new language is discovered or if a study shows that a certain language should be reclassified, is there a committee(s) that decides on this ? (who ?)
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Case Study: Classifying the origin of a word

Let's say we have a Country 'A' that spoke a Language 'A'. In Language 'A' (LA) they had the word "Shamish" (IPA: /ʃamɪʃ/) A Language 'X' (LX) is gaining ground in Country 'A' and they have ...
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2answers
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Why are mixed languages so rare?

It seems to be an established fact that mixed languages are rare, and that most languages can be classified as belonging to some family. And this seems to be true; for example, in the former ...
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1answer
138 views

Is most of the world's languages being in a small number of families a recent development? Or has there always been cycles of linguistic expansion?

I've always found it curious that the languages spoken by an overwhelming proportion of the human population can be traced to a small number of proto-languages that were each spoken by only a small ...
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3answers
226 views

How did verb conjugation by person, number and gender appear? Why do we still use it?

I'm Russian native,learning German and English. I'm interested in teaching myself some linguistics. Russian verb inflects for person, number in present and future tense; for gender in past tense. ...

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