Questions tagged [historical-linguistics]

The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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South slavic meaning of surname Babnik

I'm wondering what is the meaning of Slovenian(southslavic) surname Babnik, I know it means womanizer in modern russian but the surname is many decades older than the new meaning. In the area of ...
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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186 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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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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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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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
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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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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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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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Reconstructing pre-Tiberian pronunciation of Hebrew texts?

Has anyone attempted to reconstruct the pronunciation / phonological form of the Torah as it would have been heard at the time of the fixing of the consonantal text (ca. 6th c. BCE)? So, just as a ...
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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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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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367 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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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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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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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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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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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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112 views

Classification of Languages

I have heard that languages like Portuguese and French are classified as Romance languages. Languages like Dutch and German are classified as Germanic languages. All of the Scandinavian languages ...
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Origin of English's phrasal possessive

This site claimed that the phrasal possessive in English came from French influence, while the synthetic possessive is Germanic. Germanic Pattern: the king’s son - cf. German "des Königs Sohn&...
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How widespread across language families is the root, krt, meaning cut/short?

How widespread across language families is the root, krt, meaning cut/short? This root is prevalent across the Indo-European and Semitic language families. It may have spread across languages like ...
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1answer
95 views

Number of tones in Cantonese vs. Mandarin and final stops

The emergence of tones in Chinese languages (and actually most tonal languages) is, roughly speaking, due to the loss of final consonnants of syllables at an earlier stage of the language. In ...
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Why are sound changes regular?

Say, there is a word that used to be pronounced [ten] but gradually shifted to [tin]. I get it. There is always variety in how people pronounce words. Throw in some population dynamics, and the median ...
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What kind of features support the claim that Slavic languages are closer to Germanic languages than to Indo-Iranian languages?

Inspired by this answer to a different question, I ask what kind of features justify a claim that Balto-Slavic languages are closer to Germanic languages than to Indo-Iranian languages. The features ...
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95 views

Semitic and Hebrew etymology

Semitic has historically been used to describe ancient languages spanning from Oman to Morocco through Egypt and Somalia. Today, Antisemitic is different to it's etymology, it doesnt refer to berber ...
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92 views

Status of Nordwestblock / Ancient Belgian hypothesis

What is the status of the Nordwestblock or Ancient Belgian hypothesis right now? This hypothesis was proposed independently by two authors in the 1960ies (Kuhn and Gysseling) and is about an ...
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118 views

Term for when speakers of L1, over time, pronounce words in their language like phonetically similar words found in the more dominant L2?

I am looking for the name of the following phenomenon: Speakers of Language 1 transplant a given word to a new environment in which Language 2 is the dominant language spoken in the area. Language 2 ...
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1answer
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Are Turkish aorist (wide-tense) verbs originally finite or nonfinite?

There are countless examples in Turkish of third person aorist forms in -A/Ir or -mAz (negative form) which are employed as nouns: gelir (income), gider (spending), yazar (writter) or adjective su ...
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Why is reconstructed PIE so typologically unusual?

I'm probably not the first to notice that a large number of features of reconstruct Proto-Indo-European are typological irregularities. The most famous of these probably being the voiceless/voiced/...
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79 views

Popular book(s) recommendation for start learning Linguistics keeping an interest in the Indus Valley script in mind

Recently, I have gathered enough interest in the subject Linguistics. As I came to know that Indus Valley scripts are among the last remaining undeciphered scripts of the ancient world, I gained more ...
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Where is the Slavic homeland, according to linguists, and how do they know that?

UPDATE: After posting the question, I found out, to my great disappointment, that Manhunt Unabomber is only loosely based on real events, so I'm rephrasing the question: Where is the Slavic homeland, ...
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79 views

What does @ mean? [closed]

What does “@“ sign mean in phonology or historical linguistics? I saw “*@” in the context of restriction.
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131 views

What does the double colon sign (::) mean in phonology?

What does the :: sign mean in phonology or historical linguistics? Here's an example I saw: yeri :: yatu
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Decipherment challenge

I am not a linguist, but I'm looking for examples of decipherment competitions when multiple linguists have tried to independently translate the same script. I know only this one: Rawlinson, H., ...
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How do Agglutinative Features/Languages develop out of Fusional Features/Languages?

Does anyone know about the development of agglutinative languages out of fusional languages, or, more precisely, agglutinative features out of fusional features? I am thinking in particular about the ...
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173 views

Are dative governing verbs in IE languages mainly inherited from PIE, or later developed within each IE language?

Some typical dative governing verbs in many IE case-inflecting languages are "help", "give" etc.. Are they mainly inherited from PIE or are they developed within each language? If ...
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a-stem genitive singular in NW Germanic languages

This is a classic problem and I'm not sure I expect a good answer to it, but it's worth it anyway. The question is partly about what appears to be some specious reasoning around Verner's Law forms and ...
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107 views

Why can “however” be used independently, when “but” cannot?

According to Purdue OWL, there are two kinds of words that can be used as connectors at the beginning of independent clauses: coordinating conjunctions (so, yet, but, and) and independent marker words ...

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