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Questions tagged [historical-linguistics]

The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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“Br” part existing in many languages [on hold]

Could you recommend some articles or books available on the Internet about the "(-)b(-)r-" part of a word that means "to wander", "to go", "to move"? It exists in many languages and has similar ...
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312 views

Origin of h as a modifier letter

A silly what-if question that sounds a bit mad: I am curious as to why the letter "H" in English and some other European languages is used as a modifier to make diglyphs represent a single phoneme (ch,...
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73 views

What is a loan creation?

How is it different from a loanword? One example given was mitkind created on stimulus of English sibling. Does this mean mitkind is a new word but with a foreign sense? Is there such thing as loaning ...
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3answers
170 views

I have some questions about deciphering an ancient language

I’m very fascinated in learning new languages. I want to know: It is possible to decipher and learn how to talk in a ancient language? How to decipher at home any ancient language? Such as Ancient ...
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Pronunciation of Fermat in Gascon/Occitan

A math professor mentioned that the final segment of Fermat's name would probably have been pronounced [t] because of "where he was from." She didn't clarify further but I looked up where he's from ...
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1answer
88 views

What linguistic impact, if any, has the the Roman three name naming system left on modern Romance and European languages?

The ancient Romans had a three name system (tria nomina): praenomen, the birth/given name; the nomen, like a family name but marking the person as belonging to a specific gens; and the cognomen, of ...
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1answer
100 views

What makes certain sounds linguistically “rarer” than others?

Every sound is equally as capable of being performed by the human mouth, and I (correct me if I'm wrong) remember my psychology teacher telling me that infants go and say every sound babbling - even ...
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Jobs in Historical Linguistics

As a someone interested in Linguistics, after I leave school I would like to pursue this interest into my later life, as a career, but the majority of my nearby universities only teach the more ...
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116 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 ...
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19 views

What is the articulatory nature of [lʲ] and how is it normally lenited world wide, especially compared to [l]?

[l] is lenited in some languages like English (dark L), and in Polish (Ł). How is [lʲ] developed further if it does?
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77 views

Why are anaphonic antonyms regarded as chance by many linguistic historians

Why are anaphonic antonyms regarded as chance by many linguistic historians, if this could be regarded as an Ancient mnemonic method of creating a logical and easy inverted spelling of antonyms? ...
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4answers
113 views

How “the case system collapses” in e.g. Latin

A comment on Understanding the purpose of determiners/articles/demonstratives in language suggested that case systems break down: For unrelated reasons, the case system collapses, so that word ...
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3answers
182 views

Have linguistics found any evidence that Semitic languages influenced Germanic languages or vice versa (in ancient times)?

Have linguistics found any evidence that Semitic languages influenced Germanic languages or vice versa (in ancient times)? BACKGROUND: I suggested to a forum of linguists that a certain Semitic word (...
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1answer
53 views

Where can I find lists of homophonic heterographs that overlapped accidentally?

Is homophonic heterograph the correct term? I know that it doesn't restrict them to this question's only target: chance overlaps. See Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication (2017 7 ...
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2answers
138 views

Germanic Philology: “translate” a word from indoeuropean language to the germanic language

I'm having a philology test next week. One of the questions will be to "translate" an indoeuropean word into a germanic word, like: i.e. Agros -> germanic Akraz (i.e. "g" --> germ. "k" for Grimm's Law,...
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Do we have to revise what we know about Thracian?

I have been reading the latest paper on Thracian by C. Brixhe (on the latest Handbook of Comparative and Historical Indo-European Linguistics) and I am really baffled by the conclusion. In the 6th ...
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1answer
64 views

The letter V in German, its sounds and visual symbolism [closed]

The word Fotze (cunt) has the irregular spelling Votze, which is usually explained as a reference to the denotated part. But comparing Vater (father), I don't know any reason why hat wouldn't be Fater....
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88 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', ...
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Nicknames in Various Historical Cultures

There are a variety of ways to form casual address terms. Using family terms is common ('brother'), shortening/modifying a given name ('Teddy' from Theodore), or something based on the person's ...
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2answers
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How did Gk. ταινία “band, ribbon” come from PIE *tn̥-yā- < *ten- “to stretch”?

AHD-IER (Watkin, 2011) P93 gives PIE *tn̥-yā- for Gk. ταινία: Suffixed zero-grade form *tn̥-yā‑. taenia; polytene, from Greek tainiā, band, ribbon. while EDG (Robert Beekes, 2010) P1444: ...
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2answers
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Can we use etymology to determine the nature of synchronic semantic and morphosyntactic differences between (near-)synonyms?

I've recently joined a discussion in which some of the participants insist that if one doesn't understand the nature of the difference between two or more words (the ones discussed by us are synonyms ...
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3answers
258 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 ...
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Are there any words which have the meaning 'Hello' or 'Hi' with Turkic origin? [duplicate]

In Turkish we say Merhaba or Selam when we want to say Hi to someone but both of these words have Arabic origin. I know that the same goes on with the other Turkic languages like Azerbaijani, Kazakh, ...
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1answer
53 views

What did Sapir intend to say when he wrote that 'whither' repeats all of 'where'?

I first learned of this quote on p. 105 Bottom. McWhorter, J. PhD Linguistics (Stanford). Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue (2009). Primary Source: Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. ...
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1answer
69 views

Isn't it obvious that linguists must specialize in language contact to study the history of English?

McWhorter, J. PhD Linguistics (Stanford). Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue (2009). p. 54 Bottom   There is ample scholarly work on how going to went from referring to locomotion to becoming a ...
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1answer
70 views

What is Songhay's Family?

What's the current thinking on genetic affiliations of Songhay? My old texts confidentially place it as Nilo-Saharan. This places a likely proto-Songhay homeland back closer to the Nile, with its ...
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1answer
118 views

What are some of the most divergent cognate word forms?

I'm looking for examples like this pair: Russian for 'grass snake' — уж, [uʂ] Classical Latin for 'snake' — anguis, likely [ˈaŋ.ɡᶣɪs] These word forms are both masculine nouns in the nominative, and ...
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2answers
235 views

What is the oldest language that we know enough about to construct a plausible sentence in it?

One exciting way to track the evolution of our understanding of Proto-Indo-European is to look at the different versions of Schleicher's fable from different years. The more time we spend studying the ...
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2answers
216 views

Can modern Icelanders really read the Prose Edda?

I've heard that Icelandic has changed so little in the past 1,000 years that even millennium-old texts (such as the prose Edda) are still intelligible to modern people who speak Icelandic. Is this ...
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1answer
114 views

Is there any superstrate influence of Old East Norse left in East Slavic languages?

The word "Russia" is derived from the name "Rus", the name of a Viking tribe originating from Sweden who ended up founding kingdoms in what is now Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, most notably the so-...
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Are there examples of decreolization by which the creole language develops toward the substrate language?

That is, the influence of the substrate language dismantles influences from superstrate languages? Because of the prestige and power etc. the superstrate language carrys, there would be difficulty in ...
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1answer
95 views

How did French take over Walloon in Belgium?

Wikipedia states the use of Walloon has decreased markedly since France's annexation of Wallonia in 1795. This period definitively established French as the language of social promotion, far more ...
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1answer
46 views

Where do I find datasets for linguistic phylogenetics?

Where can I find machine readable datasets for use in phylogenetic estimation? I am looking for anything---lexical cognate data, phonological data, morphosyntactic data---in any language family.
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85 views

Does Sanskrit निस् • (nis) “out, forth, away” come from PIE *ni- “in; down?” with meaning shift from “in” to “out”?

निस्·nis "out, forth, away" > nirvana "to blow out, extinguish; out of breath?" नि·ni "down, back, in, into" < PIE *h₁én "in; down?" My question is whether these words are from the same PIE root? ...
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1answer
187 views

Which is closer to Biblical Hebrew - Modern Hebrew, or Modern Arabic?

A couple of years ago I started to learn Biblical Hebrew - I still only know the very basics. Lately I've been starting to learn Arabic. Often when I learn a new word in Arabic, I notice that it is ...
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93 views

Where do personal pronouns come from?

Studying some languages I noticed that many European languages have a first, second and third person. In a philosophical sense, I was wondering how it shapes reality, but that's off topic here. What ...
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1answer
272 views

Do all colonized countries use formal second pronouns person in daily life?

In Spanish vosotros/tu is used in an informal conversation and usted(es) in an formal one. Whereas in the majority of the countries in Latin America, usted(es) is used constantly. The same goes with ...
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1answer
88 views

When was Proto-Italic spoken?

I've tried looking at Wikipedia but it is extraordinarily vague. Is it even known at all? I ask about this because I'm working on a very informal hypothesis about a period of common development ...
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3answers
178 views

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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1answer
110 views

When does the “dark l” sound in English date back to?

There is no "dark l" sound in Proto-Germanic language and Proto-Indo-European language.
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92 views

Early Middle English diphthongs

Wikipedia has a helpful page on Middle English phonology: but there are two diphthongs in its table which I cannot identify: the close-mid diphthongs “/oi/, developing into /ui/” and “/ei/, developing ...
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4answers
580 views

What was the original pronunciation of 'ä' in German?

I always learnt it was pronounced the same as how 'e' is usually pronounced in German (in either its short or long forms respectively). But then the question is: why have a different letter for it? ...
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4answers
512 views

Why are the reconstructed forms of PIE root in Etymonline and Wiktionary different?

I found PIE roots described in Etymonline (or American Heritage Dictionary) and Wiktionary are quite different. For examples: agō: *ag- (Etymonline), *h₂eǵ- (Wiktionary) laxō: *sleg- (...
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92 views

What were the Proto-Bantu -ATR vowels?

It seems to be widely accepted that Proto-Niger-Congo had ten vowels, with ATR harmony: /i-ɪ e-ɛ ə-a o-ɔ u-ʊ/. Similarly, it seems widely accepted that Proto-Bantu lost three of these vowels and ...
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1answer
99 views

Luna and לבנה, two similar ancient words for “moon”

What is the linguistic relationship, if any, between the Latin word luna and the biblical Hebrew word לבנה, which are phonetically similar and both mean "moon"?
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Are Andean and Tibetan languages connected?

Was reading The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen and there was a map that showed a mountain named “Machhapuchare”. So close to Machu Picchu that it made me stop and think. I have found that Andean ...
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2answers
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What is the meaning of the number 2 in Proto-Indo European reconstructions? e.g. As in *tewtéh₂, meaning “people” or “tribe”

I am a writer doing some research into ancient languages for a story I am creating. Despite having done some formal and informal study on linguistics (I am familiar with a phonetic chart) and informal ...
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1answer
169 views

Can these new etymological pairs of PIE roots be true?

I find a paper containing new lists of cognates on PIE root level, and don't know such phenomena or rules are convincing or not, the list follows below: 1. The voiceless stop vs. voiced aspirated ...
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1answer
70 views

In what language and when did people first start saying “Good morning” / “Good Day” as a greeting?

The Good Morning/Good Day formula is pervasive in European languages, but is presumably not universal, and presumably it has not always been around. Do we have any evidence of when and where it first ...
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When were numbers first used as code/shorthand for unrelated meanings?

I was considering this xkcd, which got me wondering, were there any examples of number based shorthand like “ten-four” in the comic used in the time periods this comic considers “old-timey”? In other ...