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Questions tagged [historical-linguistics]

The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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161 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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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 ...
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Catalan assimilation of 's' /s/ → [ʃ] after palatal consonants 'ny' /ɲ/ and 'll' /ʎ/

Question I've noticed a phenomenon in (Central) Catalan speech that I had seen no mention of when studying the language. In words with a final -nys or -lls, the s is assimilated and becomes palatal [...
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Why does Hebrew transcribe Akkadian š inconsistently?

Biblical Hebrew consistently uses the letter ס (s) to transcribe names with the Akkadian consonant š. For example, Esarhaddon for Aššur-aḥa-iddina, Esther from Ištar, Sargon from Šarru-ukīn (all ...
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Where did the use of the two auxiliaries in the Romance languages come from?

Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French all have a (compound) perfect tense, which I find curious, given that Latin did not. (You can alternatively perhaps say that it is either united with the ...
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Antiphrasis vs. Auto-antonymy

Source: Blank, A. 1999. Why Do New Meanings Occur? A Cognitive Typology of the Motivation for Lexical Semantic Change. In Historical Semantics and Cognition. Edited by P. Blank Koch, 61-90. Berlin/...
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How to determine the direction of conversion?

Recently I have been researching the topic of nominalizations. I learned that such structures might be created by means of morphological derivation (be it affixes, clitics, light verbs) or zero-...
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What is a descendant?

When is a word descended from another word? Is it limited to ancestor-to-child language relationship? If, for example, Spanish borrows from French, is the loanword a descendant of the French word?
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Similar diminutive name construction in Turkish and Armenian

In Armenian diminutive for personal names are formed by adding 'o' for some short part of the name (I'm intentionally not calling this short form "root" cause it's not necessarily a root), so some ...