Questions tagged [historical-linguistics]

The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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Request for Texts Giving an Overview of the Evolution of the Indo-Iranian Laguages

Does anyone know of any good accounts of the evolution of the Modern Indo-Iranian languages? I'm especially interested in comparative overviews of either the entire family's historical phonology, or ...
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When did the use of œ in French start?

I am very new to Linguistics, so please, let me know if my question is not worded correctly!! I'm fluent in (Canadian) French, and œ has always been a little weird to me. It's found every now and then,...
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How did the usage of the word "type" to refer to a person come about?

In Spanish, you often use the word "tipo" not only to say literally the type of something, but to refer to a person (usually with some mildly negative connotations, e.g. "¡este tipo no ...
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How do you find when a proto language was spoken? [duplicate]

I know the basics of language reconstruction, but describing when a proto language was spoken seems a little odd to me. So how do I do it? Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.
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Proximity of Dutch and German explained by the history of language

It seems to me that Dutch is closer to German in its pronunciation than in its writing. It is a bit approximative to say so, and that's rather a personal impression, shared by some German native ...
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Credible sources for Rho-Rotation?

A teacher of mine recently mentioned a phenomenon in linguistics called "rho-rotation". Across eons and languages if a r/rho sound was next to a vowel it tended to switch postitions and &...
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Is "nea" <- "*nivis" proof that metaphonic diphthongisation occured in Romanian before the loss of intervocalic "v"?

The metaphonic diphthongisation phenomenon is said to have occurred between the 6th and 8th century. But it must have happened before the loss of intervocalic "v", though I have only one ...
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Can I find an Ancient Greek parsing program that dissects words into their constituent phonemes from reconstructed Proto-Greek?

For example, suppose I enter "πράσσουσα" and it outputs πραάͳοντσα or even, πρααͳ-ο-ντ-σα (root, ablaut, participle marker, feminine). Or I put in πᾶς and it outputs πάαντ-ς (root, 3rdNS)...
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How do you reconstruct proto languages? [duplicate]

I know that over time languages have evolved from a certain ancestral language, called a proto language. For instance, the languages in the Indo-Aryan language family descend from Proto-Indo-Aryan. ...
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Feature Metathesis in Consonant Clusters

A while ago I remember reading a blog post about the (in)famous dw > (e)rk sound change in Armenian. This post discussed it in terms of feature metathesis, i.e. the stop feature and the continuant ...
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Do constructs like "going to do" and "ir a hacer" share a common origin?

I'm curious about the linguistic background between these phrases because they don't make sense word-for-word in either language, but they work almost identically. Wikipedia says that a similar form ...
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Which language is more complex, English or French? Is it even possible to objectively measure a language's complexity?

OK, so I'm a native English speaker who learned French as a teenager and I have a friend who is French and learned English as a teenager (so the opposite). The other day he was telling me how easy ...
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Why did auxiliary verbs in Kazakh got completely merged into one word in Turkish?

Kazakh and Turkish belong to same language group. But Kazakh is more archaic, Turkish is more modern. In Kazakh, there are auxiliary verbs otur, jur , and jatir that become part of the word in Turkish:...
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Could lat. circus 'circle' (< gr. κίρκος) and κύκλος 'cycle' be related?

It is well established that the Latin word circus 'circle' is a loanword from Greek κίρκος kírkos 'circle, ring'. But it seems that κίρκος is of uncertain origin. One possibility is that κίρκος would ...
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What is the dash or hyphen in reconstructed words in PIE?

I have seen many sources that describe the asterisk in something like *medhu- as indicating that the word is reconstructed and not observed in natural language. But I haven't seen a description of the ...
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Western European languages tend to have fewer genders and simpler case systems than Eastern European ones, is this due to contact?

You can draw a relatively consistent line through Europe, to the west of which, Indo-European languages mostly have one or two genders and nouns don't inflect for case, and to the east of which, ...
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On the change of word order as languages develop?

While I understand the most common changes in word order, the whole SOV can go to OSV, SVO, and OVS, and so forth. But I do not exactly understand how and why word order would change. Can you explain ...
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Phonological Development from PIE to Greek

I found the following phonological development (from PIE to Greek) patterns very interesting. *kw>t / __ {e, i} (e.g., *penkwe- > πέντε) *gw>d / __ e (*gwelbhu- > δελψύς) *gwh>th / ...
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Is the Romanian verb "pișca" etymologically related to Spanish "pellizcar" ( to pinch )?

From wiktioanry: "pellizcar (Spain) /peʝiθˈkaɾ/, [pe.ʝiθˈkaɾ] (Latin America) /peʝisˈkaɾ/, [pe.ʝisˈkaɾ]- From Vulgar Latin *vellicicāre, from Latin vellicāre, most likely ultimately from vellus (...
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How did Gothic "𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌱𐌰𐌷𐍄𐌹" (andbahti) become Medieval Latin "ambasiator"?

I found the following etymology of the word "ambassador" on Wiktionary. From Middle English ambassadore, from Anglo-Norman ambassadeur, ambassateur, from Old Italian ambassatore, ...
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Where do the "îs" and "îi" forms of "a fi" ( "to be" ) originate in dialectal Romanian?

perhaps the Latin first person singular indicative "sum" with an "î" of uncertain origin? Im not sure about "îi". I guess from the short "e" /je/ form of "...
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Does موجود is a Modern Standard Arabic word? [closed]

Does موجود is a Modern Standard Arabic word which is originated from وَجَدَ after the revelation of Quran because موجود is not mentioned anywhere in Quran?
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What language branch of PIE does Kartvelian belong to? (Georgian language)

I know little about language, so I would like to preface that this question may appear disjointed. I have been listening to some wonderful Georgian folk music and have been trying to relate it to any ...
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How did latin "de post" become Romanian "după"?

Wouldn't the expected result be: "dopă"? I understand that the short "e" was assimilated by the long "o" from the next word, and then /o/ -> /ə/, but why o -> u ? ...
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Why do Ancient Greek words have "εί" from PIE "e"?

Why do Ancient Greek words have "εί" from PIE "e"? Ancient Greek κείρω <- PIE *(s)ker-.
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Besides Proto-Indoeuropean, what would be the list of the 10 most acurately reconstructed Proto-languages?

Proto-Indoeuropean language (p-IE) has been the subject of study for more than 200 years, and a great deal of work has been published has been written about p-IE reconstruction. In addition, there are ...
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Why does it seem like (at least some) ancient European languages didn't have words for "yes" and "no"?

This is something that's bothered me since learning Latin in high school a decade or so ago--it seems like the concepts of "yes" and "no" that I, as a native speaker of English, ...
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Is there a reason germanic languages are more different from other PIE languages?

I apoligize that this question is not very formalized. Maybe the assumption in the question is wrong. I am asking because looking at latin, greek and sanskrit, these languages seem quite similar to ...
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Reading suggestions on the historic development of the Arabic language

Specifically, I am looking for something: That isn't just an introduction, but neither a comprehensive "everything we can currently say on the topic" kind of text. That goes back to about ...
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What's the most ancient language to be reconstructed?

What is the most ancient language that is reconstructed to a point that it is actually possible to learn it and to use it? I am especially interested in Proto-Indo-European (and even in Proto-...
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2 votes
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Why did some conquerors change the region's language and others didn't?

In history we see many examples where a conquered people ceased to speak their native language and began speaking the conqueror's language, and also many examples where conquering groups ceased to ...
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Why was 'u' invented?

In the history of the letter 'v', Wikipedia mentions the origin of 'u' but unfortunately doesn't describe why it was created in the first place: During the Late Middle Ages, two minuscule glyphs ...
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10 votes
5 answers
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Why is it called proto-Germanic?

Why have we named this proto language proto-Germanic? Apparently it developed in southern Scandinavia. Then expanded (via migration or contact?) towards what's now Germany. I wonder why linguists ...
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Any evidence for innate language features?

What are the language features — perhaps a word for a concept, or a method of creating words, type of writing system, first words acquired, grammatical features, etc., — that can be argued to be ...
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7 votes
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Language acquisition by 100% immersion -- any cases you know of?

I am looking for documented cases where some person or group of people learned a language (= gained ability to communicate) with no prior knowledge of the target language through being immersed in ~...
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Looking up PIE roots, converting between conventions and reconstructions, e.g., h1ueld <-> gheldh

My basic goal is to look up a Greek word and be able to find cognates in other languages that will help me to memorize its meaning. A technique that often works is to look up the Greek word on English ...
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8 votes
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How did Latin "aqua" became sardinian "abba" and romanian "apă"?

The way I believe it happened was by the change of "w" into "v" and the fall of the velar "k". Furthermore, betacism caused the change of "v" to "b" ...
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Perfect and Preterite

How can one communicate subtle differences in meaning that in other languages would be signaled only by the distinction of Preterite/Perfect when in fact in the language spoken there is no distinction ...
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Is there a common ancestor between the Hebrew לבן ("lavan", white) and the English "albino"?

I noticed these two words share the same central consonants, and wouldn't it be fascinating if the l-b-n semitic root has a common source to the English "albin-" as in albino and albinism? I ...
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On the Epistemology of Comparative and Historical linguistics [closed]

I have asked a few questions before relating to PIE, proto-languages theory and the comparative method. As these are technical areas I am unfamiliar with but thanks to some previous answers I am ...
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Relationship between "גולגולת" (skull) and "גלגל" (wheel)

Both "גולגולת" (skull) and "גלגל" (wheel) are listed, on Wiktionary, as coming from the shared root ג־ל־ג־ל. All of the other words except for גולגולת have clear relationships to ...
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6 votes
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How does an original proto language produce its daughter languages?

I am trying to understand the principles how a proto language produces it daughter languages, do they proliferate from dialects of the same proto language or do they proliferate from dialects of other ...
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Are there spaces or other marks between word in Ancient Semitic epigraphs?

Are there spaces or other marks between word in Ancient Semitic (i.e. Hebrew, Aramaic, Canaanite) epigraphs?
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What is the name of the phenomenon of the subsequent semantic convergence of a borrowed cognate? [closed]

What is the name of the phenomenon of the subsequent semantic convergence of a borrowed cognate? For example, similar occurs in for the borrowed Latin 'video', which, however, of course, is original p....
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3 votes
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Books on historical writing systems

Can you recommend books on the writing systems that are not widely used today (e.g. the Germanic runes, the Old Turkic script)?
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Reference work for comparative Indo-European linguistics?

G. Kroonen, Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (Leiden, 2013) outlines the phonetic changes from Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic in its introduction. However, it does not outline the ...
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3 votes
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Fricative liquid metathesis in 17th-century English

There's a joke in Archie Armstrong's Banquet of Jests (1641) that turns on wordplay between "frying bacon" and "fyring a beacon" (a statute I was able to find a contemporary ...
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6 votes
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Why is the proto-italic reconstruction of "corpora" "*korpezā"?

I was studying rhotacism and I came across the word corpora (plural of corpus). I would reconstruct the proto-italic form as *korpoza, but I saw the entry on Wiktionary and it says that the actual ...
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Why is there such a dramatic shift in Tamil script during the 3rd to 5th AD?

I am relatively new to Lingustics.SE. I have no formal knowledge in Linguistics and I am unsure if this question is better suited for History.SE or here. Recently, I was reading about the Old Tamil ...
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6 votes
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Mechanism(s) as to how the pronunciations of「也」and its Old Chinese "homophones"/phonetically-derivative glyphs drifted to the modern range of sounds?

In my question https://chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/47777/meaning-of-early-written-versions-of-%E5%9C%B0-and-etymology, I learned that the modern character for "earth, ground"「地」(dì) ...
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