Questions tagged [historical-linguistics]

The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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1answer
75 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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103 views

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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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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1answer
80 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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1answer
109 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
49 views

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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211 views

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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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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279 views

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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75 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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1answer
120 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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102 views

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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161 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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105 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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Where does the Afro branch of the Semitic language originate? [closed]

I require information to help solve a problem. The problem i am trying to solve, is the problem of the Semitic language. Semitic language Semitic languages The Semitic languages, previously also ...
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1answer
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Are there geographic or cultural patterns in surname etymologies?

I was reading in Wikipedia that the origins of European surnames can be classified into categories like patronymics, occupational, toponymics and nicknames. If this classification is old or incomplete ...
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2answers
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I have read that in Mishnaic Hebrew, some pronounced the 6th letter as waw/w and some as vav/v What is the evidence of this?

I have read that in Mishnaic Hebrew, some pronounced the 6th letter as waw/w and some as vav/v What is the evidence of this? I see it mentioned here https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/%D7%95-vav-...
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What's the name of the effect where linguistic diversity is far more pronounced in a language's homeland?

I've always just used the term "homeland effect" for this, but websearches suggest that that is not actually its name and probably something I made up at some point. What I'm talking about ...
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256 views

Is Ruki sound law a Satem “Rhotacism”

Is Ruki sound law a Satem variant of "Rhotacism" English PIE Russian ear h₂ṓws ухо /úxo/ sear *sh₂ews- сухо /súxo/ deer *dʰéws дух /dux/ alder h₂élis- ольха /olʹxá/ their ??? тех /tex/
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207 views

Spelling of monotonous [closed]

All, I am just curious why 'monotonous' is spelled as mo·​not·​o·​nous and not as mono.tonus following the Greek origin of the word as mono + tone. Mono and tone could be spelled alone and actually ...
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2answers
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Why do Chinese and Hindi have more terms for relatives than English does?

I was thinking about labels we assign family members (like cousin, grand mother etc.) and it struck me that in my native language of Hindi, we have different labels for maternal and paternal family ...
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Are there any languages that have a pronoun which is only used to refer to royalty?

I can recall reading an article years ago which claimed that some languages have unused "royal" pronouns. That is, these pronouns were only used to refer to royalty as a show of respect or ...
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381 views

Was it ever common to pronounce “wife's” as “wives”?

Spelling, in principle, should reflect pronunciation, but I've also read that the opposite can happen, and that the pronunciation of a word already in circulation can be changed by altering/...
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47 views

Quantification of rate of sound change in multiple languages

This question from over four years ago never got a definitive answer, perhaps because no 'rankings' of sound change rates existed at that time. I would like to revive it (in particular for sound ...
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25 views

Historical development from adjective to concrete noun to more abstract noun

I'd really appreciate any knowledge or advice on further reading about the following. Excuse my naivete- I am at the start of this investigation. I'm studying an historical corpus and I have found a ...
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1answer
158 views

Etymology of ぐるぐる

Since it's written in Hiragana, I presume it is likely not a recent loan word. However, its pronounciation bears resemblance to "軲轆", a Mandarin word meaning wheel--similar to ぐるぐる's meaning ...
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1answer
104 views

Origin of the ا that ends the past tense of Arabic verbs for هُم?

Arabic has a lot of intricate (finicky) qualities, but one of the things that's very nice about it is that spelling is usually phonemic (with the consonants and long vowels, anyway). But the وا at the ...
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Does the letter p in a word mean that the word is not Germanic?

In Germanic languages, the p sound in Proto-Indo-European became f. I have wondered if the p sound means that the word does not come from a Germanic source. This is because words that have p in them ...
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144 views

u and v distinction in Slavic languages

Prepositon "in" in Slavic languages ("in" as "in the house") : v - Czech в - Russian (a Cyrillic v) u - Serbo-Croatian v - Slovak v - Slovenian w - Polish в - Bulgarian (...
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146 views

Reduced complexity in contemporary languages?

Not by education or professionally related to linguistics. It is my amateur observation that ancient languages seem more complex than their modern counterparts. For example ancient greek versus modern ...
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530 views

Is a final -u in Semitic languages known outside of Akkadian?

Consider Akkadian bētu vs. Hebrew bayit (בַּיִת) (meaning "house") and Akkadian daltu vs. Hebrew delet (דֶּלֶת) (meaning "door"). Are these endings known outside of Akkadian? If so, when did they ...
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2answers
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Are two words cognate if they ultimately come from the same root but have different roots in more recent languages?

For example, Spanish corteza and French écorce (bark) both ultimately come from PIE *(s)ker- but they have different Latin roots (cortex and scortea). Does that stop them from being cognate?
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Influence of foreign vocabulary on tendency of English to lose inflections, become more analytic

The question is whether pressures to adapt to or incorporate foreign languages have tended to push English in a more analytic, less synthetic or inflected direction over the time from Middle English ...
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140 views

Why does “also” in German and in English denote different things?

There are some words in the German language that may seem to be familiar to a native English speaker, but in the end, it turns out that they are so-called "false friends" and have different meanings. ...
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3answers
121 views

Have any linguists studied/described a language that was totally foreign to them?

Have any linguists studied/described a language that was totally foreign to them? ie the linguist has totally no idea of what the utterances and writing of a language mean. How did they do it - ...
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268 views

What's the origin of the word “br” in Yemeni Arabic?

Hello everyone What's the etymology of "ber بر", which means "moonlight" in Yemeni? The nearest words I can find in an Egyptian dictionary and in Amharic refer to light, but in ...
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How do we know that Sumerian determinatives were not pronounced?

I've read the following in Edzard's "Sumerian Grammar" from 2003: Determinatives: these are signs which precede or follow words or names in order to specify them as belonging to semantic groups. ...
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333 views

What's the relationship between Old English and Germanic?

I read a line in the book "The Germanic vocabulary of Old English has not survived particularly well into the current period". This really confused me a lot. Isn't English a branch of Germanic ...
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113 views

What is the relationship of Proto-Indo-European, Indo-European, Proto-Germanic and Germanic?

I know that Indo-European is the name of a family of languages that includes nearly all the major tongues of Europe and several outside Europe, such as Persian and Hindi. Germanic is a sub-category of ...
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248 views

“She” and “they” in West Germanic languages

In English, the third person singular feminine subject pronoun (she) and the third person plural subject pronoun (they) are phonetically different. However, they are phonetically the same in some West ...
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vocabulary and notation for syntactic changes

As a layman I have picked up the terminology and notation for changes in phonology. But I know very little about diachronic changes in syntax other than that they happen: things like shift from SOV ...
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Why is “woman” in “the woman teacher” an adjunct while “literature” in “the literature teacher” a complement?

Is it because we cannot say "teacher of woman" but we can say "teacher of literature"?
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Is it correct for the rules of this voice alternations?

I'm a graduate student from Korea. I'm doing some practice about assimilation but I don't know if it is correct. Here is the question: "cat" and "cats" "dog" and "dogs" "hen" and "hens" And this is ...
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281 views

Is agnosticism the current orthodoxy regarding linguistic macrofamilies?

I'm asking this very much much as a interested layman. As I understand things, the academic linguistics community, by and large, views macrofamily hypotheses - Nostratic, Altaic, etc - rather poorly. ...
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1answer
109 views

Similarities between Proto-Austronesian and Chinese?

Proto-Austronesian was a language that was spoken about 5,000 years ago near Taiwan. I am just curious about, partly because of the geographic connection, if Chinese is related to the Austronesian ...
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79 views

Is there credible evidence for Proto-Indo-Uralic? [duplicate]

Proto-Indo-Uralic is possibly an ancient language that was spoken around ten thousand years ago. I have heard that this has evidence but it hasn’t been proven. So, is there any real evidence (...
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224 views

Any reasons for unexplained centumization in Balto-Slavic?

Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic languages are called satem languages, because in them the Proto-Indo-European palatovelars *ḱ, *ǵ, and *ǵʰ developed into sibilants or affricats, usually into [s]/[z]- or ...

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