Questions tagged [historical-linguistics]

The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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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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Etymology of መለስ

What is etymology of name መለስ in tigary language and its meaning? In south Arabian inscriptions was found name of "mns" was one of followers of hymirite king abraha. Is name relation to ...
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Why was India as the homeland of PIE abandoned?

I have recently become very interested in the linguistics in the problem of the Indo-Aryan migration controversy. I understand in the early 19th century India was favored as the Proto-Indo-European ...
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Was the word "Jew" originally a racial slur?

The English ethnonyms "Jew" and "Jewish" originate from the Biblical Hebrew "Yehudi" (יהודי, meaning "Judahite," "Judean," or "one from the ...
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Cognates for men, non cognates for women

Most romance languages and most Germanic languages words for men belong to a single cognate class for each language family (home, ome, homme, uomo, hombre... for romance languages and man, Mann, mann.....
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Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

Is there a word we lost the definition to? A word whose definition we lost to history? Something that is a part of our history but we forgot the meaning with time
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Difference pronunciation of the word cometh in Middle English and Early Modern English?

Does anyone know how you pronounce the root vowel of the word cometh in ME and EModE? What is this particular sound change called?
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When evaluating a language, can we say that this language is probably natural or artificial?

In other words, Is there an internal measure/index of "cohesion" of language? I was thinking of the contrast between artificial languages that machines or humans produce, and natural ...
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When was proto indo iranian spoken?

Can we tell when was PII spoken ? I read somewhere that it has to be before indo iranian split and the The two things which really anchor it are the common words for chariots and camels. Proto-chariot ...
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How did multiple European languages start using future tense to refer to the present?

I recently noticed that German, English and Spanish seem to have a parallel colloquial use of their future tense, in which it's used to express a hypothesis about the present: Literal meaning: I think ...
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Did Classical Latin lack tenseness contrast in long and short vowels?

Contrary to the traditional supposition of /ɪ ʊ ɛ ɔ/ vs /iː uː eː oː/, the idea that Classical Latin contrasted the short and long versions of high and mid (or just mid) vowels only quantitatively, ...
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How could Vulgar Latin divide in so many branches in the Balkans in a such small timespan?

From the literature I've read ( Al.Rosetti History of Romanian for example ) it looks like we can talk about Vulgar Latin until the 4th or 5th century in the Balkans, and further than that many ...
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Are there traces of lost PIE laryngeals in Sanskrit?

I read on wiki that "Hittite retains laryngeals that disappeared entirely in Sanskrit (but left plenty of traces showing that it must once have existed). In Proto-Indo-Iranian, the laryngeals ...
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Why is this 𓏭 Egyptian hieroglyph associated with the Hebrew letter ז [Zayin] and not the word וָו [VaV]?

Why is this 𓏭 Egyptian Hieroglyph associated with the Hebrew letter ז [Zayin] and not the word וו [VaV]? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleo-Hebrew_alphabet] claims the 𓏭 pictogram is the origin ...
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What were the pronunciations of PIE velar stops?

What might be the pronunciations of PIE "plain velar" series *k *g *gʰ, the "palatovelar" series *ḱ *ǵ *ǵʰ, and the "labiovelar" series *kʷ *gʷ *gʷʰ ? Was the *gʰ same as ...
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questions regarding satemisation in sanskrit

I have some questions regarding satemisation in sanskrit. why there are still k in sanskrit if pie k tunred into sanskrit s ? It seems to me that pie *kʷ turned into k in sanskrit. is that right ? If ...
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Validity of aging estimation for Proto-Afro-Asiatic

Tl;dr: What reasons do we have--besides glottochronology--to think that Proto-Afro-Asiatic is actually 14,000 years old? So, if you know much about proto-languages, you might know that Proto-Afro-...
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Resources on stress, tone and pitch evolution

I am interested in the stress, tone and pitch (STP) aspects of historical linguistics. How do phonetic and other types of changes affect STP changes? How do languages end up with entirely different ...
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Why were writing systems invented independently during roughly the same period across multiple civilizations?

Homo sapiens have been around for 200,000 years, and spoken language is believed to have been around for 50,000 to 150,000 years. Writing is a relatively new phenomenon. According to this source, ...
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How do we know that Mitanni Indo-Aryan loan words are derived from Proto-Indo-Aryan and not Vedic Sanskrit?

This question is similer to my previous question. I came across a person who makes the following claims: The names of Previous Kings of Mitannis that are mentioned on inscriptions belongs to period ...
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How did Greek loanwords with 'ae' come to be pronounced [i] in modern English?

There are a bunch of Greek loanwords in English that orthographically include the vowel sequence 'ae'. Examples include: aegis aether aeon The 'ae' vowel here is pronounced [i] in English, but at ...
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Where did the Sanskrit language originate from?

Where did the Sanskrit language originate from? Did it originate from Persia or Greece? Where did Sanskrit evolve into a classic language: India or Persia or Greece? Origin of Sanskrit The above ...
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Two questions about language evolution (primarily PIE and proto-nostratic)

Okay, so a little background information: Recently I've been thinking about how quite a few languages (talking mostly about IE languages here) appear to be 'simplifying' themselves over time, getting ...
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How do we know that Avestan is sister of Vedic Sanskrit and not its daughter?

I am new here and to linguistics. Recently I have developed a passion and an interest for linguistics, but I am not familiar with it. So I got into debate with a person from India. He was claiming ...
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Was so-called “early PIE” a single language without dialects or a wide continuum of dialects?

Was so-called “early PIE” a single language without dialects or a wide continuum of dialects? If it was a dialect continuum, then probably when did the “common” PIE split up into dialects?
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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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