Questions tagged [historical-linguistics]

The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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2 votes
0 answers
82 views

Old English weak noun 'Sweora'

I've been reading about diphthongization and i umlaut of diphthongs and I came across the example of the OE word for 'neck'. I have been led to understand that: the original vowel is 'i'. -rh- ...
-1 votes
0 answers
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Investigating possible etymological connections between Proto-Semitic and Proto-Indo-European words related to light

So I was looking at two Levantine Arabic words, "ضو" (daw) and "نور" (nur), both stemming from Proto-Semitic roots ⁧ض و ء⁩ (ḍ-w-ʔ) and ن و ر⁩ (n-w-r) respectively; and I'm curious ...
37 votes
1 answer
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Is there any evidence that the modern word for "bear" is an euphemism which replaced the original taboo word?

I have read and heard many times the old linguistic story about the modern word for "bear": Slavic: medvěd, niedźwiedź, ведмідь, ... "honey-eater" Germanic: bär, bear, björn, ... &...
14 votes
1 answer
498 views

Is linguistic change pushed by humor?

Through "meme culture," young people are inventing all sorts of new linguistic constructions purely because they think they sound funny. The interesting thing is that these jokes don't end at a ...
16 votes
2 answers
3k views

Is there a diagram showing the history of sound changes from Latin to the Romance languages?

We have had a number of questions about sound changes, asking for the history of specific changes. See this one, for example: asking about the change from Latin benedictionem to French beneiçon. Often,...
6 votes
7 answers
4k views

Nations' names for themselves with foreign etymologies

TL;DR: are there any cases of nations/ethnic groups, whose name for themselves comes from a language that is foreign to them? [I feel like I am missing a term here] Many nations have a name for ...
2 votes
0 answers
57 views

Typological frequency of sound changes; the case of s > h sound change

I was wondering how can I infer the typological "frequency" of given sound changes? How can I find out how typical is a given sound change typologically? Is there a catalogue of attested ...
1 vote
1 answer
112 views

Has the spread of English removed any phonemes or characteristics from pre-existing languages?

I know there's already an answered question on here about English adding sounds and characteristics to languages, but I was wondering if there were many examples of the removal of intricacies from pre-...
3 votes
3 answers
787 views

Spurious Fs' spawning

As advised, I am posting a separate question, but I still think it is a better fit for linguistics (because of phonetics and phonology); feel free to migrate to latin SE. Famagusta is supposed to be a ...
0 votes
0 answers
73 views

What were the sound changes in Old Novgorod?

I'm into conlanging and got the idea of recreating a Novgorod language. I tried Wikipedia in both Russian and English, but I still don't understand the various sound changes as there isn't a lot of ...
2 votes
0 answers
184 views

Why did Proto-Slavic *dьnьsь (today) change to Serbo-Croatian "danas" instead of to *dnas?

By the Havlik's law, the front yer in the first syllable of *dьnьsь was weak, so why didn't it disappear? It disappeared in most Slavic languages (like Czech "dnes" or Bulgarian "dnes&...
5 votes
6 answers
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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? ...
1 vote
1 answer
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What are some good sources for Old Marathi and Old Konkani as would have been spoken around 1100-1600?

I get that this will be a very difficult question, perhaps one with no easily accessible answer as vernacular MIA/NIA speech was not often written down and even if so, it was meant to resemble OIA in ...
4 votes
1 answer
492 views

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 ...
0 votes
0 answers
136 views

What is "sub-Indo-European"?

Apparently Leiden had a conference on "sub-Indo-European". Google isn't very helpful, resulting in a dead link: Sub-Indo-European Europe: Problems, Methods and Evidence - Leiden University ...
0 votes
1 answer
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Timeline of future/conditional in Latin and Romance languages

I'm not a linguist - just a linguistics enthusiast - so apologies in advance if this is a stupid question. I am fascinated by the concept of grammaticalization, and I had heard that the future and ...
1 vote
0 answers
52 views

When are Shva and Qhataf-Pataqh used in Biblical Hebrew?

In Tiberian Hebrew, Shva Na and Hataf Patach were both pronounced like Hataf Patach. (I will be discussing Shva Na, not Shva Nach, in this question.) However, in other dialects, Shva was pronounced ...
5 votes
2 answers
236 views

What software for interpreting phonological rules exists?

So far, I have found PHONO33 for DOS, which is a quite old yet impressive program. Though overly strict and simplistic, applying rules in a strict order, which results in weird outcomes ×D It ...
2 votes
0 answers
50 views

What is the origin of Marathi and Konkani case endings (specifically genitive and accusative-dative)?

In Konkani and Marathi, the genitive case ending is -च (cha) with a vowel attached to the end depending on the gender. I am curious to know the origin of this case ending. Is there potential of a ...
7 votes
1 answer
224 views

Why did Finnish and Sami noun-final A and I flip over?

I noticed a weird sound correspondence between Finnish and Northern Sami, and that is a list of words which pairwise end in -a or -ä in Finnish (this is the same archephoneme), and end in -i in ...
9 votes
1 answer
449 views

Merger of perfect and aorist in Italic and Celtic

One of the common features of the Italic and Celtic branches is the merger of perfect and aorist. So, in the surviving "perfect" forms we find a mixture of old aorist stems and old perfect ...
-5 votes
2 answers
230 views

Is the Greek ζ related to the Chinese 子?

I wonder whether there is any connections between the two letters. After all, they are both similar to the Phoenician Sade letter, and the Phoenicians were the dominant culture of the Mediterranean ...
4 votes
1 answer
159 views

What is closer to 16th century Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese or Portuguese from Portugal?

Shouldn't Brazilian Portuguese sound closer to it, as they pronounce more syllables?
1 vote
1 answer
66 views

What is the origin of alpha in the mediopassive indicative?

In greek, the indicative mediopassive in the 3rd person singular and plural are -εται and -ονται, however in PIE, the alpha was originally an o. Additionally, in the imperfect, the endings also have o ...
2 votes
1 answer
147 views

Source of Greek long alpha

I'm reading about the Greek first declension on wikipedia, which mentions that the origin of the first declension originally had long alpha, which then shifted to eta, except when after rho, iota, and ...
4 votes
2 answers
701 views

History of "have", "avoir", "haben", etc. as auxiliary

In Geoff Pullum's recent post Being an Auxiliary on the Lingua Franca blog, he states that the sense of "have" as an auxiliary (forming the perfect tense) evolved from the possession sense, "but the ...
22 votes
7 answers
8k views

What is the origin of non-natural grammatical genders in Indo-European languages?

Non-natural grammatical genders in Indo-European languages: What is their origin (assuming that there is a single origin, if there are many origins)? Or what are the origins? How and for what ...
0 votes
1 answer
308 views

Is "alpha-" and "-bet", in the word "alphabet", related to the first two letters "A" (alpha) and "B" (beta)? [closed]

I was reading the book The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick. Towards the beginning (third paragraph) of chapter three, titled Two Wordbooks, the author writes - The alphabet, ...
11 votes
3 answers
890 views

What is the history of the sound spelled <â> or <î> (IPA /ɨ/) in Romanian?

I've read that some people attribute it to influence from the Slavic languages. But it doesn't just appear in Slavic loans — it also shows up in obviously Latin-derived words like câine 'dog' (...
2 votes
1 answer
281 views

What is the "principle of uniformity" in historical linguistics?

I feel hopeless asking this. The word in question as I understand it describes that a theory has to account for all observables under discussion without exception. In historical linguistics it is ...
1 vote
1 answer
144 views

Can a strong verb change to weak?

Can a strong verb in the course of time change to weak verb? MoDu "scheiden" (to seperate) is weak: scheidde, gescheiden. Its ancestor ODu *skeidan < PWGm *skaiþan < PGm *skaiþana is ...
8 votes
2 answers
416 views

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 on Chinese.SE, I learned that the modern character for "earth, ground"「地」(dì) used to be written in a multitude of ways, using either 「也」,「豕」, or「它」as phonetic components. ...
1 vote
1 answer
308 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 ...
3 votes
1 answer
1k views

State of language in the hunter-gatherer era of Europe / Levant?

I would like to piece together a picture for a blog article (in essence) of what the state of the world was in the "hunter gatherer stage" just before the origin of agriculture. I would like ...
18 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why did the consonant clusters /ks/ and /ps/ merit their own designated letters in Ancient Greek?

Ancient Greek had many consonant clusters, like /pn/ in pneuma, /bd/ in bdellion, and /pt/ in pteron. But for some reason, /ks/ (ξ) and /ps/ (ψ) received special real estate in the 24-letter Greek ...
10 votes
1 answer
5k views

How did the generic masculine emerge?

In an essay for school I recently claimed the generic masculine was caused by sexism, but my teacher complained that I hadn't given a reason for this. Assuming my hypothesis is correct, how did this ...
3 votes
1 answer
93 views

Origin of Latin Non-Finite Verbal Endings

I'm wondering about the origins of the various non-finite verbal endings in Latin. My understanding so far of their PIE origins: Infinitives: Present Active: -s-ey (dative of an s-stem verbal noun) ...
5 votes
2 answers
1k views

How might one swear in Proto-Indo-European? [closed]

Proto-Indo-European is an interesting topic. I'm fascinated by how it spread. But, I wonder how to use curse words. These words, like others, will probably be reconstructed from other languages: Latin,...
2 votes
1 answer
205 views

What influenced the fact in almost all European languages ​the word human "man" means a male?

Why "werman" (OldEnglish man as male) became simply Man (human) and "wifman" (OldEnglish man as female) became woman? Man in English (man, human) Homme in French (man, human) Mann ...
2 votes
3 answers
478 views

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 ...
1 vote
1 answer
345 views

Is there a connection between the Sumerian En and the Semite El?

En means lord in Sumerian and El god or deity in Semitic. Semitic peoples use the word lord as a synonym of god, it seems that the same happens with Sumerian and its gods like Enlil, Enki, Enzu etc. ...
10 votes
2 answers
2k views

Oldest proto-languages

Dating proto-languages is obviously something we can't do precisely, but we can offer reasonable ranges. For example, Proto-Indo-European can't really be much younger than 5 millennia, and let's say ...
2 votes
1 answer
234 views

Questions about the "Hand of Irulegi"

The Hand of Irulegi is a recently found artifact from Navarra, Spain. It is dated in 1st c. BCE and carries an inscription touted as the oldest attestation of the Basque language. The text can be ...
-2 votes
2 answers
277 views

Uniquenesses of Hebrew

Franz Philipp Kaulen, S.J. (1827-1907) was impressed in favor of [ancient] Hebrew by the following facts: In no other language is there such an intimate relation between nouns and their objects; the ...
5 votes
2 answers
803 views

Proto-Polynesian reconstruction and ambiguities in Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan and Tongan

given that: Hawaiian (H) Maori (M) Samoan (S) Tongan (T) /l/ in H S T = /r/ in M /t/ in M S T = /k/ in H why do we find words with /l/ /r/ /n/ alternations instead of the common attested /l/ /r/ ...
10 votes
2 answers
4k views

What linguistic evidence is there in support of/in opposition to the account of the Tower of Babel?

I do not intend for this question to incite a debate as to the historicity/validity of the account of the Tower of Babel, I am simply interested in seeing how it fits into the framework of modern ...
0 votes
1 answer
101 views

Etymological link between “govern” and “born”

So my question is two-fold. Specific and more general. I was doing some genealogy research and I was trying to read some Yiddish (I don’t understand Yiddish), and I thought a line said a certain ...
1 vote
1 answer
76 views

Is there any way to describe how languages are typically spoken, like there is a way to describe grammar?

In English, when ordering food, you'd say "I would like x," not "Please let me purchase x," even though both are grammatically correct. You can say that "I would be liking x&...
5 votes
2 answers
2k views

Etymology of Romanian "amor" (cf. "iubire")

I found it interesting to learn that Romanian borrowed this word from a Slavic language as well as the verb "a iubi". I also discovered that the word "amor" is present in Romanian but apparently it ...
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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