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Questions tagged [history]

The study of past events. Use this tag if your linguistic question is also related to history.

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What is the origin of the concepts of cardinal and ordinal numbers?

When were cardinal and ordinal numbers first distinguished, and when were the terms 'cardinal' and 'ordinal' first used in Western languages? I can imagine this might well predate all surviving ...
JBorger's user avatar
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14 votes
2 answers
4k views

Was cuneiform ever drawn on a surface, as opposed to carved?

Cuneiform's glyphs are well-known for the odd way they were made; stamping. I wonder though, given that it remained in used for thousands of years, was this the only way it was ever utilized? Was ...
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1 answer
290 views

Was Old Church Slavonic more Greek/Thracian then actually Slavic and can Proto-Slavic be considered a languge from Indo-European family?

First of all, thank you for reading this question. While checking some proposed restorations of Indo-European words, I noticed that for Slavic words the Old Church Slavonic is used. I've searched some ...
Paul V's user avatar
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1 answer
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Was the word 'vehicle' first used as a concrete noun or as an abstract noun?

So I recently learned that the word 'vehicle' was first used in the 1650s and that got me thinking about the way in which it was first used, and whether this use would've been literal or metaphorical. ...
Jane Doe's user avatar
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Could the Old Cyrillic Djerv and Coptic Janja be related?

I was browsing wikipedia when I encountered the lovely letter Djerv as part of Old Cyrillic: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djerv Its shape is like that of an <h> with a horizontal stroke. ...
planettop92's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
127 views

Where can I find books from the late 17th/early 18th century about English grammar, and books from the same period about English phonology?

I'm interested in finding books that explain English grammar (as much of it and in as much depth as possible), written by scholars from the late 17th/early 18th century. Which do you recommend? Could ...
high-strung_violin's user avatar
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106 views

Why are there so few Hellenic languages when there are so many Romance languages? [duplicate]

Both Greece and Rome had huge empires and Greek was even used to administer the Eastern Roman Empire. Christian scriptures are even primarily written in Greek. So why are there so many Romance ...
King-Ink's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
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Why did the ancient people use different languages for speaking and writing and why don't we?

Why did the ancient people use different languages for speaking and writing? For example, in my country in 10-13th centuries people used for speaking colloquial Slavic language which evolved into ...
Robotex's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
132 views

Why is it believed that tool use among humans preceded spoken language? [closed]

I have read that human spoken language is 200k years old. This seems implausible because, for example, tool use is much older than this. Given that modern animals like parrots have the ability to use ...
releseabe's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
147 views

Estimating the greatest number of languages that have existed simultaneously [duplicate]

Currently, the number of languages is estimated to be between 6500 and 7000. 500 years ago, this number was higher because European colonization wiped out many languages in America, Oceania and ...
Davius's user avatar
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1 answer
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History of perfect tenses

I am thinking about the history of the verb "have". Why is the verb "have" used as an auxiliary verb in the perfect tenses? When did it start to be used that way?
Pablo's user avatar
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0 answers
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Do we have evidence of the transition from -mentum to -ment?

Several English words end in -ment: augment, document, movement, moment, segment, etc. According to several dictionaries, the English -ment suffix is in many cases traced to the French -ment, which in ...
Michael's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
124 views

About phonological history of Middle French

Schwa in hiatus dwindled in French a few centuries ago. Compare the example "saputum > sëu > su" at Wikipedia/History of French Does anyone know WHEN this sound change occurred? I ...
David Harlev's user avatar
1 vote
2 answers
604 views

Why do the Hebrew characters look so different from Greek, Latin, even Phoenician?

Why do the Hebrew characters look so different? See, for example: chart of letters If I look at Greek, Phoenician, etc. I can still see similarities (maybe with rotations or flipping of characters) ...
guest's user avatar
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35 votes
3 answers
7k views

Why isn’t the letter “G” immediately after “C” in the alphabet?

I have absolutely no formal linguistics background, but I enjoy learning about it a lot. I’ve seen multiple times before how the alphabet mutated from Roman times to our own: The letter “J” was a ...
Gauss's user avatar
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2 answers
257 views

History of language- how come rules are followed?

Thinking about languages- I speak a few- I find it fascinating that languages follow rules across the board. Of course there are important exceptions in each language, where we just have to memorize ...
ChinG's user avatar
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2 answers
176 views

Estimate the genesis of the language

Is it possible to estimate the birthday of a language based on vocabulary size (German language has probably larger vocabulary size than English language)? For example, Germanic languages contain a ...
Avv's user avatar
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0 votes
2 answers
68 views

Branch of linguistics: civilisations (empires/hegemony) and languages

What branch of linguistics deals with the relationship between languages and hegemony, such as, for example - when Classical Latin became the official language of the Roman Empire, alongside Greek, ...
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3 votes
2 answers
1k views

Is there a Historical ranking of the most spoken languages? Are there any universal languages?

Today, we can say that English is the universal language. Wherever you go, you can talk English, and chances are that you will find someone who can understand you. A century ago, I think that French ...
Saeed Neamati's user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
5k views

Is modern English the most spoken language of all time?

Out of all of the people that have ever lived, did/do more of them speak modern English than any other language? There are 2 billion English speakers alive today, but in my brief search I wasn't able ...
GhostNoticer14's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
335 views

Is most of the world's languages being in a small number of families a recent development? Or has there always been cycles of linguistic expansion?

I've always found it curious that the languages spoken by an overwhelming proportion of the human population can be traced to a small number of proto-languages that were each spoken by only a small ...
Aqualone's user avatar
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3 votes
0 answers
101 views

Where did English get its perfect tense(s) from?

Apologies if this is too basic, but I know very little about linguistics and figured this would be a good place to ask. English seems like it draws from several other langiuages, notably the romance ...
Derek Allums's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
848 views

Reason why English is the most spoken language

English is the 3rd most spoken language in the world. How is that related with having so many roots. For example English has its roots in western Germanic languages and also it has adopted many words ...
Armok's user avatar
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-2 votes
3 answers
854 views

Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Spanish and Italian? What is the historical origin of this spelling pattern?

I noticed that in the Spanish and Italian languages, words change spelling to reserve the pronunciation. For example, in Spanish verbs have -ar, -er, and -ir conjugation classes. First person ...
Arunabh's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
269 views

Did a single word derived from “de fenestra” exist in European languages prior to the Defenestration of Prague?

Many European languages have a single word derived from the Latin prepositional phrase de fenestra (“out from a window” or “down from a window”) meaning “the act of throwing someone out a window.” ...
KRyan's user avatar
  • 111
4 votes
4 answers
3k views

Why does English have words from Latin and none from Celtic?

It is known that Britain's history of invasion goes as: Celtic arrival, Roman domination, Saxon settlement, Nordic settlement, Norman invasion. If England's identity was largely made from the Saxons (...
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-1 votes
1 answer
76 views

What etext sources do we have for the Gothic Language?

It is very hard to search for "Gothic" in Google, because it finds modern gothic stuff which is not what I'm looking for. I found the word "𐌰𐌻𐌰𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌺𐍃" (but I can't find a definition haha), and ...
Lance's user avatar
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-1 votes
1 answer
80 views

Are the objects symbolized by modern hunter-gatherer languages a good indication of their past?

I'm not studied in linguistics so bear with me here. Phrasing the question was also difficult, but to elaborate it's something like this: We take a modern hunter-gatherer tribe that hasn't been ...
Cdn_Dev's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
208 views

How could Proto-Indo-European not get dissolved into creoles during the Indo-European expansion?

First of all, I must say that I realise that this is not exactly a linguistics question so much as it is an anthropological, sociological, or historical question, but I suspect this might be the best ...
Max's user avatar
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14 votes
3 answers
5k views

When did Hebrew start replacing Yiddish?

I’ve always considered the transition to have started in the beginning of the 20th century, when the Ben-Yehuda’s works became pretty prominent. If I recall correctly, the first seminary where Hebrew ...
Zhiltsoff Igor's user avatar
3 votes
0 answers
121 views

The schwa in [meɪkəθ] for *maketh* in KJV English

This Wiki article seems to suggest that words like makes had lost their final syllable schwa in normal speech already by Chaucer's time (palmeres > palmers is the example they give). The rule, as ...
Simon Korneev's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
127 views

Linguistics and Continental Philosophy

I'm a Linguistics major at OSU, I have one semester left. During my time here, I've tried to read whatever I could on philosophy of language on the side, especially from people who aren't usually ...
Julian Jefko's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
457 views

Had the ancient languages fewer words than modern languages?

By ancient languages I mean in the Antiquity (or before). They were less rich in vocabulary than modern languages (for instance Indo-European languages if we need a reference), or we could think that ...
Quidam's user avatar
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0 votes
1 answer
194 views

What was the diffusion and the use of dictionaries in ancient times? Every civilization with a dictionary?

Did they have dictionaries in the ancient times? I mean who used the dictionaries? Did authors use them to know how to write? I don't think it worked this way. But when in the history dictionaries ...
Quidam's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
196 views

Which factors influence the linguistic conservatism of a language, and to what extent?

Presumably the number of speakers is a factor, as a language cannot change if nobody speaks it (is this even true in absolute?)1, but it does not necessarily follow that more speakers results in ...
Pikanchion's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
65 views

Can the shift in grammatical usage of "an X-ese [person]" be explained linguistically?

While reading An Introduction to Information Theory by John R. Pierce, I was distracted by a linguistic artifact (on page 251 of the second edition): We can tell our friends apart, […] but we find ...
natevw's user avatar
  • 141
3 votes
1 answer
455 views

What Languages have historically had Purification Movements? [closed]

Greek has been notorious for trying to purify the language. People tried to conserve the Attic Dialect which evolved to what is today called Katharevousa, which even means purified. Historically, ...
George Ntoulos's user avatar
5 votes
3 answers
1k views

Are there any extinct phonemes in Russian?

The Russian language and my own language have something in common - they are very rich and nuanced lexically, but not rich phonetically at all. There are even numerous parodies making fun of the ...
Mitsuko's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
101 views

What made some languages change normal writing orientation?

For Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese, writing was done in 漢字 (English spelling may vary), going down and stopping and switching to the next line on the left and repeating the process again. ...
Double U's user avatar
  • 151
13 votes
2 answers
5k views

Is the Indo-European language family made up?

Question Which European Languages are not Indo-European? on History.SE got this peculiar comment from user mathreadler: None of them are. Indo-European is completely made-up language family by ...
Pavel's user avatar
  • 249
1 vote
1 answer
438 views

Is there any relationship between the Hungarian long s sound and the long s in some European languages?

This History SE question (with some references), which enquires about when the f (actually an ſ) became an s and why in English specifically, prompted me to wonder if there was any relationship with ...
Denis de Bernardy's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
608 views

Nazis considered Slavs as non-Aryans, but did Nazi linguists classified the Slavic languages as "non-Indo-European"?

Nazis considered Slavs as non-Aryans, but did Nazi linguists classified the Slavic languages as "non-Indo-European"? What was the Nazi theory about historical linguistics?
Sorb's user avatar
  • 67
3 votes
2 answers
953 views

Why is the English name for Bruges the same as the French despite that it's a Flemish city?

My question is about the name of Bruges, Belgium. In Flemish, Bruges is called "Brugge", and in French, it's called "Bruges". Despite the city being part of the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, we ...
R. Bench's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
1k views

Which alphabetic writing system first had spaces between words?

Just recently, I believed that spaces between words were first invented with the Carolingian minuscule, invented by the English scholar Alcuin of York. As I just discovered, spacing wasn't first ever ...
arara's user avatar
  • 189
1 vote
2 answers
2k views

Why does the ASL fingerspelling sign shaped like an 'x' represent R, not X?

In the ASL fingerspelling alphabet, the letters U, V, W, Y, and Z all look similar to the printed English letters. But the sign with the fingers in a x shape is R, and the letter X uses a different ...
octern's user avatar
  • 185
2 votes
1 answer
254 views

Pronunciation of Fermat in Gascon/Occitan

A math professor mentioned that the final segment of Fermat's name would probably have been pronounced [t] because of "where he was from." She didn't clarify further but I looked up where he's from ...
ubadub's user avatar
  • 626
15 votes
5 answers
1k views

At what point does a language become its descendant?

With the possible exceptions of constructed languages, languages seem to evolve. As a real-world example, we note that Latin has evolved into Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, etc. What ...
Jeff Zeitlin's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
413 views

Voiced aspirated alveolar trill

Was there voiced aspirated alveolar trill in Ancient Greek? It was written in some sites in Russian that all Ancient Greek words which began with "rho" pronounced with the sound [rʰ], but it was ...
Дмитрий Борисов's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
193 views

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 ...
Getkey's user avatar
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-4 votes
1 answer
293 views

Is Turkish older than Bulgarian?

I've read that Turkish is a very old language, but I can't really find any information on how old Bulgarian is. Which of those two languages is older?
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