Questions tagged [history]

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

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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?
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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) ...
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32 votes
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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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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 ...
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8 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Southern European languages? What is the historical origin of this spelling pattern?

I noticed that in the Southern European languages, words change spelling to reserve the pronunciation. For example, in Spanish verbs have -ar, -er, and -ir conjugation classes. First person singular ...
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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.” ...
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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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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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3 votes
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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 ...
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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 ...
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2 answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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, ...
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5 votes
3 answers
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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 ...
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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. ...
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12 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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3 votes
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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?
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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 ...
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6 votes
1 answer
519 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 ...
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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 ...
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1 answer
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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 ...
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15 votes
5 answers
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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 ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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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 ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
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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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1 answer
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Where might the given name Xelefon originate?

I was recently reading some historical records wherein a lady was mentioned, Olga Malar (née Cuch), born in "Napodiwka," Poland, in 1922. She was said to be the daughter of Xelefon Cuch and Jewdokia ...
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4 votes
0 answers
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Where can I find the HISTORICAL data on the total no of speakers of a language?

E.g. in total, how many people around the world spoke Spanish and French respectively in the 18th century? Well, I know the data on most languages are scanty. So no, I'm focusing on major world ...
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2 answers
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Why do some languages have many names?

I understand that each language has one name in each language and that they are not necessarily the same. For example, German is Deutsch in German and Allemand in French. But I've just seen Sranan ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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How are proto-languages dated?

This is something I've been thinking about lately. You look up any reconstructed proto-language, you'll probably find an estimate as to when it was spoken. But how can this number be determined? From ...
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2 votes
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Who first said that no two words mean the exact same?

A friend of mine told me that German philologists (whom he did not name) in the 18th century were the first ones to argue that in any natural language no two words can mean exactly the same. Is this ...
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Did Chomsky made the first generalization of coordination?

If not then who? And maybe someone can suggest a good book of history of English linguistics? Can't find myself. Thanks!
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All all genetically Eastern Algonquian languages in the east?

Below is the distribution of the Algonquian Language Family from Wikipedia: They report this language family has 3 branches, but only one is "genetic" (actually related in structure, not just in ...
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Which linguists from the 1940s–1970s believed that language comprised two distinct parts, “lexis” and “grammar”?

I’m looking for information about the linguists and/or researchers from before the 1970s who at the time believed that vocabulary and grammar should be taught as two completely separate entities, that ...
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1 vote
2 answers
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Phrases such as "Jackie stole John's heart" [closed]

What is the linguistic term to describe such phrases as "Jackie stole John's heart."? All things being equal, such pronouncements are rarely literal, and even with an emotional understanding in no ...
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9 votes
3 answers
7k views

Why does Polish use "w" instead of "v"?

Polish spells /v/ as "w", and the "v" letter does not exist in the language. The other slavic languages using the latin alphabet are in a reverse situation, "v" is used exclusively and "w" does not ...
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