Questions tagged [language-change]

The phenomenon whereby a language's grammar and lexicon change over time.

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14 votes
1 answer
493 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 ...
3 votes
3 answers
786 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 ...
4 votes
1 answer
491 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 ...
17 votes
7 answers
50k views

Weird behavior of two fruits' names (ananas/pineapple, banana/plátano)

Some time ago I found two tables that reported the names for two fruits, which were supposed to be funny, because they specifically reported a single exception among those several languages, where ...
21 votes
1 answer
580 views

Are there any studies on some English passive verb constructions currently being replaced by new intransitive senses?

In the past couple of years I've noticed a new trend in younger generations of native English speakers, at least in American English and Australian English. But I can't find it discussed anywhere on ...
13 votes
4 answers
4k views

Do languages borrow morphemes?

It is clear that languages can borrow words and even syntax from other languages but do they borrow morphemes? For example, the English morpheme -ation has a very specific usage in Portuguese. It is ...
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 ...
4 votes
1 answer
6k views

What language has the longest word for 'no' and 'yes'?

I'm asking this because I'm learning Swahili now, for which the word 'yes' translates to 'ndiyo' and 'no' translates to 'hakuna.' It strikes me as strange that a language would have such long words ...
0 votes
0 answers
27 views

Why onomasiological studies are less popular/frequent than semasiological ones?

When searching for research on semantic shift, it becomes apparent that the majority of studies concentrate on the semasiological perspective—how a word's meaning evolves over time. In contrast, the ...
8 votes
3 answers
2k views

Why did the pronunciation of the rhotic phoneme /r/ change after the 2ndWW in public speech?

For example why did radio presenters roll the r on the BBC before the war and not after? Why did Brecht roll the r extensively? Why did Hitler roll the r extensively? My perspective is from the ...
3 votes
1 answer
160 views

Does the concept of slang exist in cultures without established written or formal education traditions?

In English and, presumably, many of the world's other commonly spoken languages, there exists a rough category of words considered slang. This concept is not quite the same as taboo (many slang words ...
7 votes
1 answer
135 views

Is there any modern language that is currently shifting from one stage to the next in Jespersen's cycle?

Modern French seems to be going through the next stage in Jespersen's cycle, from Neg-V-Neg to V-Neg; i.e. Ce n'est pas toi to C'est pas toi. What else is shifting from one to the next?
5 votes
0 answers
128 views

Why in the world are French "Paul" and "Paule" distinguished by vowel openness?

Wikipedia lists Paul [pɔl] ('Paul', masculine), vs. Paule [pol] ('Paule', feminine), as a minimal pair of the two mid rounded back vowels of French. What I wonder is, how did it happen that the two ...
7 votes
1 answer
186 views

Distinction between Chemistry and Alchemy in Arabic and Farsi languages

According to Wikipedia, in Europe the semantic distinction between the rational science of chimia and the occult alchimia arose in the early 18th century. So it seems like there was a need to separate ...
14 votes
7 answers
9k views

Why is English so much more simplified than other, similar languages?

English seems to have rules that are much more simple than its cousin German and its influencer French, as well as most of the languages that those are related to. What caused this? I suspect it's ...
7 votes
1 answer
329 views

Limits of historical linguistic reconstruction

It is a well-known and widely repeated fact that the linguistic reconstruction associated with the comparative method is no longer effective for large temporal depths (informally estimated to be ...
24 votes
2 answers
2k views

Do onomatopoeias resist sound change?

Regular sound changes can of course affect phonemes used in onomatopoeias. For example, consider a language containing /mjaw/, referring to the call of a cat. Suppose that final /w/ is sound-changed ...
1 vote
1 answer
153 views

What is the name of the view that language is that which is used by people?

Some people believe that language should be managed or engineered. That is to say, new words should be created, wrong usages should be rectified, etc. On the contrary, some others believe that a ...
0 votes
2 answers
155 views

Could the precursor to Pre-Proto-Quechua have been a monosyllabic tonal language?

So this has been intriguing me for years: In 'Perspectives on the Quechua-Aymara Contact Relationship and the Lexicon and Phonology of Pre-Proto-Aymara', Nicholas Emlen mentions, citing Adelaar (1986) ...
6 votes
4 answers
522 views

Which languages have absorbed the most vocabulary from Russian, and which languages have influenced its vocabulary?

I'm a student of formal linguistics and Russian language, my question has been surprisingly hard to google -- I've studied a little Ukrainian, and I've read that its structurally similar to Russian ...
3 votes
2 answers
233 views

What are the incentives for neologisms (new words)?

My best explanation of why new words come into existence is: Economy: a new word may allow you to say more with fewer words/syllables/characters (or in less time) Articulacy: a new word may allow you ...
-4 votes
2 answers
233 views

Is Linguistic Nihilism a legitimate philosophical/linguistic position?

By Linguistic Nihilism, a subcategory of Nihilism (the position that denies value/ability/meaning/etc.), I mean the position that ... There's A Problem: Any, all languages are inadequate for every ...
4 votes
0 answers
73 views

has any language ever lost articles? [duplicate]

many languages have articles (words translating as "a" and "the"); at the same time many languages lack articles. are there any known cases of a language having articles but losing ...
4 votes
2 answers
240 views

Why did older languages lose the informal "you" if modern languages are losing the formal "you"?

English and (I believe) Brazilian Portuguese have to varying degrees lost T-V distinction via adoption of the formal second-person pronoun for both formal and informal situations. English completely ...
4 votes
4 answers
384 views

Did the Greek adverb for "late" evolve into a preposition meaning "after"?

The Greek work opse meant late in Homer. By the time of Philostratus (3rd c. A.D.) it sometimes had the meaning of too late. Of course, if someone arrives too late for an event, they arrive "after" ...
1 vote
0 answers
78 views

In English, can the use of a word change from formal to informal, or vice versa, while the meaning of the word remains the same?

Note: I have zero background in linguistics, so I do not know if my question is valid, and I am probably not going to use proper terminology. Thank you for reading. Here goes. Can the use of a word ...
1 vote
2 answers
217 views

What is the term for the phenomenon where certain languages cannot describe certain concepts?

I am super-fascinated by the fact that English speakers cannot accurately describe how something smells and there are languages that can differentiate different shades of color that English speakers ...
3 votes
1 answer
466 views

How do new dialects emerge?

When two communities live apart and communicate little with each other, over time some innovations tend to differentiate the respective linguistic varieties until two systematically distinguishable ...
15 votes
2 answers
3k views

Are any of the isolating languages of East Asia showing signs of gaining inflections?

It's generally accepted that languages go through a cycle of changes to their morphological type. English is losing its inflectional endings and becoming more isolating/analytic. But what about the ...
1 vote
0 answers
26 views

Controlling for semantic shift/change in a dataset

I'm working on a project to ascertain a cohort's feelings (using a Likert scale) on different words relevant to that cohort. Individuals of the cohort are different ages, and the goal is to see if the ...
0 votes
0 answers
90 views

On the change of word order as languages develop?

While I understand the most common changes in word order, the whole SOV can go to OSV, SVO, and OVS, and so forth. But I do not exactly understand how and why word order would change. Can you explain ...
0 votes
1 answer
64 views

What are the processes and mechanisms that create homo(graphs/phones/semes)?

I suspect that homographs and homophones may arise as multiple words from different languages are brought into a language, winding up with the same graphemic and/or phonemic representation. The same ...
0 votes
2 answers
460 views

How to read sound change transcriptions? [closed]

https://chridd.nfshost.com/diachronica/ I don't understand what most of these transcriptions mean. I only know what #, #, and _x mean.
1 vote
1 answer
127 views

How do new function words develop in a language?

It's very understandable how new content words emerge in a language, since we can see it happening constantly in the modern day. On the other hand, I have trouble imagining the process by which a word ...
1 vote
1 answer
131 views

Is there a list of dead languages specifying the causes?

I am looking for a list, database, or encyclopedia of dead languages (better if it includes endangered ones) which specifies the causes wherby each of these languages died, or if the cause is unknown. ...
0 votes
1 answer
92 views

Do other languages have the same tendency as English to adopt many previously unrelated other words to mean "very good"?

I've noticed that English has many words for "very good" and most of them have an additional meaning as well. For example: great (more than normal) fantastic (fanciful) phenomenal (being a ...
5 votes
2 answers
236 views

Are some language features more resistant to change than others?

Languages change over time. I am wondering if there are certain features that are consistently more stable (i.e. changing more slowly) than others, and if yes, what are some examples? There are many ...
2 votes
2 answers
2k views

Language Change over Distance

I'm building a world where I'm tracking the languages and people throughout time. So I'm starting from a single point with a single language and then expanding that out as time progresses. My basic ...
1 vote
0 answers
61 views

Is there an instrument for measuring language vitality?

I currently am doing an anthropological research in a community where two languages are spoken. A community language X, which is the language historically spoken by the ancestors of that community, ...
1 vote
2 answers
95 views

Comparing two cognate lists, how do I determine validity?

A man created a list of 406 words, place and tribe names that he transcribed into English (Roman alphabet) and placed them side-by-side with ancient Hebrew names (that were likewise transcribed) to ...
3 votes
0 answers
100 views

Was there a tendency of Indo-European languages to avoid syntactical ambiguity by introducing more complex morphology?

In (Peškovskij, 1914, p. 246) I stumbled upon the following (Russian) assertion: Opisannoe vytesnenie predikativnogo imenitel'nogo tvoritel'nym možno rassmatrivat' kak častnyj slučaj obščego ...
0 votes
0 answers
82 views

Analysing the data from the study on Jocks and Burnouts by Eckert

I have a question for those who are familiar with the study by Eckert. I got stuck trying to analyze the table (the screenshot is attached). Do you know what "Input" and "Sig." ...
-2 votes
3 answers
496 views

Etymological Fallacy

What is actually wrong with using Etymology to infer a word's meaning? I mean other than semantics( or more subtle meaning, nuance) of what other use could studying etymology be. I cannot see the ...
2 votes
2 answers
596 views

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-...
2 votes
1 answer
543 views

What is a "conservative" language?

(1) Does aconservative language better preserve its roots? (for example, Romanian is said to have best preserved its Latin roots due to being geographically surrounded by countries with non-Romance ...
4 votes
2 answers
967 views

Differences among Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese

Is there any research or explanation for the (grammatical, typological) differences among Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese? I am thinking of the fact that Chinese is classed as an Analytic, SVO language,...
0 votes
2 answers
142 views

Etymology of "fiamma" in Italian [duplicate]

I don't speak Italian at all, but I was a bit surprised that the word "flame" in Italian is "fiamma" (IPA: /ˈfjam.ma/) (to compare with flamme in French, flamma in Latin and llama ...
0 votes
0 answers
120 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 ...
3 votes
0 answers
47 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 ...
3 votes
1 answer
92 views

What's the name of the process in which a word acquires new meanings?

I am almost sure there is a proper name for that but I forgot. It would be the opposite of semantic bleaching...