Questions tagged [language-change]

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

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
67 votes
10 answers
17k views

Why did early Indo-European languages seem to be morphologically complex?

Apparently there is a general trend that languages lose morphological marking over time. For example, according to this question PIE had 8 noun cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, etc), Latin 5, ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
  • 8,481
52 votes
13 answers
15k views

Do unschooled people use cases correctly, e.g. in Germany and in Russia?

I wonder if the case system is devised/imposed by literates and not really natural: it is said that the vulgar Latin that most people really used didn't have e.g. the cases (or all of them) of the '...
newinterested's user avatar
41 votes
10 answers
4k views

Languages that are gaining morphological distinctions

In diachronic comparison of languages, say PIE to Latin to Romance, it is a classic recognition that the later languages strictly lose some of the morphologically marked categories. PIE had 8 noun ...
Mitch's user avatar
  • 4,445
29 votes
4 answers
9k views

Why do English verbs inflect so little, especially in regard to "person"?

Most Indo-European languages have verbs which endings change according to the person. I made a table with the most common (and close) languages and focussed on the category of person and the present ...
Alenanno's user avatar
  • 9,368
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 ...
Mechanical snail's user avatar
21 votes
1 answer
2k views

How powerful is literacy to slow down language change?

The degree of literacy of a certain community of speakers is generally proposed as one of the factors that affect the pace of language change. More specifically, literacy would slow down change, since ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
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 ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 14.6k
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 ...
Alenanno's user avatar
  • 9,368
17 votes
3 answers
1k views

Is it possible to predict language changes?

The comparative method is used to reconstruct unattested languages from the attested ones. By comparing different sounds for the same words in various sister languages, it is possible to infer some ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
17 votes
1 answer
3k views

Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French number words from eleven to nineteen - history of a bizarre, inconsistent construction

Following Sklivvz's advice, I propose here a question I made in Italian Language. Because I am not sure how I should do this, I will just copy/paste the whole lot. Let's count in Latin from one to ...
randomatlabuser's user avatar
17 votes
6 answers
1k views

Have we observed classes changing from open to closed, or vice versa?

Classes of words in languages tend to be either "open" (accepting new members readily) or "closed" (rejecting new members). This distinction is fairly easy to see: compare how readily English accepted ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
16 votes
3 answers
984 views

What languages are expected to "die off" in the near future and why?

I am curious about what languages are projected to "die off" in the near future, say within 10, 50, or 100 years from now. My questions in particular: What and where are these languages exactly? ...
DuckMaestro's user avatar
15 votes
6 answers
61k views

Why did England not maintain French as a spoken language?

In many countries around the world, especially in Africa, the people natively speak both an indigenous language and French due to French colonization. The Norman conquest of England left us with many,...
Nick Anderegg's user avatar
15 votes
4 answers
4k views

What explains the Icelandic language conservatism?

The Icelandic language is often used as an example of a very conservative language, compared to other Indo-European languages, in general, and to other North-Germanic languages, in particular, all of ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
15 votes
2 answers
583 views

Is anyone studying change in constructed language?

Is there any serious work being done on linguistic change in constructed languages (e.g. Esperanto, Interlingua, Lojban)? I would imagine it might be difficult given the small population of native ...
Dan Milway's user avatar
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 ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 14.6k
15 votes
1 answer
654 views

What's this loanword phenomenon called?

I've noticed that loanwords often take on more specific meanings in the target language than in the source language. To give two very common examples, sake just means alcohol in Japanese and salsa ...
alcas's user avatar
  • 487
15 votes
2 answers
1k views

Are American English and British English growing closer together or drifting further apart?

I'm mostly wondering about vocabulary (e.g. truck vs. lorry; apartment vs. flat) but I suppose I'd be interested to learn about pronunciation too. Intuitively I feel like this could go either way. ...
Matt Korostoff's user avatar
15 votes
1 answer
1k views

How much is known about verb regularization rates?

According to this abstract, published in 2007, "the half-life of an irregular verb scales as the square root of its usage frequency: a verb that is 100 times less frequent regularizes 10 times as fast....
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
14 votes
2 answers
6k views

Why does Spanish tend to swap letters in words?

I can't remember the source, but I recall hearing that Spanish (my native tongue) tends to swap letters in words (accidentally). Examples Latin diabolo becomes diablo(o). (perhaps this is a non-...
Pedro's user avatar
  • 301
14 votes
4 answers
874 views

Are there documented languages that evolved from tonal to nontonal?

There is a theory about tonogenesis for the Chinese language, thus Chinese had once a more complex syllable-structure and no tones. In the course of time, the syllable structure became less complex ...
meireikei's user avatar
  • 745
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 ...
Nick Anderegg's user avatar
14 votes
2 answers
535 views

How do computational linguists abstractly represent a language?

When building models of the evolution of languages or similar phenomena where many different languages are involved and change over time, how do computational linguists abstractly model a language? ...
Artem Kaznatcheev's user avatar
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 ...
Raf Vosté's user avatar
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 ...
rberaldo's user avatar
  • 415
13 votes
2 answers
313 views

Do signed languages undergo the same processes of change that the spoken ones do?

There are several processes of change that affect spoken languages, including phonological and phonetic change, semantic change and lexical replacement. Each of these categories, in turn, comprise a ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
13 votes
2 answers
3k views

Is the "principle of least effort" a real factor behind language change?

I have heard and read several times that one of the forces that drive language change is the so called "principle of least effort". According to this account, several changes are caused by an economy ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
13 votes
4 answers
3k views

What is known or believed about the origin of Semitic-type root-and-template morphology?

How does nonconcatenative morphology of the Semitic type (consonantal roots, vocalic templates + affixes) arise diachronically? It's pretty easy to see how a nonconcatenative inflectional system ...
TKR's user avatar
  • 10.9k
12 votes
4 answers
3k views

French conjugation, spoken vs written

French verbs are conjugated depending on the subject's person and number (ex. je parle, tu parles, il parle, etc.) However in spoken language most of these sound the same anyway because the end part ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
  • 8,481
12 votes
2 answers
1k views

Why do the same phonological changes happen in multiple unrelated languages?

For example, a lot of languages have a historical [y] sound which eventually merged with [i] in different language families. This happened in Greek, Vulgar Latin, Icelandic and Faroese as well as ...
Michael Tsang's user avatar
12 votes
3 answers
20k views

Is it realistic for the Grounders' language as depicted in "The 100" to have developed within 97 years?

In the show "The 100", the Grounders speak a language called "Trigedasleng". This language is intended to be a descendant of modern English, and we are to understand that it arose through natural ...
user avatar
12 votes
5 answers
2k views

Examples of convergent evolution?

As an English-speaking student of Yiddish, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the indefinite article was an before vowels and a before consonants, just like in English. But as far as I can ...
Anschel Schaffer-Cohen's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
384 views

Are there creoles of three languages?

Are there examples of creole languages that have had three or more other languages as parents without intermediate two-language creoles? If they exist, then how high is the 'or more', i.e. what is the ...
Artem Kaznatcheev's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
758 views

Do languages ever get new cases?

In my education, I've learned about a lot of languages whose case systems have atrophied, especially from PIE. Wikipedia had a reference to The Evolution of Case Systems for Marking Event Structure, ...
Azor Ahai -him-'s user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
2k views

Did Western European languages change faster during the Renaissance?

I am looking for data that either confirm or refute the following statement: During the Renaissance (let's say, 14th to 16th centuries), Western European languages changed very rapidly. The pace of ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
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 ...
zvavybir's user avatar
  • 235
10 votes
2 answers
424 views

Is the rate of vocabulary change more or less constant?

Has the rate of vocabulary change (that is, number of words falling out of use per decade, say) been found to be largely constant in human societies or does it strongly depend on circumstances? If ...
Phira's user avatar
  • 1,425
10 votes
4 answers
4k views

Is the Sanskrit spoken natively in pockets in India changing?

There are some small pockets in India where people actually speak Sanskrit as a native language. From Wikipedia: In these Indian villages, inhabitants of all castes speak Sanskrit natively since ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 14.6k
10 votes
2 answers
995 views

What is the evidence of the typological cycle theory?

There is a theory that languages move from one morphological typology (isolating, inflected, agglutinating) to the next in a usual, predictable cycle. What evidence is proposed to support this ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
  • 8,481
10 votes
1 answer
447 views

Grammaticalization of third person singular -s in English

Is there any evidence that the third person singular -s can be traced back to a lexical item before it became an inflection? I am trying to see if the theory of grammaticalization applies to its ...
marta's user avatar
  • 101
10 votes
1 answer
2k views

Why has Paris French mostly lost the distinction between /e/ and /ɛ/?

Why has Paris French mostly lost the distinction between /e/ and /ɛ/? As in, the difference between 'Je le ferai' and 'Je le ferais', 'poignée' and 'poignet', or more simply between the é sound and ...
pantoute's user avatar
  • 101
10 votes
1 answer
929 views

Feminisation of men's language?

I was wondering whether there has been (generally) a feminisation of "men's language". Lakoff's claims in "women's and men's language" are almost half a century old and there have been contradictory ...
blackcurrant's user avatar
9 votes
7 answers
5k views

Is there a reason behind the phenomenon of English becoming more vulgar with time?

In the last few years I have noticed both with colleagues and from online discussions a tendency for English language writing and speech to become more and more vulgar. That is, I see explicatives ...
dotancohen's user avatar
  • 1,296
9 votes
3 answers
1k views

Is urbanization correlated with language innovation?

In Brazil, the Portuguese dialects spoken in rural areas preserve, despite their own innovations, several features of the language that were common in the 16th century. This phenomenon is particularly ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
9 votes
4 answers
3k views

Why are only yes/no questions asked with a rising tone?

There is a rule used almost subconsciously by almost all English speakers (and I'm sure it applies to many other languages too) which is that yes/no questions are asked ending with a rising tone, and ...
Jez's user avatar
  • 201
9 votes
2 answers
2k views

Is there a term for the theory that languages move from one morphological typology to the next in a fixed cycle?

There is a well known theory, widely accepted that as languages evolve their morphological typology changes through the same usual steps. The major steps are I think isolating or analytic, inflected, ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 14.6k
9 votes
3 answers
481 views

Do central language regulation bodies accelerate or inhibit orthography changes?

In some discussions about the latest reform of the German orthography, it was claimed that a central language regulation body prevents people from writing as they like and thus prevents “natural” ...
ˈvʀ̩ʦl̩ˌpʀm̩ft's user avatar
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 ...
V.Rettich's user avatar
8 votes
4 answers
588 views

Has English caused any Languages to undergo Sound Change or Grammar Change?

French historically has caused the presence of several unique sounds in English that would not have been present otherwise. For example the "dʒ" sound in "garage". Similarly, I believe I've read ...
Aiaimai's user avatar
  • 83
8 votes
1 answer
150 views

What is it called when a word is used based on an extant definition which no longer actually applies? e.g. "dial" with phones

It was difficult to phrase what I mean in an accurate and precise way here. This is similar to a fossil word, but fossil words are words which have fallen out of general use except where they are ...
Some_Guy's user avatar
  • 266