Skip to main content

Questions tagged [language-families]

Groupings of languages which can all be traced back to a common ancestor language they evolved from, for instance the Romance languages are all descended from Latin.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
36 votes
6 answers
14k views

Can Modern Hebrew be considered an Indo-European language?

According to this Wikipedia page Zuckermann argues that Israeli Hebrew, which he calls "Israeli", is genetically both Indo-European (Germanic, Slavic and Romance) and Afro-Asiatic (Semitic). He ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
  • 8,551
30 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
  • 9,438
28 votes
4 answers
4k views

Do the Khoisan languages resemble the world's first language?

I have read somewhere that if there ever was a world's first language*, that language must have had very much in common** with the Khoisan languages. Arguments in support of this hypothesis are: ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
23 votes
5 answers
6k views

How did Korean become a language isolate?

According to most linguists, Korean is a language isolate. Why doesn't it have any sister languages, like languages usually do? Why didn't it spread to other areas, or split into various languages? ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
  • 8,551
17 votes
2 answers
3k views

How can mutual intelligibility be measured?

What ways do we have of measure the mutual intelligibility of two given languages? It's easy enough to realise if there is a degree of mutual intelligibility between your own language variety and ...
Danger Fourpence's user avatar
16 votes
5 answers
2k views

Do linguists measure the relation distance between languages? How?

Sometimes, I read passages like: Languages X, Y and Z in region A are closely related to each other, comparable to French, Italian and Spanish in Western Europe. The discussion in the question "Do ...
Louis Rhys's user avatar
  • 8,551
15 votes
3 answers
1k views

Are there other pairs of languages that are as close grammatically despite not being in the same language family as Korean and Japanese?

Though there are many theories grouping Korean and Japanese in the same family, none of these are widely accepted by linguists. Yet the grammars of these two languages are extremely similar in many ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 14.7k
15 votes
2 answers
3k views

What is the current understanding of Greenberg's classification of African languages?

In a reply to the criticism of his classification of the languages of the Americas, Greenberg (1989: 107) characterized his work on African languages as follows: [...] my classification is clearly ...
user avatar
14 votes
4 answers
3k views

How to explain differences in mutual intelligibility?

Suppose language A and language B belong to the same language family. And suppose the speakers of language A understand language B a lot better than the speakers of language B understand language A. ...
dobrze's user avatar
  • 143
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
13 votes
2 answers
796 views

Is there any case of a "convergent language family"?

As far as I know, language families originate from a process of divergent, tree-like evolution. All the languages within a family or subfamily can be traced back to the same proto-language, which was ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
12 votes
1 answer
408 views

What is the current understanding of the classification of indigenous American languages?

Inspired by this recent question on Greenberg's classification of African languages, I wonder about the current state of classification of the American languages. (By "American" I mean the indigenous ...
Mark Beadles's user avatar
  • 6,860
10 votes
4 answers
4k views

Is there a general consensus on what modern language is the closest relative of Albanian?

I'm off to Albania tomorrow so starting to get more and more interested in the language. It's one of the outliers on the Indo-European family tree. It's not hard to see a relationship but it's not ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 14.7k
10 votes
2 answers
1k views

Origins of Turkic language family? Alternatives to Altaic?

I was just reading about various Altaic language grouping hypotheses on wikipedia. According the article, evidence for an Altaic language family that would include Turkic, Uralic, Mongolian, Tungusic, ...
Thomas Shaw's user avatar
10 votes
4 answers
5k views

Is there a named common ancestor of Germanic and Latin besides "Indo-European"?

I was just answering a question about the origins of English and Latin and wanted to talk about their common ancestors but ran into a surprising problem. So we know the majority of languages in ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 14.7k
10 votes
2 answers
1k views

Distinguishing dialects objectively: lexical sets in non-English settings

The concept of lexical set is a useful technique for differentiating accents or dialects within a language. A lexical set is a set of all words/syllables that are pronounced with the same vowel. These ...
Mitch's user avatar
  • 4,475
9 votes
7 answers
11k views

Are Semitic and Indo-European languages at all related?

I can't help but notice word pairs between Arabic and some European languages that seem to be cognate, such as: Sabah "seven"/ German Sieben also "seven" Ktab "book"/ English tablet (both something ...
Harry Anderson's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
4k views

What program can I use to make a tree of a language family?

I'm not looking to make anything really special looking, I'd just like to make basic branches going down to draw a family tree. I tried Paint but that's difficult to edit, and Word wouldn't be easy to ...
Sue's user avatar
  • 151
8 votes
2 answers
374 views

Can Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian be considered linguistically distinct?

I grew up the in the former Yugoslavia, and the language I studied in school was called Serbocroatian, which was spoken in four out of the six republics of the union. When the country fell apart, the ...
amphibient's user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
2k views

Why are mixed languages so rare?

It seems to be an established fact that mixed languages are rare, and that most languages can be classified as belonging to some family. And this seems to be true; for example, in the former ...
Aqualone's user avatar
  • 717
8 votes
2 answers
2k views

Relationship between language similarity and ease of foreign language acquisition?

Inspired by this infographic, which lists a bunch of languages as either easy to learn, hard to learn, or medium. I noticed that all the languages in the easy category were either Romance or Germanic ...
Lucky's user avatar
  • 600
7 votes
5 answers
2k views

Plural "you" in different language families connoting respect

I recently found out that French has two different words for "you." From here: Tu is the familiar "you," which demonstrates a certain closeness and informality. ... Vous is the formal "you." It is ...
b a's user avatar
  • 2,785
7 votes
3 answers
1k views

Why do some languages have more speakers than others?

I am interested in languages that are used as first languages. Does it have to do simply with population growth/sustenance of the speakers of those languages? What are the theories put forward to ...
Martin81's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
2k views

How does an original proto language produce its daughter languages?

I am trying to understand the principles how a proto language produces it daughter languages, do they proliferate from dialects of the same proto language or do they proliferate from dialects of other ...
Linguist Enthusiast's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
362 views

Isolated language as null hypotheses?

When reading about rare or antique languages I often came across statements like "the most widespread / widely accepted theory is that it is an isolated language". You can read that for example in ...
Raphael J.F. Berger's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
407 views

Is agnosticism the current orthodoxy regarding linguistic macrofamilies?

I'm asking this very much much as a interested layman. As I understand things, the academic linguistics community, by and large, views macrofamily hypotheses - Nostratic, Altaic, etc - rather poorly. ...
Tom Hosker's user avatar
5 votes
4 answers
1k views

Is historical linguistics still producing new results?

My impression is that language families were established in the early XX century and, since then, there have been speculations how language families may be related but no new results, which are ...
martinkunev's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
555 views

What decides the language family of a language the most structure/grammar or the vocabulary?

My assumed premise: Indo-European language classification is broad. We can always find two languages of this family which are grammatically so different, and also the languages grammatically similar. ...
pinkpanther's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
470 views

Have other language families been mapped like Proto-Indo-European has?

Are there Linguists that have or are currently working to reconstruct proto-languages other than PIE? Or to map the historical relationships between various African, Asian, Native American, or other ...
SaraMonstera's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
848 views

Is the usage of sarcasm or irony dependent on the language and its structure?

Sarcasm and irony are a form of humor used by a lot of languages. Are they aided by certain features or structure of the language? Are they dependent on the presence of certain structures within a ...
asheeshr's user avatar
  • 151
4 votes
3 answers
2k views

Does an affinity between languages necessitate that the speakers be ethnically related?

It is generally assumed that semitic languages like Hebrew and Arabic are similar because the speakers of those languages are ethnically related and share a common ancestry. In other words, A Hebrew ...
Bach's user avatar
  • 167
4 votes
3 answers
352 views

Is the existence of a mixed branch of Indo-European plausible?

I was thinking about the possible existence of a branch of the Indo-European family that combines features of several branches. For example, a branch that is something in between the Germanic and ...
X30Marco's user avatar
  • 911
4 votes
1 answer
1k views

What language was spoken in East Asia before Proto-Turkic?

From Wikipedia we have: The Proto-Turkic language is the linguistic reconstruction of the common ancestor of the Turkic languages that was spoken by the Proto-Turks before their divergence ...
Sepideh Abadpour's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
216 views

Accuracy of automatic (machine) translation of two languages in same language family

Are there any statistic on how accuracy the automated (program/machine) transition from one language to another language of the same language family? For example from turkey to azerbaijan, uzbek, ...
UserKa's user avatar
  • 165
4 votes
3 answers
1k views

Is there a phylogenetic tree for all known languages?

I have searched all over, and found a few but none of them have all known languages that ever existed, does anyone know of one of these? (p.s. I apologize for making language mistakes, as English is ...
theunie's user avatar
  • 51
3 votes
3 answers
205 views

Are proto-languages necessary to divide languages ​within a family into groups?

For example, Indo-European family is divided into groups, such as Slavic, Romance, Germanic, etc. Some of these groups can also be divided, but let`s just assume, that there is no further division. ...
tiopjkl's user avatar
  • 79
3 votes
2 answers
699 views

Examples of languages that should be considered dialects, or dialects that should be considered languages

Are there any examples of languages that are extremely similar but are nonetheless considered to still be separate languages? Or the converse, dialects of one language that are extremely different ...
Aqualone's user avatar
  • 717
3 votes
1 answer
191 views

What is Songhay's Family?

What's the current thinking on genetic affiliations of Songhay? My old texts confidentially place it as Nilo-Saharan. This places a likely proto-Songhay homeland back closer to the Nile, with its ...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
  • 313
3 votes
3 answers
625 views

Do mixed languages have families?

It seems to me that when linguists talk about mixed languages, they talk about the parent languages that resulted in the creole or pidgin tongue, rather than what language family it belongs to. I've ...
Einheri's user avatar
  • 133
3 votes
2 answers
741 views

Non-tonal "isolates" within families of tonal languages

I've put "isolates" in scare quotes because this is probably not a standard meaning for the term "language isolate". But anyway I'm sure it's still abvious what I'm looking for. I was wondering about ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 14.7k
3 votes
2 answers
453 views

Does Sanskrit really have a large proportion of borrowings from non IE stock?

A comment on an answer to anoher question about Lithuanian suggests that 'quite a large number of words was borrowed from non-IE languages'. While some words in Sanskrit indeed seem to have Fenno-...
Manjusri's user avatar
  • 2,781
3 votes
2 answers
534 views

Why are the first three digits in Austronesian languages so close to P.I.E.?

I noticed that the first three digit words for most Austronesian languages are awfully close to P.I.E. I speak Tagalog and at first, I had thought that the words for one two and three had been taken ...
Marco Ruben Abuyuan Llanes's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
312 views

Difference between languages related a long time ago and unrelated ones

Would there be a theoretical way to distinguish between two related languages which diverged a long time ago, like tens of thousands years, and two totally unrelated languages, say, created ...
user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
2k views

Is the word, "problem," new to non-English languages?

I've been listening to radio broadcasts lately where a person will be speaking German or Pashtun or Russian or whatever and a translator will be supplying an English rendition, in a format which makes ...
Rob Perkins's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
276 views

Similarities between Proto-Austronesian and Chinese?

Proto-Austronesian was a language that was spoken about 5,000 years ago near Taiwan. I am just curious about, partly because of the geographic connection, if Chinese is related to the Austronesian ...
Number File's user avatar
  • 1,561
2 votes
1 answer
344 views

Japanese is in its own lingustic family, but it sure seems to have a lot in common with Turkish

I speak Japanese, and recently, I've been exposed to Turkish. There's a good deal of overlap between structure, and some words. An example is "good", where it's "iidesu" in ...
b degnan's user avatar
  • 171
2 votes
1 answer
291 views

Given two languages, one older than the other, what are the criteria to decide if the older one is an ancestor or an older variety of the other?

Let us consider two languages that are clearly related to each other, and one of them is older than the other. How would an academic linguist determine if the older language is an/the ancestor of the ...
vin's user avatar
  • 611
2 votes
2 answers
235 views

Would it be possible to discover through linguistics if any non-human languages influenced known language families?

Suppose some recent hominins such as Neanderthal had a spoken language (currently, as far as I'm aware, we are uncertain if they did, but suppose we knew they did). If this were the case, would it be ...
called2voyage's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
87 views

Where do I find datasets for linguistic phylogenetics?

Where can I find machine readable datasets for use in phylogenetic estimation? I am looking for anything---lexical cognate data, phonological data, morphosyntactic data---in any language family.
Namenlos's user avatar
  • 121
2 votes
0 answers
78 views

How and when do polygenesis advocates think new primary language families arose?

I've been reading about linguistics and have read that most linguists are harshly critical of proposals of genetic relationships between primary language families, and that the predominant theory of ...
Xiang Yu's user avatar