Questions tagged [linguistic-typology]

The study of structural features, diversity and commonalities among the world's languages.

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Has anyone developed a complete, hierarchical ontology of “language”?

If we consider whatever the phenomenon of “language” is, what might be the most immediate way of subdividing it into types? For example, it could be broken into specific instances of languages, vs. ...
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Human natural language metalanguage

I was thinking about how a controlled grammar of English can be used as a programming language because it’s fully parsible. The idea of doing this for other languages, such as Sanskrit, brought me to ...
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How do languages without passive voice foreground constituents that don't stand for agents?

one: Passive voice can be used to foreground noun phrases that don't stand for agents by putting those noun phrases in subject position. e.g., in English, "The man bit the dog." --> &...
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Across languages, what are the most common syntactic constructions that are used to form alternative questions?

For those who came in late, an alternative question is one that asks the listener to identify a subset of two or more alternatives named in the question. For example: “Would you like the shrimp ...
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is there an example where the consonant affects the vowel in English?

This generalization: In assimilation involving consonant–vowel pairs, the consonant may affect the vowel or the vowel may affect the consonant. what is an example of this in our English lexicon?
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Do syllabic liquids imply a syllable nasal in English?

The generalization states that: The occurrence of syllabic liquids in a language almost always implies that of syllabic nasals. Is this true for English? let me know your thoughts. examples would be ...
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1 answer
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How does order of prepositional phrases effect semantics?

I was discussing the semantics difference when switching prepositional objects in the following sentences with a German native: , damit die Eltern auf ihre Kinder über CCTV aufpassen können, damit ...
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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 ...
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Classification of kinship system by languages

I'm looking for a way to compare "closeness" of languages based on their kinship systems. The only thing I found is this classification, which classifies kin systems to: Eskimo, Hawaiian, ...
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1 answer
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Are there any case-based languages in which the modal verbs do not change the verb they control to the infinitive form?

I have come to realize that in all the European languages I know of, the modal verbs change the verb they control to the infinitive form. These languages are all case-based (Spanish, Danish, English, ...
2 votes
2 answers
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Examples of languages that lost auxiliary verbs [duplicate]

I've been looking around and haven't found any examples of languages that at one point in the past had auxiliary verbs but then later lost them. I know that both the Germanic and Romance languages ...
1 vote
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Conditional protases for suggestions: "Maybe if I have a read first and then we meet up later?"

In English it's possible to use what looks like a conditional protasis in conjunction with maybe, what about, or how about to informally make polite suggestions. For example, I recently got an email ...
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Languages with Many Color Words for Value or Chroma

In the Munsell system, color is described by 3 dimensions called hue, value, and saturation. English has a lot of words for hue (e.g. red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violent, magenta), but very few ...
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Why French Adjectives Uses BAGS

In French, most adjectives are positioned behind the noun e.g. vache bleue médecin étrange orange énevrant But sometimes you have an adjective following BAGS -- the adjective describes beauty, age, ...
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1 answer
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Looking for books on the typological descriptions of language families

I've recently stumbled upon "The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Typology". The book is absolutely amazing. It contains short (about 30-40 pages long) typological profiles of different ...
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Can't find the features related to Rel-N

I'm making a table of features related to language families that exist in Northeast Asia, but I can't find out if I'm not good at searching. What is the word order in the relative clauses (WALS 90A) ...
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Characterizing the "tonality" or the tone of a language

I can illustrate my question with an example. I started by learning German. To me German sounds very articulated, sharp and clear. I then studied Italian. Italian sounds singing, fluid, warm and ...
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Do Dravidian languages have postpositions? Do any of them also have any prepositions?

I know that the Dravidian languages are agglutinating type and have noun cases but I was interested in whether they also have postpositions. I'm assuming they do. I also wonder if some might also have ...
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Heuristics for relative frequencies of grammatical features?

Mathematician here, very interested in linguistics but no formal training. Apologies if the question is absurd, ambiguous, or unanswerable. One thing I've found interesting in the process of learning ...
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what's this linguistic phenomenon?

I am currently working on coding and standardizing the language of my community. There is something we do when we speak, that so far I haven't encountered in the other languages that I've delved into, ...
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Languages with homophonous IF-clauses

In English, most grammars tacitly or explicitly recognise two types of if. One of these introduces subordinate interrogative clauses: I don't know [if I passed the exam]. The other introduces ...
3 votes
2 answers
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Are there highly analytic (isolating) languages without tone?

I know many highly analytic languages (Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai) are tonal languages. Are there similarly analytic or isolating languages that don't use tone the way those languages do? The closest I ...
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What is the proper definition of a verb?

I do apologise if the question is wordy, but I feel some context is required for me to stand any chance of finding a satifactory answer. I have been struggling to understand why the word "is"...
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How common are "How" + infinitive interrogative sentence structures?

In English (or at least varieties with which I am familiar), if you want to ask how to do something, you can't just ask "How to do {something}?"--that's interpreted as a headless relative, ...
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Language typology

I think that there are at least 2 types of languages: those that make derivates/inflections predominantly from nouns or protonominals, and those that make them from verbs or protoverbs, plus a 3rd ...
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Is derivation through valency change common cross-linguistically?

Sorry if this question doesn't make much sense, it's still a half-formed shower thought at this point. In my linguistics class yesterday we were going over ergative-absolutive alignment, and the ...
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Is it common for languages to incorporate hortative modality when there is one speaker present? i.e. talking to themselves?

I am an undergrad working with a papuan language. There is one sentence that was in the data that has me wondering about hortatives. The sentence, in english, translates to “Okay, I’ll just leave.” ...
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Examples of languages where noun have higher morphological complexity than verbs

Impressionistically, verbs seems to be as complex or more morphologically complex than nouns. What are some good examples of languages, if there are any, where A) there are good diagnostics for ...
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Why is tense obligatory in some languages and not in others?

In some languages like Chinese, it isn’t imperative that the tense of the verb is explicitly marked. So if you mean an action that will occur in the future, you can still refer to it in an all-...
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Any evidence for innate language features?

What are the language features — perhaps a word for a concept, or a method of creating words, type of writing system, first words acquired, grammatical features, etc., — that can be argued to be ...
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To what extent do the number and respective functions of performative constructions vary across languages?

For those who came in late, a performative predicate is one that denotes an act made possible by the use of the verb or predicate itself. For example: When a clergyperson or justice of the peace ...
2 votes
1 answer
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If mora are potentially sufficient to describe language, then what do syllables add, in theory?

Following the answer to the recent Question, Why is/was Gokana claimed to lack syllables?, I don't really understand the difference. I have heard of moras in the context of poetry before and didn't ...
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Perfect and Preterite

How can one communicate subtle differences in meaning that in other languages would be signaled only by the distinction of Preterite/Perfect when in fact in the language spoken there is no distinction ...
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Has anyone ever ranked the prevalence of phones by number of speakers worldwide?

I'm interested in knowing the most-used and least-used phones worldwide. According to Wikipedia, the IPA charts about 140 pulmonic consonants, 80 non-pulmonic consonants, 30 co-articulated consonants, ...
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language varieties that are languages

Language varieties Any set of linguistic forms which patterns according to social factors: i.e. used under specific social circumstances. The term includes different accents, different linguistic ...
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What is the frequency of color words in English compared to German?

I am writing a term paper about the role of adjectives and gender marking in efficient communication about English and German respectively. And I was wondering if there is any way/website/tool to ...
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Is Welsh an isolating, an inflectional or an agglutinative language?

I saw that it can be classified both as an analytic and a synthetic langauage, so which one is it?
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What is the difference between category and function in linguistics? [closed]

Linguistics skills especially, grammar. For example:Is adjective a category or a function?
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Are there languages where vowels are always oral?

I was surprised to find in Zsiga (2020: 120, 125) a claim (by Donegan & Stampe 2009) that vowels in Hawaiian, as well as oral vowels in French, are always oral. Unfortunately Donegan & Stampe ...
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1 answer
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What is the nominal attribute in Milewski's typology?

The wikipedia page on Milewski Typology gives 6 divisions: Milewski proposed a division of languages into 6 groups, based upon consideration of 4 main syntactic relationships; these were: the ...
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1 answer
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Are analytic languages easier to learn compared to synthetic languages?

I believe the Czech linguist Karel Oliva mentioned it somewhere that analytic languages are like a hill - one can make a progress relatively easily from the beginning but there's always more to learn (...
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rules of syllogistic logic in an OVS or OSV language

I am looking to write the present the rules of Aristotelian syllogistic logic in a language that would be unfamiliar to my mostly-American students. So I thought I would do it in an OVS or OSV ...
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Do any languages fail to distinguish "who and "what"?

English distinguishes interrogative pronouns "who" referring to humans and "what" referring to non-humans, and the same distinction is made in Lushootseed, any Bantu languages that ...
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What other languages, apart from Latin, mix elements from different syntactic constituents? And why mixing?

Latin has a curious syntactic possibility, which is mixing elements from different constituents, like in the sentence Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando which is translated by Wiktionary as ...
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Conditional clauses, use of 'if, then, else' in major non-English languages?

Are there major languages in the world that construct conditional clauses differently than English? That is, the translation of "if" and associated words would not be direct due to different ...
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Are there any known linguistic patterns that cause the verb "have" to take on this additional function?

I'm a native English speaker that has been learning Mandarin. The Mandarin equivalent to the English verb "to have" is "有". As far as I can tell these two words are a 1 to 1 ...
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Why is reconstructed PIE so typologically unusual?

I'm probably not the first to notice that a large number of features of reconstruct Proto-Indo-European are typological irregularities. The most famous of these probably being the voiceless/voiced/...
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Resolving adjoined relative clause with head nouns

In languages with adjoined relative clause, How do you know which relative clause maps to which head noun for adjoined relative clause if there are 2 head nouns each with an adjoined relative clause?
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Are there any languages with gender neutral pronouns for unknown gender?

There are proposals to introduce in several languages gender-neutral pronouns to refer to groups of mixed gender or single individuals of unknown gender. Are there examples of existing languages that ...
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What would be the collective noun for collection of words whose affixal markers indicate the same grammatical categories?

I am working on Sanskrit, a fusional language. I am confused about what should be the collective noun that I should be used to address the set {nominals, verb, adverb, indeclinable, participle}. Could ...

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