Questions tagged [linguistic-typology]

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

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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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4 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
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3 votes
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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 ...
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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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1 answer
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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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3 votes
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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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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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7 votes
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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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3 votes
2 answers
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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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6 votes
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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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14 votes
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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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3 votes
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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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1 vote
1 answer
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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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inflected languages other than IE and Semitic ones

When one looks for examples of inflected languages outside the Indo-European and, perhaps, Semitic domains, it seems that there is none. Does anyone here know other examples in different linguistic ...
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"The more the merrier"

What is the linguistic status of utterances like "The more, the merrier"? In English it would not be considered a sentence because there is no verb. Yet, it fully stands on its own ...
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5 votes
4 answers
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Can languages restrict their number of distinct syllables when written by syllabaries?

Disclaimer: I am not a linguist, please provide any corrections for terminology. From How languages compare with the number of different syllables from all words?, Yoon Mi Oh's thesis counted the ...
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10 votes
2 answers
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How languages compare with the number of different syllables from all words?

Note: I am not a linguist, please provide any corrections for terminology. I would like to find some approximate data (if it exists) comparing several languages with the number of different syllables ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Spelling of monotonous [closed]

All, I am just curious why 'monotonous' is spelled as mo·​not·​o·​nous and not as mono.tonus following the Greek origin of the word as mono + tone. Mono and tone could be spelled alone and actually ...
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Mistakes in Native Language

I was wondering if there is some research on the number of mistakes made by native speakers in certain languages? I think that since some languages are more complex (their grammar is more complex) and ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Are there languages with separate words for 'mouth opening' and 'mouth cavity'?

I am looking for languages which have separate words for the visible opening of the mouth (the external part, including or not including the lips), and the cavity (the internal part). Put another way, ...
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6 votes
2 answers
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Are there languages where pronouns are marked entirely with conjugations?

I know of languages (Arabic in particular comes to mind) where the subject pronoun can be dropped because verb conjugation encodes at least as much information as a pronoun might. I also know that ...
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0 votes
1 answer
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Isn't the supposed development in German "schön" > "schon" typologically unlikely

schon - yet, already schön - well, nice, pretty, beautiful Wiktionary has schon from an old German word equivalent to modern schön. I think this is typologically unlikely, though of course my sample ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Is there an adposition type that occurs before both the modified noun and the object?

From what I've read, there are four attested types of adpositions. Prepositions and postpositions are the most common, but circumpositions (discontinuous morphemes that occur around their objects) ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Are there natural languages that tolerate ambiguity between abilitive and possibilitive modalities?

In other words, is there any language that uses the same mood to convey ability and possibility? For example, is there a language in which a sentence meaning "He'll be able to do that" and "He might ...
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7 votes
2 answers
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What does Eastern Aramaic have to say about "(definite) articles are acquired, not lost"?

The current answers on Definite/indefinite articles vs. inflections agree that (definite) articles are acquired by languages, not lost. I'm wondering what Eastern Aramaic has to say about this. ...
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Outside of English, is there a difference between noun infinitives and gerunds?

In English class in high school, we learn (or at least I did) about verbals, words that stem from verbs but do not function as verbs. Two kinds are infinitives and gerunds. Infinitives are usually ...
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Is there empirical support for this implicational universal: "if a language has no plural morphology, it has no tense marking"?

The WALS map that crossclassifies number and past tense morphology shows that they tend to covary. I want to know if people with a deeper knowledge of linguistic typology can vouch for this ...
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1 vote
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What are the unique features of the Australian Aboriginal Languages compared to other world languages

Not looking phonologically but grammatically, what are the languages which would be a good reference point for starting studies in Australian Aboriginal languages? Western Desert Language? Others? Are ...
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6 votes
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what is the essential difference between human languages to other earthly animalia languages?

I personally define "language" as a system of body actions that are generally supplemented by sound, representing one or more "meaning" or "message" (logic datum) for an organism itself and/or other ...
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9 votes
1 answer
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Are all "Ergative Languages" split-ergative?

I've noticed that in a lot of examples of "ergative languages," there is some piece of the language that does not fit the pattern we call "ergativity." For example, Basque does not mark ergative case ...
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How common are languages with different word orders in matrix and non-matrix clauses

How common is it cross-linguistically for a language to have a different word order in various types of embedded clauses such as relative clauses? WALS appears to collect information on word order in ...
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