Questions tagged [linguistic-typology]

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

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9
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4answers
2k views

A list of parts of speech

I want to know if there are other parts of speech -other than particles- in other languages than English or other Romance/Germanic languages.
15
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8answers
4k views

Is the very concept of the phoneme disputed?

I believe there was some important research published in recent decades which brought a fundamental change to the way linguists think about phonemes. Or is it that the concept of the phoneme has ...
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6answers
6k views

What's the global difference between nouns and verbs?

Is there a way to distinguish nouns and verbs that applies to all languages? This problem has been occupying my mind for some time now. I'm not quite sure how to approach this question, so I'll just ...
13
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3answers
3k views

How to distinguish a polysynthetic language from other languages? When is something a word?

For example, the probably most quoted sentence in a polysynthetic langauge (from Yupik): tuntussuqatarniksaitengqiggtuq: tuntu- ssur- qatar- ni- ksaite- ngqiggte- uq reindeer- hunt- FUT- ...
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9answers
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What is word order used for in "free word order" languages?

Consider languages whose case-systems allow the order of arguments to be changed without changing the arguments’ grammatical relations. (Note the 189 languages noted as having “no dominant word-...
37
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4answers
2k views

Is there really a difference between agglutinative and non-agglutinative languages when spoken?

What's the difference between agglutinative and non-agglutinative languages when spoken? According to my understanding, agglutinative languages typically join prefixes and suffixes extensively. For ...
14
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2answers
14k views

What's the difference between accusative, unaccusative, ergative, and unergative?

What does it mean for a language or verb to be one or the other of these typologies (examples would help)? Can it be more than one at once?
10
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3answers
2k views

What are the alternate morphological typologies to isolating, agglutinative, fusional, polysyntehtic, etc.?

The above typology seems to also be called "Humboldt-Schleicherian". While reading this answer in the question "Is there really a difference between agglutinative and non-agglutinative languages when ...
9
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4answers
7k views

Is a language possible without verbs or without nouns?

Is a language without nouns possible? And another one without verbs? And other ones without adjectives or adverbs? Is there some real examples? (In preference: non-constructed languages, because ...
13
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5answers
1k views

Are there natural languages with the following properties (seen in Esperanto)?

Are there natural languages that have the following set of properties: The language possesses nouns, adjectives, and definite articles Nouns and adjective are both inflected for number and case (or ...
9
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1answer
338 views

Are there languages in which adverbs inflect?

Are there any languages in which adverbs (in the sense of verb modifiers) inflect to match the verb they modify?
8
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5answers
1k views

What's weird about Proto-Indo-European Stops?

I was reading Wikipedia, and it maintains that it's unusual for a language to have a voiceless-voiced-breathy distinction (without a voiceless aspirated), but that the Sanskrit 4-way distinction is ...
69
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12answers
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What characteristics are unique to English (or at least rare among language as a whole)?

After wondering about this today at work, I turned to the Internet. A short piece that focuses on pronunciation points toward "none". I've scoured ELU and Google (perhaps not as thoroughly or ...
42
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3answers
11k views

Is English tonal for some words, like "permit"?

I have heard the difference between tone and intonation described in the following way: Tone is when the pitch of a word determines its meaning. Intonation is when the pitch of a word conveys its ...
25
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2answers
3k views

Fourth person (in Slavey language)

I was reading a Wikipedia article about the Slavey (Slave) language in Canada, and it says that Slavey has first, second, third and fourth person. I've never heard about a language having a fourth ...
8
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2answers
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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 ...
7
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3answers
617 views

Are there any languages with minimal distinctions between the noun and verb categories?

Are there any languages in which the, largely Indo-European/PIE, and more compartmentalized parts-of-speech system don't work very well? In particular, I am wondering if there are any languages in ...
13
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4answers
2k 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 ...
20
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8answers
4k views

What are some interesting features that are common cross-linguistically but don't exist in English?

This is on purpose not a very concrete question, I simply want to know some interesting properties other languages have that English doesn't, or features you even think English ought to have, this can ...
13
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4answers
7k views

Is there any agglutinative Indo-European language?

It seems like Indo-European languages are always stuck between throwing away complicated fusional grammar (like English) or retaining most of it (like Russian). Are there any Indo-European languages ...
11
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2answers
3k views

Gender of mixed groups defaulting to masculine – how common?

French has that rule that whenever a masculine entity is part of a group, the whole NP will default to masculine as far as agreement goes. My native language, German, also defaults gender to masculine,...
7
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1answer
1k views

How common is word order change?

During the course of their development, the word order of some languages change. Examples include Latin (SOV) that changed to SVO in the Romance languages, Proto-Austronesian (verb initial) that ...
7
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2answers
448 views

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. ...
7
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3answers
514 views

Are there some analyses or linguists with the view that Chinese does not have lexical word class?

I'm not a linguist but a language enthusiast and I read lots of stuff about all languages mostly on the internet in blogs but also in accessible books and sometimes attempt to read some things not ...
4
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2answers
346 views

How do caseless ergative languages work?

It is well-known that some ergative languages lack morphological case. If there is no case, where does their ergativity show up?
14
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7answers
784 views

"Overabundant nouns" in Italian: do they exist in other languages?

Under my answer to that question, I talked about a category of nouns that exist in Italian. The italian name is "Nomi sovrabbondanti" or "sostantivi sovrabbondanti", the meaning is roughly "...
10
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1answer
397 views

Languages with subordinate imperatives?

English does not allow an imperative to be used in a subordinate clause: Eat that pizza! *There's a pizza on the table, which eat! (="which I order you to eat") *I told you eat that pizza! (A ...
9
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2answers
719 views

Uniformitarianism in diachronic typology

Croft 2003 argues that "the typological universals discovered in contemporary languages should also apply to ancient and reconstructed languages" (the so called uniformitarian hypothesis, p. 233). How ...
9
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3answers
1k 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, ...
8
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6answers
804 views

Do there exist languages with wh-prepositions?

I can imagine a language where instead of "what did you put a toy on?" one says something like "whon did you put a toy?". Do such languages exist?
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5answers
2k views

Are sound changes regular?

Are sound changes regular now or not? I mean it seems to me that it's accepted that sound change is pretty regular, because of how sound changes are treated in etymology/historical linguistics. I even ...
6
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0answers
572 views

Comparative markers coming from low degree markers ("attenuatives")? (List such languages.)

Which languages have a marker of the comparative degree of adjectives that coincides with a marker of a low degree? ...or which has evolved from such a low degree marker? (A message asking for the ...
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2answers
231 views

Is "indirect object" syntactically definable or useful, in English or generally?

In traditional English grammar, we're taught that phrases like those boldfaced below are "indirect objects": I gave the book to Ted. I gave Ted the book. But this appears to be based on semantics (...
4
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1answer
1k views

What grammatical features do SOV languages often share?

I've read that languages with the same word order often have similarities, even if they're not related, purely because some grammatical features will force a language to use others. For instance, if a ...
4
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4answers
640 views

What sub-field in linguistics should I study to help me learn foreign languages? [closed]

I'm interested in languages and linguistics, can speak a few languages (English, French, Mandarin, some German, Japanese, and Esperanto) and would like to eventually learn more (Japanese, Spanish, ...
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3answers
4k views

German is SOV: should it not have been "Ich ein Berliner bin"?

German is typically described as a Subject-Object-Verb language. For former American President Kennedy's mistake to be grammatical (i.e. without the indefinite article "ein"), why should it not have ...
6
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1answer
641 views

Citations for morpheme/word counts?

(Edited to provide context and clarify what I'm interested in) Context: I am reading a paper that involves comparing German, Dutch, and English. German is the outlier for the phenomena and measures ...
4
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1answer
212 views

Is there a negative correlation between the number of speakers of a language and its morphological richness?

In a recent journalistic article in the German weekly "Die ZEIT" (Die Wörterjäger) the journalist says (original quote in German): Ist eine Gruppe dagegen homogen, haben ihre Mitglieder weniger ...
3
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2answers
347 views

What causes relative frequency of consonants?

So, can you point me to some research, what causes the relative frequency of consonants in various languages?The fact that vowels are more common than consonants is obviously caused by phonotactics, ...
3
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2answers
591 views

Are there languages with the three-fold articulation place contrast dental–alveolar–retroflex?

This question How and when did some European languages acquire retroflex d and t? makes me curious: Are there any languages that have three different kinds of d's (or t's or n's or s's) exhibiting a ...
3
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1answer
309 views

Root reduplication to mean singular

In different languages reduplication of the root serves as a means to express plurality (Malay 'orang' - 'a person', 'orang-orang' - 'people') or a greater degree (Russian 'много' - 'many, much', '...
3
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1answer
502 views

What might "S/A-V-O" and "A/S-V-O" mean?

In looking through Google Books's preview of A Grammar of Lao by N. J. Enfield, I came across these two terms, which I'm assuming are equivalent to one another (possibly one is even a typo) and some ...
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2answers
373 views

Are there languages in which AND + OR (conjunction and disjunction) are expressed the same?

I'm looking at coordination strategies in the languages of the world and I wonder if all languages have a distinction between conjunction and disjunction.
0
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1answer
73 views

What do you call a visual language based on color frequency?

I was thinking about this question and answer about how cephalopods might develop a language, in this case a visual one. How would linguistics term a language that is communicated visually as a ...