Questions tagged [linguistic-typology]

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

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69
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12answers
23k views

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 ...
41
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9answers
11k views

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-...
40
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3answers
10k 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 ...
36
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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 ...
35
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13answers
3k views

Are there languages with other spatial deixis besides “here”, “there” and “over there”?

When it comes to spatial deixis most languages seem to have either two or three distinctions: 2 | 3 English | Spanish Japanese ------------------------------ here | aquí / acá koko ...
24
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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 ...
22
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7answers
2k views

In languages with grammatical gender, how do they determine the gender when a new word has been created?

In languages with grammatical gender that has (almost) no morphological relation between the words and the genders(e.g. French), how do they determine the gender of a new word that has been introduced/...
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 ...
18
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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 ...
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 ...
14
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3answers
6k views

Is English unusual in having no second person plural form?

In Spanish, there are the "vosotros" (only used in Spain) and "ustedes" (formal in Spain) forms for use when talking to a group of people. These also use specific conjugations different different from ...
14
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7answers
760 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 "...
14
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2answers
1k views

Are there any languages which inflect the noun for morphosyntactic categories normally reserved for verbs (e.g. tense, aspect, etc.)?

In English (for example), we say "I go/went/was going/etc.", inflecting the verb for tense and aspect while leaving the subject of the sentence unchanged. But are there any languages that would ...
14
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2answers
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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?
13
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4answers
1k views

Why do tone and simple syllable structure appear to be correlated?

I happen to have been struggling to learn a bit of Mandarin Chinese lately, and it's been my first attempt to really deal with tones to any significant extent. I find distinguishing tones quite ...
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 ...
13
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2answers
2k 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 ...
13
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3answers
2k 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- ...
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 ...
12
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6answers
5k views

What languages are the most similar to English?

I speak English and Bengali with similar proficiency, at least in the 'lower' registers of the languages. Since I was a small child in a bilingual home I've been struck by how, despite having ...
12
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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 ...
12
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1answer
373 views

Are there any languages with only one of “yes” or “no”?

Many modern languages have single words for "yes" and "no" (e.g. English), and some have more than a simple pair (e.g. French), while others have no word for "yes" or &...
11
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5answers
2k views

How usual is it for languages to have both prepositions and postpositions?

It has seemed to me (though I might be wrong) that languages usually take either prepositions (English, German, Spanish) or postpositions (Japanese, Hungarian, Turkish). (Yes I know sometimes a ...
11
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3answers
309 views

About how much does language typology correlate with genetic relationships among languages?

About how much does language typology correlate with genetic relationships among languages? For example, should we expect most Sino-Tibetan languages to be isolating, or most 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,...
11
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1answer
378 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 ...
11
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1answer
302 views

Are there any databases of geographical language distribution?

I'm wondering whether anyone knows of any machine parsable database of the geographical distribution of natural languages (for example the geographical distribution of (native) speakers)? I know WALS ...
11
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1answer
247 views

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/...
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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5answers
400 views

What are the different ways in which languages express the notion of passivity?

In English, the passive is expressed by the use of an auxiliary and past participle. The agent is demoted to an optional by-phrase, and the theme/patient is promoted to the subject position. Rome ...
9
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4answers
6k 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 ...
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.
9
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2answers
699 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, ...
9
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1answer
320 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?
9
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1answer
277 views

What's a simple example of how Mongolian is radically dependent-marking?

In Johanna Nichols' book Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time, I came across the passage on page 146, where she asserts that Japanese, Mongolian, Dyirbal, and Yawelmani are all radically dependent-...
9
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2answers
384 views

Which indigenous languages have marked Ancestral/Mythological Past in grammars?

I have found a mention on such a system among some South American native languages in Adam Jacot de Boinod's book I Never Knew There's A Word For It. Non-academic reading, which doesn't make it less ...
9
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1answer
219 views

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 ...
8
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2answers
888 views

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 ...
8
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6answers
759 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?
8
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5answers
1k views

Languages where articles occur to the right of nouns

Are there languages where articles appear—as independent words—on the right-hand side of the noun phrases they occur in - in other words after the head noun in the noun phrase?
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 ...
8
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1answer
2k views

Is Thai a stress- or syllable-timed language, and does it matter?

We are gearing up for the new semester at the Thai university where I teach English. One course I’ll be helping out with is on English pronunciation. In the unit on sentence stress, the course ...
8
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2answers
629 views

Are there any languages with a case system like Esperanto's?

Thinking about Esperanto's case system, if I saw that in a natural language, I would think it was rather odd. Esperanto only has two cases: accusative and non-accusative. The non-accusative, on is ...
8
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1answer
653 views

Relationship between SOV word order and osV prefixes

I've been reading about the Native American language isolate Washo, and looking at the Universals Archive. If an ergative language is SOV, the object and subject affixes will be prefixes and the main ...
8
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1answer
538 views

Which languages have zero markers of comparative degree that coexist with non-zero comparative markers?

The zero comparative marker and the non-zero one should be more or less interchangeable. (The etymology of the non-zero marker doesn't matter.) (A message asking to list such languages was originally ...
7
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2answers
3k views

Phonetic distortion when words are borrowed among languages

When languages borrow words from other languages, they sometimes deliberately distort words to make them phonetically easier to pronounce. For example, when Japanese speakers are taught the word "...
7
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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 ...
7
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2answers
520 views

Are there languages that inflect adverbs for gender

Triggered by this answer, I am curious: Are there languages that inflect adverbs for gender or noun class? I have consulted the following two questions but the given inflections of adverbs in their ...
7
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3answers
482 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 ...

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