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42
votes
15answers
455k views

What's the difference between phonetics and phonology?

Having practiced armchair linguistics for some years I should be able to sum up the difference off the top of my head, yet often I don't know which term to use. And looking them up on Wikipedia doesn'...
27
votes
4answers
11k views

Is there a list of mutually intelligible languages?

Is there a list of languages which are mutually intelligible (i.e. a speaker of A can understand language B and [perhaps] vice versa)? And would this beg the question of whether they really are ...
9
votes
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.
46
votes
4answers
11k views

Why do most words for “mother”, across languages, start with an [m], and for “father” with [p]/[b], but not vice versa?

It has been observed that in general, a word for "mother" tends to be based on a bilabial nasal [m] or similar consonant, and for father it tends to be [b] or [p]. This is found in many language ...
15
votes
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 ...
-1
votes
1answer
1k views

How can PSG describe the vertical dimension of sentence structure? [closed]

PSG (phrase structure grammar) describes the horizontal dimension of sentence structure with strings, sequences of sentence parts, in a way we are all familiar with. We know that nominal expressions, ...
40
votes
9answers
202k views

What's the difference between syntax and grammar?

From what I've read, both terms have to do with the rules of formation of sentences. I've seen grammar used in mathematical contexts, in computability theory, where it has a precise definition. But ...
3
votes
1answer
327 views

Eliminating intermediary forms to account for production and perception

If linguistic rules which describe the derivation of surface forms from underlying ones, are meant to account for both production and perception, then it seems that intermediary forms like the two ...
11
votes
3answers
3k views

How are languages and dialects distinguished from one another?

Are there any cases where two varieties of the same language are treated as separate languages, or where two distinct languages are treated as varieties of the same language. If so, why?
16
votes
3answers
12k views

Worldwide map or data for linguistic distance?

I came upon an excellent graphical representation of the linguistic distance between a number of European languages. I'm looking for a similar worldwide map of currently spoken languages. Or at least ...
21
votes
23answers
20k views

Is there a language whose writing is 100% phonemic?

Is there a language that has a complete one-to-one correspondence between the graphemes (letters) and the phonemes of the language? In other words, is there a language that is 100% ideally phonemic?
21
votes
7answers
1k views

What divides semantics from pragmatics?

To my understanding... Semantics is the raw meaning and connotations a word carries on it's own and pragmatics is the context-dependent meaning a word holds. Is this accurate? Can anyone explain it ...
62
votes
10answers
13k views

Why did early Indo-European languages seem to be morphologically complex?

Apparently there is a general trend that languages lose morphological marking over time. For example, according to this question PIE had 8 noun cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, etc), Latin 5, ...
22
votes
4answers
3k views

Is there a linguistics equivalent to Turing completeness?

In computer science, programming languages can be described in terms of "Turing completeness", basically, whether a programming language is capable of expressing any* algorithm. A non-Turing-complete ...
19
votes
3answers
2k views

Connection between right (opposite of left) and right (legal term)?

Does anyone know of a connection, or some sort of established historical/etymological explanation why in a few languages, "the opposite of left" and "legal term" are the same or seemingly related ...
10
votes
4answers
43k views

What is the difference between complements and adjuncts?

What is the difference between complements and adjuncts? I always have a problem drawing a tree diagram for the syntax structure of a sentence with placing complements with word level category and ...
18
votes
8answers
45k views

What is the difference between native language, first language, mother tongue and L1?

Note: I'm not a linguist, and I realize I might be treading in a grey area here. I'm wondering what the differences (and/or similarities) between native language, first language, mother tongue and L1 ...
40
votes
10answers
3k views

Languages that are gaining morphological distinctions

In diachronic comparison of languages, say PIE to Latin to Romance, it is a classic recognition that the later languages strictly lose some of the morphologically marked categories. PIE had 8 noun ...
26
votes
8answers
14k views

Why did English lose declensions while German retained them?

Why did (or more specifically what caused) English lose declensions whilst they were retained in German? I ask as I have recently been reading into the various Germanic languages and it struck me that ...
18
votes
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
votes
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- ...
8
votes
3answers
3k views

Definition(s) of phoneme

What different definitions of phoneme do you know? Please note that I'm not asking for an explanation of what phoneme is but rather for professional definitions. I'm interested in how the issue is ...
2
votes
5answers
453 views

Could Proto-Indo-Uralic be reconstructed?

I am interested in linguistics and how words spread from place to place. I have seen that there are two language families, and that there are signs that they might be related. Proto-Indo-Uralic is the ...
18
votes
7answers
5k views

Looking for a good beginners reference to learn computational linguistics

Recently in my work I came across the Backus–Naur Form (BNF), one way of describing a context-free grammar. Since then, I've been interested in learning how to deconstruct and parse not only computing ...
36
votes
5answers
3k views

Why does speech speed seem to vary between different languages?

I feel that French and Spanish speakers speak their languages faster than English speakers do. Is this difference real, or is it just a mistake in my observation (note: I am much less familiar with ...
45
votes
9answers
6k views

Is there any language that uses different pronouns for “we” depending on whether the spoken to person is included in the group?

As in "we are going out tonight" using a different word for "we" depending on whether you mean "me and some other people" or "you and me (and potentially other people as well)".
11
votes
3answers
90k views

Does an IPA to 'English' translator exist?

IPA is really tricky to read, especially for beginners like me. Are there any online tools that can almost 'convert' pasted IPA into phonetic pronunciations or similar? I've tried Wolfram|Alpha ...
9
votes
3answers
15k views

What defines a language?

I'm reading around multimodal text and many of the readings I have come across (Kress, Halliday) seem to define language as spoken or written communication. That seems to exclude sign language and ...
16
votes
6answers
10k views

Convert audio recording of word to IPA representation

Are the any open source tools/software libraries to convert an audio clip to its IPA representation? If so, are they accurate? If not, why not? Here is a Gaelic word I wish to convert: Ogg format: ...
13
votes
4answers
2k views

How are proper nouns distinguished from other nouns in linguistics (not in orthography)?

When you ask most people the difference between common nouns and proper nouns they mostly can only tell you that proper nouns start with a capital letter. But this has problems: Capital letters and ...
11
votes
1answer
2k views

How did Chinese recursion evolve?

The modern Chinese linguistic recursion system is essentially the same as English. If you have a highly embedded sentence, you can translate it word for word, the embedding is very much the same. In ...
9
votes
3answers
12k views

What's the difference between recursion and embedding?

Chains of relative clauses and strings of attributive adjectives are both examples of recursion--Correct? Chains of relative clauses have each non-initial relative clause embedded within the previous ...
23
votes
1answer
4k views

Deciphering a handwritten script

There are many studies on calligraphy, and in some cultures (Chinese, Indic, Arabic) it became a really significant part of culture. However, there are not only examples of good handwriting. Often we ...
12
votes
14answers
3k views

Languages with multiple forms of the verb “to be”

Many languages have multiple forms of the verb "to be". For example, Spanish has ser and estar, while Nepali has हो and छ. Some other examples are given in this nice blog post. My question is: what ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the minimal set of words that make a language “complete”?

In programming languages, there is a concept of turing completeness - whenever a system reaches "turing completeness", it is capable of emulating any programming language and, thus, as expressive as ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

Do some Slavic languages have an “extra” gender distinction for animate nouns?

I seem to recall hearing and reading that certain Slavic languages including Czech treat animate nouns as something like an extra gender. Even Wikipedia in some places counts more than three genders ...
7
votes
2answers
756 views

Understanding Voiced Consonants

I've been having some trouble understanding how is it that what differentiates, for example, /p/ from /b/, is the vibration of the vocal chords, present in /b/, but not in /p/. From what I have read ...
18
votes
8answers
3k views

Is the countable vs mass noun distinction common outside English?

English makes a difference between count nouns (also known as countable nouns) and mass nouns (also known as uncountable nouns). Count noun: One cat, two cats, few cats. Mass noun: Some information, ...
13
votes
3answers
3k views

Is a loanword also a cognate or are the two terms mutually exclusive?

A borrowing or loanword is when a word from language A is added to the lexicon of language B, with whatever phonological adaptations are necessary. But is a cognate only a word directly inherited ...
12
votes
6answers
5k views

Are some languages more advanced than others?

I have read about animal communication, particularly in mammals and historical evidence in early hominoids. Naturally, I am always amazed how much information species like dolphins and orcas can ...
9
votes
3answers
9k views

How to determine which phoneme a group of allophones realizes?

This question is related to this other one, about the difference between Phonetics and Phonology. I can understand the difference between the two subfields as well as what it means to produce ...
9
votes
2answers
758 views

Are “txt-speak” and “emoticons” examples of normal language evolution?

"txt-speak" appeared because of the need to fit a communication into 160 characters. "Emoticons" appeared due to the need to convey an emotional context with your message so that it is read correctly ...
8
votes
1answer
4k views

What are the differences between palatal consonant and palatalized consonant?

In IPA chart, there is a column named "palatal consonants", including consonants as ɲ, c, ɟ, ç, ʝ, ʎ for example. There is also a 'palatalization sign': ʲ, which can be applied to all consonants, used,...
7
votes
1answer
181 views

How are dictionaries produced

What are the steps invoked in producing a dictionary? I am primarily interested in understanding the role software plays in the production process. Obviously a corpus for the language is first ...
14
votes
11answers
4k views

Replacing Chinese characters with pinyin forever as Vietnamese did

I know both languages to a certain extent. By no means I am fluent; reading is still a challenge, especially in Chinese, thus I am not allowed to firmly stand by my opinion. I often ponder on the big ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Jespersen's Cycle - why is it defined cycle?

In his excellent work, Negation in English and Other Languages (1917), Otto Jespersen has discovered a pattern that describes how linguistic negation shifts between several stages: Negation is ...
2
votes
6answers
2k views

Why is Edenics not recognized as a serious linguistic theory?

Many people know the Biblical tale of the Tower of Babel, when God broke apart the world's singular language into 70 different branches. Most linguists don't give this a second thought, or anything ...
10
votes
5answers
12k views

What is the difference between a diphthong and a glide?

It's easy for me to imagine the difference, but hard for me to conceptualize it. I guess one involves two vowels and the other involves a consonant, right? Am I on the right track, or is there a more ...
7
votes
1answer
993 views

Subtypes of Standard Average European

I was looking at a sprachbund called Standard Average European, which seems to include Germanic, Romance and Slavic languages. I will not list all the features here since they can be found on ...
41
votes
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-...

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