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7
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there a difference between plurality in semantics and in morphology?

With regard to morphology a common example of a lexeme is [dog, dogs] where dogs is the plural inflexion of the lemma dog modified by the -s suffix, marking plurality. Although I can accept that dog ...
7
votes
2answers
231 views

Is voicing a gradient scale?

In one online linguistics community, I read the statement that "voicing is not all-or-nothing and that it is a gradient scale." This got me thinking: is this statement true or false? I guess it may be ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

How to work on annotating AND sentence-aligning parallel texts?

There are plenty of software programs facilitating interlinear transcription (e.g. Toolbox, Fieldworks Language Explorer). There's also a number of tools that allow you to work on aligning parallel ...
13
votes
1answer
2k views

Are English 'butterfly', German 'Butterfliege' and Dutch 'botervlieg' cognates?

Yesterday the question was raised why many languages do not share a root for 'butterfly'. When we look at the etymology of the English word, parallels are drawn to Dutch and German forms (OED): OE ...
24
votes
2answers
3k views

Why do languages not share a root for “butterfly”?

In the article The Elusive Butterfly. Iconicity in Language (2001), William O. Beeman draws attention to the fact that most languages do not share a root for their word for butterfly. In other words, ...
14
votes
6answers
12k views

Evidence for age cutoff in foreign accent acquistion

Steven Pinker in "The Language Instinct" claims that there is strong psychological evidence for the existence of a sharp age cutoff for the ability to acquire a flawless foreign accent (I may dig up ...
12
votes
2answers
701 views

How do linguists find the etymology?

I was wondering, what is the method (or the methods) that linguists adopt to understand and know the etymology of a word? Are these methods reliable and in what measure? The knowledge I have on the ...
15
votes
4answers
3k views

What explains the Icelandic language conservatism?

The Icelandic language is often used as an example of a very conservative language, compared to other Indo-European languages, in general, and to other North-Germanic languages, in particular, all of ...
12
votes
1answer
363 views

Why do onsets not count for syllable weight in phonological processes?

Whether a syllable has a heavy or light rime is often important in whether it will participate in phonological processes, and whether it will receive stress. For example, in Latin, stress is on the ...
5
votes
1answer
296 views

Where did Peirce publish his triadic model of signs?

A triadic model of signs can be found by various researchers. Probably the most famous illustration is the diagram in Ogden and Richards's The Meaning of Meaning (page 11, digitized here). It is also ...
16
votes
4answers
824 views

Why do rhotics pattern together?

Looking at the IPA, many different types of sounds are given symbols based of of the Latin R,r: approximants, trills, taps/flaps; both coronal and uvular segments. Sometimes, these sounds are ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

Syllable counting acronyms and abbreviations

This question is similar to one I asked earlier about "Numbers as words". Many readability stats call for counting syllables. The direction for abbreviations and acronyms seems to be to formulate ...
6
votes
1answer
511 views

What is the origin of feminine ending *-ia in PIE?

I have seen two versions: a) *-ia ending actually derived from the collective number form, which also ends in *-ia. So the collective number first started to represent abstract things (compare Latin ...
13
votes
1answer
736 views

Automatic phonetic transcription of speech: is it still a difficult problem?

A friend was asking me why there aren't any programs that can analyze a user's pronunciation of words and then give feedback/suggestions. Indeed, given an accurate phonetic transcription of a ...
19
votes
1answer
1k views

How powerful is literacy to slow down language change?

The degree of literacy of a certain community of speakers is generally proposed as one of the factors that affect the pace of language change. More specifically, literacy would slow down change, since ...
7
votes
1answer
679 views

What is the reason for the semantic change bowl/pot/cup > head?

I was reading about problems with the assumption of basic vocabulary in Lyle Campbell, Historical Linguistics: An Introduction: Some 'basic vocabulary' appears to change rather easily for cultural ...
8
votes
3answers
3k views

Software tools for transcribing speech

What is some good software I can use for listening to speech? I would like to be able to listen to a snippet of speech over and over again, and slow it down without changing the pitch, all with a ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Positive uses of vagueness and ambiguity in language

Background The two common explanations for vagueness/ambiguity in language come from Zipf and Chomsky, and both seem to inherently assume that vagueness/ambiguity do not serve a positive purpose. ...
11
votes
3answers
7k views

What exactly is diglossia?

Any language has a formal variety, primarily (although not exclusively) used in writing, and one or more informal varieties, used in everyday speech. Yet, for some languages, like Norwegian and Arabic,...
10
votes
4answers
854 views

Is there a comprehensive account of the development of laryngeal theory?

The laryngeal theory proposes that Proto-Indo-European contained a number of consonants that are absent in (almost) all daughter languages. Their existence was proposed (by Saussure, under the term ...
6
votes
5answers
312 views

Traits that are common in the Americas and rare elsewhere

I'm looking for examples of typological traits that are common in languages of the Americas and rare in languages elsewhere. Traits could be at any level of description — phonological, ...
15
votes
5answers
4k views

What are the reasons to count Armenian as an Indo-European language?

Often I encounter arguments that Armenian is in fact not an Indo-European language. The claims assert that the regular correspondences between Armenian and PIE are too unrealistic, too rare and too ...
4
votes
1answer
487 views

Vanishing phonemes, nasalization of vowels, tones

Looking at modern French in light of vulgar Latin, or Chinese compared with Proto-Sino-Tibetan (if that can even be reconstructed), there seems to be quite a few contexts in which phonemes are ...
8
votes
2answers
991 views

How are phones distributed across languages?

By making a quick comparison among several language phonologies (from various language families), I could observe that some phones occur very frequently, such as [m], [p], [b], [h], [a] and [i]. ...
8
votes
3answers
306 views

The hunger for single words

Over on English Language and Usage, there are many, many questions of the form "What is a single word for [phrase]". The poster usually seems to be very keen to use a single word — which may be ...
3
votes
1answer
206 views

Numbers as words

Many readability statistics ask that numbers in the text be pronounced to determine the number of syllables. What I'm struggling with is if longer numbers are considered one or more than one word. As ...
4
votes
2answers
593 views

Is grammar the main barrier to Japanese people understanding English?

Although a much higher proportion of Japanese people understand English than people from English-speakering countries understand Japanese, it isn't as high as the Scandinavian countries. I wouldn't ...
16
votes
5answers
2k views

Do linguists measure the relation distance between languages? How?

Sometimes, I read passages like: Languages X, Y and Z in region A are closely related to each other, comparable to French, Italian and Spanish in Western Europe. The discussion in the question "Do ...
4
votes
2answers
293 views

How to isolate formants

How do I isolate each of the formants in my speech? I want an easy way to hear F1-F6 for learning/demonstration purposes. I believe Peter Ladefoged mentioned a way to isolate either F1 or F2 in "A ...
9
votes
2answers
450 views

Do distantly related languages have a lower incidence of false friends?

Are false friends less common between distantly related languages compared to closely related languages? If so, is it merely because there's fewer words that sound similar, or is it also that when ...
7
votes
6answers
1k views

Which branch of linguistics studies handwriting?

In all 3 of the non-Latin-script languages I have learned to relative degrees of fluency, handwritten and printed forms differed significantly. Of course, this should not come as a surprise. Often, ...
7
votes
3answers
649 views

What is the distribution of English dialects that pronounce -day as -[deɪ] vs -[di]?

The days of the week in English, such as Monday, are sometimes pronounced with a final -[deɪ] and sometimes with a final -[di]. For example, Merriam-Webster gives Monday as \ˈmən-(ˌ)dā, -dē\ and ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there an equivalent to the Flesch Kincaid test for measuring quality and understandability of speech?

I want to measure the quality of speech: is it higher level/lower level (vocabulary grammar etc.) and also the understandability of the speech, i.e. is the teacher using language above a student's ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

Is urbanization correlated with language innovation?

In Brazil, the Portuguese dialects spoken in rural areas preserve, despite their own innovations, several features of the language that were common in the 16th century. This phenomenon is particularly ...
2
votes
1answer
85 views

Do we have any idea how widespread NPIs are?

Most languages have words that function as negative polarity items. Is this believed to be true of all human languages? Are there specific languages that have been plausibly claimed not to have any ...
7
votes
1answer
446 views

Dictionary of atypical syllabication

I am a literacy researcher looking to create an add on package in R that offers quantitative methods for discourse analysis. I am creating a function for taking a chunk of text and measuring the ...
22
votes
3answers
1k views

How do linguists distinguish between case endings and postpositions, especially in languages which have both and/or have no traditional grammar?

In my attempt to learn Georgian, an agglutinative language of the South Caucasus, I have learned that it has both case endings and postpositions. I also have some familiarity with Korean and Japanese ...
6
votes
4answers
729 views

Which cues can I listen for to distinguish spoken Georgian and Armenian?

I'm living in an area of Tbilisi Georgia that is traditionally the ethnic Armenian area. I would like to take the opportunity to listen to people in the street to detect whether anybody is speaking ...
5
votes
0answers
212 views

Is there any difference in meaning or nuance when the adjective follows the noun in Georgian?

Many languages allow the order of adjectives compared to nouns to vary, but for different reasons: Some languages have very free word order in which case there is little difference between adj + noun ...
5
votes
2answers
347 views

Iterated reduplication?

Some friends and I were discussing whether you could reduplicate an already reduplicated string. I came up with this rather contrived example in English to show what I'm talking about: Person A: So, ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

How can adjective-noun order in French be explained by parameter theory?

I just finished reading The Atoms of Language. The gist is that languages have parameters, one of which will tell you which side of a phrase to add a new word. But in some languages, like French and ...
1
vote
1answer
407 views

Systematic means of transcribing words to vowel/consontant patterns

Looking for a systematic online step-by-step process to codify English words into vowel/consontant patterns (CVC, CVCe, CVVC, etc.) and the correct sound (long-vowel, short-vowel, blend, diagraph, etc....
1
vote
1answer
211 views

Are Ivar and Álvaro etymologically the same?

I have heard that the Spanish name Álvaro is of Germanic origin. So I began wondering where it might be preserved in the Germanic languages. After some thought I came up with the Scandinavian name ...
6
votes
2answers
4k views

Where does the term “segment” fit in in relation to “phone” and “phoneme”?

In a recent question seeking to clarify how diphthongs relate to phonemes, another term popped up in the comments, segment. This made me wonder if "segment" is some kind of synonym for either "phone" ...
6
votes
1answer
307 views

Why isn't the future participle more diffuse in modern languages?

The Ancient Greek had a participle for the future tense, and the only language I know it uses the future tense is Esperanto. Is there a reason why the future participle appears to be rare cross-...
7
votes
4answers
798 views

What language takes the longest to text?

It takes X seconds for the average English user to send an average-length text message via phone. What language is the most effort-intensive to text? How about to write? Is there one language that ...
7
votes
2answers
389 views

Are there any online databases of kinship terms across languages?

Related to a question at ELU, I am interested in doing a comparative analysis of kinship terms in various languages. What would help me with this is an inventory of terms for individual languages. ...
10
votes
3answers
12k views

Is a diphthong one phoneme or two, or does it depend?

In Mitch's answer to "What is the difference between a diphthong and a glide?" and its comments it seems more than one of us is at least a bit confused as to how many phonemes a single diphthong ...
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 ...
4
votes
2answers
489 views

What's going on when I hear people pronounce Georgian “ვ” like “w” instead of like “v” as it always seems to be defined?

The sixth letter of the Georgian alphabet is ვ and all the resources I have describe it as being like English v or IPA [v]. But especially in the common word ნახვამდის (goodbye) the ვ sounds a lot ...

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