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19
votes
2answers
662 views

Are similar languages easier for children to acquire than dissimilar ones?

When a child is first learning a language in a bilingual environment, is it easier or harder to properly acquire the two distinct languages if they are more similar? For example, is it easier for a ...
8
votes
5answers
475 views

What evolution framework best describes the change between languages over time?

Language change and the evolution of languages can be seen as an evolutionary process. Human brains form the environment that constrains language. Language acquisition provides the replication, ...
13
votes
3answers
317 views

How do purely statistical machine translators deal with different word orders?

Even relatively closely related languages can differ greatly in word order. Take English and German for instance. English is pretty boringly subject-verb-object whereas in German the finite verb must ...
13
votes
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 ...
16
votes
5answers
1k views

Do any Indo European languages reflect noun class types other than gender?

In the comments of another question about animate as noun gender in some Slavic languages an interesting point was raised. Many if not most Indo European languages exhibit grammatical gender for ...
14
votes
3answers
7k views

Can you give me some tips on how to pronounce ejective consonants?

I'll be going back to the Republic of Georgia pretty soon and will try to learn the famously difficult language but last time I was there I couldn't distinguish or reproduce the ejectives. Everybody ...
15
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 ...
35
votes
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 ...
9
votes
6answers
7k views

Is the sound "ř" unique to Czech?

Czech has special sound which to me seems to be a voiced trilled r. It is written as "ř". Wikipedia describes it a different way: A raised alveolar trill, and uses the IPA notation [r̝]. Czech ...
29
votes
7answers
14k views

Why do so many core Romanian words with Latin roots come from different roots than in the other Romance languages?

Romanian is a romance language like Catalan, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish so much of its core vocabulary is derived from Latin. Why then even in core vocabulary does Romanian so often ...
11
votes
5answers
13k views

In Turkish, how exactly does "ğ" affect the vowel it follows?

In Standard Turkish, "ğ" is explained as having no sound of its own but instead lengthens the previous vowel. So would "aa" and "ağ" sound alike? What about "â" and "ağa"? Can there sometimes be ...
23
votes
4answers
5k views

How do field linguists begin to study an undocumented language which they cannot speak?

When field linguists begin to study a new language with whose speakers they don't share a common language, how do they begin? I don't need the whole story, just the very start, the "bootstrapping". ...
10
votes
4answers
3k views

Is the Sanskrit spoken natively in pockets in India changing?

There are some small pockets in India where people actually speak Sanskrit as a native language. From Wikipedia: In these Indian villages, inhabitants of all castes speak Sanskrit natively since ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there a general consensus on what modern language is the closest relative of Albanian?

I'm off to Albania tomorrow so starting to get more and more interested in the language. It's one of the outliers on the Indo-European family tree. It's not hard to see a relationship but it's not ...
8
votes
1answer
686 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 ...
11
votes
4answers
632 views

Hierarchy of morphology, auxiliaries, and suppletion of verbal accidents?

I would like to make a hierarchy of verbal accidents that would have the following features. For any two accidents in the hierarchy, if a language marks only one of them by lexical suppletion, it ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

Distinguishing between epistemic and circumstantial readings (without recourse to temporality)?

How can you/should you empirically distinguish between epistemic and circumstantial readings of modals? I (at least think I) understand how the two readings are supposed to be distinguished ...
30
votes
4answers
8k views

Why do English verbs inflect so little, especially in regard to "person"?

Most Indo-European languages have verbs which endings change according to the person. I made a table with the most common (and close) languages and focussed on the category of person and the present ...
4
votes
2answers
504 views

What are the rationale of people speaking/teaching Esperanto? [closed]

According to Wikipedia, Esperanto's goal was: to create an easy-to-learn and politically neutral language that would foster peace and international understanding between people with different ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Machine translation - Rule-Based and Statistics-Based approaches

My question is about the current situation in machine translation. I am aware about two main approaches to machine translation. One which is based in a strong way on linguistic theory and another ...
6
votes
1answer
169 views

How did Miskito ligatures develop?

I'm interested in the use of "ligatures", but I'm most interested in the way the ligatures and the possessives can use a combined infix-suffix. I don't understand how such a mixed system ...
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 ...
16
votes
3answers
23k views

Meaning of star/asterisk in linguistics

In some dictionaries/lexica, I've seen the asterisk in front of old words. What does it mean/stand for? Example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Germanic#Pre-Proto-Germanic *ǵʰóstis "stranger" >...
16
votes
3answers
1k views

Are there other pairs of languages that are as close grammatically despite not being in the same language family as Korean and Japanese?

Though there are many theories grouping Korean and Japanese in the same family, none of these are widely accepted by linguists. Yet the grammars of these two languages are extremely similar in many ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the origin of the "hierarchy of projections", the language system or (some) conceptual system?

All languages display some form of the hierarchy of projections, to the extent we understand what this is: in a given clause, roughly, complementizers are higher than inflectional heads are higher ...
17
votes
4answers
41k views

Automated French/Italian/German to IPA transcription

I'm looking for a website or software that will take text written in a source language and produce a transcription in IPA. The languages I am interested in are French, Italian and German, but if you ...
3
votes
1answer
4k views

What are the most commonly used Chinese syllables?

There are about 1200 or so unique (includes all tones) Mandarin Chinese syllables, according to some source I read a while back based off the Unihan database. For my applications I'm limited to using ...
1
vote
1answer
271 views

What are the criteria for deciding whether a language is “a vernacular”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What are the criteria for deciding whether a language is “natural”? Edited to add: I've been directed by the moderators to revise my earlier question (What are the ...
9
votes
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, ...
64
votes
10answers
14k 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, ...
66
votes
10answers
93k views

When should one use slashes or square brackets when transcribing in IPA?

When should one use /fubar/ and when [fubar] when transcribing in IPA? What are the differences?
19
votes
4answers
5k views

True languages that pirates spoke

Ahoy, me hearties! As many of you may already know, today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Since I find the historical subject of piracy quite interesting, specially after reading Pirate Utopias, I would ...
23
votes
5answers
6k views

How did Korean become a language isolate?

According to most linguists, Korean is a language isolate. Why doesn't it have any sister languages, like languages usually do? Why didn't it spread to other areas, or split into various languages? ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

What are the criteria for deciding whether a language is "natural"?

I read in the Linguistics section on the Wikipedia page for American Sign Language that ASL was "proven [to be a natural language] to the satisfaction of the linguistic community by William Stokoe, ...
21
votes
3answers
6k views

Is Yiddish a creole language? And if not, what is it?

A "creole" language is formed by the merging of two parent languages, usually through an earlier rudimentary mixture of the two. Does this make Yiddish a creole language? My question is really about ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

What parts of speech / word classes do languages most frequently lack?

Among conlangers, AllNoun is a notable syntax because it only makes use one part of speech / word class, which is analagous to nouns. A natural language I've heard of (but I can't remember or find a ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

Difference between Minimalism and old P&P

What are the differences between the old Principles and Parameters approach and the developing Minimalist Program? As I understand it, though the MP is just a framework for developing theories in, in ...
8
votes
4answers
6k views

What are some reasons languages get picked as source languages for neologisms

For example, Latin is a source language for new words in English and other European languages, and I know English, Sanskrit and Arabic are also source languages in many other languages. What are the ...
13
votes
4answers
4k views

Do languages borrow morphemes?

It is clear that languages can borrow words and even syntax from other languages but do they borrow morphemes? For example, the English morpheme -ation has a very specific usage in Portuguese. It is ...
7
votes
3answers
969 views

Are there dictionaries like Collins COBUILD for other languages than English? [closed]

Let me explain what I'm after: monolingual all examples are taken from a large corpus of contemporary text (the COBUILD series is now using Bank of English) the senses for each entry are sorted by ...
14
votes
2answers
551 views

Do all non-syllabic, non-logographic scripts have pronounceable names for their letters for spelling?

If you ask an English speaker to spell a word, there are specific, widely-known names for all the letters to fill this need. The same appears to be true for all Phoenician-derived alphabets that I can ...
14
votes
7answers
791 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 "...
4
votes
3answers
640 views

Are there counterparts to phones and phonetics for signed languages?

Given that there is a difference between phonetics and phonology, and that in the study of signed languages cherology is the counterpart to phonology, are there also counterparts to phones and ...
9
votes
2answers
519 views

What is known about the universal aspects of the relation between intonation and emotion?

Are there language-independent aspects of the expression of emotion by intonation? More specifically, are there established relations between the expression of emotion by linguistic intonation and by ...
14
votes
7answers
3k views

What is a phoneme in the context of a signed language?

A phoneme is the smallest contrastive unit in the sound system of a language. SIL.
5
votes
2answers
888 views

Verb-attraction parameter in Portuguese

Prof. John McWorther, in his course on Linguistics, said, in a lecture about principles and parameters: "if a language is pro-drop, the verb attraction parameter is always set on. If a language ...
3
votes
1answer
8k views

How are languages affected by substrates vs superstrates?

Firstly since there seem to be multiple meanings of "substrate" and "superstrate" let me start by defining the terms for this question: A substrate language is one that was in a place before a new ...
19
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, ...
6
votes
2answers
6k views

What is the primary phonological difference between dialects, vowels or consonants?

Not considering things like vocabulary or syntax (if that is possible), what phonological differences make the most telling distinction between two dialects, is it the vowels or the consonants? ...
15
votes
2answers
1k views

In Japanese, why do certain consonants change depending on the vowel?

I was wondering why in Japanese, certain consonants change depending on the vowel. For example: Consonants that do not change: ka / ki / ku / ke / ko na / ni / nu / ne / no Consonants that do ...

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