All Questions

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
18
votes
8answers
46k 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 ...
18
votes
2answers
3k views

Is there a favoured data structure for storing ambiguous parse trees in Natural Language Processing?

I know a bit about parsing computer languages. Generally they try to resolve all ambiguities when parsing or abort the parse and throw an error. This means you either got nothing because there was an ...
18
votes
3answers
624 views

r in Romance names of London

Most Romance languages have an "r" in their renditions of the British capital's name: Londres, Londra etc. Outside the Romance family, I only found it in Turkish Londra and Breton Londrez, but those ...
18
votes
5answers
777 views

Language acquisition without interactive contact with fluent speakers

Children raised in a multilingual environment learn all the languages that they are exposed to with no effort. Does the same thing happen if a child has only indirect contact with a language? For ...
18
votes
3answers
4k views

Why does stop VOT duration vary depending on place of articulation?

From the (albeit citation needed) section of the Wikipedia article on aspiration: Spanish /p t k/, for example, have voice onset times (VOTs) of about 5, 10, and 30 milliseconds, whereas English /p ...
18
votes
1answer
8k views

Does anyone know of text message corpora?

I am looking for a large corpus of text messages. By large, I am hoping to have at least 15,000 text messages in my sample. I am fine with combining several smaller corpora into a larger corpus as I ...
18
votes
1answer
1k views

Is there a language known to have developed a case system?

There are many languages which, having descended from a language with a complex case system, have lost or greatly simplified theirs: Bulgarian (Slavic), English (Germanic), most Romance languages etc. ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

How can mutual intelligibility be measured?

What ways do we have of measure the mutual intelligibility of two given languages? It's easy enough to realise if there is a degree of mutual intelligibility between your own language variety and ...
18
votes
1answer
403 views

Are there any languages that don't permit instrumental subjects?

In English, and no doubt in many other languages, instruments can be subjects. We can speak not only of John (an agent) cutting the canvas, but also of the knife (an instrument) cutting the canvas. ...
18
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there a diagram showing the history of sound changes from Latin to the Romance languages?

We have had a number of questions about sound changes, asking for the history of specific changes. See this one, for example: asking about the change from Latin benedictionem to French beneiçon. Often,...
17
votes
8answers
7k views

How is definiteness expressed in languages with no definite article, clitic or affix?

According to WALS Feature 37A: Definite Articles, 198 languages have no definite or indefinite article, and 45 have no definite article but have indefinite articles. These number excludes languages ...
17
votes
4answers
14k views

Monogenesis vs. Polygenesis

By following the comments to another question about the evolution of Khoisan languages, I learned that there is a heated debate in Evolutionary Linguistics about the origin of language. Some quick ...
17
votes
8answers
3k views

Are there any languages in which verbs are a closed class?

In English, the verb "do" can be a transitive verb whose object stands for an action. So, we English speakers can "do a somersault," "do a back flip," and "do a cartwheel." The productivity of this ...
17
votes
3answers
993 views

Is Nicaraguan Sign Language the only language born from nothing?

My interest in linguistics was sparked by John McWhorter's popular book The Power of Babel, which, in its section on creoles, includes a small piece on Nicaraguan Sign Language, which really sparked ...
17
votes
4answers
5k views

What language came before Proto-Indo-European?

What is the Proto-Proto-Indo-European?
17
votes
4answers
39k 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
5k views

Do any languages mention the top limit of a range first?

In many languages we usually say "between min and max" (e.g., grades "between 1 and 10"). Are there any languages where the reverse construction ("between max and min", e.g. grades "between 10 and 1")...
17
votes
4answers
15k views

Why don't the French pronounce consonants at the ends of words?

I am curious what could have caused the shift in pronunciation. I presume it must have occurred after the spelling of words was standardized. According to the History of French wikipedia article, this ...
17
votes
5answers
4k views

When and how did French become a non-null-subject language?

First of all, what does "null-subject" mean? Taken from the Wikipedia page for "Null-subject languages": […] a null-subject language is a language whose grammar permits an ...
17
votes
6answers
15k views

Why are many ancient languages so complicated compared to many modern languages?

Many ancient languages have a structure that is more complex than that of the "respective" modern languages. Modern languages like English have simpler structure, without case, gender or declination, ...
17
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 ...
17
votes
8answers
11k views

Are there any languages or cultures where people speak while inhaling?

In English, a 'gasp' exclamation seems to be the only word spoken while inhaling. Though it is sometimes implied that the expression is not voluntary, it typically is in most conversations. I was ...
17
votes
2answers
6k views

How did Italian manage to stay (mostly) phonetically spelled despite its long written tradition?

Italian is commonly cited as an example of a phonetically spelled language. It is easy to guess how an Italian word is pronounced based on the way it is written, because each written symbol highly ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Are there any languages that have a pronoun which is only used to refer to royalty?

I can recall reading an article years ago which claimed that some languages have unused "royal" pronouns. That is, these pronouns were only used to refer to royalty as a show of respect or ...
17
votes
3answers
4k views

Do any languages use {woman} as the root for human?

In English, along with some other Latinate languages, the word for our species as a whole is related specifically to that of the male sex: 'Latin humanus "of man, human," – Etymoline' This, ...
17
votes
3answers
928 views

Is it possible to predict language changes?

The comparative method is used to reconstruct unattested languages from the attested ones. By comparing different sounds for the same words in various sister languages, it is possible to infer some ...
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Origin of articles in European languages

I read that PIE, Latin, old English, and even old German did not use articles, yet current English, German and Romance languages all use articles. Is it true that articles developed in all these ...
17
votes
5answers
3k views

Which language would be easiest for a computer to parse?

I have an idea for a programming language that would work more like a spoken language. "sentences" would have an initial context in which specific subjects, verbs, and objects would have meaningful ...
17
votes
3answers
1k views

How did the Arabic word “allah” come to have an /lˤ/ (“emphatic l”)?

In Modern Standard Arabic, phonemic /lˤ/ (a.k.a. "emphatic l") only occurs in one native word: Allah /ʔalˤˈlˤaːh/. (According to the linked article, it also occurs in a few loanwords.) This seems ...
17
votes
3answers
2k views

Is Slavic [zima] (“winter”) derived from “snow”?

I was wondering why Thai word for "snow" was sounding similar to Slavic word for "winter": Thai: หิมะ [hì-má] "snow" Ukrainian: зима [ˈzɪ-mə] "winter" Polish: zima [ˈʑi-ma] "winter" Also, "...
17
votes
1answer
12k views

What do WordNet::Similarity scores mean?

I am using WordNet Interface in NLTK, which facilitates computation of a number of similarity metrics: Path similarity Leacock-Chodorow Similarity Wu-Palmer Similarity Resnik Similarity Jiang-Conrath ...
17
votes
2answers
548 views

How did Esperanto find “early adopters” for the language?

Even with the volume of constructed languages that exist, I've never seen formal analysis documenting the successive approaches Esperanto took in an effort to really engage and convert "early adopters"...
17
votes
1answer
365 views

Are first words in signed languages composed of signs that babies frequently babble?

In many spoken languages, the words for "mother" and "father" are composed of sounds that babies make very early. Is there a similar trend for early words that babies babble across signed languages?
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Does Japanese have pronouns?

It is often said that Japanese doesn't really have a pronoun word class, such as in the Wikipedia article on Japanese Grammar: Although many grammars and textbooks mention pronouns (代名詞 daimeishi), ...
17
votes
1answer
3k views

Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French number words from eleven to nineteen - history of a bizarre, inconsistent construction

Following Sklivvz's advice, I propose here a question I made in Italian Language. Because I am not sure how I should do this, I will just copy/paste the whole lot. Let's count in Latin from one to ...
16
votes
14answers
6k views

Do any languages have kinship terms for the relationship between the respective parents of a married couple?

Do any languages have kinship terms for the relationship between each pair of parents of a married couple? For example, how would a husband’s mother refer to the wife’s mother? Do any of the kinship ...
16
votes
6answers
46k views

Weird behavior of two fruits' names (ananas/pineapple, banana/plátano)

Some time ago I found two tables that reported the names for two fruits, which were supposed to be funny, because they specifically reported a single exception among those several languages, where ...
16
votes
3answers
4k views

Why vowels sound different from each other

This might be a basic question but I am confused about how mouth shapes for vowels, at a deeper level, are producing different sounds. Wanted to see if one could demonstrate with another instrument ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Are there languages in which “coffee” is not a cognate of a root containing k/q and f/h/w?

Is there a language, in which the word for "coffee" does not contain the sounds k/q and f/h/v, i.e. the word has a different root?
16
votes
3answers
21k 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 any Sino-Tibetan languages that don't have an isolating morphology?

All the Sino-Tibetan languages I can think of are isolating. Are there any with a fusional or agglutinative morphology? If so, can you show some examples?
16
votes
4answers
12k views

What are the chief advantages & disadvantages of describing sentences with dependency vs. phrase structure trees?

What are the chief advantages & disadvantages of describing sentences with dependency vs. phrase structure (aka. constituency) trees? From what I've read, dependency grammar trees lack phrase ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views

Are word classes universal?

I'm working on an application that takes a special database of words and its word class and determines the such from a given sentence. I'm now working to see if word classes that are found in English ...
16
votes
3answers
3k views

What's the term for correspondence between the written and the spoken form of a language?

Not all languages have the same degree of correspondence between the spoken and the written form. Saying correspondence, I'm referring to the equivalence between what we write in a certain language ...
16
votes
3answers
4k views

Are Old French and French mutually intelligible?

In Les visiteurs (The Visitors), two Frenchman from 1123 are transported to 1993. In the movie, the visitors from 1123 can understand the speech of the modern French people in 1993, and vice versa, ...
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 ...
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 ...
16
votes
7answers
2k views

What about the sound change initial n -> initial l?

While learning (a little) Cantonese, I was annoyed by the fact that every initial [n] was converted to [l], so that the word "you", written néih hóu in guidebooks is universally pronounced léih ...
16
votes
5answers
769 views

Is there any point in the current ordering of the letters in the alphabet?

I know we inherit our alphabets (including its ordering) from the Romans, and if we trace it further we will end up with the Phoenicians or some other civilizations in the ancient Middle East. Do (or ...
16
votes
3answers
941 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 ...

15 30 50 per page