35 votes
Accepted

Are Hungarian and Turkish related?

Turkish and Hungarian are typologically similar: They are both agglutinating languages with vowel harmony and rather rich vowel inventories. They are, to our best knowledge, not genetically related. ...
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33 votes

Which languages have different words for "maternal uncle" and "paternal uncle"?

As @YellowSky pointed, a very large number of languages make this distinction. The Wiktionary lists don’t even scratch the surface, since most languages are not in Wiktionary, and the real number ...
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27 votes
Accepted

What are some interesting features that are common cross-linguistically but don't exist in English?

I'll give the glib answer: A straightforward/predictable orthography. Out of all the languages which have established writing systems, the vast majority are to some extent phonemic; not all have a one-...
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27 votes

How similar are Ukrainian and Russian?

Ukrainian and Russian are partially mutual intelligible. I as a native Russian speaker can read Ukrainian and usually understand the most but spoken Ukrainian is relatively hard to understand, ...
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  • 279
20 votes
Accepted

Worldwide map or data for linguistic distance?

@Fiksdal, I am the author of this of this version, which is based off of Tyschenko's work, see here Since translating Tyschenko's map, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how the ...
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19 votes
Accepted

Which Indo European language best preserves the features of Proto Indo-European?

There are many possible answers to this question. Historically, the comparative method was born from observing the regularity of phonological and morphological correspondences between Classical ...
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18 votes

How similar are Ukrainian and Russian?

The mutual intelligibility of the Slavic languages (going far beyond the pair Ukrainian and Russian) is a fascinating theme for linguistic research, and there are works out there trying to measure the ...
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17 votes

What are some interesting features that are common cross-linguistically but don't exist in English?

Here are some features that are common to many languages, but absent in English. It's worth taking WALS entries with a grain of salt, but the chapters are great at calling out potential issues and ...
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  • 1,010
17 votes

Which languages have different words for "maternal uncle" and "paternal uncle"?

Another concrete example to extend upon these already excellent answers is the Swedish language. Here, the terms are "farbror" for a paternal uncle (literally: "father-brother") ...
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16 votes
Accepted

How different were Proto-Italic and Proto-Germanic?

As you noticed, there is something common between modern Romance and Germanic languages which is not shared by other Indo-European languages. It does not come from their ancestral languages (Latin and ...
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15 votes

Linguistic relationship between Hebrew and Greek

You are using related in two different senses. When linguists refer to languages being related, they almost always mean "genetically related" - stemming ultimately from the same linguistic source. ...
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  • 6,279
15 votes

How similar are Ukrainian and Russian?

You have 2 questions in 1: How mutually intelligible the 2 languages are. What's more practical to help refugees. In terms of mutual intelligibility, it highly depends on context, an educated (the ...
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  • 289
14 votes
Accepted

Why proto-languages?

You could equally well ask: why languages? The problem you raise, that "Proto-Germanic" was a huge, blurry-edged mass of dialects and variations rather than a single standardized language, is a valid ...
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14 votes

Can or has the comparative method be used in current Arabic dialects to reconstruct Classical Arabic?

Applying the comparative method to contemporary dialects (not MSA) would not result in Classical Arabic, since the contemporary dialects have lost features found in Classical Arabic, such as case. ...
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13 votes

Worldwide map or data for linguistic distance?

As noticed in this answer, Prof. Tyshchenko's work primarily targeted languages spoken in Europe, hence, most of them belong to the Indo-European family; the only exceptions being Basque, Finnish, ...
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  • 8,501
13 votes

What are some interesting features that are common cross-linguistically but don't exist in English?

English lacks a simple vowel system: Cross-linguistically, three (/a/, /i/, /u/) or five (/a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/) vowel systems are very common, having a lot of different vowel qualities like English ...
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13 votes

Which languages have different words for "maternal uncle" and "paternal uncle"?

In the Western variety of the Ukrainian language, maternal uncle is вуйко (vujko) [ˈʋui̯kɔ], and paternal uncle is стрий / стрийко (stryj / stryjko) [strɪi̯] / [ˈstrɪi̯kɔ]. Also, by analogy, maternal ...
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12 votes

Are there any known natural languages in which tense is never (or very rarely) expressed through the modification of verbs?

In Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania, the verbs never change their form, it is the pronouns that have the tense. In Wolof there is I-which-is-now, I-that-will-be, I-that-was, ...
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  • 15.4k
12 votes

Are Hungarian and Turkish related?

Hungarian belongs to the Ugric subgroup of the Uralic language family, while Turkish belongs to the controversial Altaic language family. Nevertheless, Hungarian has had some kind of contact with ...
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11 votes
Accepted

Does the English "Garden" come from the French "Jardin" or the German "Garten"?

First of all, a warning: all these etymologies are to some extent hypothetical. Especially when it gets back to Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European, there's no actual proof of how the language ...
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11 votes

How similar are Ukrainian and Russian?

Russian and Ukranian are mutually intelligeable to a significant degree... perhaps to greater extent than, e.g., French and Italian. However, it is necessary to keep in mind that the situation with ...
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10 votes

From Italian to Spanish, consonant + "i" goes to consonant + "l"?

Spanish and Italian are both languages descended from Latin. As such, many of their words are cognate sharing a common Latin ancestor, but the sounds in these words evolved over time and evolved ...
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10 votes

How different were Proto-Italic and Proto-Germanic?

Even if these languages belong to the Indo-European family, there's a huge gap of time and space standing between Pre-Italic and Pre-Germanic languages. "A probable cladistic tree of the IE family"(a)...
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10 votes
Accepted

Are Latin "virīlis", Punjabi "vīr", Old Irish "fer" , Wels "gwr" and Hindi "var" related?

Latin vir, Sanskrit vīra-, Avestan vīra-, Old Irish fer, Lithuanian výras, Gothic wair, all mean “man” and all derive from Indo-European *wīro- (or *uiH-ro).
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10 votes

How often are dictionary etymologies wrong?

We can't really determine whether an etymology in a dictionary is "correct" or not since we don't know the ground truth to compare. But the editors of etymological dictionaries have taken a great job ...
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9 votes

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

There are forces driving language evolution, and we see two of them at work here. The first driving force is Regularisation. The irregular pattern of latin (indicated by duodeviginti and undeviginti, ...
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9 votes
Accepted

How are Baltic and Slavic languages related?

If you look at the aspect system of Baltic and Slavonic languages, Baltic systems actually resemble the earlier stages of Slavonic systems (Comrie, 1976). In Lithuanian, adding a prefix to a verb root ...
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9 votes

Which Indo European language best preserves the features of Proto Indo-European?

To be honest, I think this is a useless question. All IE languages have preserved certain features of the hypothetical parent language and have lost others. All IE languages need to be taken into ...
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9 votes
Accepted

Statistical Methods in Etymology

You may want to look at D. Ringe's On Calculating the Factor of Chance in Language Comparison, which lays out some of the problems. I believe that uncontrolled variables are the greatest impediment to ...
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9 votes
Accepted

Latin "niger" from *negʷ-?

Semantically it seems easier to start from PIE *negʷ- "dark" (the source of the word for "night" in many languages), though of course it's possible that this and the "naked" root are actually the same ...
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