52 votes
Accepted

What is the longest word without a vowel in any language?

The question could be interpreted as being about "vowel letters". "Twyndyllyngs" is a candidate: said to come from Welsh. If we take "vowels" to be the letters [ieaou], ...
user6726's user avatar
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21 votes
Accepted

Reversal of kinship terms when speaking to a child

Is there a name for this phenomenon? There are several in fact, but there doesn't seem to be a single unified term, which is quite a problem because it makes looking it up a real pain in the neck. ...
madprogramer's user avatar
19 votes

Is there a list of word meanings that are universally represented in all languages?

The Natural Semantic Metalanguage is a project that aims to identify the universal building blocks of human language, or "semantic primes". After four decades of empirical research they have ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
  • 6,136
17 votes

Can Hangul be read as fast as Chinese?

"Reading" means a number of different things, a problem that needs to be be addressed before questions of Hangul vs. English can be addressed. At the most basic level, it refers to the ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 82.1k
17 votes

What makes East-Asian languages sound different than European languages?

Asian languages don't "sound alike" and don't "sound different" from European languages, because languages of Asia include Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Armenian, Indian languages, and ...
user6726's user avatar
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17 votes
Accepted

Is there a list of word meanings that are universally represented in all languages?

No, there may not be any universal meanings. Here is an example. In most (maybe all) Bantu languages, there is no word for "hand" and no word for "arm", because there is a word ...
user6726's user avatar
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14 votes

What is the longest word without a vowel in any language?

There's a word (a sentence actually) in the Canadian language Bella Coola (aka Nuxalk) that only consists of obstruents (no vowels at all) and is longer than the Czech word you mentioned in the ...
Mellifluous's user avatar
  • 1,379
13 votes

Are There Ancient Greek Words Descended From Sumerian?

Yes, a few: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Ancient_Greek_terms_derived_from_Sumerian They were mostly borrowed via Akkadian, and into other major classical languages of the Eastern ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
13 votes

How did 'cocodrilo' originate from 'crocodile'?

This is an example of metathesis, the rearranging of sounds or syllables in a word. It occurred in a number of words in the evolution from Latin to Spanish: Latin parabola > Old Spanish parabla > ...
iacobo's user avatar
  • 3,102
12 votes

Non-African Click Languages

Not even African languages in general: clicks seem to have originated only in the Khoisan language "family" (*), and spread from there into neighboring languages. In other words, clicks don't seem to ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 64.1k
10 votes
Accepted

Offensive words over time in other languages

This is indeed a cross-linguistic phenomenon! Stephen Pinker named it the "Euphemism Treadmill" in his book The Blank Slate; the more general linguistic term is "pejoration", when a certain word or ...
Draconis's user avatar
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9 votes
Accepted

Do valid sentences of phrases that have different meanings in different languages exist? How are they called?

There doesn't seem to be an accepted name for this type of bilingual punning. "Bilingual sentence" might seem appropriate, but it would ambiguously describe both the phenomenon of sentences that ...
Typhon's user avatar
  • 1,023
9 votes
Accepted

Is there a tendency to name money after other things?

Although anecdotally the answer to the question is a confident "yes", there is a big complication: the many concepts of economic value that are bundled into the Western European concept of "money". ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
  • 7,281
9 votes
Accepted

How do we know for sure a transliteration is lossless?

A transliteration system is usually either designed to be lossless, or not. To know whether it is or not, you have to know the target language. Lossless transliteration systems generally have to use ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 64.1k
8 votes

Animal sounds across languages

Onomatopoeia is non-arbitrary, but that doesn't mean it's immune to the normal processes that happen to any arbitrary word—including: arbitrary historical choices of onomatopoeia (like @acattle ...
Nick Nicholas's user avatar
8 votes

How is chapter related to head?

We can't know exactly which quality led so many languages to independently develop or borrow the metaphor — etymological dictionaries rarely speculate on the "why" — but here are my thoughts. There ...
Luke Sawczak's user avatar
  • 2,392
8 votes
Accepted

When/how did "articles" like "the" first appear in language?

At least three ancient Semitic languages (Sabaic, Arabic, Old Akkadian) use suffixes like -n and -m to mark indefinite nouns, though the details differ from language to language. In the case of ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 23.8k
8 votes

Could Cimmerian be a transitional language between Iranian and Slavic?

With only three personal names surviving our knowledge of the Cimmerian language is extremely limited. And even for that three names it is unclear how to read them, different readings have been ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
8 votes

Are there any languages where you say "My age is x years"?

Indonesian has two main ways of telling age, both use the Arabic borrowing umur “age”, from Arabic عُمْر‎ (ʿumr) “lifespan, age”. In order to say “Ali is 20 years old”, the first way is to use umur ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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7 votes

Which languages have absorbed the most vocabulary from Russian, and which languages have influenced its vocabulary?

My guess is this question has more to do with history and culture than language per se. You can say that English was influenced by French 'a lot' due to the Norman conquest (you can probably speak ...
alexsms's user avatar
  • 171
7 votes

Reversal of kinship terms when speaking to a child

I wondered about this and answered my own question on the German StackExchange. The phenomenon exists in German dialects, but not Standard German (with the possible exception of Pate; see below). I ...
David Vogt's user avatar
7 votes
Accepted

Non-African Click Languages

This is an example of areal phonetics, where certain phonetic properties are relatively widely exploited in one area, but is rare (or nonexistent) elsewhere. Another example is labiovelars such as [kp]...
user6726's user avatar
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6 votes
Accepted

How many languages are there which use the Arabic Script, besides Arabic?

SIL has lists of two varieties of Arabic script and languages that use them: mostly here, some here. This give about 250 languages, subject to the usual language-inflation that they engage in, and ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 82.1k
6 votes

Does English language stand special in terms of phonology?

I am a Japanese student who learns both English and Russian, so I can compare both languages as a "neutral" person, and I think the root cause of your problem is that the mechanics of English speech ...
Mitsuko's user avatar
  • 391
6 votes

The relationship between "orange" the colour and "orange" the fruit

Alain Pannetier answers this pretty comprehensively, but there are some other notable exceptions where the word for the colour "orange" is cognate to neither orange, Portugal, nor appelsien: Other ...
iacobo's user avatar
  • 3,102
6 votes

Which languages have absorbed the most vocabulary from Russian, and which languages have influenced its vocabulary?

You can find examples of words borrowed into Russian language on Wiktionary RU. However, this is far from being a comprehensive list. The number of words borrowed from Turkic languages is somewhere ...
Vitaly's user avatar
  • 161
6 votes
Accepted

How is chapter related to head?

It's useful in linguistics to distinguish between the 'why' and the 'how'. The 'why' question is easy in the case of European languages because we know that in this part of the world, books and ...
Unbrutal_Russian's user avatar
6 votes

Is there a better series of sentences for observing features of a language?

You're essentially describing the field-worker's script. In reality, such a list is an ever-growing project constructed on the basis of previous results (when e.g. you discover that you can't use the -...
user6726's user avatar
  • 82.1k
6 votes

How to remove an accent from a language (and what an accent actually is)

This will all make more sense if we replace accent, which is a relative term used mostly by non-linguists, with pronunciation. if there is such thing as "speaking a language without an accent" No, ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

What cases are typical for nouns accompanying the subject?

There are basically three ways accompaniment can be expressed: The language has a special "comitative" case, which is used for accompaniment: Finnish ystävineen, "with some friends". (Note that in ...
Draconis's user avatar
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