51

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], then Norwegian råbygg has no vowels. The defect in the reasoning there is that in Norwegian, y, å, ø, æ are also "vowel letters", so you have to assume ...


17

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. Amazingly of languages that have this feature I have yet to see one have a specific native name for it. I myself as a Turkish speaker describe this to people ...


17

"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 ability to perceive written material and articulate its content. To even talk about a "rate", you have to settle on comparable units. There are no ...


17

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 Chukchi (among others). Most people don't know what Chukchi sounds like, nor do they know about Khakas, Ket, Mongolian, Malay etc. However, actual exposure to ...


13

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 Mediterranean beside Ancient Greek - Aramaic, Armenian, Persian, Hebrew... English cane would seem to share such an etymology. Another wave of ultimately Sumerian ...


13

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 question: clhp'xwlhtlhplhhskwts': [xɬpʼχʷɬtʰɬpʰɬːskʷʰt͡sʼ] /xɬ-pʼχʷɬt-ɬp-ɬɬ-s=kʷt͡sʼ/ it translates to “then he had had in his possession a bunchberry plant” (Nater ...


12

The WALS (World Atlas of Language Structures) provides an account. The five values of the parameter in their analysis are: Locational (possessor marked by locative case/adposition; 48/240 languages) Genitive (possessor modifies possessed; 22/240 languages) Topic (possessor appears as the topic; 48/240 languages) Conjunctional (possessed modified by adverb/...


12

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 be an African feature so much as a Khoisan feature. As for why they're only a Khoisan feature—it really seems to be pure random luck! Clicks appear ...


11

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 > Spanish palabra 'word' Latin mīrāculum > Old Spanish miráclo > miraglo > Spanish milagro 'miracle' Latin pericŭlum > Old Spanish pericolo > periglo > Spanish ...


11

They both come from Greek συμφωνία.This was used in ancient and mediaeval times as a name for various musical instruments, including a type of drum.


10

As Colin Fine says, the words are somewhat similar in Proto-Indo-European: 'nine' is PIE *h1neun, 'new' is PIE *neuo-. The latter word seems clearly derived from *nu 'now': 'new' is 'that of now'. Phonologically it seems difficult to relate *h1neun to *nu/*neuo-, both because of the initial laryngeal and the final n, neither of which could be added by any ...


10

This was too long for a comment, and I think it starts to go towards an answer, so I've posted it as such. Assumptions are, as I'm sure you're aware, often problematic. Modern Japanese, and to a lesser extent, Late Middle Japanese, are the odd men out when it comes to pronouns in Japonic languages. Old Japanese and the Ryukyuan languages have pronominal ...


10

Portuguese uses ordinal numbers to number five of the seven days of the week. Feira coincides with the term for fair, not the fair of fairy tales, but the fair that is an open-air market. But this is a distortion of the féria word, which means holiday. English name — Portuguese name — Portuguese name using ordinal digits — Literal English meaning — ...


10

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 phrase becomes less polite over time. And it happens in pretty much every situation where a euphemism is used. The classic (SFW) example in English is the name ...


9

The seven-day week is first attested in about the first century BC, in two different forms: the planetary week (where each day is associated with one of the seven visible planets) and the numbered week (where most of the days have the names of numbers, beginning with 1 = Sunday). The planetary week is first attested in Rome, while the numbered week appears ...


9

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 one of four methods to stay unambiguous: Don't use digraphs at all. Write every phoneme with a single character: ŋ instead of ng, x instead of kh, þ instead of ...


9

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 Akkadian this takes us back to about 2500 BC. Old Aramaic distinguishes a determinate state (suffix -ā) and an “absolute” (indefinite) state with suffix zero. Hebrew ...


8

According to 'A history of the Korean language' (p 271) the Korean subject particle ka is a recent development in that language, not being attested at all until the sixteenth century, and probably not in common use until the 18th century and thereafter. This means we can rule out the possibility that it is cognate with the Japanese ga (ie they are not ...


8

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 commented about "ribbit" above; copy-pasting): Incidentally, frogs make a wide array of sounds. Only a single species actually goes "ribbit", the Pacific Treefrog ...


8

This is a long-standing discussion. The idea is that the ancestors of the Indo-Europeans counted on the four fingers (not including the thumb) of one hand. *oktō is a dual meaning “two spans”. The word for “nine” introduces a “new” set of four. The mentioned phonological objections are not insurmountable. The initial laryngeal has been posited mainly to ...


8

As always, 'why' questions are a really bad idea in linguistics. You can reasonably ask these three types of questions: Historical developments within a language Areal / contact impact between languages Hypothesized semantic motivations Googling these three will actually give you plenty of results. A quick search will reveal the following: A: Historical ...


8

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". This of course is a question for historical economics and anthropology, more than linguistics. A related question would be the question of the origins of the ...


7

The similarity of Finnish hän and Scandinavian hann / English he / etc. is coincidental, or a case of later convergence. Germanic *h goes back to earlier *k (thus hann / he / etc. may be related to the -c seen in Latin hic "this"). By contrast, Finnish h usually reflects earlier *š, or sometimes another coronal consonant: a cognate of hän is North Sami son. ...


7

Ian Maddieson's UPSID database will take you some of the way.


7

Is there a common origin? No. Is there some theory to explain this? I propose one: common need. In Is “Huh?” a Universal Word? Conversational Infrastructure and the Convergent Evolution of Linguistic Items, Dingemanse et. al. have found that in 10 languages, (and less carefully studied, 30 languages) Huh? is universal, and that it is a word. ...the ...


7

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 have the same meaning in two languages, and the phenomenon of two sequences of sound (or graphemes) coincidentally being two unrelated valid sentences in different ...


7

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 are at least three qualities of "head" that have a possible metaphor with "chapter". Head = (most) important. So natural that examples are hardly needed. Head = ...


7

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 found one article by Germanist Wilhelm Schoof, "Die deutschen Verwandtschaftsnamen" (Zeitschrift für hochdeutsche Mundarten, 1900, Link), where he coins the term ...


7

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], which are almost all in the "Central Sudanic belt" of subsaharan Africa. They are universal and numerous in the "Khoisan" languages of southern Africa, also ...


6

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 is very different from that of Russian speech. English speech is a continuous flow with a varying intonation, like a song. Here is a random example from a ...


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