33 votes
Accepted

Why do even completely illiterate persons, who speak their national language poorly, speak their local dialect with perfection?

This clashes with my long-held idea that in order to learn to speak a language - even one's native language - with perfect compliance with the rules, one must have had the rules taught to him/her, ...
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24 votes

Why do even completely illiterate persons, who speak their national language poorly, speak their local dialect with perfection?

This clashes with my long-held idea that in order to learn to speak a language - even one's native language - with perfect compliance with the rules, one must have had the rules taught to him/her, ...
user avatar
17 votes

Why does Russian not vary from region to region?

First of all, it varies to some extent. People from Ural region, people from Rostov-on-Don, people from Vyatka region have quite recognisable pronunciation norms. The same with vocabulary, there's ...
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  • 907
16 votes

How does an original proto language produce its daughter languages?

A proto-language is a hypothesis - it's a theory about the history of a language family. A proto-language is a model of the closest common ancestor of the daughter languages, but which is not directly ...
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  • 5,406
14 votes

How does an original proto language produce its daughter languages?

The theory is that there is a community, whose members speak "a language" (one language). They go about life, roaming the plains of whatever, and their children learn that language. As long ...
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  • 66.5k
12 votes

Why do even completely illiterate persons, who speak their national language poorly, speak their local dialect with perfection?

One aspect is that you're suffering from confirmation bias. Those people define their dialect. The only ones to judge the correctness of their speech are themselves. Everyone is a master in their own ...
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  • 221
11 votes
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What quantity-level of mutual intelligible words are needed for claiming dialects to be languages?

There are many measures of lexical similarity or linguistic distances but neither can tell you whether something is a dialect or a language outside a very constrained context. It is easy to come up ...
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11 votes
Accepted

What exactly is the "German Language"

Everything that is designated with the word German somehow concerns the continental Germanic dialect continuum. This designates a region from southern Denmark in the North to South Tyrol (Alto Adige) ...
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  • 1,119
11 votes
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The "th" sound as a plosive in British dialects

Th-stopping has always been a distinctive feature of Irish English, where the phonological distinction between [t] and [t̪], [d] and [d̪] is mostly maintained. It is not characteristic of most ...
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  • 5,503
10 votes
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What is it called when a person pronounces the letter t in the word "metal" as something more similar to a d sound?

The phenomenon is known as "flapping", and the result, transcribed as [ɾ], is a "flap". It also applies to /d/, but people notice it most when applied to /t/ since the result is more different ...
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10 votes
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Is there a clear linguistic reason for Swiss German not being considered its own Germanic language?

Is the premise of the question actually true? Alemannic German actually is considered its own language for many purposes. For example, it has its own ISO code, Wikipedia etc. As far as I know, ...
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9 votes

Why do even completely illiterate persons, who speak their national language poorly, speak their local dialect with perfection?

It comes down to the difference between natural acquisition and book-learning. Everybody learns their native language perfectly, just by constant exposure and use. Nobody ever teaches you the rules of ...
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  • 66.5k
8 votes

How different are Urdu and Hindi?

How do Hindi and Urdu actually differ? Is the relationship between the (spoken) languages more like the relationship between Glaswegian English and American English or Spanish and Portuguese? ...
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  • 111
8 votes
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Why do some English speakers insert a /t/ in ⟨else⟩ and say /ɛlts/?

In /l/, there's a closure between the sagittal middle of the tongue and the roof of the mouth. Air is released along the sides of the tongue. In /s/, more or less the opposite happens. The sides of ...
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  • 851
8 votes
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How different are Chinese dialects?

Your question is an interesting one, in general how to compare the comparisons of languages and more specifically about the Chinese family. The usual qualitative measure of difference is mutual ...
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  • 4,304
8 votes

What ways do you know to encourage people to come up with different ways of saying the same thing?

I'm not sure whether this will meet your needs, but my colleague Pete Becker used to do a little trick to generate descriptions. He wanted to underline the point that there were an infinite number of ...
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  • 9,607
8 votes
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Is there a linguistic term for replacing past tense verb with present tense?

Sometimes this phenomenon is known as the narrative present or (especially by Latinists) historical present. Another potential phenomenon going on is that your dialect has developed relative tense. ...
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  • 2,324
7 votes

Consensus among linguists about Ryukyuan varieties of Japonic

Having talked to Shibatani after the book was published, I can pretty safely say that he has since changed his mind. I think the basic consensus among linguists who have some specialization in ...
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  • 1,196
7 votes
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Is Occitan a single language or have its different dialects become separate languages?

I'm looking for the general distinction between a language and a dialect and a language family; what makes it one rather than the other? How are languages and dialects distinguished from one another? ...
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  • 2,944
7 votes
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Difference between dialect levelling and pidgin formation?

In the process of dialect levelling, the grammatical system of the dialects (tense, nominal case systems, other complex features) usually stays intact. The dialects undergoing dialect levelling are ...
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7 votes
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Are consonants more stable than vowels?

There are some factors that make vowels more volatile than consonants in general Consonants have fixed points of articulation and modes of articulation while vowels live in a continuous space In most ...
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7 votes
Accepted

Origin of the English word 'tooth' being pronounced /tʊθ/?

I don't know anything about the change in pronunciation of this particular word, so this is just a partial answer. The more general sound change this is a part of is shortening of /uː/ (from Middle ...
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6 votes

Minimal Pairs Highlighting the Difference between American and British English

The problem is that "minimal pair" refers to two distinct words in one language signified by the choice of one vs. another sound. So minimal pairs are not what you want. You want a list of "same word"...
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  • 66.5k
6 votes

How do linguists differentiate a dialect from a language?

The closest to a general consensus is the criterion of mutual intelligibility: if speakers of the lects can understand each other, they are dialects, otherwise they are languages. This immediately ...
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  • 66.5k
6 votes
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What's this punctuating feature of some peoples' English?

It's a "tag". Here is a paper on tags. Armagost 1972 English declarative tags, intonation tags, and tag questions is a good introduction, IMO. Your examples are "declarative tags" (section I), and ...
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  • 66.5k
6 votes

Can Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian be considered linguistically distinct?

I grew up the in the former Yugoslavia, and the language I studied in school was called Serbocroatian, which was spoken in four out of the six republics of the union. You were basically studying the ...
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  • 151
6 votes
Accepted

Calabrian/Sicilian and unstressed e/o

Not all Calabrian is the same Calabrian (it: Calabrese) is the name given to the romance dialect continuum spoken in Calabria. It is commonly divided into two different language groups: In the ...
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  • 2,944
6 votes
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Conflation of language dialects and phonology

There are a number of speech-form clusters in the world, that is, genetically related languages which are so structurally similar that they are said to be "dialects" of a language – e.g. Saami, Shona, ...
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  • 66.5k
6 votes

Can the "dialect continuum" phenomenon be recognized from Rome to Lisbon?

Yes, it can. Just going along the mediterranean cost there is a nice chain of dialects from Roman, Tuscan, Ligurian, Provençal, Langedoc, Catalan, Southern Castillian to Portuguese. Maybe there is a ...
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6 votes
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Is the voiceless alveolar affricate, [t͡s], phonetically present in General American?

Phonetically, [t͡s] does indeed exist in General American. In every dialect of English I'm familiar with, [t͡s] is the realization of /ts/, both within a syllable and between syllables. I don't know ...
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