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20 votes
Accepted

How can unrelated language families exist after the evolution of language?

"Unrelated" in linguistics doesn't mean "have different origins". The convention is that we don't say that languages are related unless we have evidence of that relationship from ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.5k
13 votes
Accepted

Timescale for language divergence at ~10,000 years: Polynesian languages vs languages of the Americas?

It's certainly not the case that languages change at anything like a uniform rate, as user6726's answer points out. Nevertheless, I think the answer to your question is a qualified yes. There's one ...
TKR's user avatar
  • 10.9k
12 votes

Vanishing of cases: general trend or specific to indo-European family?

It's not just a modern trend. Four millennia ago we see Hittite (Indo-European) gradually losing its elaborate case-marking system, and Akkadian (Semitic) reducing its three cases to two (and ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.8k
9 votes

How does lexical replacement occur?

For your specific example the rough outline is straightforward even if the exact details are largely unrecoverable: Mycenaean palaces were ruled by a wanax (Linear B 𐀷𐀙𐀏 wa-na-ka), and local ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
  • 2,277
9 votes

In english, what's the origin of pronouncing the `e` as /i/ or /e/?

In Middle English (and even earlier), English scribes had a problem: they had a lot of vowels to represent, and not very many vowel letters to write them with. There were seven long monophthongs /iː ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes
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Are there any case-based languages in which the modal verbs do not change the verb they control to the infinitive form?

Yes, there are plenty, for the simple reason that not all languages (even ones that have case) possess an infinitive. All the examples you mention are fairly closely related Indo-European languages, ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
8 votes

How can unrelated language families exist after the evolution of language?

Some of your historical presumptions are questionable (esp. "single migration"), but that's not a fatal problem. The crux of the problem is the definition of 'related'. This is a scientific ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
7 votes

Charles Hockett - 'F' article?

Here's the citation: Hockett, C. F. (1985). Distinguished lecture: F. American Anthropologist, 87(2), 263-281. The link is here, but it's also behind a paywall. Google Scholar profiles, personal ...
WavesWashSands's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
6 votes

From an evolutionary (language) standpoint, of what use are homonyms?

In the first place, what are called homonyms often aren't. For (your) example, to is only homonymous with too and two when it's unnaturally stressed— ordinarily it's /tə/, not /tu/. Others are ...
StoneyB on hiatus's user avatar
6 votes

Timescale for language divergence at ~10,000 years: Polynesian languages vs languages of the Americas?

The quick answer is "no", what's more important IMO is why. The way in which a language changes over time depends on so many factors that there isn't anything meaningful that can be said ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
5 votes

Timescale for language divergence at ~10,000 years: Polynesian languages vs languages of the Americas?

@Jim Pivarski, I'm not a linguist, either. Here's a few point to ponder. Different Polynesian cultures stayed in contact across the Pacific. According to Navigating the Stars, by Witi Ihimaera, ...
Simon Crase's user avatar
5 votes

How fast is the number of languages spoken today decreasing/increasing?

If language-name plays a central role in determining what "language" one speaks (I speak English, as do hundreds of millions of others), then the number of languages is decreasing. Many languages are ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
5 votes

Where did the discussion of the language faculty between Fitch, Hauser, Chomsky and Pinker and Jackendoff terminate?

The debate ended in 2005. Shortly after this, Chomsky (2005/2008 (written in 2005, and circulated, published in 2008) wrote On Phases which did not acknowledge anything from his previous papers co-...
Ghoti657's user avatar
  • 331
4 votes

Are some languages more advanced than others?

If you mean full-blown natural languages, the answer is negative unless you introduce a notion of advanceness which will handicap some languages with respect to others (e.g. by setting (the length of) ...
jaam's user avatar
  • 504
4 votes

If speech language was before written language, isn't non verbal before speech?

Claims about the evolution of language are all fairly speculative, but the statement is as accurate as any that are made about language. The distinction that you have to attend to is that between ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
4 votes
Accepted

Why not just use demonstratives instead of determiners

I don't consider it easy to justify the distinction between demonstratives and determiners, since as far as I can tell, syntactically at least, there is none. But your example sentences show exactly ...
Omar and Lorraine's user avatar
4 votes

Are some languages more advanced than others?

Some languages make it more difficult (impractical, though maybe not impossible) to express some concepts. For example, most European languages have a wide range of tenses for verbs, including ...
Laurence Renshaw's user avatar
4 votes

In english, what's the origin of pronouncing the `e` as /i/ or /e/?

This, as with so many pronunciations of English vowels that are counterintuitive for speakers of many other languages is due to the Great Vowel Shift (see the diagram below, from Wikimedia). Time ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 9,009
3 votes

Onomatopoeia origin of language?

Modern research on the origin of language focuses on how the "computational capacity of the mind" to process syntax could have arisen. In that sense, whether the first sounds were ...
Davius's user avatar
  • 580
3 votes

Did a "cave man-style" language ever exist?

My answer is a little late but maybe someone will still read it... I believe language started just with sound some higher mammals use - sounds to show pleasure, fear, danger, aggression, and so on. ...
Carl Dombrowski's user avatar
2 votes
Accepted

Why and how do some words come to mean multiple completely unrelated things?

There are a number of mechanisms: Phonological changes: two (or more) words with unrelated etymologies which were not homophones may merge due to a series of sound changes. Semantic drift/semantic ...
ubadub's user avatar
  • 626
2 votes

Why are spoken languages more common than signed languages?

As with the other respondees here, I do not know the answer to your question, but can speculatively suggest one main one. All natural languages accommodate the fact that there is a pay-off between ...
Araucaria - him's user avatar
2 votes

Is there a notion of ordering the simple voice sounds a human makes in terms of difficulty, evolutionarily speaking?

The research question as stated is unaccessible to scientific methods. We don't have sound recordings or inscriptions dating back to 50,000 years before present, nor do we have test subjects with the ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
2 votes

In english, what's the origin of pronouncing the `e` as /i/ or /e/?

Modern English "be" derives from Middle English [be:n]. Here is the entry for Middle English. There was a historical sound change where [e:] changed to [i:], [æ:] changed to [e:] and so on – ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
1 vote
Accepted

Is there a notion of ordering the simple voice sounds a human makes in terms of difficulty, evolutionarily speaking?

There is no specific line of research / results addressing this question, but in principle there could be a line of research that one could undertake. This requires knowledge of human and ape anatomy, ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
1 vote

Phoneme production metrics

Segments are not intrinsically hard, or easy, to produce, so there is no ranking of segments. It may be possible to derive a subject pool-specific ranking, where a pool of subjects have a difficulties ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
1 vote

Comparing two cognate lists, how do I determine validity?

An out of the blue comparison of two lists of letter-collections (I won't call them words) might well be provided to prove that two writing systems are computationally interchangeable: step one is ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
1 vote

Comparing two cognate lists, how do I determine validity?

First level check: Factually correctness Do the words mean what they are claimed to mean? Are they well-attested and not disputed (The Hebrew Bible contains some hapaxes [words occurring only once] ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar

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