58 votes
Accepted

Is it unusual that English uses possessive for past tense?

This is what's called a "Sprachbund" feature: it's a trait shared by a bunch of languages in an area, even ones that aren't genetically related. In particular, this one is a feature of the "Standard ...
Draconis's user avatar
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15 votes
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Derivatives of Latin *mulier* in French

The Trésor de la langue française has most the answer to your question in the etymology section for femme: From Classical Latin femina “female”, then “woman, wife” which competed against the Latin ...
Gilles 'SO- stop being evil''s user avatar
15 votes
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Does the French word for Friday, "vendredi", come from the Latin "Veneris" or the old Norse "Vanadis"?

Very unlikely! While the phonetic similarities are real, the old Norse name of the weekday etymologically goes back to Frig's day, and not Freyja's day. The actual form of the Norse word is ...
Darkgamma's user avatar
  • 1,427
13 votes
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How do illiterate French people learn which pronunciation to use in different sentences?

I don't think the question of "are these two words, or one word with two forms" is particularly interesting linguistically, at least, not if you're basing the answer on the intuitions of illiterate ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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12 votes
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How is French written in telegraphy and other settings in which diacritics are not possible?

There is no common conventions in French for replacing letters with diacritics by digraphs. In contexts where the diacritics are not available, the usage is just to omit them. This is still common ...
AProgrammer's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

What came first: «starboard» or «estribor»?

According to CRNTL1 and the RAE2: Proto-Germanic *steuraz + *burdą Old English stēorbord Middle English sterbord English starboard Classic Dutch stierboord (1588) Old French destribort (1550)9 /...
iacobo's user avatar
  • 3,112
11 votes
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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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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11 votes

Why do object pronouns precede the predicate in French, while R-expressions follow it?

Words like je, le, lui are historically pronouns (meaning: they derive from Latin freestanding pronouns) and are treated orthographically as separate words, but from a synchronic point of view they ...
fdb's user avatar
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11 votes

Which language is more complex, English or French? Is it even possible to objectively measure a language's complexity?

This is a (perhaps surprisingly) complex question. The short answer is that it's a widely-held axiom that no naturally-spoken languages are more or less complex than others, but solid proof of this is ...
Draconis's user avatar
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10 votes

Why the French 'noir' has perspired in so many languages?

The French word ‘noir’ means ‘black’ and it is used in the names of art genres which are characterized by their dark atmosphere. Historically, the first such genre to which ‘noir’ was applied was film ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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10 votes

When did people realize French has its root in Latin?

It was the other way around: at some point people realized that French was not Latin (i.e., it was no more vulgar Latin=colloquial language, but a language in its own right.) Similar thing happened to ...
Roger V.'s user avatar
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9 votes
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Why does French "cheveu(x)" have "eu" and not "eau"?

L /kasˈtɛl.lʊm/ > VL /kasˈtɛl.lũ/ > OF /t͡ʃahˈtɛl/ > MF /ʃaˈtɛau/> F /ʃaˈto/ L /ˈwɛ.tʊ.lʊm/ > VL /ˈβɛ.lũ/ > /ˈvjɛ.lu/ > OF /vjɛl/ > MF /vjɛu/ > F /vjø/ L /kaˈpɪl.lʊm/ ...
Kenny Lau's user avatar
  • 661
9 votes

Does the French word for Friday, "vendredi", come from the Latin "Veneris" or the old Norse "Vanadis"?

The etymology of vendredi is completely straightforward. It is from “Veneris dies” (the day of Venus), well attested in Roman texts as the name for one of the seven days of the “planetary” week.
fdb's user avatar
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9 votes
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Does "Je n’ai jamais vu personne" truly have triple negatives? Isn't 'ne' the only negative?

The "one negator" interpretation would be a "historical" way of looking at it. There are a couple of problems with using that analysis for present-day French. "J'ai jamais vu personne" does not ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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9 votes

Language in England during 1066

It depends on who "we" are. French (or rather, Anglo-Norman French) was never the universal language of England, but it was the first language of the ruling class. The kings were first-language ...
user6726's user avatar
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9 votes
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Free variation in French

That is not an example of free variation but loss of an opposition (a phonological merger). Free variation is a situation where two or more options are available and interchangeable. For example, ...
Nardog's user avatar
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9 votes
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Why do French words tend to become so much more intense in English?

It's because of a generalized phenomenon where loans generally have a narrower, more specific meaning in their destination language than in their original language. The best example is in my opinion ...
Typhon's user avatar
  • 1,023
9 votes
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Evidence that ø and œ are separate phonemes in French?

There is an opposition between /ʒøn/ in "jeûne" and /ʒœn/ in "jeune" but the opposition between ø and œ is clearly not productive anymore. addendum #1: as you said, the opposition ...
suizokukan's user avatar
  • 2,007
8 votes

Fronting of /u/ from Latin to French

The question does not accurately summarize the relevant sound changes. Latin short /u/ was not fronted to /y/. Only Latin long /uː/, as in dūrus /duːrus/, regularly developed to /y/ in French. (Of ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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8 votes
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Some “linguistic formulas” to translate French texts into English?

Unfortunately, it can't be done. Translation is an immensely complicated process, and nobody's ever made a mathematical procedure that can do it with any reliability. The best we have right now are ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
8 votes

Latin jūs and sūcus, and the words in Romance languages

sorry - no time to write, just posting a screenshot from Penny 2002:
Alex B.'s user avatar
  • 8,744
8 votes

Evidence that ø and œ are separate phonemes in French?

The distinction between French open-mid and close-mid vowels is often neutralized or unstable in certain positions. The distribution of the sounds also varies in some cases between dialects, so it's a ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.1k
7 votes

Did Latin "cum" get replaced in French by "avec" because "con" sounded obscene?

I am not a specialist in Old French, but I suspect that the obscene homophony was not the primary cause for the substitution of Early French con (< Latin cum) with avec (< Latin apud hoc or ab ...
Artemij Keidan's user avatar
7 votes

How do we get from Greek τρόπος to French trouver?

The Ancient Greek word τρόπος meant originally "turn", hence various meanings like "way (to be), manner, style"... and even "way to sing/compose" like in Plato's Republic 424c μουσικῆς τρόποι "~ ...
suizokukan's user avatar
  • 2,007
7 votes

How do we get from Greek τρόπος to French trouver?

The derivation of trouver “to find” < *trobare < *tropare, supposedly meaning “to compose poetry” < tropos “rhetorical figure” can be found in many respectable etymological dictionaries, but ...
fdb's user avatar
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7 votes

As French is a so-called Roman language, where are the cases?

Language families classify languages according to their history. Italian, French, Spanish and so on are Romance languages because there was a gradual evolution from Latin to these languages. Evolution ...
Gilles 'SO- stop being evil''s user avatar
7 votes

Gold in French, light in Hebrew

The Hebrew root אור has cognates in Aramaic אור, Ugaritic 'r, Akkadian ūru, urru, and Arabic 'awwara (reference from here). Hebrew 'ōr and Ugaritic ar likely both came from an original Northwestern ...
b a's user avatar
  • 2,775
7 votes

How did « admettre » semantically generalize to signify 'confess'?

I would say the Latin verb admitto had already in classical times acquired a sense fairly close to the modern French/English sense. Cf.: "quid ego tantum sceleris admisi miser?" — Terentius, ...
Cerberus's user avatar
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7 votes
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Stark differences in French and German

The short answer is, sounds change really fast. Compare different regional accents in English (Southern, East Coast, Australian, Indian)—outside of Britain, all of these differences have arisen in the ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
7 votes

How is French written in telegraphy and other settings in which diacritics are not possible?

Absolutely, jst lke Englsh cn wrk jst fne wth all the vwls in the mddle of wrds rmvd cmpltly. If you're a native English-speaker, you probably read that sentence without much difficulty, even though I ...
Draconis's user avatar
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