70 votes
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Is Sanskrit really the mother of all languages?

No, it is not. First and foremost, there are many languages recorded long before the advent of Sanskrit, and many religions recorded long before the advent of Hinduism. The oldest surviving texts in ...
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64 votes
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Were ancient languages as sophisticated as modern languages?

Or are there any examples of historic languages with far fewer words and being much more basic? Interestingly enough, there are not! Nor are there any examples of "more basic" modern languages (*). ...
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47 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

Ancient Greek word ΣΑΣΤΗΡ (sastēr) From 1890 to 1899, in pieces, a white marble slab was found by archaeologists in the ruins of an Ancient Greek colony Chersonesus, Greek Χερσόνησος (Khersónēsos), on ...
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39 votes

Why is Edenics not recognized as a serious linguistic theory?

Modern linguistics does not rule out the possibility that all languages of the world descended from a single language. But the mainstream consensus seems to be an agnostic one: Most think that this ...
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  • 2,125
38 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

There are many such words. Even for a really well-attested dead language like Latin such words are known, e.g., aurichalc, haematopus, or cortumio (all three examples taken from the answers to this ...
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37 votes
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Are language and thought the same?

The idea that language and thought are one and the same, that thoughts cannot exist without language, is sometimes called strong linguistic determinism or the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (*). It's ...
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33 votes

Why is Edenics not recognized as a serious linguistic theory?

As an addendum to cyco130's excellent answer, it's easy to see based on simple math that resemblances like the ones you cite can tell us nothing about language relationship. From looking at some of ...
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31 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

A surprising example is that one of the words in the "Lord's Prayer", one of the most significant prayers of the Christian tradition, has an unknown meaning. The original Greek word is ...
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30 votes

Why were writing systems invented independently during roughly the same period across multiple civilizations?

From the source: Full writing-systems appear to have been invented independently at least four times in human history: first in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) where cuneiform was used between 3400 ...
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29 votes

Is Sanskrit really the mother of all languages?

Sanskrit is not the mother of all languages. Sanskrit is not even the mother of the modern Indo-Aryan languages of the Northern India. Neither it is their father or grandfather. In fact, no language ...
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28 votes

Why do some Indo-European languages have genders and some don't?

The origin of grammatical gender is not necessarily well understood, but presumably it originated like any other inflectional feature and then became associated with gender when it was noticed that ...
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  • 1,849
27 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

In Genesis 6:14, Noah's Ark is made of עצי גפר (gopher wood). "Gopher" is just a phonetic transliteration of the ancient Hebrew גֹּפֶר. No one knows what it means, except that it is ...
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26 votes
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Why is it called proto-Germanic?

Roman authors, at the latest from the time of Caesar, used "Germani" to identify all the "Germanic" tribes on both sides of the Rhine. So this usage has been established for a long ...
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26 votes

Why is it called proto-Germanic?

It's also worth pointing out the term originates in German as Urgermanisch or Protogermanisch, and that the German for German is Deutsch, not Germanisch. It was intended to be more neutral w.r.t. ...
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24 votes

Why is Edenics not recognized as a serious linguistic theory?

The reason "Edenics" isn't taken seriously is that it isn't, by scientific standards, serious. To establish a kinship between two languages, linguists need to have whole series of words that can be ...
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23 votes

Does the letter p in a word mean that the word is not Germanic?

Not always. Grimm's Law predicts that Proto-Indo-European *b would turn into Proto-Germanic *p. However, Proto-Indo-European *b is vanishingly rare, and some scholars argue it didn't actually exist in ...
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21 votes

What is the meaning of the number 2 in Proto-Indo European reconstructions? e.g. As in *tewtéh₂, meaning "people" or "tribe"

The numbers are specific to Proto-Indo-European. Scholars aren't sure how PIE was pronounced: after all, there are no native speakers around now, or records from the time. All of the sounds in ...
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21 votes
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How did Greek loanwords with 'ae' come to be pronounced [i] in modern English?

Greek αι (/aj/) was regularly borrowed into Latin as ae (/aj/*). In Latin, ae eventually monophthongized into /ɛː/; in Vulgar Latin/Proto-Romance, vowel length was lost and this eventually merged with ...
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19 votes
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Do any languages use {woman} as the root for human?

In Arabic the word for “human being of either sex” is ʼinsān, from the same root as nisāʼ “women”. The usual word for “male human being” is rajul.
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19 votes
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Which Indo European language best preserves the features of Proto Indo-European?

There are many possible answers to this question. Historically, the comparative method was born from observing the regularity of phonological and morphological correspondences between Classical ...
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18 votes
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Origin of h as a modifier letter

To my understanding, it comes from TH and PH. In Ancient Greek, there were "aspirated" consonants written Θ and Φ, which literally sounded like "t followed by h" and "p followed by h". So when words ...
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18 votes

Origin of "boor"

It's just a coincidence. The Hebrew and Arabic words come from a root B-W-R "to lie fallow"; compare the Arabic verbs بَوَّرَ (bawwara) and بَارَ (baara). The metaphor of "thoughts = ...
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18 votes
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How well do Semitic languages preserve consonants over time?

Semitic languages don't always preserve consonants perfectly. In fact, I don't think that there is any Semitic language without multiple classes of conjugation to account for irregularities. All ...
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17 votes
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How stable are grammatical genders?

There is no simple answer. In languages with gender - less than half* - the gender of specific words often varies not just by time but by dialect. Likewise it varies across languages in a language ...
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17 votes

Are Andean and Tibetan languages connected?

Machu Picchu, from machu pikchu, means "old peak" in Quechua, whereas Macha-puchare from Nepali माछापुच्छ्रे (माछा "fish" + पुच्छर "tail") means "fishtail" (describing the double peak at the summit). ...
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  • 66.6k
17 votes

Are language and thought the same?

These examples show that in some way thought continues even if you temporarily lose language: [neuroanatomist .. was struck with a left hemisphere haemorrage.] Over the course of 3-4 hours, she ...
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  • 171
16 votes
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How different were Proto-Italic and Proto-Germanic?

As you noticed, there is something common between modern Romance and Germanic languages which is not shared by other Indo-European languages. It does not come from their ancestral languages (Latin and ...
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16 votes

Why are the reconstructed forms of PIE root in Etymonline and Wiktionary different?

The main problem with these particular reconstructions is that the author of "etymonline" does not use diacritics. In fact, there is a very significant difference between *g and *ǵ (they develop ...
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  • 22.6k
16 votes

Why was India as the homeland of PIE abandoned?

When a word can be reconstructed to a proto-language, it is generally assumed that there was such a word in the proto-language. Then if the meaning of the word can also be reconstructed, it is ...
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