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37 votes
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Is there any evidence that the modern word for "bear" is an euphemism which replaced the original taboo word?

You are correct that whilst the argument that the original term was replaced is pretty strong, the arguments for taboo being the reason for its replacement is much less clear-cut. The first thing ...
Tristan's user avatar
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33 votes

What linguistic evidence is there in support of/in opposition to the account of the Tower of Babel?

The main evidence for this is archaeological, not linguistic. Historical linguistics can come up with plausible reconstructions of proto-languages, talk about whether and how they're related, and even ...
Draconis's user avatar
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23 votes

Was cuneiform ever drawn on a surface, as opposed to carved?

I wonder though, given that it remained in used for thousands of years, was this the only way it was ever utilized? As fdb mentions, it was also sometimes carved or hammered into other materials. ...
Draconis's user avatar
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17 votes
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Nations' names for themselves with foreign etymologies

Europe, West Asia, and North Africa is where I'm most familiar with things, so I'll largely restrict myself to those regions, but there is no shortage of peoples or nationalities whose endonym is (...
Tristan's user avatar
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16 votes
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Why did the consonant clusters /ks/ and /ps/ merit their own designated letters in Ancient Greek?

There are multiple possible reasons. Synchronically, /ks/ & /ps/ are the only clusters that commonly occur word or syllable-finally and they also frequently occur as a result of inflection. Other ...
Tristan's user avatar
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13 votes

Nations' names for themselves with foreign etymologies

America has its name from the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, whose first name is of Germanic origin. Việt Nam is Middle Chinese, meaning “Southern Yue”. Iraq is (probably) from Middle Persian ērag,...
fdb's user avatar
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13 votes
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State of language in the hunter-gatherer era of Europe / Levant?

There is no controversy over the existence of the contemporary language faculty as recently as 40 Kya, though we should omit speculations about persistence of Neanderthals and their language capacity ...
user6726's user avatar
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8 votes

Spurious Fs' spawning

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no commonly attested general process by which /f/ spawns in the initial position of a word. Or differently stated, this is not a regular sound change. Rather, ...
pinnerup's user avatar
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8 votes
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Origin of Singapore Cantonese /œː/ being realised as [jɔ]

香, 兩, 想 all belong to the 陽 final in Middle Chinese, which is reconstructed as having (Baxter) jang / (Wang Li) /ĭaŋ/. This final regularly became /œːŋ/ in the 廣府 Guangfu region, as we hear across the ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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7 votes

Etymological link between “govern” and “born”

No, they are not related. Bear has a very solid, established etymology going back from English to Proto-Germanic to Proto-Indo-European. The PIE root is *bʰer-, and it means ‘bear, carry’ all the way ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
7 votes

Was cuneiform ever drawn on a surface, as opposed to carved?

“5000 years ago the old Sumerians wrote on fistfuls of mud, and we can still read what they wrote. 2000 years ago the Chinese were writing on worm excrement (also called silk) and on bamboo shoots, ...
fdb's user avatar
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6 votes

Spurious Fs' spawning

I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘general’ way that initial f spawns, cross-linguistically, so a general answer is probably not possible, but answers for individual languages are, such as this ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
5 votes

Uniquenesses of Hebrew

The first claim sounds kind of meaningless unless we can define what a noun's "object" is. If so, it will probably turn out to be meaningful but false. For the second one, if we're ...
Luke Sawczak's user avatar
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4 votes

Why do languages seem to lose the dual number in particular?

I agree with the other answer but want to add two things. First, this is part of Greenberg's universal 34: No language has a trial number unless it has a dual. No language has a dual unless it has a ...
Keelan's user avatar
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4 votes
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What software for interpreting phonological rules exists?

As you mentioned in the comments, Phono has gotten updated since the DOS days, and now has an online version. The core of the system is the same as it was decades ago: it takes rules in an ...
Draconis's user avatar
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4 votes
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How did οι merge with υ and υι in Koine?

First, οι /oj/ and αι /aj/ monophthongized into something like /ø/ and /æ/. Then those monophthongs merged with the slightly higher vowels /y/ and /e/. This is why υ and ε, the previous letters for /y/...
Draconis's user avatar
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4 votes

To whom did the neogrammarians react?

In many ways the development and adoption of the Neogrammarian paradigm presages the Darwinian revolution in biology (not just in the fact that the family tree model actually originates in pre-...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,871
3 votes

What software for interpreting phonological rules exists?

I will start with what does not exist: a system that implements the proposed computations in some linguistic theory of phonological rules, such as SPE rule theory or autosegmental phonology. On the ...
user6726's user avatar
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3 votes
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Source of Greek long alpha

Yes, this is due to the loss of a nasal: -ans > -ās. The vowel becoming longer when a following consonant disappears is called "compensatory lengthening" and is especially common in ...
Draconis's user avatar
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3 votes
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What is the "principle of uniformity" in historical linguistics?

The uniformitarian principle a.k.a. Uniformitarianism is actually a general scientific premise, that natural laws are the same at all times and places, and conservation of charge is not a quirk of the ...
user6726's user avatar
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3 votes
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Can a strong verb change to weak?

A concrete example: Old English helpan was a strong verb, Modern English help is a completely regular weak verb.
user6726's user avatar
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3 votes
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Mechanism(s) as to how the pronunciations of「也」and its Old Chinese "homophones"/phonetically-derivative glyphs drifted to the modern range of sounds?

Ultimately, this question boils down to "How are these Old Chinese syllables reconstructed to be so similar when even their Middle Chinese reflexes are quite different?" One thing to state ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
  • 7,516
3 votes

Why do languages seem to lose the dual number in particular?

It's simply less salient than the others. If you're going to reduce your stock of numbers from three to two, you'll end up talking about one thing or many things more often than you talk about two ...
Draconis's user avatar
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3 votes
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Origin of Latin Non-Finite Verbal Endings

I've finally found sources for those options here that don't have completely transparent parallels and that don't really require explantion. Infinitives: Present Active: per Weiss 2021, this is ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,871
3 votes

Is there a connection between the Sumerian En and the Semite El?

The Sumerian word en could be translated as "lord" in English, but "lord" doesn't mean "god." A landlord isn't a "land-god", nor are the "lords and ladies&...
cmw's user avatar
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3 votes

Nations' names for themselves with foreign etymologies

I don’t know that they qualify as nations or ethnic groups, but a number of US states have names that are derived from local Native American languages, and thus their associated demonyms are ...
Austin Hemmelgarn's user avatar
3 votes

Nations' names for themselves with foreign etymologies

Origin of the name "Canada" The name “Canada” likely comes from the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata,” meaning “village” or “settlement.” In 1535, two Aboriginal youths told French explorer ...
Aubreal's user avatar
  • 131
2 votes

What was the original pronunciation of 'ä' in German?

If we use standard German spelling as a reference point, probably there simply never was a time when all words currently spelled with ⟨ä⟩ had one vowel sound and all words currently spelled with ⟨e⟩ ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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2 votes

What linguistic evidence is there in support of/in opposition to the account of the Tower of Babel?

I think that you can perhaps shoehorn the Indo-European linguistics into the story of the Tower of Babel, by rejecting all forms of glottochronology (as glottochronology famously dates Proto-Celtic to ...
FlatAssembler's user avatar
2 votes

Has the spread of English removed any phonemes or characteristics from pre-existing languages?

Off the top of my head, English is at least partially responsible for the loss of aspirated consonants in Swahili. The most conservative dialects of Swahili have a four-way contrast between ...
Draconis's user avatar
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