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41 votes
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Why was "zh" picked to represent /ʒ/, and where does it come from?

It's based on an analogy s : sh :: z : zh, where the first three graphemes already existed in English spelling. Since ⟨z⟩ represents the voiced counterpart to ⟨s⟩, at least some English speakers find ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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14 votes

Earliest recognition that Germanic and Romance languages are related

The question should probably be restated as something like "When did people begin to believe that Romance and Germanic languages were related with some scholarly basis for that belief?" The ...
TKR's user avatar
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14 votes
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Why proto-languages?

You could equally well ask: why languages? The problem you raise, that "Proto-Germanic" was a huge, blurry-edged mass of dialects and variations rather than a single standardized language, is a valid ...
Draconis's user avatar
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11 votes
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Which alphabetic writing system first had spaces between words?

If we allow abjads, Imperial Aramaic in Aramaic script was one of the first to consistently use spacing, from the mid-7th century BCE. This might have been due to the influence of Akkadian cuneiform ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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10 votes
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Was language invented only once or several times?

The question raises three terminological issues: what is "language", what is "invented" and what is "once"? It does presuppose that there was a prior state without language, and a later state with it (...
user6726's user avatar
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10 votes
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Who said "The difference between a language and a dialect is in who has the army"

אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot Max Weinreich As WavesWashSands says, the earliest known published source is Weinreich's article: ...
iacobo'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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Is Panini really the father of Linguistics?

It depends what you mean by "father of linguistics". Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī is the oldest surviving work that could be called a complete linguistic grammar. But Pāṇini wasn't writing in a vacuum: his ...
Draconis's user avatar
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9 votes

Who said "The difference between a language and a dialect is in who has the army"

Max Weinreich is usually said to be the person who created the quip, but according to the Wikipedia entry on him, he was actually quoting someone else.
WavesWashSands's user avatar
8 votes

Why proto-languages?

The concept of a proto-language stands and falls with a tree model of language evolution. While the tree model of language evolution can be successfully applied to many language families leading to ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
8 votes
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When were linguistics departments first established

Oh, before Chomsky. I have a vague recollection that Leonard Bloomfield helped establish an early department with "linguistics" in its name, but I can't find that. However, note "linguistics" in the ...
Greg Lee's user avatar
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8 votes

Why was "zh" picked to represent /ʒ/, and where does it come from?

The practice was encouraged by the widespread use of C+h digraphs th,ph,ch and especially sh, allowing the analogy s:sh::z:zh. The modern spelling sh for [ʃ] derives from Old English sc, then sch or ...
user6726's user avatar
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7 votes
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How are languages classified into families?

"Romance" is based on the historically-known fact that the languages descended from the language of the Romans, who spoke Latin. The classification "Germanic" is also ancient, ...
user6726'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
6 votes

Is Panini really the father of Linguistics?

It is true that Pāṇini is one of the most ancient named linguists in the world (preceded by Yāska, Śākaṭāyana and Śākalya), and is the best-known of that set. It is also true that the Aṣṭādhyāyī is ...
user6726's user avatar
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6 votes
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What is (or was) the exative case?

With the reference given by Matthew Fulton, the Exative is the case denoting the the direction from, i.e., in more standard terminology, the Ablative. The word exative was an ad-hoc invention of ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
5 votes
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What is the difference between generative grammar and transformation grammar?

The "generative" in "generative grammar" is defined by Chomsky in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax as meaning "explicit". Chomsky compares this sense of "generate" to its use in analytic geometry, ...
Greg Lee's user avatar
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5 votes

When were linguistics departments first established

Of course, there were linguistics departments before Chomsky all over the world. Harvard U: 1941 St. Petersburg U (Russia): since 1932 known as the Department of General Linguistics; goes back to ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
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5 votes

Nazis considered Slavs as non-Aryans, but did Nazi linguists classified the Slavic languages as "non-Indo-European"?

The Nazi theory, as summarized here, is not about language relations, it is a claim about genetics, and apparently Hitler was inspired by theories of Hans Günther. This book studies Nazi linguistics, ...
user6726's user avatar
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5 votes

What was the first human language (lets call it X) for which there is actually an X-English dictionary?

Sumerian and Egyptian are the two languages we have the oldest understandable written texts from. Which one counts as "older" is a difficult question to answer, because we can't make ...
Draconis's user avatar
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5 votes
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When and by whom were the terms 'ergative case' and 'absolutive case' coined?

Throwing the term ergative and Ergativ on Google book search I find a salient citation from 1894 in Zeitschrift für Völkerkunde von den Kasus unterscheidet Taplin in den südaustralischen Sprachen ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
5 votes

Recent Breakthroughs in Linguistics

One thing I had to think of is the parallelism between categories, primarily between verb and noun. This is typically attributed to Chomsky (1970, 'Remarks on nominalization'). Chomsky discusses ...
Keelan's user avatar
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5 votes

Recent Breakthroughs in Linguistics

I think a major breakthrough is the wide availability of digital language resources, many of them under open licences with few restrictions (non-commercial use being a typical one). We have now many ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
4 votes

How old is linguistics as a discipline?

Modern syntax was first put on a scientific basis by Zelig Harris and Noam Chomsky: Harris with his development of formal models of phrase structure and Chomsky through his elaboration of Harris' ...
Greg Lee's user avatar
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4 votes

Is Panini really the father of Linguistics?

Father of Linguistics is not an official title that really belongs to anyone. Panini is very important person in history of linguistics but there is no official body to grant this title to him or to ...
Milo Bem's user avatar
  • 189
4 votes
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What is the relationship of Proto-Indo-European, Indo-European, Proto-Germanic and Germanic?

Indo-European and Germanic are language families, not individual languages, and Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Germanic are each the single language that is the reconstructed most recent common ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
  • 2,216
4 votes

Why does Chomsky consider recursion in language to be a "narrow" ability unique to humans?

First you need to understand what recursion is, especially as applicable to linguistic structure. It is typically understood (defined) as the situation where a type α is defined in terms of type α. ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
3 votes

What is the difference between generative grammar and transformation grammar?

"Generative grammar" refers to a broad theory of language advocated by Chomsky and followers since the mid-60's. It includes research in syntax, semantics, phonology and morphology, and is still ...
user6726's user avatar
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