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63

Classification of languages is a historical thing, rather than a synchronic one. Just like genetic classification of humans—someone who marries into a new family and goes and lives with them is nonetheless still genetically related to the family they came from. The majority of the total vocabulary in English may be borrowed rather than inherited, but the ...


39

The claim cited in the quote is definitely wrong. The existence of language families is inferred from the data on extant and ancient languages, and there is a rigorous methodology used in this inferential process. So, it does not matter who looks at the data, experts from all over the world should come to an agreement on the existence and membership of a ...


25

Did Hebrew replace Yiddish? I would say the decline of Yiddish and the rise of Hebrew are separate. Yiddish declined suddenly because of the Holocaust. It arguably would have declined anyway, but it did decline in every country where the surviving Yiddish-speakers ended up - mainly the US and the Soviet Union, where they switched to English and Russian. ...


19

This is a difficult question. Greek is perceived as one language despite the fact that Classical Greek is no longer intelligible for a native speaker of Modern Greek without exposure to the classical language. For the Romance language, the split into several different descendants (Italian, Provençal, French, Spanish ...) surely helped to form different ...


19

The Indo-European family is completely made up, yes. But not for the reason cited in that comment. And the fact it's made up doesn't mean it's not real. Sciences often posit the existence of things we can't actually directly observe, just because these things explain what we can observe. In Ancient Greece, some simple thought experiments showed that atoms ...


18

Linguists make a distinction between prescriptive and descriptive grammar, and the answer to your question depends on which of the two you are talking about. Prescriptivists set forth their rules with the idea of causing a more perfect language to come into being, so prescriptive rules come before the language that, it is hoped, will conform to those rules. ...


18

Rather than a direct answer, let me explain why it makes little sense to ask such a question. Current languages didn't appear at a distinct moment in time,[1] but rather it evolved gradually from an older language. For example, Bulgarian (see Bulgarian language#History) descended from Proto-Slavic (also ancestor of other Slavic languages, e.g. Russian), ...


18

It's an even more complicated story than that! In fact, in the 19th C, there was a strong literary scene of modern novels in Hebrew among European Jews before there was a strong Yiddish literary scene. It still wasn't really spoken until Eliezer ben Yehuda's work in Ottoman Palestine, which was partially based on a marketplace Hebrew that was arising from ...


17

The Greeks had most probably noticed a similarity of their language with Phrygian. Socrates at least did so while speaking to Hermogenes: "Well then, consider whether this pyr is not foreign ; for the word is not easily brought into relation with the Hellenic tongue, and the Phrygians may be observed to have the same word slightly changed, just as they have ...


13

If you don't want to get into details of linguistics (which I take it you don't) the best way to see the family resemblance is to take a comparative look at English's closest linguistic relative found on mainland Europe: Frisian. Some sample words in Frisian, English, Dutch, and German: dei, day, dag, Tag rein, rain, regen, Regen wei, way, weg, Weg ...


13

This is an interesting question, though it really is a question of history or statistics, rather than linguistics. The "most spoken language in history" is certainly a modern language, just because the world population increased exponentially in the past few centuries. Most human languages last for a few hundred to a thousand or so years before it ...


12

It wasn't always written this way: in the earliest records of written Polish (such as the Bull of Gniezno), the letters "u" and "v" were used for this sound as well. There was no official "standard" for Polish orthography (or, for that matter, the Polish language) until the 18th century. At this point, the letter "w" had already come to mean /v/ in German, ...


11

Yes, Old Church Slavonic (OCS) was an artificial language, but just in a way. Firstly, in the 9th century, when Cyrill and Methodius devised the OCS, all the Slavic languages and dialects were so close, that they were closer to one another than the modern English dialects inside England. Secondly, Cyrill and Methodius did not create any new phonological ...


10

O is basically just a circle, so unlike with C/G, the visual similarity with Q is trivial. You could equally wonder if C being O with a chunk taken out has to do with anything. Q and O derive from two different Phoenician letters, qop and ayin; back then, they actually did have something in common since both were "throaty" consonants; however, since the ...


10

It depends on whether you mean strictly English (since gender is an English word) or do you include the historical antecedents in other languages. The origin of the concept and term is Aristotle in Rhetoric (though Aristotle attributes the idea to Protagoras), and the Greek term is genos, which simply means "kind". It worked its way into French as genre, ...


10

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 orthography. It is true that cursive Hebrew on the ostraca tend to omit dots, and we see here a simplification of dots to spaces the more cursive the writing is....


10

As jk says, there are very few Latin loans in English from pre-Saxon times. English does have quite a lot of words borrowed from Latin and Romance, but the vast majority of them come from well after the Saxon invasion. It's worth noting also that there was a lot of contact between Latin/Romance and Germanic all throughout Europe. When we see Latin words ...


10

It is all about the spelling conventions in those languages. "Latin does not follow spelling changes" because the alphabet Latin uses was conceived specially for the Latin language, Latin spelling was pretty much phonetic so no spelling adjustments are needed when the form of the word changes. Spanish and Italian use the Latin alphabet which lacks ...


9

As I've posted in The Other Place, there was indeed a notion of Latin being a dialect of Greek, which a recent paper has described as "Aeolism". The locus classicus for it is Dionysius of Halicarnassus: The language spoken by the Romans is neither utterly barbarous nor absolutely Greek, but a mixture, as it were, of both, the greater part of which is ...


9

The Old Latin alphabet had 3 letters for the sound [k]: C, K, and Q. K was used before A, Q before V (the shape U appeared later), and C elsewhere. Besides, C was also used for the sound [g]. Later, K was marginalized and used only in a couple of words, e.g. Kalendae, and a new letter, G, derived from C, was introduced for the sound [g]. In the post-...


8

As far as I know, we do not have any Greek or Roman texts discussing an eventual genetic relationship between Greek and Latin. There was however a heated discussion about whether language was “by nature” (physei) or “by convention” (literally: “by setting” thesei). You can read all about it in Plato’s “Cratylus”. If language is “by nature”, then it would ...


8

There is no proof that the Indus valley language was Dravidian at all. Looking only at the geographical distribution of the Dravidian languages, it looks at the first sight that Brahui is an old relic of a formerly existing Dravidian language continuum stretching from the southern tip of India to the border of Pakistan and Iran. However, newer research has ...


8

The numerical names of months date back to the time when in the Ancient Rome the year began in March, so September was really the 7th month, October the 8th, and so on. January became the first month in 45 BC when Julius Cesar reformed the calendar introducing what is now known as Julian calendar. In those times July and August also had numeric names, ...


7

Some of these letters are clumsy imitations of Ancient South Arabian script, others are made up. It looks like a fake. Many years ago I worked as a volunteer at the National Museum in San’a. The storeroom of the museum was full of this sort of thing. The government had the enlightened policy of paying farmers for any “antiquity” they brought in, even if it ...


7

If you read German authors down to the end of the 18th century you will see that they used lots of Latin words (and in the 18th century lots of French borrowings as well). But in the 19th century there was a conscious effort to replace foreign words by German equivalents.


7

Fermat was fluent in multiple languages, including French and Occitan. Though he was born and raised in Beaumont-de-Lomagne (Occitania), his paternal family was originally from Catalonia: In the second half of the fifteenth century, the Fermat family apparently emigrated from Catalonia to Beaumont-de-Lomagne... Pierre de Fermat (1601?-1665): His life ...


7

Two phonological changes that reduced the phoneme inventory in Russian were the loss of yers (ultra-short vowels) and yuses (nasal vowels). None of these sounds occur in the modern language. The yers were ъ = *[ŭ] and ь = *[ĭ]. The symbols are still used today but no longer indicate a vowel. The yuses were ѧ = *[ɛ̃], ѫ = *[ɔ̃], ѩ = *[jɛ̃], ѭ = *[jɔ̃]. ...


7

Since you asked, it is not a reasonable question to ask in the first place. Multicellular organisms have birthdays, languages do not. Every existing German speaker learned the language from surrounding German speakers, who themselves learned German from other older surrounding German speakers and so on. There is no crisp distinction between the spoken ...


6

I know practically nothing about Hebrew. My answer is based on your claim, "a lot of the things virtually not present in at least two millennia have been given words that were literally invented". There are two classes of words, open class and closed class. Open classes accept the addition of new morphemes (words), through such processes as compounding, ...


6

This may or may not be true, depending on what is meant by "ultimate source": are we talking about specific letter shapes, or just the abstract principle of an alphabet? If the former, no; if the latter, probably yes. Most alphabets in existence (I'm using the term in its broadest sense to include abjads and abugidas) do straightforwardly descend from the ...


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