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64 votes

Why is English classified as a Germanic rather than Romance language?

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 ...
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42 votes
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Why isn’t the letter “G” immediately after “C” in the alphabet?

Short answer: The letter G was inserted into the Latin alphabet on the place of the letter Z that was abolished officially at the same time. For more information, see this answer and also this answer ...
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39 votes
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Is the Indo-European language family made up?

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 ...
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26 votes

When did Hebrew start replacing Yiddish?

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 ...
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19 votes

At what point does a language become its descendant?

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 ...
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19 votes

Is the Indo-European language family made up?

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 ...
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18 votes
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Which comes first? Grammar or language?

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 ...
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  • 12.3k
18 votes

Is Turkish older than Bulgarian?

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 ...
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  • 341
18 votes
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When did Hebrew start replacing Yiddish?

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....
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  • 2,324
16 votes

Why isn’t the letter “G” immediately after “C” in the alphabet?

We know that the Romans invented the letter G, derived its shape from C, and put G in seventh place. jk linked to an answer to a Latin.SE question. None of the answers to that question, nor any of ...
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  • 582
13 votes

Why is English classified as a Germanic rather than Romance language?

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 ...
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  • 303
13 votes
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Why does Polish use "w" instead of "v"?

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" ...
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  • 51.9k
13 votes
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Is modern English the most spoken language of all time?

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 ...
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  • 609
12 votes

Who was the first to call noun classes "genders"?

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 ...
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  • 67.5k
11 votes
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Why is the letter "Q" visually simillar to "O"?

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 ...
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11 votes

Can Old Church Slavonic be considered an artificial language?

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 ...
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  • 15.7k
11 votes

Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Southern European languages? What is the historical origin of this spelling pattern?

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 ...
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  • 15.7k
10 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 ...
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  • 5,543
10 votes

Why does English have words from Latin and none from Celtic?

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 ...
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  • 51.9k
9 votes

What did the Greeks and Romans believe about language relationships?

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 ...
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9 votes
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How did it happen that K was introduced to Latin alphabet in place of C and C started to mark /t͡s/ or /s/ in many languages?

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 ...
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  • 15.7k
8 votes

Wanderwort origins and the Indus Valley Civilization?

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 ...
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8 votes
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Why is October the tenth month even though Octo means eight?

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 ...
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8 votes
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Are there any extinct phonemes in Russian?

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 ...
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  • 6,754
7 votes

What is this language? Is it an ancient language?

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 ...
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  • 22.6k
7 votes
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Pronunciation of Fermat in Gascon/Occitan

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 ...
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  • 2,964
7 votes
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Estimate the genesis of the language

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 ...
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  • 67.5k
6 votes

Origin of Alphabetic/Phonemic Scripts

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 ...
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  • 10.5k
6 votes

why did the Franco-Provençal language decline in Switzerland?

The marginalisation of Franco-Provençal in favour of Standard French predates the modern French state. Franco-Provençal was coextensive with the Duchy of Savoy, and the Duchy adopted Standard French ...
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6 votes
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Have there ever been (serious) attempts to replace alphabets with phonetic alphabets?

I think you're confusing the issue a little bit. You need to differentiate between the concept of phonetic alphabet and transparent orthography. The introduction of the IPA or international phonetic ...
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