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44 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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
40 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
27 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 it ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
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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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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
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 ...
Omar and Lorraine's user avatar
19 votes
Accepted

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....
matan-matika's user avatar
  • 2,364
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 ...
user69715's user avatar
  • 341
18 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 ...
Rosie F's user avatar
  • 602
16 votes
Accepted

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" ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.7k
14 votes

Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Spanish and Italian? 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 ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
  • 18.5k
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 ...
Aqualone's user avatar
  • 717
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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
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
  • 7,526
10 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 ...
Nick Nicholas's user avatar
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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.7k
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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Mark Beadles's user avatar
  • 6,870
7 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 ...
Nick Nicholas's user avatar
7 votes
Accepted

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 ...
iacobo's user avatar
  • 3,132
7 votes
Accepted

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
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
  • 24.4k
6 votes
Accepted

Why do some languages have many names?

The names for a given language can be divided into exonyms and endonyms. Exonyms are the names given to the language (sometimes by extension, from the name given to the people who speak it) by ...
pablodf76's user avatar
  • 1,235
6 votes
Accepted

Voiced aspirated alveolar trill

There is no phonetic difference between voiceless aspirated vs. unaspirated trill, and phonologically speaking, voiceless trills (and other sonorants) behave like they are aspirates. The distinction ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
6 votes

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

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, states the following. [Middle English gendre, from Old French, kind, gender, from Latin genus, gener-. See genə in Appendix I....
Mr. Nichan's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Why is the English name for Bruges the same as the French despite that it's a Flemish city?

The "when" is actually pretty easy. Throughout the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, up to at least 1052, we see spellings like "Brycge", which look like anglicized versions of the Flemish name. In Norman and ...
abarnert's user avatar
  • 2,625
6 votes
Accepted

Is there any relationship between the Hungarian long s sound and the long s in some European languages?

There isn't really any connection between the Hungarian "ssz" sound and the spelling ſ or ß. The question about the origin of ssz in Hungarian is interesting. What I have gathered so far is ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.5k
6 votes
Accepted

What Languages have historically had Purification Movements?

In French, a quite recent example would be the Toubon Law. This law enforces the use of French in all official media, as a way to struggle against the massive use of English language. It followed a ...
Steph's user avatar
  • 176
6 votes
Accepted

History of perfect tenses

According to the OED (have, sense VI): The have-perfect in English apparently arose as a reanalysis of uses such as I have my work done ‘I have my work in a done or finished condition’; the ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.7k
6 votes

Why is it believed that tool use among humans preceded spoken language?

Following the argument of Fitch (The evolution of language), tool use is a shared trait of humans and chimpanzees, therefore it developed before the chimp-hominid split. Artifacts establish that stone ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k

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