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62

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 ...


38

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 ...


24

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

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 ...


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 ...


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), ...


17

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 ...


16

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 ...


15

While this is a fair question, I think there are several factors which argue against Modern Hebrew being considered an artificial language: The degree of mutual intelligibility between the modern language and the ancient language tends to argue that these two are in fact the same language. The fact that the language, as "constructed", was specifically ...


15

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 ...


11

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 ...


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 ...


11

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

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

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, ...


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

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

I can't give any real answer of the kind you want, but I can tell you what I know about about this topic being an undergraduate 40 years after the event, hoping that it will be of any help, even though I am certainly wrong to some degree. As far as I can see the idea originated with Zellig Harris, who is now taken to be one of few American strucuralists who ...


7

This is due to the fact that English has evolved becoming more and more an Isolating Language (it's not the only example, but it stands out as a peculiar example, considering its classification). Isolating languages — often contrasted with Synthetic Languages — are characterized by the fact that their morphology is not that considerable and sometimes not ...


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

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

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]. ...


6

The most strikingly absurd thing here is that Ryūkyūan and Japanese may not be related. The only alternative claim at this point--made basically only by non-linguists in Japan--is that the 5 or so Ryūkyūan languages are merely dialects of Japanese. Even just a casual glace at all but the most divergent Japonic languages makes it really obvious that they are ...


6

This is actually not unique to English. English is nearly what lingusts call an Isolating or Analytic language. An isolating language does not make a lot of use of conjugations, declensions, and other ways of adding affixes onto words. Instead, as the name implies, words stand in isolation and it's the word order and word choice that makes a difference. ...


6

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 ...


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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