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 ...


30

No, this is not generally assumed. In fact, it is assumed that any human (of any ethnic background) can learn any language as first language or second language. Large language families often cross ethnic boundaries, the speakers of Semitic languages comprise both light-skinned Causasians and African people from Ethiopia, the Austronesian languages are ...


21

The script has nothing to do with the origin of the language. In fact, every script can be used to write any language. Usually a language adopts the script that is associated with the religion and/or dominating cultural influence. For example, Malay, which belongs to the Austronesian family of languages, used the Arabic script (with some variations) when the ...


19

If you really want to pursue this line of enquiry you need to compare proto-Afro-Asiatic with proto-Indo-European. You cannot just compare Arabic with English or Italian. Taking the etymology even a small step further demolishes most of your examples. E.g. Italian detto (not “ditto”) comes from Latin dictum, which does not look at all like Arabic ḥadīϑ. The ...


18

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 ...


17

The take of an Israeli linguist: There must be a consensus among scholars about one thing: Modern Israeli Hebrew emerged as a result of language revival, and as such its development from its so-called origins is different from the development of nearly all other living languages today (and all fully-fledged languages spoken by a monolingual community). At ...


17

They aren't mutually intelligible at all. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, Romanian is a Romance language. Yes, they're related (both are Indo-European), but no more so than, say, English and Russian.


14

I have never heard of such a term. And it may even be impossible, depending on which hypothesis you subscribe to. According to the below reconstruction, the last common ancestor of the Italic and Germanic branches existed some 5200 years ago, when the Italo-Celtic super-branch split off. That was after the Anatolian and Tocharian branches had split off from ...


14

There's this controversial hypothesis about a genetic relationship between Indo-European and Semitic languages. The Wikipedia article that deals with it concedes that it "has never been widely accepted by contemporary linguists in modern times". At the end it tries to salvage the hypothesis by moving the goalposts: The Indo-Semitic hypothesis has thus ...


13

I am reminded of the famous story about how the young Max Planck was told by his professor to steer well clear of a career in physics, as there was nothing new to be discovered in that field. In historical linguistics, or specifically Indo-European studies, since the 1990s a whole new corpus of texts in a hitherto virtually unknown language were discovered, ...


11

It does not, it only establishes that there was some communicative contact between the ancestoral populations (which before the interwebs was invented meant "living in proximity"). However, the notion of "ethnic relatedness" is itself vague enough that it may well be the case that "ethnic relatedness" exists in all such cases. As an example, we would say ...


9

If your want a user-friendly program to use on the go you can check Cmaptool from good people at the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) it's really easy to use straight forward and you can export your data to variety of extensions. If you TeX you can use qTree package from CTAN. \Tree[.IP [.NP [.Det \textit{the} ] [.N\1 [....


9

I wouldn't say that mixed languages are particularly rare, we can observe them in language contact situations all over the world, as pidgins, creoles, and vernaculars of specific ethnic groups. But it is in the nature of most mixed languages that they aren't stable over time. Pidgins become creoles, and creoles often undergo decreolisation becoming a variety ...


8

It's not at all clear what the term "language isolate" means: one could think it means that the language is not related to any other known language. People mistakenly say "not related" when they mean "I can't show that it is related", in other words people sometimes confuse lack of evidence and knowledge of non-relationship. As long as you understand "...


8

There are very many things remaining to do in historical linguistics. If you set aside certain language families which have been "mostly figured out", there are still very many areas in the world where our knowledge of language relations and especially reconstruction is, shall we say, less than ideal, especially in the New World. Plus, even in a family that ...


8

One of the most significant recent discoveries in historical linguistics is the first link between Eurasian and American language families: the Dené–Yeniseian languages. A link between the Na-Dené and the Yeniseian families was first proposed in 1923, but the first peer reviewed publication proposing the Dené–Yeniseian language family was published in 1998. ...


8

As for the title question, the answer would be "many languages, including proto-Chinese". Focusing on the question in the body, the language spoken by the historical ancestors of proto-Turks, there are two main options. One is that they spoke "pre-proto-Turkic", that is, an undocumented language whose properties are not presently recoverable. As for the name ...


8

First of all, Chinese is not an isolated language, but a member of the well-established Sino-Tibetan language family. Relationships beyond Sino-Tibetan aren't well established although the Tai-Kaddai language or the Hmong-Mien languages are included in some proposals of a larger Sino-Tibetan family. Sino-Austronesian was indeed proposed by some linguists (...


7

The alternative to the Altaic theory is that every language group included in there (that is Turkic, Mongolic, Tungusic, Japonic and Korean in its widest form, any theory that directly links Uralic with Altaic has been dead for a century now) constitutes an unrelated language family and any similarity (which is undeniably there) is due to borrowing and ...


7

I think the prior question should be, who gets to vote? The difference between agnosticism and dogmatic nihilism, as I interpret the concepts, is that the agnostician simply says "I don't know", and the dogmatic nihilist would say things like "The question doesn't even make sense / the entire foundations of the enterprise are corrupt....". I have spent most ...


6

Actually, Zuckermanns hybridisation hypothesis is not as extreme as the relexification approach suggested by Horvath & Wexler (1997: Relexification in Creole and Non-Creole Languages). Zuckermann rejects the notion of Modern Hebrew (or, as he likes to call it, 'Israeli') being a Slavic language with a Hebrew lexicon, but he also rejects the traditional ...


6

Your question isn't entirely clear, and Greg Lee has implicitly answered one version, namely how do we determine the subgrouping of languages that we know to be related, for example how do we know that Hindi and Farsi are more closely related that Hindi and English – shared grammatical innovations. Typically there are more innovations in the form of ...


6

I grew up the in the former Yugoslavia, and the language I studied in school was called Serbocroatian, which was spoken in four out of the six republics of the union. You were basically studying the standard, 'literary' language. And then, you were mostly focused on your version of Serbo-Croatian [SC]. There were at least 4 versions. They were called '...


6

Sure, it's entirely possible. There are already quite a lot of different dialects of English, with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility. And you can certainly draw a family tree of them and their relationships. The thing is, the difference between a language family and a set of dialects is more of a political issue than a linguistic one. Linguistically,...


5

As a matter of fact, there still are a number of linguists believing that some or all of the families considered to belong to the putative Altaic stock are related one way or another. "Core Altaic" and "Extended Altaic" The traditional "core" members were Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic, with Japonic and Koreic being added in more recent decades. As to ...


5

@ Brad Miller Not only Telugu, but most; in fact, every Indian language has the same rule of using plural to denote respect. I am a native speaker of Kannada. I know Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. In Kannada 2nd person singular is "Neenu" (Used for friend or family member) and the second person plural is "Neevu" (Used for elders or superiors) In Tamil, ...


5

The basis of the traditional classification of IE, since the 19th century, has been neither shared grammar nor shared vocabulary, but rather shared sound changes.


5

Languages don't actually have ages, and they aren't discrete things like people are. So we'll have to first interpret what you mean by "older language" versus "younger language". It's even harder to understand what the difference would be between X being an ancestor of Y versus X being an older variety of Y. Let's take "American English as currently spoken ...


5

The word for "two" is dua in Malay/Indonesian and duo in Latin. This is a classic example of how words in two unrelated languages turn out looking the same, by pure coincidence.


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