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
30 votes
Accepted

Does an affinity between languages necessitate that the speakers be ethnically related?

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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
22 votes

Is Thai language related or a descendant of Sanskrit?

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 ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
  • 18.4k
22 votes

Are Semitic and Indo-European languages at all related?

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 ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 24.2k
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
17 votes
Accepted

How to explain differences in mutual intelligibility?

The previous answers gave a lot of possible factors, including external ones. I'll give a single example where it clearly has a lot to do with quirks of the harder-understandable language: Danish. The ...
leftaroundabout's user avatar
16 votes

Are Semitic and Indo-European languages at all related?

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 ...
pablodf76's user avatar
  • 1,235
16 votes

How does an original proto language produce its daughter languages?

A proto-language is a hypothesis - it's a theory about the history of a language family. A proto-language is a model of the closest common ancestor of the daughter languages, but which is not directly ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
  • 6,192
14 votes

How does an original proto language produce its daughter languages?

The theory is that there is a community, whose members speak "a language" (one language). They go about life, roaming the plains of whatever, and their children learn that language. As long ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
13 votes

Is historical linguistics still producing new results?

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 ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 24.2k
12 votes

Are Semitic and Indo-European languages at all related?

So, I've seen many answers to this question, but few which actually make reference to specific vocabulary of Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Semitic. I'm not terribly acquainted with PIE, but I am ...
Khove's user avatar
  • 774
12 votes

How to explain differences in mutual intelligibility?

There are a lot of things factoring in here, the following list is by no means exhaustive exposure to the other language: this is often asymmetric between the languages A and B, and more exposure ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
11 votes

Does an affinity between languages necessitate that the speakers be ethnically related?

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
10 votes

What program can I use to make a tree of a language family?

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 ...
Andrew Ravus's user avatar
  • 1,265
10 votes

How to explain differences in mutual intelligibility?

Linguists would start with comparing social status of the languages. For example, there is a massive comprehensive asymmetry between Cantonese and Mandarin: more Cantonese speakers understand Mandarin ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
9 votes

Is historical linguistics still producing new results?

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
9 votes

Similarities between Proto-Austronesian and Chinese?

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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
9 votes

Why are mixed languages so rare?

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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

What decides the language family of a language the most structure/grammar or the vocabulary?

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
8 votes

Isolated language as null hypotheses?

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 "...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
8 votes

Is historical linguistics still producing new results?

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 ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
  • 6,192
8 votes

What language was spoken in East Asia before Proto-Turkic?

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
8 votes
Accepted

Is agnosticism the current orthodoxy regarding linguistic macrofamilies?

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
7 votes

Can Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian be considered linguistically distinct?

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 ...
Daniel N.'s user avatar
  • 181
7 votes
Accepted

How are languages classified into families?

"Romance" is based on the historically-known fact that the languages descended from the language of the Romans, who spoke Latin. The classification "Germanic" is also ancient, ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
7 votes

Are proto-languages necessary to divide languages ​within a family into groups?

Usually we are applying a tree model of language evolution, i.e., we assume that languages change over time producing splits into more and more branches, some of them becoming extinct, others to ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
6 votes

Accuracy of automatic (machine) translation of two languages in same language family

Update: Much has changed since 2019. I added updates at the bottom. You're right to suspect that the accuracy can potentially be very good, but, in practice, unfortunately, as of 2019, most of the ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Could English fracture into a family in the future

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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
6 votes

Have other language families been mapped like Proto-Indo-European has?

Yes, there are very many researchers working to reconstruct proto-languages other than Indo-European. There are a number of languages that are not clearly related to any other language (e.g. ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k

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