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41 votes
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Why is the word "war" in Romance languages predominantly of Germanic origin instead of Latin?

A why-question is almost unanswerable, the answer is "because it happened so". But there was a strong trigger for the replacement of bellum, namely the homophony with the word for "...
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33 votes
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Why do the Romance languages use definite articles, when Latin doesn't?

Languages evolve in many ways! Proto-Indo-European had no articles at all, but they evolved independently in several different branches: you can still see the similarity between English "the" and "...
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28 votes
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Why are Latin and Sanskrit called dead languages?

By definition, a dead language is a language that does not have any native speakers anymore but that had native speakers earlier (the last clause is needed to delineate dead languages from constructed ...
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25 votes
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Why did some Hebrew words beginning with Yod become transliterated into Latin as "hi?"

Greek had the /h/ phoneme only at the beginning of a word, and it was marked with a diacritic (rough breathing sign) rather than with a letter. Koine Greek lost the /h/ phoneme and early manuscripts (...
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25 votes

Relationship between Geneva and gin?

Gin is abbreviation from genever, originally Dutch, where the word means "juniper". The original drink was made from fermented juniper berries in the Netherlands. The word genever (juniper) ...
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23 votes

Pronunciation of P in Latin, versus Ph in Greek

I'm going to take a slightly different approach than Jk's answer, which does a good job coming at this from a Greco-Roman perspective. Instead, I'm going to focus on the Punic situation because it's a ...
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22 votes

Why do the Romance languages use definite articles, when Latin doesn't?

such a drastic structural change The change is not drastic at all! It is a simple case of semantic bleaching (this is where the meaning of a word gets weaker. So you can kind of see how the is a "...
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  • 4,348
18 votes

Why is the word "war" in Romance languages predominantly of Germanic origin instead of Latin?

The basic meaning of the Germanic *wirr is “disorder, chaos” etc. The shift in meaning to “warfare” originated in Frankish and is attested since the 9th century in High German, English, but not ...
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16 votes
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What linguistic impact, if any, has the the Roman three name naming system left on modern Romance and European languages?

None, really. TL;DR: the tria nomina were dead before the empire was, so pre-Romance times. Long version: The tria nomina system is the most famous used in ancient Rome, but it wasn't by any means ...
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15 votes
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Derivatives of Latin *mulier* in French

The Trésor de la langue française has most the answer to your question in the etymology section for femme: From Classical Latin femina “female”, then “woman, wife” which competed against the Latin ...
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15 votes

Latin "vivere" vs. Hebrew "aviv"

Arnaud Fournet's answer is correct: there's no evidence for a relationship. But to add a bit more evidence that there isn't a connection… The Classical pronunciation of vīvere was something like /...
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15 votes

Pronunciation of P in Latin, versus Ph in Greek

At some time in the history of the Greek languages, the letters Phi, Theta, and Chi represented aspirated consonants /ph/, /th/ and /kh/. The Romans felt that they were different enough from their ...
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14 votes

Descendants of Latin vs. Greek?

It's true that Greek was spoken in a large area at some time in human history and indeed it's now spoken mainly in Greece in a mostly uniform way. The main reason that there are not many Greek-...
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14 votes
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Does the French word for Friday, "vendredi", come from the Latin "Veneris" or the old Norse "Vanadis"?

Very unlikely! While the phonetic similarities are real, the old Norse name of the weekday etymologically goes back to Frig's day, and not Freyja's day. The actual form of the Norse word is ...
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  • 1,377
14 votes

Can or has the comparative method be used in current Arabic dialects to reconstruct Classical Arabic?

Applying the comparative method to contemporary dialects (not MSA) would not result in Classical Arabic, since the contemporary dialects have lost features found in Classical Arabic, such as case. ...
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13 votes

Did Romance languages evolve in North Africa?

Did Romance languages evolve in North Africa? Yes. What languages were spoken in North Africa between Vulgar Latin and the arrival of Arabic? Both Romance and Arabic failed to totally supplant ...
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13 votes
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Is there a form descending from Latin genitive plural somewhere in modern Romance languages?

If you want inflectional forms, you'd have to look at the major Romance language which still inflects nouns, Romanian. Even there, you will only find a reflex of -orum in the articles as far as I'm ...
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12 votes
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How did the Latin ''putare' evolve into all these different meanings?

You're actually not the first one to ask this question. The Romans themselves had various explanations to offer. For them, the relation was clear - although they did not necessarily agree with each ...
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11 votes
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Latin's excrescent e- in English and French

Generally this process is called prothesis when it occurs at the start of a word (epenthesis occurs between two sounds). This process did indeed involve the addition of a vowel to the start of words ...
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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
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What is the meaning of the Latin names of grammatical cases (in general, not in Latin)?

The traditional Latin names are formed from the supine stems of verbs—basically, a way of turning a verb into a noun, and then into an adjective. Nōminātivus, for example, comes from nōmināre "to name"...
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10 votes
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Languages preserving loanword inflections

A great number of loanwords from Ancient Greek have been integrated into Czech with great attention to the original forms. For instance, many Ancient Greek nouns from the third (athematic) declension ...
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10 votes
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Are Latin "virīlis", Punjabi "vīr", Old Irish "fer" , Wels "gwr" and Hindi "var" related?

Latin vir, Sanskrit vīra-, Avestan vīra-, Old Irish fer, Lithuanian výras, Gothic wair, all mean “man” and all derive from Indo-European *wīro- (or *uiH-ro).
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10 votes
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Do dead languages borrow words?

Yes, borrowing still happens—in both directions! While Latin is dead in that nobody speaks it as their first language, it's still used for official purposes by scientists and the Vatican. When they ...
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10 votes
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Are there any Latin and (ancient) Hebrew words with common origins?

Definitely! The most common are direct loanwords from one language into another, or Wanderwörter, words that spread over long distances via trade. For the first category, look at sabbatum, the Latin ...
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10 votes
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Where does the letter <j> come from to Slavic Cyrillic alphabets?

The letter <j> is really used in some Cyrillic-based alphabets, all of them were once created either by a certain person or by a group of people, that is, these alphabets aren't a product of ...
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10 votes
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Apparent exceptions to the sound law f -> h in old Spanish

Some of these words were re-loaned from Classical Latin after the change of Old Spanish /f/ to /h/ had stopped: compare loaned forma "shape" against inherited horma "mold" (as you ...
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10 votes

Is there a form descending from Latin genitive plural somewhere in modern Romance languages?

(Latin to French) inflectional forms: chandeleur < festa candelarum leur < illorum toponyms like Villefavreux (< villa Villa Fabrorum) or Villepreux (< villa Piorum) fossilized ...
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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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