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42 votes
Accepted

Are there modern languages without standardized spelling? If not, why?

First, let's define our terms. Spelling is "standardized" if there's some authority that people listen to on the topic. This can be a government agency, like the Académie Française, or a ...
Draconis's user avatar
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36 votes
Accepted

Are there languages without words for "father" or "mother" but only "parent"?

The only such language I know about is Pirahã, the indigenous language of the isolated Pirahã people of Amazonas, Brazil. It is minimalistic in many ways, having the least number of phonemes (only 11),...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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33 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

In Thai, 1st person singular pronouns differ by gender: Masc.: ผม [pʰǒm] Fem.: ดิฉัน [dìʔt͡ɕʰán]
Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's user avatar
33 votes

Which languages have different words for "maternal uncle" and "paternal uncle"?

As @YellowSky pointed, a very large number of languages make this distinction. The Wiktionary lists don’t even scratch the surface, since most languages are not in Wiktionary, and the real number ...
melissa_boiko's user avatar
30 votes
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Are there languages where a change of character casing can lead to a different meaning of a word?

It’s worth pointing out that uppercase and lowercase characters are mostly a quirk of the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabets.[1] While these alphabets probably make up a plurality of written texts,[...
Jan's user avatar
  • 1,160
30 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

Coming at this from a different direction, Japanese personal pronouns (*) are an open class, with many variations in meaning and connotation. So while there's no official "first-person masculine ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.8k
29 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

Proto-Afro-Asiatic likely marked gender on second-person pronouns, and many of its descendants do the same. For example, second-person singular masculine is אַתָּה (ʔattāh) in Hebrew, أَنْتَ‎ (ʔanta) ...
Draconis's user avatar
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27 votes

Are there languages in which "coffee" is not a cognate of a root containing k/q and f/h/w?

First of all I would like to say that these words are not cognates; they are loanwords. The coffee plant is indigenous in the highlands of Ethiopia. It was transplanted to the Yemen in the 14th ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 24.2k
23 votes

Are there modern languages without standardized spelling? If not, why?

As Katai has pointed out in the comments Swiss German is a modern langauge that has no standardised spelling. In "Mundartwörterbüchern"(=Dialect dictionaries) one can see two different ideas ...
SirHawrk's user avatar
  • 331
21 votes
Accepted

Languages with different words for 'we'

This distinction is called clusivity and as far as I know no language has a three-way distinction here, having at most a two way inclusive (1 & 3 in your list), exclusive (2 in your list) ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,785
21 votes

Are there languages with more vowels than consonants?

Probably the best-known and most often-cited example of this is Danish. Danish is generally said to have around 17 or 18 consonant phonemes, a fairly invariant number. The number of vowel phonemes ...
Janus Bahs Jacquet's user avatar
20 votes
Accepted

Do any languages use {woman} as the root for human?

In Arabic the word for “human being of either sex” is ʼinsān, from the same root as nisāʼ “women”. The usual word for “male human being” is rajul.
fdb's user avatar
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20 votes
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Do any languages mention the top limit of a range first?

In German, I am aware of two instances where the "reverse" order is used: 1) The weather forecast of the newscast "Tagesschau" (and quite possibly many other weather forecasts, but not all) always ...
Hans-Jakob's user avatar
18 votes

Is there a language where there are personal pronouns for the first or second person that have gender?

In Spanish that happends for plural: nosotros (1st person plural masculine) nosotras (1st person plural femenine) In Japanese there are several forms for the first form depending on gender or even age!...
Daniel's user avatar
  • 181
18 votes

Language that uses [t] (or [k]?) in formal settings and [k] (or [t]?) in in informal

There are a few Polynesian languages such as Hawaiian and Samoan that don't contrast [t] and [k] i.e. [t] and [k] exist as allophones of /t/. The language you're looking for seems to be Samoan where /...
Mellifluous's user avatar
  • 1,389
18 votes

Which non-Indoeuropean languages have noun-adjective agreement?

Egyptian and many of the older Semitic languages put a /t/ on feminine nouns and any adjectives modifying them, and many also mark number (singular, dual, plural) on both. A few of these languages (e....
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.8k
17 votes

Which languages have different words for "maternal uncle" and "paternal uncle"?

Another concrete example to extend upon these already excellent answers is the Swedish language. Here, the terms are "farbror" for a paternal uncle (literally: "father-brother") ...
physicalist's user avatar
15 votes
Accepted

Is there any language where verb inflection takes place word-initially?

Look into the Bantu languages, such as Swahili. Tense, aspect, and subject agreement are all marked at the beginning of the verb.
Draconis's user avatar
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15 votes
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Are there any languages which inflect the noun for morphosyntactic categories normally reserved for verbs (e.g. tense, aspect, etc.)?

Here is a relevant Wikipedia article: Nominal TAM There is a fair amount of literature that mentions the existence of languages that mark tense on nouns; the first result I found on Google was this ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.3k
15 votes

Languages with different words for 'we'

I'm from the Philippines and we have different kinds of "we" in Tagalog/Filipino language. We (you and I) = "Tayo" We (them and I, but not you) = "Kami" We (all of us) = ...
jjeoneun's user avatar
  • 251
15 votes

Which non-Indoeuropean languages have noun-adjective agreement?

In the Atlantic-Congo languages that have noun classes, and that is most of them, adjectives agree in the class with the noun they modify. In the Bantu subfamily, the adjectives agrees by receiving ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
  • 18.5k
14 votes

Do any languages mark social distinctions other than gender and status?

One interesting marker of social distinctions is an avoidance register, a special way of speaking to certain family members. You might also hear this called mother-in-law language or hlonipha/...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.8k
14 votes

Which cultures are big-endian?

This is potentially a very interesting question, but it suffers from conflation of “language”, “culture”, and “country”. It is the same sort of confusion that happens when people who do not speak ...
fdb's user avatar
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13 votes

Are there languages in which "coffee" is not a cognate of a root containing k/q and f/h/w?

Armenian: սուրճ [surch] (Wiktionary) English: java (Wiktionary) In the 17th century, the Dutch colonized the island of Java, which is now part of Indonesia. They planted lots of coffee there and ...
Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's user avatar
13 votes

My friend suddenly speaks an unknown language after sleep. Need help with recognition

Sorry, this is mostly not a direct answer to your question. (Skip to the end for the more answer-y part.) I'm posting this as an answer since it's too long for the comments. Speaking a previously ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.3k
13 votes

Is there any language where verb inflection takes place word-initially?

Since Bantu has been mentioned, I won't mention it again, much. I'll mention Athabaskan, Ket (not Athabaskan but probably related), Semitic, Berber, Coptic, Bongo, Krongo, Nilotic, Nyulnyul, ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
13 votes

Are there other languages, besides English, where the indefinite (or definite) article varies based on sound?

In Italian, both the indefinite and the definite article change in spelling and pronunciation depending on the following sound, in the masculine gender. Before vowels, the masculine indefinite ...
LjL's user avatar
  • 1,847
13 votes

Which languages have different words for "maternal uncle" and "paternal uncle"?

In the Western variety of the Ukrainian language, maternal uncle is вуйко (vujko) [ˈʋui̯kɔ], and paternal uncle is стрий / стрийко (stryj / stryjko) [strɪi̯] / [ˈstrɪi̯kɔ]. Also, by analogy, maternal ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
  • 18.5k
13 votes

Are there modern languages without standardized spelling? If not, why?

It depends on what you mean by "standardized", also "are written down". In Logoori (a Bantu language of Kenya), there are multiple observed spelling practices, but they can ...
user6726's user avatar
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12 votes
Accepted

Do languages ever get new cases?

Yes. One well-known example of a case emerging as we write is the Russian neo-vocative: In modern colloquial Russian given names and a small family of terms often take a special "shortened"...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar

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