40 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 ...
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  • 52k
22 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 ...
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  • 321
12 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 ...
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  • 67.7k
11 votes

Are there any natural languages in which /ʂ/ and /ʃ/ are distinct phonemes?

As you mentioned Chinese, Standard Mandarin only contrasts /ʂ/, /ɕ/ and /s/. For example 殺/ʂᴀ⁵⁵/ 蝦/ɕᴀ⁵⁵/ and 撒/sᴀ⁵⁵/. In fact the complete contrasts are between the three groups /ʈ͡ʂ ʈ͡ʂʰ ʂ/, /t͡ɕ ...
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11 votes

Do any languages contrast [r] and [r:]?

In Finnish, most consonants including the [r] have a long-short distinction. There are plenty of minimal pairs including varas (thief) vs varras (skewer).
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  • 210
10 votes
Accepted

Do any languages contrast [r] and [r:]?

(Due to finding a source that I think provides an even better example than my previous answer, I've updated this post). Arop-Lokep In “Initial and Medial Geminate Trills in Arop-Lokep,” by Raymond, ...
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  • 16.6k
10 votes

Are there any natural languages in which /ʂ/ and /ʃ/ are distinct phonemes?

Skimming Phoible, stopping with languages beginning with n, I found as putative examples from: Abkhaz, Acoma, Arara do Acre, Basero, Basque, Bench, Burushaski, Cajamarca Quechua, Camsa, Candoshi-...
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  • 67.7k
10 votes

Do any languages contrast [r] and [r:]?

In Arabic, all consonants, including /r/, can be geminated in non-initial position. There are minimal pairs like barada "he was cold" vs barrada "he cooled (something)".
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  • 22.6k
9 votes

Are there any natural languages in which /ʂ/ and /ʃ/ are distinct phonemes?

Ubykh is an extinct Northwest Caucasian language (and thus in the same family as Adyghe) that contrasted the following ʃ-like phonemes: /ʃ/, /ʃʷ/, /ɕ/, /ɕʷ/, /ʂ/.
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  • 1,010
8 votes

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

Serbo-Croatian. The Serbo-Croatian language only has the convention that writing is phonetic and so you "write the way you speak". That is, each letter corresponds to precisely one sound and ...
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  • 81
8 votes

Do any languages contrast [r] and [r:]?

In Hungarian, all consonants have long and short versions, and there are many minimal pairs. Examples: pára /paːrɒ/ "fog/steam/condensation" | párra /paːrːɒ/ "onto the pair" vére /...
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  • 654
7 votes

Do any languages contrast [r] and [r:]?

According to Wikipedia, Slovak does contrast /r/ and /rː/, but the Journal of IPA on Slovak says that the geminated /r/ (i.e. /rː/) is considered an allophone of /r/ because there are no minimal pairs ...
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  • 1,379
6 votes

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

Occitan has two main accepted orthographies, the Provencal standard and Languedocien. In the Middle Ages the situation was similar to English and French of the era with a wide variation in regional ...
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  • 61
6 votes

Are there any natural languages in which /ʂ/ and /ʃ/ are distinct phonemes?

Adyghe language contrasts /ʂ ʃ/ and their voiced counterparts.
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6 votes

Are there any natural languages in which /ʂ/ and /ʃ/ are distinct phonemes?

Querying UPSID for three or more voiceless sibilant consonants and skimming through the results, I find Tarascan and Pashto as candidate languages with a contrast between /ʂ/ and /ʃ/.
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5 votes

Are there languages with consonant clusters that include consonants that never occur alone?

In many dialects of Pashto, xʷ only occurs in clusters. It only occurs in clusters (mostly before [r ~ ɾ] and [l]). It never occurs alone and contrasts with x (and xw in some words) for example /xre/ ...
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  • 1,379
3 votes
Accepted

Are there languages without the /j/ sound as in English "yellow"?

Some examples drawn from Phoible are Ket, Khasi, Garo, Malay (Standard), Iai, Kaliai, Maori, Hawaiian, Asmat, Kunimaipa, Nasioi, Kalaallisut, Eastern Ojibwa, Ticuna, Ocaina, Guarani, Liberian Kpelle ...
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  • 67.7k
3 votes

Which modern, spoken languages do not use the decimal number system?

By "modern" do you mean a language that's still spoken by living people nowadays? The most unusual modern example is the Telefol and Oksapmin languages, which use a base-27 counting system ...
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3 votes

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

I spent sixteen years in Yemen, twelve of that in the city of Taiz (dialect = Taizzi-Adeni Arabic) and four in Sanaa (Sanaani Arabic). The two dialects are very different, with comprehension going one ...
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  • 31
2 votes

Languages with definite and indefinite conjugation

Inuit languages have specific and nonspecific verbs. Specific verbs are used when the direct object is definite, and nonspecific verbs are used in other cases. However, the relationship between these ...
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  • 1,010
2 votes

Do any languages contrast [r] and [r:]?

According to A Course in Phonetics by Peter Ladefoged and Keith Johnson, Icelandic also contrasts [r] and [rː]. They also give a minimal pair and a spectrograph: [sauːra] ‘wound’ [saurːa] ‘sore’ (...
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  • 1,379
2 votes

Language with the highest ratio of diacritics to letters in typical text

Ozumacín Chinantec has ten vowels (a, ä, e, ë, i, ɨ, o, ø, u, ʉ), which may be nasalized (indicated by an underscore), and nine tones (indicated by ˈ, ˊ, ˉ, ꜗ, ꜘ, ꜙ, ꜚ, ˜, ˋ after the syllable). This ...
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  • 190
2 votes

Are there any natural languages in which /ʂ/ and /ʃ/ are distinct phonemes?

Using UPSID (which I just learned about), I found that Guambiano has this contrast too.
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2 votes
Accepted

Are there any languages without Semivowels?

There is a minor terminological distinction between "glide" and "semivowel", in that "glide" includes the laryngeals [h, ʔ, ɦ] which would not be called "semivowels&...
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  • 67.7k
2 votes

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

Yiddish... if you call it a language.
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1 vote

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

Western Abanaki in Northern New England and parts of Québec has no standardized spelling; however, work is currently being done to more or less standardize it. The reason is simply because until ...
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  • 21
1 vote

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

The Scots language has a variety of orthographic standards based upon historical dialects, with standardization attempts ongoing among Scots-speaking communities. Since there is already a substantial, ...
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1 vote

Are there any natural languages in which /ʂ/ and /ʃ/ are distinct phonemes?

Gwitch'in has two whole separate series of postalveolars and retroflexes
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1 vote

What languages together maximize the number of people you can speak with?

There is a sortable list, with numbers for L1, L2 and L1+L2, for the top 44 languages. If you want 5 languages, that's (in order) English, Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, getting you to almost 3.9 ...
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  • 67.7k
1 vote

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

It seems there are many such languages. For the sake of completeness, I will add classical Arabic: Arabic shows gender distinction in the second and third persons, but only in the singular and plural ...
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