32 votes
Accepted

What is the name for a placename that contains what the thing is in a different language?

What you are looking for is a tautological place name. Other examples are East Timor (East East - English/Indonesian), The La Brea Tar Pits (The "The Tar" Tar Pits - Spanish/English), and Glendale (...
29 votes

How does the nonsense word "frabjous" conform to English phonotactics?

You mention the pronunciation /ˈfɹæb.dʒəs/ in the comments; this is how I would pronounce it too. Phonotactics are usually explained in terms of constraints ("you can't do this"), so the ...
  • 53.9k
19 votes
Accepted

Why do neuter nominative and accusative always agree in IE languages?

I was going to write you an e-mail but I'll write my answer here instead ;) First, most Indo-European scholars disregard the ergative hypothesis. However, I do not know any other reason for the ...
  • 206
18 votes

Morphology vs Etymology

Etymology was the term used for both concepts up to the early 20th century. Then de Saussure postulated the incompatibility of diachrony and synchrony and nothing was ever the same again. Etymology ...
16 votes

How to split pronouns 'whom' and 'whose' into morphs?

You could analyze them that way, sure. Perhaps there's an -m morpheme that indicates the accusative case, as seen in who-m, hi-m, the-m. But I don't think this is a very useful analysis, ...
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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.
  • 53.9k
14 votes
Accepted

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 ...
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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, ...
  • 70k
13 votes

Is the way words are used the biggest obstacle in understanding science and technology?

No, you do not have a point, because (good) science does use words accurately and unambiguously. But it is probably true that they don't use the words that you would prefer, or assign the definitions ...
  • 70k
12 votes
Accepted

What is the past tense of 'yeet'?

Although it may be tempting to look back towards Old English prototypes, one has to be aware of the time depth of any neologism. That's why finding the first occurrence is so important. The ...
  • 5,553
11 votes

Origin of Present Perfect in Romance Languages

The similarity is due to a common pathway of grammaticalistion. The have + past participle form comes from a resultative construction (Bybee, Perkins and Pagliuca, 1994), which commonly leads to the ...
11 votes
Accepted

Is it possible that a language's number system is inherently wrong?

I don't think a number system can be inherently wrong any more than gravity can be wrong; but a system can be confusing from a historical perspective. Numbers seems to be highly subject to reanalyses. ...
  • 70k
11 votes
Accepted

What exactly a morpheme is

The most important fact about "morpheme" is that it is a claim about the state of a language as it exists at a specific time; it is a concept of synchronic analysis, not diachronic analysis (etymology)...
  • 70k
11 votes

Is there a name for when a 'c' becomes an [s] sound in words like rusticity, when originally it was a 'c' in rustiC?

This question is a bit complicated. -ity is not really a productive suffix in English; it is the English outcome of the Latin suffix -itas. In the transition from Latin to Romance the sound ...
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10 votes
Accepted

Why do Croatian and Italian contain the same grammatical endings for nouns and verbs?

These all derive from the original Proto-Indo-European inflections. Compare Classical Latin present-tense verb endings: sg pl 1 amō amāmus 2 amās amātis 3 amat amant And Ancient Greek (...
  • 53.9k
10 votes
Accepted

What are some of the most prefixing languages?

Athabaskan languages would be the "most prefixing", in (a) being almost or in fact exclusively prefixing and (b) allowing many prefixes (11 positions). Papers on Navaho include this, as well as J. ...
  • 70k
9 votes
Accepted

In languages with robust case systems, such as Latin, Russian, and Finnish, is there a case in which appositives commonly occur?

In Latin, and similarly in other languages, the apposite is in the same case as its antecedent, for example "Ego, Claudius" (I, Claudius, both nominative), "Me, Claudium, vidit" (he saw me, Claudius, ...
  • 22.8k
9 votes

Origin of Present Perfect in Romance Languages

To the excellent answer by @WavesWashSands I'll only add that some Latin verbs employed a perfective construction with the verb esse "to be" and a participle, which at some point could have motivated ...
  • 1,185
9 votes

Is it possible that a language's number system is inherently wrong?

There are examples like this, and we all use that example every day. Look how Arabic digits look like, compared to Devanagari, Gujarati, and other Indic scripts. "૫ ૬ ૭ ૮" are "5 6 7 8" ...
9 votes

Examples of words that are monomorphemic in English, but polymorphemic in other languages

As I understand your interest, you don't need the relationship to be English (monomorphemic) to Other (polymorphemic), it works just as well if you have English being the polymorphemic example and ...
  • 70k
9 votes

Is there a name for when a 'c' becomes an [s] sound in words like rusticity, when originally it was a 'c' in rustiC?

The specific process that you are referring to is called "Velar Softening".
  • 70k
8 votes
Accepted

Why "agoraphobia" not "agorophobia"?

The connecting vowel in Ancient Greek compounds depends on the declension of the first noun: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0007%3Apart%3D3%3Achapter%3D24 If ...
8 votes

Etymology of Sanskrit नारक / नरक [nāraka / naraka]

The etymology is not entirely certain. The historical linguist Manfred Mayrhofer in his Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen (vol. 1, pg. 37) essentially says (this is paraphrased from German)...
  • 857
8 votes

suffixes, infixes and interfixes: help with terminology

The general rule that I learned is: if it comes before the root, it's a prefix; if it comes after the root, it's a suffix; if it comes inside the root itself, it's an infix; if it comes both before ...
  • 53.9k
8 votes

What is the past tense of 'yeet'?

I have a field sighting of the form "yoten" to report. In January I was involved with the organizing for the big pro-Second-Amendment demonstration in Richmond, VA. One of the central concerns of ...
  • 81
8 votes

Examples of words that are monomorphemic in English, but polymorphemic in other languages

One easy source for this is words that used to be polymorphemic, but fossilized by the time they reached English. For example, "desire", "depend", "destroy", "descend", and "delete" are irreducible ...
  • 53.9k
8 votes

Examples of words that are monomorphemic in English, but polymorphemic in other languages

An example that springs to mind: English "love" vs. Danish "kærlighed", which is actually tri-morphemic, consisting of "kær" (dear), "-lig" (derivational morpheme creating adjectives, thus "kærlig" = "...
  • 672
7 votes

Are there signed languages that have a case system?

Sign languages generally do not have rich case systems because they tend to be much more head-marking than, say, English. By this I mean that a translation of your Latin sentences into a hypothetical ...
  • 4,348
7 votes

How do linguists distinguish between case endings and postpositions, especially in languages which have both and/or have no traditional grammar?

This is a fundamental question in morphology that has consequences going far beyond the simple distinction between case endings and postpositions (which, by itself, is effectively quite thorny in many ...
7 votes
Accepted

What is known or believed about the origin of Semitic-type root-and-template morphology?

I can only offer some information obtained from two references I have recently come across when looking for answers to a similar question. Unfortunately, I am neither a Semitist nor an Afrasianist, ...

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