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37 votes
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Why are "eat" and "drink" different words in languages?

The claim that there are always separate lexemes for "eat" and "drink" is not a linguistic universal. From Anna Wierzbicka's chapter "All people eat and drink. Does this mean ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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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
20 votes

Why are "eat" and "drink" different words in languages?

Adding on to the other answer, probably the most widely-spoken language without an "eat" ~ "drink" distinction is Bengali, which has adapted the native Indo-Aryan "eat" ...
Aryaman's user avatar
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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
14 votes
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What do "titles" and "Beijing" stand for?

The word "titles" here is being used to mean books, which could be considered an instance of synecdoche (a type of metonymy where a part of a thing stands for the whole of the thing—a title ...
Draconis's user avatar
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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
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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 ...
user6726's user avatar
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13 votes

Using 'is' after non-denoting phrases

This is called a gnomic sentence, expressing a universal truth about a relationship between predicates rather than a fact about a specific entity. Similarly, consider the sentence "water freezes ...
Draconis's user avatar
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11 votes
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Are there languages with no euphemisms?

Their presence across all known world languages constitutes a linguistic universal according to research from Allan and Burridge (1991) Refer to this article here. And to this paper, here As @Wilson ...
WiccanKarnak's user avatar
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11 votes
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What effect does the wrong T-V pronoun have on truth-value?

The choice of register (how respectful you're being) is generally considered a pragmatic matter, not a semantic one. In other words, it could potentially make an utterance infelicitous, but cannot ...
Draconis's user avatar
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10 votes

What is the minimal set of words that make a language "complete"?

This is of course highly debated, but some linguists would answer yes, there is a small set of words/concepts common to all natural human languages. The major theory currently representing this view ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
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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).
fdb's user avatar
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10 votes

Are there languages with no euphemisms?

I feel like this is more of a cultural question than a linguistic one. Euphemisms do not require the currently spoken language to accommodate them. Euphemisms rely on a person's understanding that A ...
Flater's user avatar
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10 votes

Why are "eat" and "drink" different words in languages?

Thai technically has different words for eating (กิน) and drinking (ดื่ม), but I've heard native speakers frequently say stuff like กินน้ำ ("eat water") when they ought to say ดื่มน้ำ ("...
cmw's user avatar
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9 votes
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Is there a tendency to name money after other things?

Although anecdotally the answer to the question is a confident "yes", there is a big complication: the many concepts of economic value that are bundled into the Western European concept of "money". ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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9 votes
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What happened to *kweþana?

First, just to note, *kweþaną didn't completely die out: English "quoth" is archaic but still recognizable, and Icelandic kveða is still in active use. But you're absolutely right about the general ...
Draconis's user avatar
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9 votes
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What explanatory advantages does so-called "type theory" have?

I can't see the sense in reducing everything in a language to either an "e" or a "t". Maybe this is a good place to start. Type theory (more accurately: so-called simple type ...
Natalie Clarius's user avatar
9 votes

How does lexical replacement occur?

For your specific example the rough outline is straightforward even if the exact details are largely unrecoverable: Mycenaean palaces were ruled by a wanax (Linear B 𐀷𐀙𐀏 wa-na-ka), and local ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
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9 votes

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

As melissa_boiko and Yellow Sky have already mentioned, the number of languages with this distinction is likely to be in the thousands. Here are some concrete examples from the Indian subcontinent. ...
verbose's user avatar
  • 191
9 votes
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In absolute numerical terms, what is the computational size of human language, particularly semantic processing?

There is a popular yet false presumption about brain structure and language that enables this question, among others. The simple answer is, we have absolutely no idea. The medical folks could tell us ...
user6726's user avatar
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8 votes

Textbooks in Formal Semantics / Montague semantics

I really depends on what you are after. Here is a list of my favorite text books, together with some short annotations. Heim & Kratzer 1998: one of the best intro to semantics if you are ...
Daniel's user avatar
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8 votes
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How to define colors in the Natural Semantic Metalanguage?

Anna Wierzbicka wrote a chapter in her 1996 text Semantics: Primes and Universals on the semantics of colour terms. In this chapter she presents a theory where colours are understood according to ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
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8 votes

Are there languages with no euphemisms?

It's hard to answer a question with a definite negative, since that leaves the possibility open for someone to come along later and say, "I know an example which disproves your position". But I think ...
Omar and Lorraine's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

What is the intuition behind the term Transitive for verbs?

The grammatical sense of the word "transitive" comes from the Latin transitivus, which as you imply the idea of going (itus) across (trans). This is calqued from Hellenistic Greek μεταβατικός. The ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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8 votes

Are these two propositions semantically entailed?

A. Mary inherited vintage jewelry from her grandmother. B. Mary has an antique diamond ring. Neither proposition entails the other. Both are consistent with the same set of facts, but each one ...
jlawler's user avatar
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8 votes

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

Southern Sami (Finno-Ugric) has several words for distinguishing maternal and paternal uncles by relative age and blood relation: jyöne, maternal uncle jiekie, paternal uncle, but only when he's ...
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar
7 votes

Textbooks in Formal Semantics / Montague semantics

I warmly recommend Coppock & Champollion (2020). It's free, very accessibly written and essentially a formally precise version of Heim & Kratzer's style. It also comes with a computer program ...
Natalie Clarius's user avatar
7 votes

How do languages with negative concord express the actual negation of negative polarity items?

First off, let's take a broader look at multiple negation. Van der Wouden (1994a) describes four different classes of how multiple negation can be interpreted: double negation (DN), e.g. Standard ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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7 votes

Word meaning as function of the composition of its phonemes

This is probably not the kind of answer you are looking for, but I guess the following two points would have to be considered as strong indications that meaning is not computed from phonology. ...
David Vogt's user avatar
7 votes
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Are there languages that can speak of continous things without discretizing them?

Sign languages. In English for example, we have the words "wide" and "narrow". We can say "a narrow belt" or "a wide belt", but these are "discretizations", aren't they? In BSL, the distance between ...
Omar and Lorraine's user avatar

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