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 ...
26 votes

Is the connection between 'right' in the sense of direction and concepts like 'correct' limited to Indo-European languages?

In Korean, 오른쪽 wolunccwok "right (direction)" comes from 옳- wolh- "correct" + -은 -un (Attributive) + 쪽 ccwok "direction", literally meaning "the correct direction". Another word for "right side", 바른편 ...
  • 506
18 votes
Accepted

Why do we call sound pitches "low" and "high"?

A web search on "metaphor low pitch" yields, among others, these references: The Metaphor of "High" and "Low" in Pitch ... Greek music theorists of antiquity spoke not of "high" and "low" but of "...
  • 12.2k
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") ...
15 votes

Is the connection between 'right' in the sense of direction and concepts like 'correct' limited to Indo-European languages?

It exists in semitic languages. "ymn" has directional right as its radical sense in the Ethiopian semitic languages but is also commonly used for good news, e.g., Yemane is a common name there, like ...
  • 251
14 votes
Accepted

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 ...
  • 53.9k
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 ...
  • 16.4k
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

Why does gang-nam and viet-nam both contain nam meaning south when one is in Korean the other Vietnamese?

Nán (南) is "south" in Chinese. Addendum: the Middle Chinese form assumed by Sagert & Baxter is nom. The reconstructions from their book are available here.
  • 70k
11 votes
Accepted

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 ...
  • 1,235
10 votes
Accepted

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).
  • 22.8k
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 ...
  • 241
9 votes
Accepted

Relationship between "see" and "look"

See and look are Sense Verbs. They are, in fact, the two distinct English sense verbs for vision. There are three varieties of English sense verbs, following the pattern of hear, listen, sound (only ...
  • 9,670
9 votes
Accepted

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". ...
  • 5,553
9 votes
Accepted

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 ...
  • 53.9k
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 ...
  • 1,884
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. ...
  • 191
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 ...
  • 326
8 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 ...
  • 5,444
8 votes
Accepted

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 ...
  • 5,444
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 ...
  • 4,348
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 ...
  • 5,553
8 votes
Accepted

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 ...
  • 6,075
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 ...
  • 9,670
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 ...
7 votes

Why do we call sound pitches "low" and "high"?

When the frequency is expressed in Hertz the number is actually lower for lower pitch sounds. Higher pitched tones have a higher number. For example middle C is 261Hz and bass C is 130Hz. Bass C is ...
7 votes

Why do we call sound pitches "low" and "high"?

Turkish language uses "Thick" for low frequency pitches and "Thin" for high frequency pitches. Turkish reserves "low" and "high" for amplitude of the sound instead. Like: The sound of the thunder was ...
  • 71
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 ...
  • 5,553
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. ...
7 votes
Accepted

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 ...
  • 4,348

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible