24 votes
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The reason why Semitic languages are written right to left

This is not even a widely heard of theory. The reason why English is written left to right is that our ancestors wrote left to right, so the underlying question is what was the direction of the first ...
user6726's user avatar
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23 votes

Pronunciation of P in Latin, versus Ph in Greek

I'm going to take a slightly different approach than Jk's answer, which does a good job coming at this from a Greco-Roman perspective. Instead, I'm going to focus on the Punic situation because it's a ...
Tristan's user avatar
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18 votes
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How well do Semitic languages preserve consonants over time?

Semitic languages don't always preserve consonants perfectly. In fact, I don't think that there is any Semitic language without multiple classes of conjugation to account for irregularities. All ...
b a's user avatar
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16 votes

The reason why Semitic languages are written right to left

The claim that right-to-left emerged because of chisel technology was quoted from Quora by the Children's Museum of Indianapolis website as a potential theory, and was also on Wikipedia's article on ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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15 votes

Pronunciation of P in Latin, versus Ph in Greek

At some time in the history of the Greek languages, the letters Phi, Theta, and Chi represented aspirated consonants /ph/, /th/ and /kh/. The Romans felt that they were different enough from their ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
12 votes
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Have linguistics found any evidence that Semitic languages influenced Germanic languages or vice versa (in ancient times)?

There are some very controversial theories by the German linguist Theo Vennemann postulating a contact between Phoenician and proto-Germanic in the 6th to 3rd century BCE. The evidence for such ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
12 votes

Is a final -u in Semitic languages known outside of Akkadian?

That Akkadian word-final -u is the Nominative case ending, the other case endings being -a for Accusative and -i for Genitive. Thus, the case forms of the noun bētu 'house' are: Nom.: bētu Acc.: ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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11 votes

Why does Hebrew transcribe Akkadian š inconsistently?

Yes, some people think Akkadian š was pronounced [s]. For the sibilants, traditionally /š/ has been held to be postalveolar [ʃ], and /s/, /z/, /ṣ/ analyzed as fricatives; but attested ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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11 votes

What is the concept of verb agreement with passive-active level in Hebrew?

Although I haven't heard of the term "degrees of passive/active" before, they are almost certainly talking about the verbal stems. This is a concept indeed alien to Western European (or broader) but ...
Keelan's user avatar
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11 votes
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Is there some equivalent of a "Grimm's law" that applies to the Semitic language family?

Quite a lot of them, in fact! Grimm's Law is probably the most famous description of a regular sound change. But there are an enormous number of these in historical linguistics, some named, some not. ...
Draconis's user avatar
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10 votes
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Validity of aging estimation for Proto-Afro-Asiatic

The basic reasoning is set forth in Ehret 2002, The civilizations of Africa : a history to 1800 in ch. 2. It is based on the claim that there was a civilization living in NE Africa, that they were the ...
user6726's user avatar
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10 votes
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Possible influence of Phoenician on local dialects in the British Isles during the Iron Age

There is no such credible evidence. The closest we get is some archaeological evidence of trade routes between Carthage and the Southern British coast (from what I remember this is mostly in the form ...
Tristan's user avatar
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9 votes

Why is it that Babylonian king names do not match their Akkadian equivalent?

This comes down to the ambiguities in the Cuneiform script. Cuneiform doesn't have a one-to-one correspondence between signs and sounds. The sign DIŊIR is a good example. The sign started out in ...
Draconis's user avatar
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9 votes
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What is Proto-Semitic *x̣?

One page further (p. 587), Huehnergard gives as one of the changes from Proto-Semitic to Old Babylonian: Common Semitic *ḫ and *x̣ merged to ḫ (Huehnergard 2003):      *ḫamisum > ḫamšum ‘five’; *...
Keelan's user avatar
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9 votes
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Similarities between Sumerian and Semitic languages

First off, it's worth noting that the main contact between Semitic and Sumerian involved Akkadian, not Hebrew, and the Akkadian words are a bit different—"mother" is ummu, and "father" is abu. And ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes

is english excellent and arabic galaal related?

Arabic جلال (jalāl) is a well-established part of the triconsonantal root system, built from the root JLL "greatness, magnitude, height". "Excellent" meanwhile has cognates all across the Indo-...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes
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Do classical Arabic verb forms have a passive-active relationship like some Hebrew "buildings" do?

Typically Semitic languages form true passive verbs as "internal" passives formed by a change in the vowels of the stem, with "external" passives formed with affixes (possibly in ...
Tristan's user avatar
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7 votes
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At what point did the feminine ending fall silent in Semitic languages?

The feminine ending /t/ is retained in all forms in Akkadian, Ugaratic, South Arabian and Ethiopic. In Canaanaic (Hebrew) and Aramaic it is retained in the construct state but lost in the absolute ...
fdb's user avatar
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7 votes
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Why does Hebrew transcribe Akkadian š inconsistently?

While Akkadian š is generally cognate with Hebrew š or ś, there's good reason to believe its pronunciation was quite different! The reason it's transcribed as š is mostly historical—Akkadian was first ...
Draconis's user avatar
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7 votes
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Can Semitic (Hebrew & Arabic) roots have vowels?

This is one of the topics addressed by Mike Brame in his MIT dissertation Ch. 5, for Classical Arabic, however I have to say that I find his discussion inconclusive. The prosodic pattern of verbs and ...
user6726's user avatar
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7 votes

Is the word for "brother-in-law" in Germanic languages related to the Aramaic/Syriac גיס?

Aramaic gīsā is a shorter form for aḡīsā “wife’s sister’s husband”. I do not have an etymology for this, but it really does not look anything like Indo-European *sueḱuro- or any of its descendants.
fdb's user avatar
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7 votes

Is there a common ancestor between the Hebrew לבן ("lavan", white) and the English "albino"?

It seems to be a coincidence. Latin albus comes from PIE *h₂elbhos, which has a lot of descendants: Hittite alpas, Sanskrit ṛbhú, etc. So if there was a borrowing, it would have been back in the PIE ...
Draconis's user avatar
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7 votes

Is there a common ancestor between the Hebrew לבן ("lavan", white) and the English "albino"?

Draconis is correct, but I want to add an additional note. Latin did not "chop off" the final consonant. What really happened is that we start with the word albus, which is an adjective ...
cmw's user avatar
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7 votes

Is there a common ancestor between the Hebrew לבן ("lavan", white) and the English "albino"?

If we are looking for a Semitic parallel to IE *h₂elbh-o- > Lat. albus a better candidate might be the Semitic word for “milk”, Arabic ḥalab, Hebrew ḥālāḇ, Aramaic ḥalḇā, conceivably a Wanderwort ...
fdb's user avatar
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6 votes
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Phonemic similarities between "mother" and "father" in different language families

The basic explanation is based on a combination of infant anatomical development and parental expectation. Infants don't initially know how to control their velum, so everything is nasalized. Also, ...
user6726's user avatar
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6 votes
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Is it possible for two Semitic (e.g. Arabic, Hebrew) words with the same triliteral root to have different origins?

Your cited examples do not involve the same roots in Hebrew and Arabic, they involve similar roots: [t] is not the same as [ṭ] and [f] is not the same as [p]. Semitic šim- "name" appears in Arabic as ...
user6726's user avatar
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6 votes

Parallels between h₂ and t in PIE and Nostratic, what is the explanation?

Let’s just take the beginning: In Afro-Asiatic we have the feminine ending -a which has the following evolution history: -a < -aha < -at < et What does -aha mean in an AA context? ...
fdb's user avatar
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6 votes

Which modern day dialect of Aramaic is the closest one to the dialect that Jesus of Nazareth spoke in Palestine some 2000 years ago?

The concept of “closeness” is actually rather problematic in linguistics. English and French are “close” in the sense that they share a large amount of common vocabulary, but in the sense of genetic ...
fdb's user avatar
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6 votes
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Which modern day dialect of Aramaic is the closest one to the dialect that Jesus of Nazareth spoke in Palestine some 2000 years ago?

Galilean Aramaic is a Western Aramaic language. The only surviving Western Aramaic language is Western Neo-Aramaic, spoken in the villages of Ma'loula, Jubb'adin and Bakh'a n Syria.
user6726's user avatar
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6 votes

How well do Semitic languages preserve consonants over time?

As for the titular question, there's no standard measure of "degree of preservedness", but consonants are historically preserved in Semitic about as well as consonants are preserved in Indo-European – ...
user6726's user avatar
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