114 votes
Accepted

Is there a linguistics term meaning "it's grammatically correct, but nobody says that"?

I think the common term would be non-idiomatic, idiomatic here not referring to idioms like "kick the bucket", but to the natural ways a language is spoken.
curiousdannii's user avatar
  • 6,193
77 votes

What is the term for this derivation: "Cheeseburger comes from Hamburger" but... the word hamburger didn't refer to ham

This is called rebracketing: when the original [hamburg][er] is reinterpreted as [ham][burger]. Other examples include [alcohol][ic] > [alco][holic] and [helico][pter] > [heli][copter].
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
50 votes

Is there a technical name for when languages use masculine pronouns to refer to both men and women?

This strategy to deal with person groups of mixed gender or with single persons of unknown or undetermined gender is named generic masculine. It is quite frequent among languages with grammatical ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
43 votes

Aren't all spoken languages tonal?

Most languages called tonal are more precisely described as having lexical tone. This means that tone conveys a meaningful distinction between different lexical items. E.g. in Mandarin, 妈 mā with a ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,302
40 votes

Is there a term for translating a word to a language that has a different alphabet (such as Hindi to English)?

There is a term for converting दाल to dal, namely "transliteration". Etymologically that is not original English, but it is now, so it's not a translation, whereas फल transliterates as phal ...
user6726's user avatar
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33 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 (...
Robert Columbia's user avatar
32 votes
Accepted

What do you call an IPA symbol that lacks a name (e.g. ɲ)?

Good question! IPA symbols generally fall into one of three categories, in common use: Some symbols have a conventional name: æ is "ash", θ is "theta", ŋ is "engma". Standard Latin letters would also ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
32 votes

What is the term for this derivation: "Cheeseburger comes from Hamburger" but... the word hamburger didn't refer to ham

It is unclear whether cheeseburger was actually formed based on a misunderstanding of the etymology of the word hamburger. It can be noted that the word burger without the ham is also in frequent use. ...
jkej's user avatar
  • 421
31 votes
Accepted

Is there a term for when you use grammar from one language in another?

This is usually called interference. Here is the Wikipedia on the subject: When the relevant unit or structure of both languages is the same, linguistic interference can result in correct language ...
cmw's user avatar
  • 979
30 votes
Accepted

What is the idea behind calling the adverb the garbage can of words?

Traditional grammarians going all the way back to Donatus are accused of classifying as adverb any word they couldn't make fit anywhere else in the canonical parts of speech. It's a very old ...
StoneyB on hiatus's user avatar
26 votes

What is the proper definition of a verb?

It's important to draw a distinction between syntax and semantics. In syntax (how words fit together), words are put into "categories" based on the way they fit together with others. If I ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
21 votes
Accepted

Reversal of kinship terms when speaking to a child

Is there a name for this phenomenon? There are several in fact, but there doesn't seem to be a single unified term, which is quite a problem because it makes looking it up a real pain in the neck. ...
madprogramer's user avatar
21 votes
Accepted

What is the correct term for a "lazy L"?

It's called "l-vocalization" (previous related question: Dark L vs L Vocalisation). A range of sounds can result from it, and because of this and also because of differences in ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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20 votes

What do you call an IPA symbol that lacks a name (e.g. ɲ)?

Almost every character that can be input and shown on modern computers is defined in Unicode and has a code point, so of course each IPA symbol has a name. <ɲ> is defined as "LATIN SMALL LETTER N ...
Nardog's user avatar
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20 votes

Is there a linguistics term meaning "it's grammatically correct, but nobody says that"?

In pragmatics, if an utterance is syntactically well-formed and makes sense but cannot occur then it is called infelicitous. Unacceptability judgments are broader as it may include semantic ...
g4vagai's user avatar
  • 301
18 votes
Accepted

What do you call it when you write the next word in a sequence twice instead of the current and next word?

This is called an anticipation error, where your planning for the next word interfered with your planning for the current word. The opposite is a perseveration error, where your planning for the ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
17 votes
Accepted

What is "case"?

There are multiple definitions of case, but the differences in conventional terminology between languages also just have a lot to do with different traditions for teaching grammar. Morphological case ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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16 votes
Accepted

What are the subjective and objective genitives?

You've basically got it. The terms "subjective genitive" and "objective genitive" come from the classical grammatical tradition (as opposed to modern linguistics), and are mostly used when analyzing ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
14 votes

What do you call a failed attempt to use the "standard" speech?

The closest term to what you need is hypercorrection which is sometimes called hyperurbanism: In linguistics or usage, hypercorrection is a non-standard usage that results from the over-application ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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14 votes
Accepted

Rudeness by being polite

It depends on the exact theoretical framework used and the exact nature of the language's politeness / rudeness system, but following Brown and Levinson's 1987 framework, Culpeper's 1996 Towards an ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
  • 7,466
14 votes

Is there a linguistics term meaning "it's grammatically correct, but nobody says that"?

You might also be looking for unacceptable, if you're thinking of sentences like Chomsky's famous "colorless green ideas sleep furiously". Specifically (at least according to a long-ago undergraduate ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
14 votes

What's the term for finding an attestation of a word that predates the earliest known one?

You used the very word yourself—the term is antedating. From OED documentation: Antedating is the technical lexicographical term for an earlier example of a word or sense. A postdating is a later ...
Nardog's user avatar
  • 4,931
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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 66.2k
14 votes

Is there a term for when you use grammar from one language in another?

It's often referred to as L1 transference, or L1 interference, where the term L1 refers to the speaker's first language and transference refers to the projection of aspects of the first language onto ...
Araucaria - him's user avatar
13 votes
Accepted

Replacements for swear words

What you're talking about are called minced oaths. Some contemporary examples from English are sugar and fudge for shit and fuck or even the longer phrase shut the f...ront door for shut the fuck up.
Miztli's user avatar
  • 1,085
13 votes

Aren't all spoken languages tonal?

It has been a long-standing challenge to define the difference between tone and intonation, since both exploit fundamental frequency as a physical exponent. The difference is generally drawn by ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
12 votes

Who was the first to call noun classes "genders"?

It depends on whether you mean strictly English (since gender is an English word) or do you include the historical antecedents in other languages. The origin of the concept and term is Aristotle in ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.1k
12 votes

Is there a name for the phenomenon of some words being more deeply embedded in a language than others?

You could say that English do is more "grammaticalized" than German tun, and German werden is more grammaticalized than English become. Section II of "The Grammaticalization of Aspectual Auxiliary ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.1k
12 votes
Accepted

Is there a term for the phenomenon of linking the end of a word to the beginning of the next word?

Seems like you're looking for 'resyllabification'.
WavesWashSands's user avatar
12 votes
Accepted

Is DNA a language?

DNA is a physical code. It would be possible to encode a natural human language in it just like we can encode English in Morse code. But the natural DNA in our cells does not encode a language, it is ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
  • 6,193

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