46

Ancient Greek word ΣΑΣΤΗΡ (sastēr) From 1890 to 1899, in pieces, a white marble slab was found by archaeologists in the ruins of an Ancient Greek colony Chersonesus, Greek Χερσόνησος (Khersónēsos), on the Crimean Peninsula, established in the 6th century BC. The slab (photo) was inscribed with a text in Ancient Greek being the civic oath of the Chersonesites ...


38

There are many such words. Even for a really well-attested dead language like Latin such words are known, e.g., aurichalc, haematopus, or cortumio (all three examples taken from the answers to this question on latin.se)


31

A surprising example is that one of the words in the "Lord's Prayer", one of the most significant prayers of the Christian tradition, has an unknown meaning. The original Greek word is epiousios (ἐπιούσιος) and has traditionally been translated as "daily" - but that translation has no particularly strong foundation. It occurs in the ...


26

In Genesis 6:14, Noah's Ark is made of עצי גפר (gopher wood). "Gopher" is just a phonetic transliteration of the ancient Hebrew גֹּפֶר. No one knows what it means, except that it is presumably some kind of wood.


21

Not really. English has a lot of words borrowed directly from Latin, or through a close relative (Norman French), which are still spelled almost exactly as they were two thousand years ago. It's easy to see the connection between English "conjunction" and Latin conjunctionem, "a joining-together", even though the pronunciations have ...


12

Yes. I subscribe to Ed Klima's theory about practical language learning. That is, you learn by being exposed to examples of the language while you're paying attention. And nothing else really counts. So, in regard to your question, if you're interested in etymology and PIE in particular, and if you look at lots of related facts, you'll make associations ...


10

These have been referred to as "lexicalised diminutives" in the literature. The terms "fossilised/frozen diminutive" also occur in other works. This paper by Bagasheva-Koleva is specifically about the phenomenon you're describing in Slavic languages. This dissertation by Katramadou uses the same term to refer to words like Greek κορίτσι (...


8

Your question isn't entirely clear, and Greg Lee has implicitly answered one version, namely how do we determine the subgrouping of languages that we know to be related, for example how do we know that Hindi and Farsi are more closely related that Hindi and English – shared grammatical innovations. Typically there are more innovations in the form of ...


7

No, but if it were, it would be very hard to objectively prove it. Now I don't doubt there are more variations of it and not knowing much German, I can't really say. Off the top of my head there is the famously untranslatable doch, and also sicher, absolut, definitiv, Stimmt., eben, klar, selbstverständlich, genau, freilich, mit Freude und sofort, Passt.,...


7

No. Thousands of years separate today's Indo-European languages from Proto-Indo-European. Over those years the words and their meanings have changed, idioms have developed, and then been forgotten. While etymology can sometimes illuminate something, you cannot rely on it at all, to do so is the Etymological Fallacy. The only way to determine the meaning of ...


6

Depending upon the specific view that one accepts concerning the development of the accent systems of Baltic and Slavic, the Baltic cognate would compel a reconstruction with *h2. Lithuanian (nom.) móteris [the acute diacritic here indicates the surface word accent] ‘woman’ belongs to the third accent class, which indicates that the stem moteri- contained ...


6

My guess is that this is not a matter of the language, but rather of the sound quality. Most films come with the original audio in (American) English where the actors speak right during the acting into the microphone placed somewhere in the background at the set. Synchronisations in other languages, however, are recorded in a studio where the synchronisers ...


6

I am not a specialist in Old French, but I suspect that the obscene homophony was not the primary cause for the substitution of Early French con (< Latin cum) with avec (< Latin apud hoc or ab hoc). More important is the homophony with the word con in the meaning of the Modern French comparative adverb comme (see e.g. in this dictionary of the obsolete ...


6

English and German are Germanic languages. This means that their grammar and core vocabulary originate from Proto-Germanic, which is also at the root of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Dutch... Latin and Greek are not directly related to English or German, although Latin, Greek, English and German are all Indo-European languages. Words with Latin or ...


6

Using the Corpus Query Processor or a similar corpus engine with a suitable corpus to answer your question, the query [word="[Ii]ron.*"][word=".*"] and a frequency breakdown on the types does the job. The more difficult thing is finding a "suitable" corpus, news, science, or literary texts will give different ranking lists.


6

Hapax legomenon This is defined as a word that only appears once in a given context - it can be in a single book, an author's complete works, or in the published works of an entire language (whether a dead language or an extant one). In the last sense, it would generally be a word whose definition is lost to history. The linked article gives a few examples....


5

Assyriologists, Egyptologists and other students of ancient languages in the 19th and 20th centuries have successfully deciphered lots of long extinct languages solely on the basis of written texts. So in principle it is possible. Having said that, successful decipherment has been mainly with languages that are either cognate with already known languages, or ...


5

Esperanto is not based on Romance languages – though a lot of the vocabulary comes from Romance languages, many ways in which words are used and some of the grammar are derived from Slavic languages (of which Zamenhof was a native speaker): for example the Esperanto word en, though borrowed from French en, actually behaves like the Polish v; plus features ...


5

The basis of the traditional classification of IE, since the 19th century, has been neither shared grammar nor shared vocabulary, but rather shared sound changes.


5

This is a lexical gap, also borderline case of an accidental semantic gap (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accidental_gap#Semantic_gaps). Simply put, there is a concept that is missing a word from the lexicon. Therefore the next best thing that is available, its immediate neighbour pours into that space and integrates its meaning. In this case, on an ...


5

There is no realistic prospect for comparing languages in terms of number of ways to express a thought, because every language has infinitely many ways to express any thought. "A thought" isn't a quantifiable units. You might, however, be able to quantify the synonym-density of a language, taking a clue from your example: how many words are there for "couch",...


4

There are a few factors that might confound your answer. For example, I'm pretty sure "actively" know several thousand more words than my father does; but then, I have a doctorate and lost count many years ago of how many books I own, whereas my father stopped going to school at age 15 and all the books he owns fit in a single shelf. So that's something you ...


4

I would propose a three-way distinction to illuminate the complexity: Vocabulary - Set of words familiar to any one individual speaker Lexicon - Set of words available to a particular linguistic community Dictionary - Complete set of words attested in a language across all linguistic communities (Note: this is simply for the purposes of elucidating the ...


4

Vocabulary.com's senses (and entries) are generally the same as WordNet's: compare with sound at wordnet.princeton.edu. Vocabulary.com has clearly done some filtering to make the entries less Weirdnet: note that there's no example sentence for "the audible part of a transmitted signal", which in WordNet is exemplified by "they always raise the audio for ...


4

If you're counting by pure number of words, it might be true that English has more roots from Latin or Greek than from any other languages, just because of the sheer number of scientific coinages—e.g., the names of the vast majority of biological taxa, and even many of the equivalent common names.1 Most of those words are shared across many languages, ...


3

Although in general terms fdb's answer is excellent he's forgetting one absolutely crucial detail: the size of the available corpus of the language. For any sufficiently large non random code given some known context decipherment will always be possible. Now, assuming that the alien linguist is able to comprehend human life to any basic extend he should be ...


3

There is one single ritual language that comes quite close with a vocabulary of only some 150 words (having quite broad senses like the Toki Pona ones), namely the aboriginal language Damin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damin


3

In fact, English has more "words for snow" than any Eskimo language has. Any speech group will differentiate terms for whatever categories they find useful. But "the number of words for X in a language" is no measure of anything at all; it's just mythology in action. As far as Eskimo words for snow are concerned, there's a famous book by Geoff Pullum ...


3

As far as I know, this is a scientific distinction not generally recognized by the average person in the street. "Poison" is a most general term, "toxin" is a subcase of that (poison produced by biological function) and "venom" is the injected subset of that. French also has "poison, venin, toxine", and I assume those terms exist in quite a number of ...


3

It's common for someone to insist on particular terminology that he considers clearer, especially when he has a point to prove. In fact, it's so common, it's become a storytelling trope. I'll give one set of examples from my native language (English). The Free Software Foundation publishes a list of numerous English words that it encourages people not to ...


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