46 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

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 ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
38 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
35 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

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 ...
James Martin's user avatar
28 votes

Is there a language where people do not use weight for mass?

Not an answer, but I'd like to consider the question from another angle. It's pretty unlikely that a language would have separate everyday words for the physical notion of mass vs. weight. But, once ...
jick's user avatar
  • 1,111
27 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

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 ...
Mark Foskey's user avatar
21 votes

Does knowing PIE roots help with vocab?

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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
12 votes
Accepted

Does knowing PIE roots help with vocab?

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....
Greg Lee's user avatar
  • 12.5k
10 votes
Accepted

Is there a name for a diminutive whose meaning has decoupled from the original word?

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 ...
jogloran's user avatar
  • 5,115
10 votes

Is there a language where people do not use weight for mass?

This answer provides likely constraints of how to find that language if it exists. Because the constraints are so restrictive, I suspect that no such language exists. Unless it is one of the modern ...
Andreas ZUERCHER's user avatar
8 votes

Is English the most descriptive language?

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 ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

What decides the language family of a language the most structure/grammar or the vocabulary?

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83k
8 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

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 ...
Darrel Hoffman's user avatar
7 votes

Did Latin "cum" get replaced in French by "avec" because "con" sounded obscene?

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 ...
Artemij Keidan's user avatar
7 votes

Does knowing PIE roots help with vocab?

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. ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
  • 6,186
7 votes
Accepted

Why do the names for Slavic languages frequently end in ски (ski)?

This suffix comes from Proto-Slavic *-ьskъ, cognate with English "-ish", and is used in a similar way: to turn a noun into an adjective. For example, Russian герой geroj "hero" >...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
6 votes

Do German and English share the same word roots?

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... ...
LjL's user avatar
  • 1,849
6 votes

American English speakers needing subtitles more often

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 ...
Natalie Clarius's user avatar
6 votes

How to find most common expressions starting with "iron"?

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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
5 votes

What decides the language family of a language the most structure/grammar or the vocabulary?

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.
Greg Lee's user avatar
  • 12.5k
5 votes

Is English the most descriptive language?

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83k
5 votes
Accepted

How has pair/couple ended up meaning both 2 and more in different languages?

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 ...
Lefty G Balogh's user avatar
5 votes
Accepted

What does Potrefená mean in Czech?

Potrefená is a feminine gender past passive participle of the perfective verb potrefit “to hit”, its imperfective counterpart trefit has the same English translation, “to hit”. This verb is a ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
5 votes

Why do the names for Slavic languages frequently end in ски (ski)?

Proto-Indo-European suffix -iskos, which means "Characteristic of, typical of, pertaining to", is inherited by Balto-Slavic, Germanic and Hellenic. The Proto-Balto-Slavic one is -iškas, ...
Fatyanovo2022's user avatar
5 votes
Accepted

Relation between Russian "пока" and Czech "zatím"

First, about some things which are not very true in the question. The Russian за тем means “behind/after that ...” like in за тем домом “behind that house”. There is a Russian adverb затем “then, next”...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
4 votes

Do German and English share the same word roots?

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.,...
abarnert's user avatar
  • 2,625
3 votes

Is English the most descriptive language?

There are two fallacies in your argument which both bear pointing out separately, though I think the other answers here already answer the overall question adequately. A common observation in ...
tripleee's user avatar
  • 716
3 votes

Do people know more words or proper nouns?

Words, definitely. A 2016 study suggests that your average 20-year-old knows over 42,000 lemmata ("basic" words, like run, as opposed to running and runs). Multiply that by three if you want to ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
3 votes
Accepted

Do all cultures have the 5 senses?

The fivefold division seems to be old, widespread and established, but not universal. See Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 2nd century CE: Ex quinque his sensibus quos animantibus natura tribuit, visu, ...
Mark Beadles's user avatar
  • 6,861
3 votes

American English speakers needing subtitles more often

your America friends are having fun with you. Nobody does this, unless they have hearing problems, the soundtrack is muddy, or they're in a noisy environment like a bar. native speakers of American ...
mobileink's user avatar
  • 437
3 votes
Accepted

Examples of small, minimalistic natural languages?

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://...
jansegers's user avatar

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