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39 votes

Are the longest German and Turkish words really single words?

From the perspective of linguistics, the question is meaningless though well-intentioned. "Word" is not a well-defined technical concept in linguistics (or, some people may have concocted a ...
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33 votes

Why do most languages have a different form for singular vs plural nouns?

First, though you probably already know this, not all languages have different forms for singular and plural nouns. Some don't mark number at all, while others have more fine-grained distinctions, ...
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  • 52k
14 votes

Are the longest German and Turkish words really single words?

In German, noun phrases that are used to describe a separate entity other than their individual nouns are written without spaces. Thus, the example of Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung may indeed ...
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  • 251
12 votes

What is the difference between Greek zōē and bios?

These two words are actually cognate with each other; they show the differing reflexes in Greek of labiovelar consonants. In the noun ζωή zōē and the corresponding adjective ζωός zōos, the initial ζ ...
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12 votes

Is music a language?

This is not a question which can be answered with a yes/no answer. Music is like a natural language in some respects and very much unlike one in others. Here are some suggested similarities and ...
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12 votes
Accepted

Are there any words understood by speakers of any language in the world?

No. Plain and simple. But let's break down your question. There are several aspects to the whole idea of 'word in a language' that make the question a lot more difficult to formulate properly. In fact,...
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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 ...
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11 votes
Accepted

Estimating the number of words in a language before invention of alphabet

I'm afraid I'm going to have to frame-challenge this one. For example, it seems intuitive that a spoken language cannot hold too many words without having a way to write them down (imagine having ...
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11 votes
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What does the absence of a tonal marking on a word in a tonal language imply?

There is no way to know without specific information from the source. In some traditions it means "toneless, unstressed". In some traditions, a specific tone is left out – it could be H, L, or Mid. It ...
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11 votes
Accepted

Is 😂 a word/letter?

In corpus lingustics we deal with corpora containing emojis, e.g., twitter corpora or other corpora of computer mediated communication, and thus it is a legitimate question how to treat them. Stand-...
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10 votes
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How to distinguish a polysynthetic language from other languages? When is something a word?

The important feature is that in a polysynthetic language, a single word may contain more than one lexical root. This means that e.g., to choose the most frequent example, a complex verb may not only ...
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9 votes
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What does '# of Cs' mean?

Tragically, the letter "#" has two meanings. In linguistics, it is used to refer to a word boundary. More generally (i.e. not in the special usage of linguists), it (the number sign) stands for "...
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8 votes

'm' in the words meaning first person

For the specific pronouns that you mention, the explanation is that those languages are Indo-European and have a common historical origin (*me, *tu). This happens to extend to Uralic, and the branches ...
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8 votes

Is there a theory of word polysemy? Case of snake versus serpent

There is no derivation in the example you gave. A derivation, in Linguistics, is when a morpheme is added to another morpheme to produce a new meaning. The case you are talking about can be analysed ...
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7 votes
Accepted

How do natural languages prevent word ambiguity in "compound words"?

Natural languages don't do this, ambiguities happen. An example is the German word Staubecken that can be analysed in two ways: Stau-becken "pond, basin, dam reservoir" and Staub-ecken, ...
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6 votes

How can I find which words don't exist in a language?

It's actually next to impossible to get that information, unless you're doing in-depth personal investigation of the language. You might expect there to be a word for "tree" in every language, unless ...
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6 votes

Word classification and labeling

Yard, bard, computer, paradise are all considered to be English words. You can find each of them listed in an English dictionary, non-italicized, with no usage note saying they are words in another ...
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  • 16.6k
6 votes

Why do most languages have a different form for singular vs plural nouns?

It is worth mentioning the fact that there seems to be some correlation between the numbers which languages may mark, and the numbers which human brains can treat differently. We can subitise small ...
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  • 4,348
5 votes

How to distinguish a polysynthetic language from other languages? When is something a word?

As you recognize, you have two distinct questions, one about word status and one about polysynthesis. The "one word or two" question is notoriously difficult to answer, and has no general solution (so ...
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5 votes
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Origins of a mystery name/word "Bossyi"

This is a surname which is widespread in Eastern Europe, mainly in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. This word comes from Ukrainian and it is an adjective which means "barefoot, without shoes". In ...
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  • 15.7k
5 votes

House vs. home in other languages

Many Romance languages have this distinction. In addition to French foyer noted by @Philippe, there are the Romance cognates Spanish hogar, Galician fogar, with the meaning of "home", from Vulgar ...
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  • 6,754
5 votes
Accepted

Is a word form defined solely by its grapheme sequence? Can two lexemes have a shared word form?

First of all, words (and therefore word forms) are not made of graphemes. They're made of phonemes; either the kind of phoneme spoken as sound (as in English) or the kind of phoneme gestured with the ...
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5 votes

Is there a theory of word polysemy? Case of snake versus serpent

Snake and serpent mean exactly the same thing. Is that really true? Of course they both denote the same class of animals, but that doesn't mean they mean exactly the same thing. They have slightly ...
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  • 2,585
5 votes

Does Lojban really have “unambiguous resolution of sounds into words”?

This was an important consideration in the design of Lojban, so while I haven't gone through the process of verifying it myself, I'm fairly confident that it is true for most of the language. (Since ...
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5 votes

I read the Quran syllable by syllable but I don't know where a word begins and where it ends.If I knew that I could translate them from the dictionary

Here is Quran word for word – every word is written separately, translated, explained grammatically, and recited audio by a professional reciter. If you click a word, you are redirected to a more ...
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5 votes
Accepted

Are different inflectional forms of a word different words or the same word?

The term "word" is a bit fuzzy here. When you want to be more exact, you may want to speak of word forms corresponding to the individual inflected forms and of lemmas or lexemes for ...
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4 votes

What is the difference between assertive and non-assertive words?

Other terms for assertive and non-assertive in this context are realis and irrealis as well as positive and negative polarity. When using some, somebody etc. the existence of the entity in question ...
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4 votes

Is music a language?

Thank you for digging up the article. I am afraid I find it really feeble. “Zipf’s law” (named after the American Nazi Zipf) is an application to word frequency of a very common statistical ...
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  • 22.6k
4 votes

Parsing a frequently used phrase as a word: Is there a name for that?

There are several terms in use that are related to what you've asked, but there's some overlap between them. Multiword Unit (MWU) or Multiword Expression (MWE). I believe this term fits what you ...
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  • 1,494
4 votes

Word classification and labeling

Either you need to lump things together, or you need to further split things up, or you need to give a reason to point to just these 4 distinctions. Making distinctions at all is arbitrary if it doesn'...
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