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43 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 ...
user6726's user avatar
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37 votes
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Why are "eat" and "drink" different words in languages?

The claim that there are always separate lexemes for "eat" and "drink" is not a linguistic universal. From Anna Wierzbicka's chapter "All people eat and drink. Does this mean ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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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, ...
Draconis's user avatar
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20 votes

Why are "eat" and "drink" different words in languages?

Adding on to the other answer, probably the most widely-spoken language without an "eat" ~ "drink" distinction is Bengali, which has adapted the native Indo-Aryan "eat" ...
Aryaman's user avatar
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19 votes

Is there a list of word meanings that are universally represented in all languages?

The Natural Semantic Metalanguage is a project that aims to identify the universal building blocks of human language, or "semantic primes". After four decades of empirical research they have ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
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17 votes
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Is there a list of word meanings that are universally represented in all languages?

No, there may not be any universal meanings. Here is an example. In most (maybe all) Bantu languages, there is no word for "hand" and no word for "arm", because there is a word ...
user6726's user avatar
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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 ...
talkanat's user avatar
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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 ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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
12 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-...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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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 ...
user6726's user avatar
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11 votes

What is the name of the first known word from which the current word is derived?

I don't believe there is a single word. I would describe this as the "earliest attested antecedent". I might also use another word like "predecessor", "etymon", or "...
Tristan's user avatar
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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 ...
Natalie Clarius's user avatar
10 votes

Why are "eat" and "drink" different words in languages?

Thai technically has different words for eating (กิน) and drinking (ดื่ม), but I've heard native speakers frequently say stuff like กินน้ำ ("eat water") when they ought to say ดื่มน้ำ ("...
cmw's user avatar
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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 "...
user6726's user avatar
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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 ...
user6726's user avatar
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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 ...
amegnunsen's user avatar
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8 votes
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Ways a word can be used

This is called the use-mention distinction—that is, the distinction between using a word (to refer to something in the world) versus mentioning the word (in and of itself). Some people prefer the ...
Draconis's user avatar
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8 votes
Accepted

What is the name of the first known word from which the current word is derived?

Proto-form may also be used in chemistry, but in linguistics it refers to a reconstructed form from which other forms are derived (see proto-language and comparative method). An example of a proto-...
Keelan's user avatar
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7 votes
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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, ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
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 ...
brass tacks's user avatar
6 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 ...
user6726's user avatar
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6 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 ...
Mark Beadles's user avatar
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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 ...
Omar and Lorraine's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Do any languages do without the word for "this" (or "that"), or treat them somehow as nouns/verbs/adjectives?

Do any languages completely do without a concept for "this" and "that"? The general concept behind "this" and "that" is called "deixis" (from the ...
Draconis's user avatar
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6 votes

Why are "eat" and "drink" different words in languages?

We have less specific and more specific verbs so that we have a choice of which information to present. First, consider the intransitive forms. These descriptions each paint a different scene: My ...
Jessica Knight's user avatar
5 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
5 votes
Accepted

Complex example of a language with a word that is a complete English sentence

Polysynthetic languages come close to what you seem to be looking for since apart from marking multiple grammatical functions in one word, they allow a word to combine both noun and verb. Examples are ...
user6726's user avatar
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5 votes
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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 ...
melissa_boiko's user avatar

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