57 votes
Accepted

Why is “ß” not used in Swiss German?

It is because of the typewriter. A Swiss typewriter needs to support three languages: German, French, and Italian. Therefore on the Swiss typewriter, there was no ß key. It also has only lowercase ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
32 votes

Why is “ß” not used in Swiss German?

The Swiss government has an explanation on p. 18. One contributing factor is typography, namely the rise of use of the Antiqua font, which was claimed to not include ß. I have no evaluation of the ...
user6726's user avatar
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30 votes
Accepted

Are there languages where a change of character casing can lead to a different meaning of a word?

It’s worth pointing out that uppercase and lowercase characters are mostly a quirk of the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabets.[1] While these alphabets probably make up a plurality of written texts,[...
Jan's user avatar
  • 1,160
30 votes

Why were writing systems invented independently during roughly the same period across multiple civilizations?

From the source: Full writing-systems appear to have been invented independently at least four times in human history: first in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) where cuneiform was used between 3400 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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26 votes
Accepted

Can Someone Identify This Diacritic?

This is the predecessor to the modern umlaut: a small letter "e" written above a vowel. The name looks like "Schankär" to me. If you want to represent this very literally in ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
24 votes

Languages which changed their writing direction

Really lots of languages have experienced a change from Arabic writing (right to left) to either Latin or Cyrillic writing (left to right) during the 20th century. Notable examples are Turkish, Azeri, ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
24 votes
Accepted

The reason why Semitic languages are written right to left

This is not even a widely heard of theory. The reason why English is written left to right is that our ancestors wrote left to right, so the underlying question is what was the direction of the first ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83k
22 votes

Languages which changed their writing direction

Chinese is classically written top-to-bottom from right to left, e.g., 9 5 1 10 6 2 11 7 3 12 8 4 but it is becoming increasingly common to also see it written left-to-right from top to ...
Jeff Zeitlin's user avatar
22 votes

Languages which changed their writing direction

Probably the oldest example — being one of the oldest known examples of writing to begin with — is Sumerian cuneiform writing. Like Chinese, Sumerian cuneiform was originally written in vertical ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
20 votes
Accepted

How to identify a foreign language from handwriting?

Problem 1. Identify the language I found this diagram (in Russian). It seems to be pretty simple, and it amazingly covers a vast majority of world's languages. I took my liberty to adjust it slightly....
Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's user avatar
16 votes

The reason why Semitic languages are written right to left

The claim that right-to-left emerged because of chisel technology was quoted from Quora by the Children's Museum of Indianapolis website as a potential theory, and was also on Wikipedia's article on ...
Michaelyus's user avatar
  • 7,361
14 votes

Can Someone Identify This Diacritic?

@Caimarvon and @Draconis made simple work of what's an absolute mystery to people like my family and I, who are only amateur linguists in the same way that pushing an apple onto a stick could be ...
JBH's user avatar
  • 493
14 votes

Why were writing systems invented independently during roughly the same period across multiple civilizations?

I will answer from a different point of view. I will not care if it happened here at 3500 BC while at the other place at 1500 BC and consider it, as in your question, both as almost at the same time ...
Vladimir F Героям слава's user avatar
12 votes

Can a natural language be non-serializable?

In one sense, every language is serializable: record someone speaking or signing it, then encode that video into whatever format you like, and now it's been turned into a string of bits. But that's ...
Draconis's user avatar
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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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
11 votes

Are there languages where a change of character casing can lead to a different meaning of a word?

It's possible, but actual ambiguity is rare—because character casing generally doesn't correspond to any property of the spoken language, and languages are spoken more often than they're written. (A ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
11 votes

Tabannusi in cuneiform script

As noted by Draconis, this is not a Sumerian but an Akkadian word, specifically a form of the verb banû, "to build". Specifically, I would analyze it as the G-durative (for the D-stem, the ...
Ilmari Karonen's user avatar
10 votes

Wordplay in ancient texts

Aristophanes (Knights 21–26), much earlier than the Philogelos, punned on repeating molōmen auto, molōmen auto "let us go, that" ending up sounding like the taboo automolōmen "let us desert". ...
Nick Nicholas's user avatar
10 votes
Accepted

Is punctuation necessary in written language?

It's not necessary. We know this because punctuation is actually a relatively recent invention: Classical Latin, for example, was often written without punctuation or spacing of any sort. However, ...
Draconis's user avatar
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10 votes
Accepted

If there is a pattern to Chinese characters

The Chinese characters have not only a pattern, but many, many patterns. But First to clear up some confusion. Radicals are not usually composed of eachother, but are unanalysable. By analogy, a ...
Omar and Lorraine's user avatar
9 votes

How would someone begin translating an unknown language?

Take a look at John Chadwick's The Decipherment of Linear B. It does include some relevant theory -- I've used it as a text in an elementary linguistics course.
Greg Lee's user avatar
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9 votes
Accepted

What language(s) should I learn to read the Epic of Gilgamesh?

From Wikipedia: The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems about Bilgamesh (Sumerian for "Gilgamesh"), king of Uruk, dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100 BC). These ...
Keelan's user avatar
  • 4,135
9 votes

Are there languages where a change of character casing can lead to a different meaning of a word?

The Japanese Kana alphabets, Hiragana and Katakana, also have a similar distinction of their letters, big vs. small, but in Kana this distinction is used for quite a different purpose than marking the ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
9 votes

Tabannusi in cuneiform script

This is an Akkadian word, a form of banû "to build". My grasp of Akkadian conjugation isn't the best, especially for "weak" verbs that lose one of their consonants, but it looks ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
9 votes

Why were writing systems invented independently during roughly the same period across multiple civilizations?

In addition to what Vladimir said: Complex societies could only emerge when agricultural techniques were advanced enough to produce a surplus which could sustain a larger number of craftsmen, ...
Peter - Reinstate Monica's user avatar
8 votes

If there is a pattern to Chinese characters

To understand how Chinese characters work, we need knowledge of the following concepts: Morphemes have properties of both meaning and sound Chinese morphemes are overwhelmingly composed of a single ...
dROOOze's user avatar
  • 459
8 votes
Accepted

How do you break words across lines in Arabic?

You don't break words in Arabic. Instead of breaking words, the Arabic script uses optional stretching of words to justify text columns. You can stretch the inter-letter joins and also some individual ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
8 votes
Accepted

Some “linguistic formulas” to translate French texts into English?

Unfortunately, it can't be done. Translation is an immensely complicated process, and nobody's ever made a mathematical procedure that can do it with any reliability. The best we have right now are ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 65.2k
8 votes
Accepted

Does it make sense to study linguistics in order to research written communication?

Linguistics absolutely gives you the tools to study written language — at least some aspects of written language. The reason writing has not been considered the purview of linguistics is that it is ...
Luke Sawczak's user avatar
  • 2,432
8 votes

I'd like for this to be a word. Why isn't it?

The word deanomalize follows English word formation rules, and is perfectly fine. Without having encountered this word before, I can understand what it means, and if I use it, other people will also ...
Oliver Mason's user avatar

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