Yellow Sky
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Is there any language that uses different pronouns for "we" depending on whether the spoken to person is included in the group?
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50 votes

Yes, this feature is called clusivity, there are dozens of languages that have it, for example Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Malay, Hawaiian, etc. This article has a list of such languages together ...

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

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 ...

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Is there any evidence to support the claim that English grammar is unusually straightforward?
44 votes

As a native Ukrainian and a teacher of English (for 20 years already), I can give evidence of what is complicated in English from the point of view of Ukrainian or Russian learners. In Ukraine, ...

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Why does English not have a cognate of words like heter, in Swedish, or llama, in Spanish, etc?
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44 votes

English does have that verb which is etymologically related to the Swedish heter, Icelandic heiti, German heißen, etc. In English it is to hight, only it is archaic, still sometimes it is used ...

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Are there languages without words for "father" or "mother" but only "parent"?
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35 votes

The only such language I know about is Pirahã, the indigenous language of the isolated Pirahã people of Amazonas, Brazil. It is minimalistic in many ways, having the least number of phonemes (only 11),...

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Is Sanskrit really the mother of all languages?
28 votes

Sanskrit is not the mother of all languages. Sanskrit is not even the mother of the modern Indo-Aryan languages of the Northern India. Neither it is their father or grandfather. In fact, no language ...

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What is the function of the soft sign (Ь) in Russian?
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26 votes

WARNING: The question is sooo many-sided, it is very wide and can be split into at least 3 different questions. I'll answer it all, don't tell me later that you haven't been warned the answer would be ...

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Is Thai language related or a descendant of Sanskrit?
21 votes

The script has nothing to do with the origin of the language. In fact, every script can be used to write any language. Usually a language adopts the script that is associated with the religion and/or ...

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Are there languages with no first person?
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21 votes

In languages that have no category of person, like Manju or Malay, there are dozens of politeness-specific words meaning "I" and "you", most of them being actually nouns. In such languages the same ...

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Why are many ancient languages so complicated compared to many modern languages?
19 votes

No language is "more simple" than other languages. Old English had just 2 tenses, present and past, now there are 16 of them, future and future-in-the-past forms developed over the time, the ...

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What do you call a failed attempt to use the "standard" speech?
15 votes

The closest term to what you need is hypercorrection which is sometimes called hyperurbanism: In linguistics or usage, hypercorrection is a non-standard usage that results from the over-application ...

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Is "Kent" in Tashkent of Turkic origin or Indo-European?
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15 votes

In the monumental Old Turkic Dictionary ("Древнетюркский словарь", Наука, Л., 1969) it is written that Kent/Kənd is really of the Sogdian origin. The dictionary reflects the words found in the Turkic ...

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Why do languages with such different alphabets use the same common punctuation marks?
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14 votes

They were standardized at some point, in the 19th-20th centuries, but many languages still keep their own ancient punctuation, e.g. the Armenian period is :, the Armenian question mark is ՞ which is ...

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Which languages have different words for "maternal uncle" and "paternal uncle"?
13 votes

In the Western variety of the Ukrainian language, maternal uncle is вуйко (vujko) [ˈʋui̯kɔ], and paternal uncle is стрий / стрийко (stryj / stryjko) [strɪi̯] / [ˈstrɪi̯kɔ]. Also, by analogy, maternal ...

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Which languages have words containing the same letter three times in a row?
13 votes

Russian has several words with triple letters: длинношеее - 'having a long neck', also короткошеее - 'having a short neck' змееед - 'snake-eater', the name of a bird доооновский - 'pre-UN'...

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Please help me identify this language (image)
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13 votes

@prash is right, that is Malayalam, and the text is upside down, it reads "mādhavi", മാധവി, which is most likely a female name.

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Are there any diacritics not on the top or bottom of a letter?
12 votes

Comanche uses “U bar” <Ʉ, ʉ> in the official orthography for /ə/. Other languages that use this letter in their official orthographies include Kanakanabu (an Austronesian lanuage of Taiwan) and ...

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Is English the only language (except classical Latin, Cyrillic, symbol languages and auxiliary languages) that has no diacritic symbols/accents?
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12 votes

First, diacritics are used in English, in borrowed words, sometimes optionally (like in the words café ~ cafe, façade ~ facade), but sometimes there is no alternative spelling without diacritics (like ...

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Is a final -u in Semitic languages known outside of Akkadian?
12 votes

That Akkadian word-final -u is the Nominative case ending, the other case endings being -a for Accusative and -i for Genitive. Thus, the case forms of the noun bētu 'house' are: Nom.: bētu Acc.: ...

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Can the Chinese script be used to record non-Chinese languages?
12 votes

Apart from the three languages you named, I know of at least three additional major languages that have used the Chinese script; which are, Thai, Zhuang, and Mongolian. Several minor ones that have ...

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Are there any known natural languages in which tense is never (or very rarely) expressed through the modification of verbs?
12 votes

In Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania, the verbs never change their form, it is the pronouns that have the tense. In Wolof there is I-which-is-now, I-that-will-be, I-that-was, ...

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Can a stop be both voiced and aspirated?
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12 votes

Definitely yes, only your phonetic notation is not very correct. Proto-Indo-European had such stops, Sanskrit and most Indian languages have them, too ([bʱ], [d̪ʱ], [gʱ], [dʒʱ], [ɖʱ]), the very name ...

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Please help me identify this language (w/ image)
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12 votes

It is Russian, the pre-1918 orthography. It says that in the village of Brodowe Łąki on the 11th (23rd) of June 1895 came Walenty Miecznikowski, aged 45, a worker from Blenda, and in the presence of ...

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Is it possible in Sanskrit to distinguish between the names Rāma and Rām i.e. राम and राम् when used in a sentence?
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11 votes

In the dictionaries, the Sanskrit name राम (Rāma), together with most other Sanskrit words, is given in the form of the stem. राम (Rāma) is the stem, and in a sentence it can be used only as a direct ...

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Can Old Church Slavonic be considered an artificial language?
11 votes

Yes, Old Church Slavonic (OCS) was an artificial language, but just in a way. Firstly, in the 9th century, when Cyrill and Methodius devised the OCS, all the Slavic languages and dialects were so ...

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Why the French 'noir' has perspired in so many languages?
10 votes

The French word ‘noir’ means ‘black’ and it is used in the names of art genres which are characterized by their dark atmosphere. Historically, the first such genre to which ‘noir’ was applied was film ...

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Why are there spelling inconsistencies in Southern European languages? What is the historical origin of this redundancy?
10 votes

It is all about the spelling conventions in those languages. "Latin does not follow spelling changes" because the alphabet Latin uses was conceived specially for the Latin language, Latin ...

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Where does the letter <j> come from to Slavic Cyrillic alphabets?
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10 votes

The letter <j> is really used in some Cyrillic-based alphabets, all of them were once created either by a certain person or by a group of people, that is, these alphabets aren't a product of ...

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Why are Native American names translated?
10 votes

I think, the names in the other languages like Greek or Arabic that have their meaning in those languages are standardized, for example 'Abdullah' meaning 'God's Servant' was and is given to millions ...

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Why did "s" use to look like "f"?
9 votes

That <ſ> shape of "s" is called "long s": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_s The long s was derived from the old Roman cursive medial s. When the distinction between ...

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