Aaron
  • Member for 10 years, 4 months
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Is Nicaraguan Sign Language the only language born from nothing?
18 votes

There is also the Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language, which developed under similar circumstances (isolated deaf community) in the south of Israel. It developed a little earlier than ISN (early 1900s vs....

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Do some languages have articles besides the definite and indefinite articles?
17 votes

It is worth noting, I think, that "article" is not a theoretical primitive in (most if not all) contemporary generative theories of syntax. A generative syntactician would say that languages have ...

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The relationship between "orange" the colour and "orange" the fruit
16 votes

I think hippietrail is on the right track. Two things are worth mentioning: a famous study by Berlin and Kay on the subject of color term hierarchies in language (e.g. if a language has a word for "...

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Is there anything analogous to grammatical gender for verbs?
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15 votes

Romance languages have (generally speaking) three classes of verbs, inherited from Latin. In French, these correspond to the infinitive endings -re, -er, and -ir. These are like gender in that they ...

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Why do tone and simple syllable structure appear to be correlated?
14 votes

I think that Zhen Lin's historical explanation is essentially correct: in order for tone to arise in a non-tonal language, some other phonological contrast is reanalyzed as tone. Tone languages can ...

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Are there creoles of three languages?
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13 votes

I'm not quite sure what you mean by a "direct n-language creole." Creoles can and do draw their lexicon from many different sources; I would argue looking at aspects of syntax often doesn't let us ...

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Are there grammatical analyses of languages that are extremely different from IE grammar?
13 votes

This is a failed example of what you are looking for, but perhaps it will be interesting for you nonetheless. At a certain point (in the late 70s, if my memory serves – but I could be off by a bit),...

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Is it possible to predict language changes?
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13 votes

It's tough. On the one hand, in phonetic changes like the Northern Cities Shift, it is possible to record successive generations of speakers and measure acoustically how their vowel production (in ...

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How did the present continuous in English get to be such a dominant present tense?
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12 votes

Steven's second paragraph, about blocking, is not quite correct. Spanish for example has both a simple present (él come) and a present progressive formed from a copula + gerund (él está comiendo), ...

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Do languages borrow morphemes?
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11 votes

English has done this rather extensively -- the "-ation" you quote is originally Latin. The verbalizing suffix "-ize" is originally Greek (and entered the language via Latin (borrowing) and French (...

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What are the criteria that distinguish clitics/particles from affixes?
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10 votes

I'm not sure why you think that affixes cannot be stacked. Here's an example from English, whose morphology no one will argue has non-affixal properites: anti- dis- establish -ment -ari -an -ism We ...

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Why are affix hopping and head movement considered as distinct operations?
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10 votes

There are a couple of reasons that syntacticians make this distinction: Word order facts Locality facts As to the first, in a language like French (which has obligatory V -> T head movement), ...

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What linguistic operation is used in "I declined your report"
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10 votes

I don't think that there is any deletion going on. The word decline in English simply has two possible uses – one followed by an infinitive, one followed by a noun phrase object. This is similar to "...

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How did the Arabic word "allah" come to have an /lˤ/ ("emphatic l")?
9 votes

This is not unheard of in onomatopoeic and other "expressive" parts of the lexicon. English for example has "unh-uh" /ʌ̃ʔʌ/ (meaning approximately "no"), which has a nasalized vowel and a medial ...

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Languages with stricter and less strict word order?
9 votes

Tsela's answer is very thorough, but I wanted to point out another aspect of the question. There are some basically universal cognitive biases about linear order in language (basically, new ...

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Languages that are gaining morphological distinctions
9 votes

It has been argued that in French, subject pronouns are in the process of becoming inflectional elements. Culbertson (2010) "Convergent evidence for Categorial Change in French" Language vol. 86 num. ...

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Examples of convergent evolution?
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8 votes

My favorite example is the convergent evolution of do support. In Modern English, auxiliary do must be used in questions and negative sentences: (1) John did not kiss Mary (2) Who did John kiss? ...

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Are there purely isolating/analytic languages with grammatical gender?
8 votes

The WALS1 lets you cross-classify languages based on two features. Here's a link to the cross-tabulation of "fusion of selected morphological formatives" and "sex-based and non-sex-based gender ...

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Difference between Minimalism and old P&P
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8 votes

My understanding of the issues is as follows. Principles and Parameters is an almost-tautologous restatement of Chomskian UG: there are certain things that are not subject to cross-linguistic ...

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Are there examples of pidgins or creoles in sign languages? If so, which are the major ones?
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7 votes

Spoken creoles are developed in environments where many languages are mixed (for example, in the Caribbean region, there were several major colonial languages and many African languages spoken by ...

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French conjugation, spoken vs written
7 votes

The loss of verbal conjugation has happened in other Indo-European language families as well. For example among Germanic languages, English, Swedish, and Norwegian have lost the conjugations ...

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Do any Indo European languages reflect noun class types other than gender?
7 votes

Modern Spanish has a construction (called a personal in Spanish) that (in some dialects) has an animacy requirement. This involves the insertion of a (homophonous with the preposition translated "to";...

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Is the sound "ř" unique to Czech?
7 votes

Wikipedia has these two factoids; they are tagged "citation needed" but could be avenues of investigation: This sound occurred historically in Polish, where it was written "rz", but it has since ...

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What is a native speaker, and at what point does someone become a native speaker?
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6 votes

The critical period hypothesis is important in understanding what it means to be a native speaker of a language. Newborn babies are equally capable of learning to speak any language, but as they ...

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Which phenomena compensate for sound losses in languages?
6 votes

There can be sound splits in languages, which develop new phonemes ex nihilo. One example of such a development is the history of the fricatives /f θ s/ in English, which were not distinguished from /...

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Hierarchy of morphology, auxiliaries, and suppletion of verbal accidents?
5 votes

Guglielmo Cinque wrote a book called Adverbs and Functional Heads: A cross-linguistic perspective wherein he (ambitiously) tries to construct a cross-linguistic universal hierarchy of functional ...

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Verb-attraction parameter in Portuguese
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5 votes

The adverb "normalmente" isn't the right kind of diagnostic for these languages, as evidenced by its free placement in the sentence. The fact that it it prosodically "heavy" also leads one to be ...

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Is the countable vs mass noun distinction common outside English?
4 votes

On the non-IE side of the fence, languages like Mandarin Chinese and Thai have a system of "classifiers" which are mandatory with all number + noun collocations (e.g. "two CL eggs"). The classifiers ...

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Are some languages known to have taken grammatical features etc rather than just lexicon from their substrate languages?
4 votes

The Balkan sprachbund is a group of languages which have interspersed grammatical features among each other. The concept of "superstrate" and "substrate" is less than clear here, since that implies a ...

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What does Optimality Theory explain that rule-based phonology doesn't?
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4 votes

Prince and Smolensky's original paper about OT is available for free online. The examples that they have extensive discussion of (viz. a whole chapter in the table of contents) are Berber ...

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