Questions relating to the scientific study of language.

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6
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3answers
2k views

British upper-class pronunciation of words like “what” and “when”

More from the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. I've noticed in these sort of movies, when some very upper-class speakers talk, like the lawyer in the series, Mr. Tulkinghorn, they have ...
-1
votes
1answer
120 views

I've been betrayed by the Jedi Order, but I don't wish “for” them to all die [closed]

Does the presumably nonstandard construction "(verb) for someone/something to (verb)" instead of "(verb) (someone/something) to (verb)" have any currency in modern day colloquial AE speech and "not so ...
5
votes
1answer
702 views

Flexibility of English: Always so?

The other day I read a question about nouns being used as verbs. An answer informed that in English any word can be used as a verb, but that it is not so in other languages. Beyond verbs, English is a ...
61
votes
5answers
27k views

If the letter J is only 400–500 years old, was there a J sound that preceded the design of the letter?

I understand that the letter "J" is relatively new — perhaps 400–500 years old. But since there has long been important names that begin with J, such as Jesus, Joshua, Justinian, etc., and which ...
2
votes
1answer
332 views

“None” and “Any” [closed]

Can anyone tell me more about the relationship between the words none and any I'm specifically interested in their grammatical overlap, when they share a similar grammatical function in a sentence, ...
1
vote
1answer
225 views

What does it mean that two languages are genetically unrelated? [closed]

I would like to know what does it mean that two languages are genetically unrelated? I have seen answer in this topic Genetic Relatives what does it mean that languages are genetically realted but ...
21
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the origin of the “-th” suffix? What is the linguistic term for the meaning it adds to words?

I was teaching my young nephew some math the other day, and from discussing the typical sort of word problems he's encountering in class, I noticed that the "-th" suffix adds a distinct meaning to ...
4
votes
1answer
334 views

A theory or concept related to language use by elite or the higher classes

I'm an English teacher, and I'm looking for a theoretical model that suggests language is used differently by different classes. I am aware of Bernstein's Elaborated code, which refers to an elite ...
11
votes
1answer
3k views

Is there a maximum number of suffixes that can be added to an English word?

You can add various derivational and inflectional suffixes on to most English words to create new longer words (or forms of words). But is there a definite or theoretical maximum that can be added in ...
2
votes
1answer
126 views

What patterns will flash in the native-speaker's brain when using English? [closed]

I think it is a common puzzle for ESL,especially for Chinese,since English is more abstract than Chinese, using which we can feel some specific patterns flashing in our brain. For example, when I see ...
1
vote
1answer
98 views

How do you parse the sentence “He had Elizabeth read the letter aloud.”?

The Stanford parser gave the following output. I think the word "read" should be tagged with VBN (past participle). (ROOT (S (NP (PRP He)) (VP (VBD had) (S (NP (NNP ...
-6
votes
1answer
420 views

Swear words and fricatives/plosives [duplicate]

I've noticed that pretty much all swear words or profane language contains one or more fricatives, and sometimes plosives. Without listing words, if you can think of the first ten swear words that ...
19
votes
6answers
3k views

Is it true that iambic pentameter is “natural” to English? If so, why?

When I first read Dante's Divine Comedy in high school, I remember once being puzzled at what I thought were strained rhymes in the translation, and mentioned it to my English teacher. In reply, she ...
3
votes
2answers
289 views

What is the term in linguistics when a word comes to have a new meaning over time, e.g 'wicked' is commonly used to demonstrate this

I'm not sure what to add here. I think the title says it all. I just need to know and would like to try this service because I believe it's really useful.
3
votes
1answer
160 views

Term for changing a word to fit another word inside it

Ska does this all the time. The Skatalites Eskanol (spanish ska) Skatastrophic I can't seem to think of a single other example, but I know I've seen it other places.
6
votes
2answers
4k views

What's the difference between grammar and syntax?

I've never understood the difference between these two terms. I understand the difference between semantics and syntax, or between semantics and grammar, but I'm not sure what's the difference between ...
5
votes
1answer
706 views

What are words similar in spelling but differing in meaning called?

I frequently encounter "vs" words like: prodigal vs prodigious ingenuous vs ingenious affluent vs effluent These words are very similar but not identical in spelling, and have different meanings. ...
1
vote
2answers
169 views

Who is the authority — scientists, or linguists — on the definitions of everyday words referring to types of animals? [closed]

For instance, biologists these days like to say that the word "dinosaur" is inclusive of modern birds, since birds are descended from dinosaurs. This is consistant with biologists' tendency to ...
2
votes
2answers
376 views

Which of these phrases are equivalent, if any, and why

Some say the following two phrases are equivalent because of Raising (linguistics)! Example 1 He doesn't believe that bigfoot exists He believes that bigfoot doesn't exist Are those two ...
1
vote
0answers
34 views

Does there exist an EBNF-like description of English? [duplicate]

In programming, languages are often specified by what's called an EBNF grammar, a recursive way of specifying the language's structure. For example, all super simple arithmetic operations using the ...
2
votes
1answer
884 views

What are the degrees of synonymity?

In several questions and answers on this site I've read phrases that suggest there can be a scale of synonymity between words—something I haven't thought much about before. Some examples I've seen are ...
8
votes
1answer
251 views

What is it called when an antecedent noun follows the pronoun?

Here is the example that raised the question in my mind: He was splashing, enjoying the jungle's great joys, when Horton the elephant heard a small noise. Here, He refers to Horton; but one ...
7
votes
2answers
401 views

Are there names for consonant-shifts when suffixes are added?

I saw a spelling mistake on an SO question: submittion. That got me wondering, is there a name for the shift of ‑mit‑ to ‑miss‑ in submission, permission, admission and so on? Are there other patterns ...
10
votes
5answers
16k views

Where does “ta!” come from?

Where does the expression "ta" come from? Wikipedia has only this to say: "ta!", slang, Exclam. Thank you! {Informal}, an expression of gratitude but no additional information or links about ...
3
votes
3answers
1k views

Retroflex approximants in AE dialects

While looking up the best way to describe the aboriginal pronunciation of Uluru (/uluɻu/), I stumbled across retroflex approximants. The linked Wikipedia page states: The retroflex approximant ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

Good and bad - suppletive adjectives

In English, there are three suppletive adjectives: good, bad and far. Their comparative and superlative forms derive from different stems, i.e., we have best instead of *goodest, worse instead of ...
2
votes
0answers
496 views

Syntax, contrastive analysis [closed]

Could anyone help me with this question? What are the main types of contrast involved in contrastive analysis of syntax? Give examples. I tried to find answer, but unfortunately I find nothing.
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Are any of the t-glottolization, th-fronting, h-dropping, etc. in English a phonological complex?

Wikipedia gives the following, with plenty others ommitted by me, as some of the features of Cockney English: T-glottalisation: Use of the glottal stop as an allophone of /t/ in various ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

When and why did the letter “u” begin being called [ju]?

We pronounce the name of the twenty-first letter of the alphabet homophonically with the word you. Was this what the letter was always called (ever since the analogous letter in Latin), or did it at ...
7
votes
4answers
1k views

What is the name of the phoneme produced in an upper-class Briton's pronunciation of the word “Duke”? What's different in the articulation?

When someone with a Received Pronunciation accent pronounces the word duke, as in The Duke of York, he doesn't pronounce it with a "hard" 'd', as one might pronounce the word duh, but a softer type ...
4
votes
1answer
78 views

Is there a term for ambiguity coming from a modifier modifying multiple parts of a sentence?

Given the sentence Before starting the machine, mount the machine with the battery installed on the harness. This could be taken to mean that 1) the battery is installed on the harness and the ...
15
votes
4answers
2k views

How do you proceed from pronouncing “t” in the regular way to t-glottalization, as found in various English accents?

It's just strange to me because "t" is pronounced with the front teeth, while the glottalized "t" is produced with the back of the throat; that seems like quite a noticeable journey that couldn't have ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

Analysis (tree diagram) of “She hugged and kissed her mother”

I was wondering how linguists analyze sentences like "She hugged and kissed her mother" or "Will you have that with or without syrup?" or "Four and five are the square roots of sixteen and ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

English questions and negation with *do* in syntax

A former lecturer of mine once explained why, from a syntactic point of view, the English rule that negation and questions are formed with the auxiliary do follows from other syntactic facts about ...
10
votes
6answers
2k views

Exactly what language do I (we) speak?

As an American, and a particularly myopic one, I am a bit confused to the language that I speak. I understand that we were once a colony of England, where English was/is spoken, but do we in the ...
3
votes
3answers
206 views

“Enormity” in figurative sense

The word enormity is widely used to mean excess of size, but if somebody talks about the enormity of his achievements he would look foolish. Why is that so? Does it depend on the tone used, or are ...
2
votes
2answers
221 views

What's the linguistics term for “Schubertiaden” and similar words? [closed]

What's the linguistics term for "Schubertiaden" and similar words (that refers to a group of people based on a person's name)?  "Schubertiaden" refers to the group of people of similar interest and ...
9
votes
3answers
449 views

Is spell-checking software becoming a linguistic authority?

It seems that‒whether intentionally or not‒spell-checking software in web browsers and productivity suites heavily influence our use of language. For example: in drafting a document, I found that my ...
3
votes
0answers
270 views

Visually and audibly unambiguous subset of the Latin alphabet? [closed]

Imagine you give someone a card with the code "5SBDO0" on it. In some fonts, the letter "S" is difficult to visually distinguish from the number five, (as with number zero and letter "O"). Reading ...
10
votes
3answers
9k views

Origin of “you lot” and other plural forms of “you”

I've often heard the phrase "you lot" in British programs on PBS, e.g. "Oi! You lot! Shift y'selves" or thereabouts, and have sometimes wondered about its origin and how it gained currency. It seems ...
4
votes
4answers
532 views

Alternative Descriptive Statement - Calling something like it really is; both intentionally/unintentionally funny

I'm curious to know if there is a type of speech or name for what I am about to describe... For example, instead of saying "let's go on a night hike," one would say, "let's go stumble around in the ...
10
votes
3answers
239 views

What is the standard of proof in etymology?

In this question the idea I put forward as a possible etymology for "ta" garnered the response that it is a well known false etymology for the word. That got me to wondering - being strictly a dabbler ...
1
vote
4answers
235 views

Text vs. audio representations of words

"Word" This can refer to at least three things: A textual representation of a _ A sonic representation of _ _ , the superconcept containing 1 & 2. What are specific...words for each of these ...
9
votes
4answers
511 views

Why we say “save file” and not “keep/preserve file”

Why do we say save the file/image instead of keep/preserve the file/image? Is it because the original meaning was to save (rescue) the object from being lost?
1
vote
1answer
899 views

Differences between Case Frames and Semantic role labeling

I'm learning about some basic linguistics theory and have come across case frame analysis and semantic role labeling as methods of determining agents within sentences, and arguments for verbs. ...
5
votes
3answers
812 views

Adjectives that do not have predicative position

I've read somewhere that some adjectives cannot be used in the predicative position; for example "this is a major problem" is acceptable, but "the problem is major" is not acceptable. I'm wondering ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

What makes a non-native English speaker sound foreign? [closed]

I'm not a native speaker. However, I have tried a lot during last 10 years to learn English at a high level of proficiency and to become fluent in conversation. However, when I talk to some of my ...
4
votes
2answers
520 views

Is it possible to regard “vacant” and “vacancy” as allomorphs (variants) of the same root in Modern English?

Am I right to consider /΄veikənt/ and /΄veikəns/ in those words as variants of one and the same root morpheme in Modern English. But it makes me hesitate in my morphemic division if we take for ...
21
votes
7answers
1k views

Has English adopted any common morphemes from languages that are not Greek, Latin, or French?

Has English adopted any common morphemes from any "exotic"-type languages? By that, I'm trying to exclude our most frequent borrowings; i.e. French, Latin, and Greek, from which nearly all our ...
5
votes
3answers
841 views

Linguistics term for word choice

I was taught a word once by a linguist. I can't remember it, but it would be very useful for a Google search I am trying to do to solve another question on a different StackExchange. It was a similar ...