Questions relating to the scientific study of language.

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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 ...
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1answer
383 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 ...
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6answers
2k 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 ...
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2answers
273 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.
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1answer
150 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.
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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 ...
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1answer
657 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. ...
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2answers
160 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 ...
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2answers
335 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 ...
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4answers
66k views

What are “coherence” and “cohesion” in text linguistics?

I am still learning English. My English language professor has given me an assignment on coherence and cohesion. But it seems difficult to me. I've consulted my friend and he told me: Cohesion and ...
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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 ...
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1answer
856 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 ...
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1answer
244 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 ...
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2answers
362 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 ...
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5answers
14k 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 ...
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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 ...
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3answers
1k views

Old English instead of Latin in early Britain

For almost 400 years, Britain was a Roman province. During that period, naturally, Latin was an important language in the region. When the Germanic tribes invaded the British Isles (around the 5th ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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0answers
480 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.
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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4answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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3answers
194 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 ...
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2answers
217 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 ...
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3answers
437 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 ...
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0answers
254 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 ...
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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 ...
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4answers
515 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 ...
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3answers
231 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 ...
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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 ...
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2answers
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Etymology of “binky” — three questions

Definition 2 of binky at wiktionary is "(rabbit behavior) A high hop that a rabbit may perform when happy." This definition is consistent with that at rabbitspeak, and not inconsistent with "A kind ...
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4answers
500 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?
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1answer
848 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. ...
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3answers
782 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 ...
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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 ...
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2answers
499 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 ...
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7answers
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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 ...
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3answers
820 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 ...
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4answers
3k views

If someone is an expert in written (rather than spoken) language, can they still be called a “linguist”?

When I think of “linguistics”, I typically think of the study of spoken languages, particularly phonetics. Compared to “language”, which of course is used of writing systems, ...
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2answers
12k views

Semi-vowels in English [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When is “Y” a vowel? Why are 'w' and 'y' called semi-vowels in English?
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3answers
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Is there a term for switching syllables of words?

Primary question: A common speaking mistake is to exchange syllables of words, saying "It's trace rhyme!" instead of saying "It's race time!", or pronouncing "kickin' chackatory" instead of "chicken ...
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4answers
583 views

Are there any indications that English is going to split into different languages in the next hundred years? [closed]

Are there any indications that (global) English is going to split into different languages in the next hundred years?
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2answers
823 views

Is there a known reason that English has so many short words?

Anyone who has played scrabble-like games in English and other languages cannot help but notice that English has an extremely high number of two and three-letter words. Is there a known ...
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3answers
287 views

Verbs of inaction

It seems to me that most English verbs always convey some action. That is, no words (to my knowledge) convey that absence of an action. Let me explain. Let's assume that I wanted to say that a certain ...
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3answers
1k views

Was what happened to the pronunciation of the word “church”, as compared to the Scots-English “kirk”, a general phenomenon in Middle English?

The other day, I was reading a history of the Norman and Angevin kings, and came across the word kirk in an ecclesiastical context, which I had to look up, having no clue of its meaning. The Online ...