Questions relating to the scientific study of language.

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8
votes
3answers
339 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
7k views

Is there a term for “*cough*<something>*cough*”?

What I mean is the act of "coughing" something that you don't actually want to (or rather dare) say outright. So instead of writing, say, "Miss Parker", you'd write "*cough*Ms Parker*cough*" or fake ...
17
votes
4answers
3k 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
177
votes
9answers
36k views

Is there a word or phrase for the feeling you get after looking at a word for too long?

Sometimes after looking at a word for a while, I become convinced that it can't possibly be spelled correctly. Even after looking it up, sounding it out, and realizing that there's simply no other ...
11
votes
3answers
266 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
188 views

Modern replacement for checking frequency tables?

What is the most up-to-date, robust, and reliable way to check verb (or other POS) frequencies in current usage? Is there any hope of an algorithm involving counting Google hits and dividing by some ...
12
votes
5answers
27k 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 ...