Questions relating to the scientific study of language.

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15
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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 ...
129
votes
9answers
18k views

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

(Perhaps this only happens to me, but I doubt it.) 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
956 views

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 ...
28
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3answers
35k views

Meaning of “native speaker of English”

Who is considered a native speaker of English? I am a little confused by the various answers found online.
21
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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
1answer
486 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
133 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 ...
10
votes
5answers
11k 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 ...
6
votes
6answers
865 views

Why does the following phrase sound old fashioned?

"We went swimming later in the afternoon, Jack and I." I am trying to describe what is happening here by breaking the sentence down into it's basic components, but I am having difficulty doing this. ...
3
votes
2answers
9k views

Semi-vowels in English [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When is “Y” a vowel? Why are 'w' and 'y' called semi-vowels in English?
20
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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 ...
15
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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 ...
19
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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 ...
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 ...
7
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
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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 ...
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 ...
4
votes
3answers
418 views

Is there a name for the kind of sounds commonly found in profanities?

Fuck. Shit. Bitch. Cunt. I remember reading somewhere -- a very long time ago -- that these "hard" sounds are virtually necessary in profanities. The explanation I roughly remember is that because ...
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 ...
7
votes
3answers
783 views

Why do we say 'commentator' instead of 'commenter'?

Another thread addresses the Englishness of the words. My question is different and a lot more convoluted: I hope I can make it plain and simple. I. There are straightforward nouns of action and ...
6
votes
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 ...
5
votes
3answers
676 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
780 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 ...
13
votes
5answers
423 views

Regarding the “i” in “think” vs “bit”

This is a phonetics question. I am teaching English as a Second Language. In phonetics, we all know the "i" in "think" is a "short i" sound. Additionally, the "i" in "bit" is a "short i" sound. ...
9
votes
3answers
418 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
304 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
171 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
442 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
249 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
3answers
108 views

Term for phonological elements of a dialect

A dialect encompasses various traits of a group, including vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation (phonology). Is there a common term specifically for the phonological elements of a dialect? I’d like ...