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Month: August 2016
What is the origin of the expression “Va te faire voir chez les Grecs”?
No disagreement: it’s a reference to Ancient Greek pederasty. Being a classical reference, it would have a classicist, learnèd origin: it’s not a turn of phrase some random peasant on the Loire came up with. Aller se faire voir chez les grecs says that the expression is no early than the start of the 20th […]
What caused the English Great Vowel Shift?
I’ll give a general rather than a specific answer. The Great English Vowel Shift is a celebrated instance of a Chain shift, a sound change with impacts several sounds one after the other, as a kind of chain reaction. It helps when discussing vowel changes (which are particularly susceptible to chain shifts) to have a […]
What can be most easily seen that change is constantly going on in a living language?
If you’re detecting change with your eyes: New vocabulary, then semantic shifts in existing words, then syntax — particularly syntax of individual words. fun became an adjective within my lifetime. If you’re detecting change with your ears: all of the above, then maybe phonetics. But sound change is slower, socially and generationally stratified, and geographically […]
What are the most fascinating things you’ve learned studying linguistics?
Me, personally? That the same changes happen, again and again, from language to language to language. The same grammaticalisations; the same sound changes; the same semantic changes; the same syntactic changes; the same metaphors. Which is little to do with Universal Grammar, and a lot to do with universals of cognition and articulation. Answered 2016-08-31 […]
Is it possible to translate the word zori/zor/زور , that exists in Greek & Persian, with ONE English word?
From Nişanyan’s etymological dictionary of Turkish, and زور – Wiktionary , zor came into Turkish (and thence Greek) from Persian, not Arabic. And lots of languages either side of Persian and Turkish have picked it up. A single word for all uses of ζόρι in Greek, that Dimitris Sotiropoulos lists in his answer? No, but […]
If Konstantinos I of Greece had gone North to take Monastir in 1912, instead of going to Thessaloniki, would the Balkans be different?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I_of_Greece#Macedonian_Front Not a question I know much about, but let me take a stab, and see if someone more knowledgeable corrects me. The Wikipedia article on Constantine I goes on to say: The capture of Thessaloniki against Constantine’s whim proved a crucial achievement: the pacts of the Balkan League had provided that in the forthcoming […]
How would I go about making a Latin translator website?
Anon, I commend you on your initiative. I don’t commend you on your question topic tagging; hopefully you’ll get some responses better targeted than this now. Learn Python. Not because I have any love for Python. I’d be happy to chain Larry Wall and Guido van Rossum together: each other’s company would be punishment enough. […]
How did certain words become homonyms?
Several ways. Dimitra Triantafyllidou has already answered; I’ll answer as well, a little more schematically, but it’s essentially the same answer. Sound mergers in the language. meet and meat used to be pronounced differently [meːt, mɛːt]; now they’re pronounced the same, [miːt]. Sound un-mergers in the language—or at least, a spelling system out of sync […]
Could saying words one phoneme at a time have been a common practice before the invention of written language?
Neeraj Mathur is quite right: syllables, not letters. Some circumstantial evidence for this from Ancient Greek drama. When literacy was a very new thing, and the tools of grammatical analysis (such as words) were still not very popular. (https://www.quora.com/Could-sayi…): the differentiation between utterance and word was newfangled with the Greek sophists. Aeschylus avoids Euripides’ new […]
Why does the French language sound so different from the other Romance or Latin languages?
These answers are kinda converging. My answer is: What Brian Collins said—the vowel repertoire, plus the final consonants, and the nasals. There are nasals elsewhere, including Vulgar Latin; but the nasals are a huge part of the French stereotype. [hɔ̃.hɔ̃.hɔ̃] Grudgingly, I admit that the nasals are less critical than the other two. I hate […]