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Day: September 13, 2016
Would a language borrow from another language a word with which it already has homophonous words in itself?
Yes, it would. I’m not going to bother with examples other than grave (Germanic: tomb; French: serious). It is a common perception that language change is driven by trying to avoid ambiguity. In fact, language has an astounding tolerance for ambiguity, because context usually takes care of it. Instances where words change in order to […]
What is the definition of allophone, what is the relationship between allophones and free variation?
Phonemes are groupings of phones (different sounds), which language speakers treat as equivalent. The phones that are variants of the same phoneme are allophones of the phoneme. Normally, the distribution of allophones depends on their context: there is a rule, based on surrounding phonemes, which determines whether one allophone or the other is used. If […]
It’s an interesting question, OP. I wonder whether too much similarity will make a word less easy to learn, not more, due to the potential for confusion. There can’t be a categorical difference for when a word switches from similar to dissimilar. It’s not like a distance of 3 means similar and a distance of […]
Some highlights from List of Greek phrases. See the Wikipedia page for more detail and other phrases. ἀγεωμέτρητος μηδεὶς εἰσίτω. Ageōmétrētos mēdeìs eisítō. “Let no one untrained in geometry enter.” ἀεὶ ὁ θεὸς γεωμετρεῖ. Aei ho theos geōmetreî. “God always geometrizes” αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν. aièn aristeúein. “Ever to Excel” γηράσκω δ᾽ αἰεὶ πολλὰ διδασκόμενος. Gēraskō d’ […]
Should primary and ESL teachers use an English alphabet that has the 44 or so phonemes that the language has?
“44 or so”. And there’s your problem. English phonology trap bath palm lot cloth thought The vowels in Received Pronunciation group as: (tɹæp) (bɑːθ pɑːm) (lɒt klɒθ) (θɔːt) They group the same way in Australian English, though as (tɹæp) (bɐːθ pɐːm) (lɔt klɔθ) (θoːt) The vowels in General American, however, group as: (tɹæp bæθ) (pɑːm […]
It’s a very insightful question, OP. If an onomatopoeia is a completely transparent mapping of natural sound to human language, then it is an inevitability, and there’s no point attributing it to one coiner or another, one language or another: the onomatopoeia is just there, a sound ready for humans to imitate, and humans will […]
Romans had nomen and cognomen, which were inherited names like surnames. Greeks and Jews, like contemporary Icelanders, just had patronymics: John son of Zebedee. (See also the list of high priests of Israel.) Less often, they had nicknames indicating jobs or characteristics: Simon the Zealot, Judas of Kerioth, Jesus the Nazarene. In narratives, those distinctions […]