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Q&A

General Q&A about specific languages, language in general, and linguistics.

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Is there a freely available sentence patterns search engine?

As the title says. Background I often find myself in the need of building an English sentence that I almost know how to get right. The scaffolding is there, but there are maybe one or two words ...

2 answers  ·  posted 9mo ago by Lorenzo Donati‭  ·  last activity 20d ago by Fred Wamsley‭

66%
+2 −0
What underlying principle is at play for how objective or subjective a natural language instruction is?

I am interested in exploring a series of prompts for a large language model which move from instructions which have a clear-cut "correct result", such as the instruction to capitalize every letter ...

2 answers  ·  posted 2mo ago by Julius H.‭  ·  last activity 28d ago by Eric Isaac‭

72%
+6 −1
Why "sommaren är kommen" rather than "sommaren har kommit" in Swedish?

I have seen the phrase sommaren är kommen. What grammatical form is this and how is it correct? I thought it should rather be sommaren har kommit, for summer has arrived (literally: summer has co...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by gerrit‭  ·  edited 1mo ago by gerrit‭

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+4 −0
Is it true to say that Lao script is a simplified version of the Thai script?

Is it true to say that Lao script is a simplified version of the Thai script? A criteria might be: Fewer letters Fewer diacritics Fewer tone markers More reforms over the years (possibly due...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by deleted user  ·  last activity 2mo ago by Michael‭

71%
+3 −0
Are Icelandic unstressed diphthongs in loanwords supposed to be reduced?

In Icelandic, certain accented vowel letters (especially ó, á) are consistently explained as diphthongs ([ou] and [au], respectively) in pronunciation guides. Accented vowel letters are also encou...

0 answers  ·  posted 2mo ago by Jirka Hanika‭

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+6 −0
What grammatical category does "Weihnachten" fall into?

The German word "Weihnachten" (Christmas) is an odd one. It's a neuter noun (das Weihnachten) even though it's based on a feminine one (die Nacht, night). The traditional Christmas greetings, "Froh...

1 answer  ·  posted 4mo ago by gmcgath‭  ·  last activity 4mo ago by gmcgath‭

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Has the word "humor" shifted meaning?

The original meaning of humor of course refers to the obsolete theory of the four humors and their effect on human temperament. I'm not asking about that. It appears that initially, the meaning sh...

2 answers  ·  posted 6mo ago by matthewsnyder‭  ·  last activity 4mo ago by Eric Isaac‭

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+4 −0
How does phonology-orthography correspondence affect second language acquisition?

One difficulty I’ve seen in learning languages is matching orthography to pronunciation - especially vowels. English has several distinct sounds that a native speaker will describe as the vowel ‘e...

0 answers  ·  posted 4mo ago by Eric Isaac‭

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+6 −0
What is "nift"?

Everyone knows what "nifty" is. It's obvious, isn't it? A thing which possesses nift. But what is this mysterious nift? Looking at things that are considered nifty, I cannot quite come up with a g...

1 answer  ·  posted 6mo ago by matthewsnyder‭  ·  last activity 4mo ago by Jirka Hanika‭

80%
+6 −0
Vowel insertion phenomenon

When I, maybe Br.E speaker, pronounce adverbs ending '-bly' I find myself occasionally inserting an extra vowel. So I say feeble-y, noble-y but I 'correctly' say 'nim-bly' and 'lim-ply' (I've plac...

1 answer  ·  posted 5mo ago by pureferret ‭  ·  last activity 5mo ago by Eric Isaac‭

60%
+1 −0
Two reads of "murremestari"

In this quiz on Yle's website I met the nice word "murremestari": https://yle.fi/a/74-20058169 Obviously this means one who masters dialects, but in that meaning I pronounce it as "murremmestari"....

0 answers  ·  posted 5mo ago by tommi‭  ·  edited 5mo ago by tommi‭

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+7 −0
Does humor always spring from surprise?

It seems like a lot of humor has an element of surprise. Sudden meanings, unexpected turns of the plot, language unexpected given the context (impolite language in polite context, technical in a no...

1 answer  ·  posted 6mo ago by matthewsnyder‭  ·  last activity 5mo ago by Eric Isaac‭

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Possessive vs accusative case for nominalized clauses

Consider the following sentences: "She was against his joining the team." "She was against his joining of the team." "She was against him joining the team." Instinctively, the first just so...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by Moshi‭  ·  last activity 6mo ago by Eric Isaac‭

83%
+13 −1
Does English support three-word contractions?

In English certain pairs words can be contracted with an apostrophe, such as "I've" (I have). I don't know if there are strong rules for which words can be combined in this way and which can't. I...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  edited 6mo ago by Moshi‭

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+1 −0
How to say in Thai "There isn't a necessity to think in the pattern of X"?

I want to know what is a useful proper way to say in Thai: There isn't a necessity to think in the pattern of X Google translate brings (words separated): ไม่ จำเป็น ต้อง คิด แบบ X I am...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by deleted user  ·  last activity 6mo ago by Michael‭

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+4 −0
Why do some people say "idea-r", "draw-r-ing" and "china-r"?

English speakers from certain areas, in particular British, seem to add an extra r sound after vowels. For example: Idea -> idea-r Drawing -> draw-r-ing China -> China-r What is th...

1 answer  ·  posted 10mo ago by matthewsnyder‭  ·  last activity 6mo ago by Eric Isaac‭

83%
+8 −0
Why do Chinese people say "idear"?

In my experience of speaking with immigrants from China to the United States, it seems many of them pronounce the word idea with a final ɹ (even before a consonant). Why?

2 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by msh210‭  ·  last activity 6mo ago by Eric Isaac‭

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+4 −0
How do linguists identify the origins of verbal habits that originate from other languages?

When an observed verbal habit has more than one potential source, and that source is likely to be a different language or dialect, how do linguists determine the most likely origin? For example, i...

0 answers  ·  posted 6mo ago by Eric Isaac‭  ·  edited 6mo ago by Eric Isaac‭

33%
+1 −4
How can fulsome constitute "a case of ironic understatement"?

Pretend that you're Devil's Advocate. 1. How can you possibly contend that fulsome is "a case of ironic understatement"? What's ironic? What's fulsome understating? "fulsome" feels r...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by PSTH‭  ·  last activity 6mo ago by matthewsnyder‭

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+1 −0
Is "pervalue" an antonym of "devalue"?

Devalue is commonly used to mean diminish value. Seems like the prefix re- is sometimes used with opposite effect to de-, as in reinforce meaning to increase force or refried meaning more fried. ...

0 answers  ·  posted 6mo ago by matthewsnyder‭

81%
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What's a "road colony"?

Lawrence Sanders, Caper, 1980. 1987 paperback edition, page 61: We saw crumbling walls, decayed ceilings, cracked plumbing fixtures, exposed electrical wiring. We saw one room that appeared to h...

1 answer  ·  posted 7mo ago by msh210‭  ·  last activity 7mo ago by Jirka Hanika‭

77%
+5 −0
"Lock" and "close" in German

I was trying to explain to someone that my door can only be opened with a key, regardless of whether the door is locked or simply closed. I figured schließen would fail to express that unambiguous...

1 answer  ·  posted 8mo ago by nteodosio‭  ·  last activity 8mo ago by samcarter‭

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+7 −0
What is the term for a word that is an instance of itself?

Some words are examples of the concept they name. Examples: "Word" is a word. "Noun" is a noun. "Eggcorn" is an eggcorn (a mistaken word that sounds like and has some connection to another wor...

2 answers  ·  posted 10mo ago by gmcgath‭  ·  edited 8mo ago by Moshi‭

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+8 −0
Calling another by name when one is exasperated

In my English-speaking culture, when two people are in conversation, usually we don't bother addressing each other by name—or even by any substitutive term of address, like ‘sir’/‘ma'am’ (formal) o...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by r~~‭  ·  last activity 9mo ago by Lorenzo Donati‭

42%
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How can I un-translate these humourous 'translations' Windows terms, from Bengali? [closed]

Here's the image of the humourous 'translations', and my wife has helped me 'untranslate' some of them, but we're stuck on some: Bill Gates has released Windows in a Bengali version called JAN...

0 answers  ·  posted 9mo ago by pureferret ‭  ·  closed 9mo ago by Jirka Hanika‭

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+4 −0
Effectiveness of input-only learning

While learning a language, there are a surprising (to me at least) number of people who say that you should never output until fluent - that is, as long as you get enough input, you will eventually...

2 answers  ·  posted 11mo ago by Moshi‭  ·  last activity 9mo ago by matthewsnyder‭

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+8 −0
How did "listen to" TV become "watch"?

It seems that people used to say "listen to" and "hear" television, a holdover from radio, and that that gave way to "watch" and "see" over time. Has anyone any information on the timeline of this ...

0 answers  ·  posted 10mo ago by msh210‭  ·  edited 10mo ago by msh210‭

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Has there ever been a situation of perfect bilingualism, without falling in diglossia?

In many places around the world there are different languages that coexist: some people speak one, some the other, and many can speak both. There are as many cases as situations: some of the langu...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by fedorqui‭  ·  last activity 10mo ago by Jirka Hanika‭

85%
+10 −0
How to refer to a whole family in Icelandic?

Hi. I'm learning Icelandic and planning to visit the country a few months later. But there is a thing I can't figure out yet. For clarity, in majority of English speaking families there is just on...

1 answer  ·  posted 10mo ago by aminabzz‭  ·  last activity 10mo ago by Jirka Hanika‭

28%
+0 −3
How did syn + ek + dekhesthai compound to signify 'synecdoche' (a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole)?

How do syn, ex-, dekhesthai appertain to the Modern English definition of synecdoche? I am baffled, because all 3 Greek morphemes appear UNRELATED to this literary term. 'synecdoche' doesn't ...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

25%
+1 −7
What semantic notions underlie fūrunculus (Latin for 'petty thief') 🡺 furuncle?

Wiktionary doesn't expound how furuncle ("1 cm tender red papule or fluctuant nodule") is a "transferred sense" from "pilferer (petty thief)". How do these notions in these nouns relate to each oth...

1 answer  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

83%
+8 −0
What causes people to write compound words as distinct words?

In many Germanic and Finno-ugric languages there are many compound words. One does not write "yhdys sana", but rather "yhdyssana". Learning to write these correctly is notoriously hard for people, ...

2 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by tommi‭  ·  last activity 1y ago by Lundin‭

80%
+6 −0
Why is the third person singular conjugation different in the past tense?

Generally speaking, German verbs inflect with the following table Person Inflection Example ich -e sage, arbeite du -(e)st sagst, arbeitest er/sie/es -(e)t sagt, a...

1 answer  ·  posted 1y ago by Moshi‭  ·  last activity 1y ago by Jirka Hanika‭

60%
+1 −0
When would a sentence consist of "terdiri" with "atas" or "dari"?

The Indonesian word "terdiri" meaning "consist/s (of)" is an interesting word as it uses two words along with it: "atas" ("on/top/above") and "dari" ("from" / "than" in some cases). Every time I en...

1 answer  ·  posted 1y ago by General Sebast1an‭  ·  last activity 1y ago by Jirka Hanika‭

40%
+2 −4
How can a prepositional phrase shift to become a verb?

I don't know why, but the embolded semantic shift for agree (v.) below unsettles me. a gré is a prepositional phrase, correct? If so, how can a prepositional phrase transmogrify into a ve...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

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+0 −1
The use of the past simple and the past perfect in these scenarios

1 -- Are you a member of GE? -- No, I was a member for 9 years. I think Correct 2 -- Are you a member of GE? -- No, I had been a member for 9 years. I think WRONG 3 -- Are you a member of ...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by user11QQ‭

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+2 −4
How's inVEST semantically related to VEST? How did the "idea of dressing your capital up in different clothes" arise?

Isn't "the idea of dressing one’s capital up in different clothes by putting it into a particular business, stock, etc" batty? This semantic relationship would never cross the mind of an amateur re...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

77%
+5 −0
Plural agreement with a syntactically singular subject

Many quantity words trigger agreement with their object rather than themselves. For instance, syntactically, "a lot, "a bunch", "an amount" seem to all be singular. However, as a native speaker, "T...

1 answer  ·  posted 1y ago by Moshi‭  ·  last activity 1y ago by Jirka Hanika‭

18%
+0 −7
How did rǣda work syntactically, after shifting from 'advise' to mean 'interpret and understand the meaning of written symbols'?

Old English rǣda semantically shifted from ‘advise, consult, guess’ to mean ‘interpret, interpret letters, read’. But isn't this semantic shift unsyntactical and infelicitous? Advisor's writin...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭

28%
+0 −3
What semantic notions underlie 'to advise, counsel, guess' (rǣda) 🡺 'peruse' (read)?

How did ‘advise, consult, guess’ semantically shift 🢂 to signify ‘interpret, interpret letters, read’? How do they semantically appertain? read [OE] In most western European languages, the wor...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

25%
+0 −4
What semantic notions underlie 'anger, agitation' (PIE *ǵʰéysd-) 🡺 'ghost'?

On October 31 2016, Kevin Stroud wrote The connection between “ghost” and “guest/host” is mentioned on page 303 of ‘The Horse, The Wheel and Language” by David W. Anthony [quoted on English Stac...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

80%
+6 −0
When does "me-" go on verbs?

So I started learning Indonesian through a Duolingo course for 2 weeks now, and I've gotten to the "Me- Verbs" part as I'm writing this question. I have already learned a few verbs from past lesso...

1 answer  ·  posted 1y ago by General Sebast1an‭  ·  last activity 1y ago by General Sebast1an‭

25%
+0 −4
How did in- + partire compound to mean "communicate as knowledge of information" (impart)?

What semantic notions underlie in- + partire 🡺 with "communicate as knowledge or information"? This semantic shift flummoxes me, because in- + partire "was not originally restricted to immaterial ...

0 answers  ·  posted 2y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

37%
+1 −3
What does Etymonline mean by 'to raise (someone) out of trouble'?

I have never heard of "to raise (someone) out of trouble"! What does this mean? relieve (v.) [on Etymonline] late 14c., releven, "alleviate (pain, etc.) wholly or partly, mitigate; afford comfo...

1 answer  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭  ·  last activity 1y ago by Jirka Hanika‭

37%
+1 −3
What semantic notions underlie 'con-' + 'sign' 🡺 with "deliver or transmit (goods) for sale or custody"?

How did con- + sign semantically shift 🡲 to this modern sense in Commerce? Why did con- + sign shift so radically, but NOT 'sign'? In Modern English, "sign" alone doesn't possess this Comm...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

28%
+0 −3
How did 'rendre' semantically shift from meaning 'give back' to 🡺 1. 'make, cause to be' 🡲 2. 'represent, depict'?

What semantic notions underlie "give back" with 🢂 "make[,] or cause to be in a certain state"? 🡪 "represent, depict"? render (v.) [on Etymonline] late 14c., rendren, rendre, "repe...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

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If assūmptiō = 'take up', then can ad- (prefix) = 'up'? But why, when super- = 'up'?

Are these definitions correct? Even though p. 262 below (bottom scan) doesn't list "take up" as a meaning of assūmptiō? (13th, from Latin assūmptiō, the act of taking up, from Latin assūmere...

1 answer  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

37%
+1 −3
Isn't lībra pondō circumlocutory? Because both lībra and pondō meant "weight"?

Isn't lībra pondō redundant? It feels pleonastic and tautological — because both lībra and pondō meant "weight" — see below. Wikipedia translates lībra pondō as "("the weight measured in libr...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭

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+6 −0
Is obrigado used in case of unclear gender of the author?

In Portuguese a male speaker thanks with an «obrigado», while a female with an «obrigada». I am reading a text (some thank you notice for buying some mass-produced industrial product with no obvio...

1 answer  ·  posted 2y ago by tommi‭  ·  last activity 1y ago by Quasímodo‭

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What semantic notions underlie "inmost, innermost" (intimus) 🡲 with "make known, announce" (intimo)?

How did intimus "inmost, innermost, deepest" (adj.) semantically shift to 🡺 intimare "make known, announce, impress" ? These meanings are polar opposites! If something is inmost, then it's private...

0 answers  ·  posted 1y ago by PSTH‭  ·  edited 1y ago by PSTH‭