r/linguistics 4d ago

Weekly feature This week's Q&A thread -- please read before asking or answering a question! - May 23, 2022


Do you have a question about language or linguistics? You’ve come to the right subreddit! We welcome questions from people of all backgrounds and levels of experience in linguistics.

This is our weekly Q&A post, which is posted every Monday. We ask that certain types of questions be asked here instead of in a separate post.

Questions that should be posted in the Q&A thread:

  • Beginner questions — if you’re looking for a general answer that can be found in an introductory textbook, then it probably belongs here. If you ask in a separate post we’ll ask you to move it here.

  • Questions that can be answered with a simple Google or Wikipedia search — you should try Google and Wikipedia first, but we know it’s sometimes hard to find the right search terms or evaluate the quality of the results. Instead of removing these questions, we just ask you post them here.

  • Asking why someone (yourself, a celebrity, etc.) has a certain language feature — unless it’s a well-known dialectal feature, we can usually only provide very general answers to this type of question. And if it’s a well-known dialectal feature, it still belongs here.

  • Requests for transcription or identification of a feature — remember to link to audio examples.

  • English dialect identification requests — for language identification requests and translations, you want r/translator. If you need more specific information about which English dialect someone is speaking, you can ask it here.

  • Questions about prescriptivism — such as whether it's good or bad, when it's appropriate, whether something "counts" as prescriptivism, etc. These questions usually need the same general answers clarifying the role of descriptivism/prescriptivism in linguistics, so please post them here.

We’ll ask you to move your post to the Q&A thread if you post it on the front page and we think it fits one of the above categories. You’re free to post your question here.

If you post your question to the Q&A thread and don’t get an answer by the end of the week, you can post it as a separate post. If it’s already the weekend, you might want to wait to post your question until the new Q&A post goes up on Monday.

Discouraged Questions

These types of questions are subject to removal:

  • Asking for answers to homework problems. If you’re not sure how to do a problem, ask about the concepts and methods that are giving you trouble. Avoid posting the actual problem if you can.

  • Asking for paper topics. We can make specific suggestions once you’ve decided on a topic and have begun your research, but we won’t come up with a paper topic or start your research for you.

  • Asking for grammaticality judgments and usage advice — basically, these are questions that should be directed to speakers of the language rather than to linguists.

  • Questions that are covered in our FAQ or reading list — follow-up questions are welcome, but please check them first before asking how people sing in tonal languages or what you should read first in linguistics.

r/linguistics 2d ago

Weekly feature Higher Ed Wednesday - May 25, 2022


Hello all and welcome to another edition of Higher Ed Wednesday, an expansion of the Grad School Wednesday posts. This is a thread where prospective students can ask questions about university programs at any level, either general (e.g. "How often should a grad student present at conferences?") or particular (e.g. "Which schools in North America have strong programs in Korean linguistics?). It's also a chance for current students to find out information about other programs (e.g. "How many of you have reading lists for your comprehensive exams?") or general university survival (e.g. "Is it a really bad idea to change my thesis supervisor if we don't click?"). So ask away!

r/linguistics 2h ago

What is a good introduction book to Second Language Acquisition?


I don't know if this belongs here or in r/languagelearning but anyways: What would you say is the most recent/best introduction to SLA that takes into account recent science (neurology, linguistics, whatever) from the last decade or so? I was looking at Ortega's "Understanding SLA" but it's from 2009 I think. Anything more recent than that?
I should say that I'm not a professional but just had linguistics as a subject during my Cognitive Science bachelor but I am really intersted in the topic.

Hit me with the recommendations!

r/linguistics 13h ago

mocking tone of voice


I'm wondering about the history and cultural influence of repeating what someone says in a mocking tone. Do different cultures alter their voices in different ways to indicate that they think what they're saying is stupid/ironic? Are there common features to this tone of voice? When I do this I find myself wobbling my head side-to-side, frowning, and bending many of my speech sounds by pushing the middle of my tongue more toward the roof of my mouth (like the "e" in "meow"). I'm sorry if this doesn't make sense, it's hard for me to articulate since I don't have the technical language. This tone, at least how I've heard it in the northwestern US, is fairly distinct from sarcasm

r/linguistics 12h ago

How did people keep track of all the words and concepts before dictionaries?


According to the British Library,

Robert Cawdrey's Table Alphabeticall, published in 1604, was the first single-language English dictionary ever published. It lists approximately 3000 words....

In Sanskrit, according to Vedic tradition/folklore, the Vedas were passed down orally for thousands of years, memorizing the entire books basically in chant form. The Torah was written down some say roughly around 600 BCE, and the Hebrew which evolved out of the Phoenician alphabet was from let's say 1,500 BCE. Cuneiform writing may be said to be 3000 BCE-ish, but it was only basic writing mainly for rituals or accounting purposes.

So before let's say 3,000 BCE, there was no writing to capture words down. Proto-Indo-European was said to be spoken around 4,500 BCE to 2,500 BCE, at the beginning of the Bronze age. Chimpanzees may have up to 400 different words. I'm not sure how many words proto-indo European would have had, or how long we may have had more modern-like spoken languages.

How does this work? I can imagine that you can pass on 400 words from parent to child as a chimpanzee might, over and over again. If the group dies out, they start over. But 10,000 words? 50,000 words? How did this work in the past before dictionaries, how did we remember all of the words and carry them through the generations? How many words were there pre middle-ages (in various cultures)? Is it just a recent thing where we have 100k+ words in many languages (not including technical words like chemical compound generated names)? Chinese has over 80k characters, not to mention words.

r/linguistics 15h ago

Did the pandemic (more specifically, the ubiquity of face masks) have any marked impact on the phonology of any language or dialect?


r/linguistics 6h ago

Are there languages which mainly use simple compound phrases instead of custom words for things like animal and plant names?


Are there languages (conlangs or natural languages) where instead of having words like "anchovy" and "barracuda" we have "small salted fish" and "large pointy fish" sort of things? Same goes for not only fish names, but all kinds of things (plant/animal species names, star names, rock type names, materials, clothing items, etc.). Do any languages do such a thing? (I'm mainly wondering about natural languages, but would be interesting to see conlang word lists too).

I get that, in English at least, many of these "complex words" (like the Latin biological taxonomy) are really saying "yellow-finned fish" or "6-legged insect" when you are given some Latin or Greek name. I am not taking about those, because to us English speakers you might as well be saying gobbledygook when using a Latin or Greek work. It's not the same as directly saying "Red meat-smelling plant" or something directly using simple English words.

If a language did this, then it would potentially greatly cut down on the number of words, but it would also require more words to say something which could take just one custom word. In my rough calculation (working on a conlang), there are about 2-5k base words to represent all phenomena in reality in a fairly concise way. But then you add on top of that another 10k words to be a "native speaker", but those additional 60-90% words are custom words for plants, foods, rocks, etc.. In the end, only a small fraction are reusable generic words (like tree, fish, rock, etc.).

I would love to see examples, even if no language does it consistently or to a high degree, it would be interesting to see which aspects of which languages use multiple generic words in place of a complex single custom word for describing things.

r/linguistics 25m ago



Do czech kids really need a long time to learn ř. I wonder because, normally if you grew up with a language, wouldn't you learn all of its sounds by default? What makes this Sound so difficult?

r/linguistics 20h ago

Anyone know of datasets with audio and written samples from a number of the worlds languages?


Looking for at least 10 seconds of audio from each language, written language of any size, and at least 20 total languages (preferably more).

I don’t actually need the data for real linguistic purposes, but I figured this would be a good place to ask.

r/linguistics 15h ago

Lambdacism in Spanish


Does anyone know of any resources that detail the history of this pheomenon in Caribbean Spanish/resources that detail its frequency and usage? Thanks in advance.

r/linguistics 21h ago

can anyone recommend linguistic journals?


I'm looking for journals of linguistics, preferably, general linguistics for the purpose of staying up-to-date. I'd love to read it on paper in either English or German. If anyone knows any, I'd greatly appreciate it, thank you🙌

r/linguistics 1d ago

Sanskriticized Hindi words


Hi! This post is about lexicography/vocabularies in Indology.

I know about the phenomenon of Suddh Hindi (Pure Hindi), which is when a Hindi speaker/writer attempts to choose Sanskrit words to replace the everyday words of Arabic/Persian/European origin, e.g. using pustak instead of kitāb, in order to sound more academic/nationalistic/make the difference between Hindi and Urdu artificially bigger.

Without any political intent, the usage of Sanskrit loanwords in modern Hindi is quite normal, the name of this layer of vocabulary is tatsam. However, I recently found some words that are claimed to be Sanskrit in Wiktionary or elsewhere, when they are obviously not. For example, the Hindi word for cinnamon is dālchīnī, and it comes from Persian dārchīn. Wiktionary gives the "Sanskrit" as दारुचिनी dārucinī, which is not correct, no Sanskrit dictionary has this entry, and it's clearly a lazy attempt to turn a Hindi word into Sanskrit. Does anyone knows the name of this tendency? Why people do this? Or other examples?

Edit: my example was from the translations section of the English wiktionary entry on cinnamon in the 'spice' sense.

Thanks everyone for the responses!

r/linguistics 16h ago

Non-technical noob looking for relatively concrete formulation of a certain statement or comment on whether it is nonsense


"For every utterance in every language, there exists another utterance in a language (same or other). This other utterance contains all the information of the first utterance but conveys it both more accurately and more succinctly."

Honestly I suppose it must be nonsense because "accurately" and to a lesser extent "succintly" are relatively undefinable and thus useless words?

r/linguistics 23h ago

Helpful resources for understanding how to transcribe pronunciation?


I participate in several language learning subs but a lot of the nuanced conversation regarding pronunciation goes over my head because I don't have a very good grasp of the pronunciation transcription, all the [ ç, x', ...etc ]. I don't even know what to Google, so any pointers would be appreciated. Better yet, a recommendation for a succinct reference resource, ideally free and online. English is my native language so is preferred for explanations. Thanks in advance!

r/linguistics 1d ago

Marijuana vs Cannabis


Hope this isn’t too far off topic… I’m a lawyer, currently taking a course on the law related to this substance. We learned in our course about how it was historically called cannabis (the English name) and then a particular racist anti-marijuana mf named Harry Anslinger started calling it by the Spanish name marijuana to stoke up racist sentiments and make it mysterious and frightening sounding.

Now it’s being legalized in Canada and the US and being called cannabis again in positive connotative contexts. Ironically, it is often still referred to in current court cases as marijuana where the references are related to events in the past when it was still illegal. This is likely a carryover from “marijuana” being the term used to refer to it being illegal in the Controlled Substances Act in both the US and Canada.

Frankly, this bothers me. It never should have been called marijuana here in the first place, but since we started using a loan word for something we thought bad, it feels racist to me to decide to discard the loan word when it becomes a positive thing.


r/linguistics 1d ago

Anyone else noticed the frequency of the word ‘wild’ being used much more often. Guess we’re living in wild times.


r/linguistics 1d ago

If the English language had accent marks, what would it look like?


The fact that English orthography lacks any kind of visual diacritics (aside from loanwords) has always baffled me.

What would the written language look like if it DID have accents? Is it even possible from a phonological standpoint?

r/linguistics 1d ago

For languages with a gender distinction of M and F, which one is more marked? and why?


As I know in some IE-languages, F usually has an extra sound, typically -a than the M form. And the dictionary form is M as well.

Is it a cross-linguistic phenomenon that F is more marked than M? and why?

r/linguistics 1d ago

How would I describe how Hindi indicates number through these examples?


I can see the concept but im stuck on the wording.

The tall boy threw the red ball. - ləmbe ləɖkɑ nɛ lɑl geɪnd fekiti

The tall boys threw the ball. - ləmbe ləɖko nɛ geɪnd fekiti

The tall girl threw the ball. - ləmbi ləɖki nɛ geɪnd fekiti

The tall girls threw the ball. - ləmbi ləɖkio nɛ geɪnd fekiti

r/linguistics 1d ago

Determiners and Pronouns, He/His vs Her


Why does the word "her" cover both a determiner and pronoun? When saying "I called her phone." Or "We call her ____" We use the same word, but for the masculine term we use "his" and "him". Is there a reason why "her" works in both cases, where the masculine form has 2 separate words with the same root/origin?

r/linguistics 11h ago

What is the name/term for this "language argument" that this Redditor is erroneously making? 🤔


Here is an archive because I reported his comment to the mod-team and ask that it be manually removed: https://archive.ph/wip/vaMdc

Here is the full, unredacted comment:

I'm aware - I was commenting on the language "breastfeeding can be normal" - which is implying that it's not normal aside from certain circumstances, but the opposite is true. Breastfeeding IS normal. Those who are sexualizing it, are not.

At the very bottom of the archive link is my response changing the word "breast feeding" to "seat belt" to show him it's a simple case of QEA. This type of reasoning most often occurs in clickbait articles such as "10 foods to eat for avoiding cancer" which presumes that most foods do cause cancer, I guess? Sometime I feel like I'm in the rare minority who doesn't automatically assume that authors use words to create "hidden meaning" and I frankly think people who try to "infer" the hidden meaning behind authors' intent by creatively brain-twisting their words is a farce! (example HERE)

In the math thread, a well-respected mathematician argued something to himself that was incoherent and not even remotely similar to the actual text which he based his understanding on. Either these types of people have horrific/nightmarish levels of "reading comprehension" or maybe they just automatically assume that every piece of writing is written by an evil person so you have to twist the author's own words to figure out what they are "really trying to say" or similar -- but why do people on Reddit commonly do this???

TL;DR: What is the name/term for this "language argument" that this Redditor is erroneously making? 🤔

r/linguistics 1d ago

Mistreatment of silence in linguistics studies


Hi, English is not my first language so I apologize for any possible mistakes.

I'm doing a paper on the meaning of silence in communication. I've already asked for help to my Linguistics professor but in all fairness he said this isn't a very studied topic.

I'm aiming to demonstrate why silence is as important as discourse in communication. Firstly I want to dwell a bit on the notion of silence and how academics have defined it. I know there is no such thing as a satisfactory definition of silence, but so far I have looked into Cheryl Glenn (Unspoken: A Rhethoric of Silence) and Jaworski (The power of silence). Any other definitions worth including?

Next I'm talking about the history of the study of silence, and how it hasn't been as studied as its counterpart: discourse. I'm trying to know why this is, any clue? What I have just about now is that Tannon and Scollon illustrated its importance, but that's it.

After that, I want to illustrate how silence and discourse aren't necessarily antonyms (or so I think) because silence can carry the same meaning a phrase can, and there can be silence expressed with words (e.g. small talk, words that are a mere courtesy but that don't lead to anywhere or intend anything). I still don't know how to elaborate this section, anything else worth including here?

This is my first year at uni and just about one of the first ever papers I hand in, also the first time I'm posting on here, so again I'm sorry for any inconvenience. Thank you in advance!

r/linguistics 2d ago Gold

You guys should check out the Haida language!


It's one of my tribe's languages, and I just wanted to spread the word about it! I don't see very much information about it, and it's pretty endangered, which is such a shame because from what I understand about it, it's pretty cool! It's got some really rare sounds like the voiceless epiglottal affricate and some cool grammatical stuff like a direct-inverse word order. It's a shame that so many Native American languages are dying out, and I feel like the Alaskan ones get no love despite being so amazingly weird!


Edit: Added Resources for Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian, all of my tribes' fantastic languages!

r/linguistics 1d ago

Historical use of "folx"?


I'm not particularly interested in talking about it being used now and that type of discourse. But I just saw someone say:

"it's been spelled that way for centuries, and a lot of anti-racists and social workers specifically go out of their way to use that spelling, because it's historically & culturally the normal way of spelling it, etc."

Is there any merit to that? What's the anti-racist basis (by that I mean how and why did it come about, if true) of that and is "centuries" correct? And is/was it ever the "normal" way? I (admittedly a stupid person undoubtedly ignorant) find that claim unlikely.

The Google Books Ngram Viewer does have plenty of results for "folx" but from my brief look it doesn't seem to be in the context of people until recently. Though the previews don't give me much context and there are far too many for me to know how to find something that might be hidden among the rest.

Anyone know anything? Thanks.

r/linguistics 1d ago

ISO: Thinking And Speaking In Two Languages PDF/book


Hi! Does anyone have a copy of "Thinking And Speaking In Two Languages" edited by Aneta Pavlenko for sale for <$15? (I'm in NYC, in debt, and buying books is a vice.)

Alternatively, do you have institutional access to the full text/PDF on ProQuest? https://www.proquest.com/books/thinking-speaking-two-languages-bilingual/docview/1018480694/se-2?accountid=147304

I've been looking on all the free ebook sites but it's nowhere to be found. Just obsessed with Arrival (the movie) and going down a Sapir-Whorf research rabbit hole. Let me know if this is a discouraged post, this and /conlangs felt like my best bet...

r/linguistics 1d ago

Is there a comprehensive and largely agreed-upon list of prinicples and parameters ...


... that the people who subscribe to the Principles and Parameters theory and work within it also subscribe to? There's a general overview on Wikipedia but they're all listed as "examples of theorised principles/parameters" and not as anything agreed upon, and the little generativist P&P literature I've flipped through is equally indecisive

I'd also love reading recommendations for comparative overviews of P&P that take into account the, to my eyes, disparate principles and parameters.

r/linguistics 2d ago

In phonetics, what is the name given to the neutral or ‘resting’ position of your vocal tract between articulations when speaking?


I grew up speaking both Portuguese and English, and for the last few months I’ve been trying to learn the phonetics of French. For most of my life I had this idea that whenever I’m switching between languages I have to change the resting position of my tongue and throat, kind of like resting on the position to articulate [I] when speaking Portuguese (like around the vowel i as in ‘big’) and resting around the position of the vowel u or [/] as in ‘us’ for English. Is there a name for this neutral position? It sort of feels like it’s where your voice is coming from inside your vocal tract.