Questions on historical use of languages and their development.

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69
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4answers
9k views

Why are Germans referred to so differently in different languages?

I was inspired by the other question "Why are the German and French languages so different?". But while, for me, the answer was obvious (the Romans did not conquer most parts of today's Germany and so ...
39
votes
4answers
7k views

Why are the German and French languages so different?

My understanding (which could be wrong) is the following: During and before the period of the fall of western Rome (roughly 400 AD), the Franks and the Alemanni were tribal people who moved around a ...
34
votes
10answers
3k views

Are there confirmed cases where a country changed its language without being conquered?

I thought about this question and wondered: Are there any known cases where a country switched to a different language other than because of being conquered? If some country ever did this I would be ...
26
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6answers
6k views

What language(s) were spoken within the Holy Roman Empire?

What language(s) were considered the primary language for the Holy Roman Empire? Were there many different languages spoken due to the many different regions?
26
votes
5answers
3k views

Why does Romanian culture have Latin influences?

Romania is located between Bulgaria, Serbia on one side and Ukraine/many Slavic countries on the other. Romanian is however a Romance (Latin) language, and not Slavic. They don't use the Cyrillic ...
25
votes
3answers
1k views

Why was language not used to establish dominance throughout England 1066 AD–1360s CE?

Why didn’t the Normans enforce the use of their native tongue throughout the whole of England after William the Conqueror (of Normandy) became king of England? During William’s reign as king he ...
23
votes
4answers
2k views

Why did modern “Romania” remain the most “Roman” part of the Balkans?

The so-called "Romanians" are the Vlachs who inhabited the territory just north of the Danube in Roman times, and today. Wallachia (home of the Vlachs), represented the outer limit or Roman expansion. ...
20
votes
3answers
3k views

How would slaves have addressed their masters in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Rome, slaves addressed their masters as Dominus or Domina (male or female, respectively). Would the slaves (or servants) of Ancient Greece have used a similar title, or would they have ...
20
votes
1answer
1k views

Why did Meiji consider switching from Japanese to English?

During the Meiji restoration, the Emperor sought to switch Japan's national language from Japanese to English. Why was that? Why, ultimately, was it unsuccessful? The Role of English and Other ...
19
votes
1answer
498 views

Colonisation of India: Which regions of the United Kingdom did colonial personnel come from?

I'm a linguist doing research on the emergence of new dialects of English spoken in former colonies, especially India. These new dialects have two major influences: (1) Interference from the mother ...
16
votes
1answer
1k views

When did the Hebrews stop speaking Hebrew and start speaking Aramaic?

The Torah was written Hebrew, and most of the old testament was written in Hebrew, although parts of Daniel were written in Aramaic. By the time of the 1st century, Aramaic was the common language for ...
16
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3answers
1k views

How much is known about the Punic language (of classical Carthage)?

How much is known of the Carthaginian language, which as I understand it is called Punic and descended from Phoenician? Google searches show some sketches of alphabet characters and such, but do we ...
16
votes
4answers
3k views

When did the Greeks stop calling themselves “Roman”?

I've been reading a lot about the Byzantine Empire recently, and one of the things I see pointed out over and over again is that "Byzantine" is a term coined by historians, not by the people ...
16
votes
1answer
457 views

Did Noah Webster ever state why he Americanized spelling?

I am aware that Noah Webster (1758--1843 AD) is responsible for the majority of the differences between British and American spelling (IE: "color" v "colour"). Over time, it seems, in his Speller ...
15
votes
3answers
589 views

Was German ever an official language in the USSR?

What can be said about historical perspective of this document, seemingly composed in German?
13
votes
5answers
3k views

How and when was Portugal created?

We all know that the Iberian peninsula is separated between two major countries Spain and Portugal. My question is when and how was the country now known as Portugal formed? I mean yes they have an ...
13
votes
2answers
945 views

How is it possible that the Basque language survived until today?

The mysterious Basque is the mother tongue of only few people, spoken in Vizcaya, a northern province in Spain. It is not similar to any major European language in use today and it's origins are ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

What are the reasons of the ethnical fragmentation of the Caucasus?

While investigating on Albania, I kept finding peoples I never heard of before. Notwithstanding my vast ignorance, this was systematic to the point that I started investigating. Take a look at this ...
13
votes
1answer
263 views

Language of early French (West-Frankish) kings

When did Old French displace Frankish as the language spoken in the West-Frankish court, and who was the first natively "French" king?
12
votes
9answers
8k views

Why did English become Lingua Franca of the modern world? [closed]

According to a guy on Quora: English became the lingua-franca of the world because of the United states and not England. But, throughout the 17th and 18th century, many Europeans (English, french,...
12
votes
7answers
984 views

Why was not Greek alphabet adopted by other languages given the Greek influence?

Most of western languages adopt the Latin alphabet with minor variations. Arabic letters are adopted by quite a few other languages. The same is true for Eastern Europe with Cyrillic letters. Why was ...
12
votes
5answers
1k views

In what language did Caractacus deliver his speech to the emperor Claudius?

In The Annals, the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus wrote about the British chieftain Caractacus and how he was captured by the Romans. According to him, Caractacus was taken to Rome along with his ...
12
votes
2answers
504 views

Which undeciphered writing system has the largest corpus of text?

Dozens of ancient writing systems are still undeciphered. My question is: Which of them has the largest number of known inscriptions (and might thus be most accessible to future decipherment, though ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

Languages spoken by Josephus?

What languages did Josephus speak? He lived in the land of Israel during the first century CE. He wrote in Greek (so he obviously knew that), but did he know Hebrew, Aramaic, or Latin?
10
votes
2answers
531 views

Language of Franks vs later French

I am reading that before the 8-9th(10th?) century, Franks were a Germanic-speaking nation. How it is possible to explain that in later centuries their language became a totally different Latin-...
10
votes
1answer
169 views

“The signal on the Zibby is dead” - what is the meaning of “Zibby”?

I am line editing a book about World War II and the Battle of the Coral Sea. The action is taking place in the front and rear cockpits of a Devastator torpedo-bomber aircraft. The pilot and gunner ...
10
votes
1answer
371 views

Why haven't Etruscan texts survived?

In Wikipedia it's claimed that Etruscan Civilization had a rich literature, but only one Etruscan text has survived. And AFAIK at the same moment we have many Ancient Greeks texts roughly from the ...
10
votes
2answers
379 views

In what language was the first zionist congress in basel in 1897 held?

In what language was the first zionist congress in Basel held? Was it Yiddish, Hebrew, German, English? Where there translators?
10
votes
1answer
169 views

Language in German cloisters during the High Middle Ages

I would like to know which was the spoken and literary language in German cloisters during the High Middle Ages. Is it possible to differentiate between social groups in the cloister (monks, laymen, ...
9
votes
4answers
546 views

The practice of translating foreign monarch's or noble's name

In history texts, past foreign monarchs are normally referred to by the English version of their name, e.g. Francis I (not François), Charles V (not Carlos, Karel, or Karl), Phillip II (not Felipe). ...
9
votes
2answers
784 views

What was the cultural background of Burgundians?

In the Middle Ages there was a big country in Europe between France and German kingdoms, Burgundy. What language did they speak there? Were they more German or French in origin?
9
votes
1answer
130 views

What is the history of the use of word dividers in Greek?

In my understanding, Ancient Greek was usually written with a vertical line or three vertical dots separating words. This was phased out in favor of scriptio continua (continuous script) and ...
8
votes
4answers
917 views

Why didn't Turkish become an official language in former Ottoman colonies in the Middle-East and North Africa?

The main language in the Middle East is Arabic, however English and French considered as a secondary language. Especially in Algeria, Morocco and Lebanon (there are other countries..) people still use ...
8
votes
3answers
295 views

What was the most northern region/city in the Roman Empire that spoke Greek as the native language?

My understanding is that prior to the migrations/invasions of the Goths, Huns and Sklavenoi into the Balkan peninsula, Greek and Latin where the most common native languages, alongside other steadily ...
8
votes
6answers
2k views

What does the inscription on this sword mean?

The British Library has a 13th century sword with unknown inscription. They recently started a call to arms to translate the inscription. The inscription reads: NDXOXCHWDRGHDXORVI Its meaning is ...
7
votes
1answer
536 views

What language does this look like?

I was hoping someone here could help tell me what language this is? The hint for this is Mary Queen of Scots, but I have no background in historical languages, and was hoping maybe someone here does.
7
votes
2answers
218 views

When did English become a major subject in Japanese schools?

I used to think older Japanese people wouldn't have studied English at school, and recently came across someone who thought likewise (link available on request). A middle-aged Japanese person told me ...
7
votes
1answer
570 views

Why is German spoken in Upper Valais?

The Swiss region of Upper Valais is a German speaking region which is physically isolated from all other German speaking regions. The dialect spoken there is so different from other Swiss-German ...
7
votes
1answer
465 views

What language did Petlura speak casually?

In Bulgakov's novel "The White Guard" one of the characters, Turbin alleges that Simon Petlura does not speak Ukrainian language himself despite the measures he took to promote it. Are there any ...
7
votes
4answers
301 views

Continent-wide common languages in human history

My question on rpg.stackexchange.com seems to have reached a point where a "history-person" would be quite suitable to answer it. So let me rephrase it, so as to be at least marginally suitable for ...
7
votes
1answer
145 views

Could any Habsburg kings of Hungary speak Hungarian?

From 1526 to 1918, Hungary was ruled by the Habsburgs. Could any of the Habsburg kings speak Hungarian, and if so, to what degree? I know that Sissi, the consort of Franz Joseph I, was particularly ...
6
votes
1answer
288 views

In a Nazi concentration, labor, or death camp, what was a “'sale' Appel”?

I have listened to 100+ hours of testimonies by Holocaust survivors. Those who were in concentration, labor, or death camps invariably described the brutal roll calls known in German as Appels. ...
6
votes
2answers
533 views

What was the official language used across European monarchies in the XII century?

I have been reading about European history in the XII century and I am finding out that several of the modern day languages hadn't yet evolved to what they are now: Langue d'oïl was still being used ...
6
votes
1answer
265 views

What does it mean: “French was a lingua franca in the Ottoman caliphal court?”

According to the Economist: The Ottoman caliphate: Straddling two worlds Ruling from Istanbul, the caliphs kept polyglot courts, reflecting the multiple religions and races represented there. ...
6
votes
3answers
245 views

State of temporary recklessness of ancient Greeks

It was once explained to me that in ancient Greece when a person was reflecting on their own action that they later recognised as reckless or shameful, they would say that the gods have "blinded" them ...
6
votes
3answers
178 views

Did the passage from Latin to English, in England, help science flourish?

On a YouTube video about the origins of English, they said that replacing Latin with English in science was beneficial to the field; scientists were thus able to easily discuss and understand the ...
6
votes
2answers
566 views

What was the ancient Egyptian word for “soldier”?

I can't find it anywhere on the Internet, and I was hoping someone here might know.
6
votes
1answer
570 views

What examples are of French and Arab cultural integration?

In the last centuries there were very close tights between the French Empire and its colonies in the Maghreb before and the immigrants and citizens of France after the decolonisation. What are the ...
6
votes
1answer
118 views

When were both minuscule and majuscule letters used for the first time in the same Latin manuscript?

I understand the first minuscule script appeared in the Latin alphabet in the 3rd century - "New Roman cursive". My question is: when did a script used both minuscule and majuscule letters in the ...
6
votes
1answer
146 views

What determined the order of letters in the alphabet

I'm sure that we can trace the order of letters in the modern Latin alphabet to precursors (the Greek alphabet, various Semitic writing systems). But at some point an order had to be chosen for ...