Skip to main content

Questions tagged [language]

Questions on historical use of languages and their development.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
174 votes
5 answers
32k views

When did people decide that all caps means the writer is shouting?

Nowadays, writing in all caps tends to indicate that the writer is shouting. FOR EXAMPLE IF I TYPE LIKE THIS PEOPLE EQUATE THIS TO SHOUTING. My understanding from cursory googling is that letters ...
GGMG-he-him's user avatar
  • 1,861
128 votes
2 answers
16k views

How do historians and linguists know how to pronounce the names from non-phonetic scripts?

If we take hieroglyphic writings like the Egyptian one, an Egyptologist knows that this hieroglyph must be interpreted as Nefertiti. Or we can see in the following Sumerian cuneiform script that ...
Devin's user avatar
  • 1,508
121 votes
7 answers
22k views

Did China ever consider a phonetic writing system?

I was surprised to learn the following about the Japanese and Korean languages: Japanese used a lot of Chinese characters in their language and had no phonetic system, until around the year 800 when ...
DrZ214's user avatar
  • 17.2k
106 votes
3 answers
17k 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 ...
Orsinus's user avatar
  • 3,423
93 votes
3 answers
23k views

How would a 16-year-old girl from Cleopatra's era curse?

For one of my novels, I need to learn how Egyptian 16 year old teenagers spoke to each other on a daily basis. I did some research online but I have trouble to understand what languages peoples were ...
iizno's user avatar
  • 903
61 votes
6 answers
28k 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 ...
Roman's user avatar
  • 737
51 votes
4 answers
19k views

Why does Ngram show an extreme spike in use of "LOL" in mid 1600s?

In the google "Ngram" search, which allows you to search the usage of words in recent history, I typed in the widely-used internet word "LOL". To my surprise, this came up: As you can see, there was ...
umntc's user avatar
  • 628
50 votes
6 answers
22k 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 ...
Nerrolken's user avatar
  • 7,712
50 votes
3 answers
9k views

Why is AD in Latin and BC is in English?

Why does one abbreviation for designating time come from Latin (AD: anno Domini), but the other corresponding to the time before that from English (BC: before Christ)? BC = before Christ AD = anno ...
Jan's user avatar
  • 501
49 votes
18 answers
13k 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 ...
Wladimir Palant's user avatar
47 votes
5 answers
13k views

Which European Languages are not Indo-European?

I saw this question asked on Twitter today. At first blush it seemed like an easy reference question, but I can't find any place that actually has this spelled out in one place. I ended up having to ...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
  • 120k
47 votes
1 answer
17k views

When did "&" stop being taught alongside the alphabet?

I've recently discovered that "&" was taught alongside the alphabet letters. While not being considered a letter per se, many students must have seen '&' as effectively the 27th letter of the ...
SC for reinstatement of Monica's user avatar
46 votes
3 answers
7k views

Why did English adopt Kamikaze (神風) as a loanword instead of Tokko (特攻) during/after WWII?

Kamikaze (you know, the 'crash plane into boat' thing) is, for Japanese learners like myself, initially a very confusing word. In Japanese it's 神風, 神 meaning god, gods, divinity, etc. And 風 means wind,...
Tirous's user avatar
  • 1,397
41 votes
2 answers
13k views

What language did Gaius Julius Caesar speak with Cleopatra?

What language did Gaius Julius Caesar (GJC) speak with Cleopatra? My thoughts: GJC spoke Latin. Cleopatra spoke many languages, including Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Egyptian, Greek. Or did they need a ...
Jan's user avatar
  • 475
36 votes
7 answers
21k 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?
Daniel's user avatar
  • 3,537
35 votes
5 answers
8k 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. ...
Tom Au's user avatar
  • 104k
34 votes
1 answer
9k views

Why did the Republic of China retract its simplified Chinese characters?

The image below shows part of the list of simplified Chinese characters introduced by the Republic of China Department of Education in 1935. They were retracted in 1936, so China continued to use ...
Flux's user avatar
  • 1,291
34 votes
2 answers
3k views

Until when was Marseille Greek-speaking?

Marseille was originally a Greek city. It fell to the Romans in 49 BC, but without suffering very much. Given the widespread use of the Greek language in the Roman Empire, it is not clear to me that ...
Arno's user avatar
  • 1,175
34 votes
2 answers
6k views

Why did Meiji government consider switching from Japanese to English?

During the Meiji restoration, the Meiji govenment sought to switch Japan's national language from Japanese to English. Who and why advocated that? Ultimately, why was it unsuccessful? Source: ...
Sardathrion - against SE abuse's user avatar
30 votes
7 answers
12k 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 ...
cvr's user avatar
  • 495
29 votes
4 answers
13k 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 ...
samiz's user avatar
  • 401
28 votes
3 answers
4k 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 ...
E1Suave's user avatar
  • 3,830
28 votes
2 answers
7k 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 ...
aceinthehole's user avatar
28 votes
1 answer
4k views

Could George I (of Great Britain) speak English?

Web based sources differ wildly in stating how well King George I could speak English. Brittanica says: Since he could not speak English, he communicated with his ministers in French. Wikipedia, ...
Spencer's user avatar
  • 5,265
28 votes
1 answer
3k views

How likely is it that any non-Celtic language was spoken in the British Isles when the Romans invaded?

We know from Roman writers the names (or Latinized versions of them) of many ancient British tribes that they encountered, the Iceni, Parisi, Trinovantes etc. but the Romans were rarely interested in ...
Timothy's user avatar
  • 5,591
27 votes
5 answers
10k views

Which languages would be most useful in Europe at the end of the 19th century?

If I were a tourist planning to visit all the major cities in Europe, which languages would be most beneficial for me to know? Nowadays, the answer would be straightforward, as many people in Europe ...
hohenheim's user avatar
  • 423
26 votes
4 answers
9k views

Why did the Romans change Europe's language, but the barbarians didn't?

When the Roman republic/empire took over the Mediterranean between 40 BC and 20 AD, Vulgar Latin replaced the local languages almost completely. Basque seems to be the only remaining pre-Roman ...
Nikolai's user avatar
  • 456
25 votes
7 answers
5k views

Has there ever been a truly bilingual country prior to the contemporary period?

What I mean by this is: has there ever been a country where the bulk of the population spoke two different languages as a matter of course? This question is somewhat inspired by this video in which ...
user avatar
25 votes
2 answers
4k views

What language did Brahe talk with Kepler?

What language did Tycho de Brahe use to talk with Johannes Kepler? Latin? They met in February 1600 and Brahe died in October 1601. Brahe was Danish, Kepler was German, i.e. a different nationality.
Jan's user avatar
  • 267
20 votes
3 answers
1k views

Was German ever an official language in the USSR?

What can be said about historical perspective of this document, seemingly composed in German?
Anixx's user avatar
  • 32.7k
20 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
Timofey Pivsaev's user avatar
20 votes
4 answers
4k 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 ...
Nerrolken's user avatar
  • 7,712
20 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
Gwen's user avatar
  • 2,878
20 votes
1 answer
824 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 ...
Robert's user avatar
  • 300
19 votes
4 answers
4k views

Did foreign language phrase books exist in the ancient world?

I am finding out about the ancient equivalent to modern foreign language phrase books, used in conversations. Such as a medieval Italian-Latin conversational book, or an ancient English-French ...
sun's user avatar
  • 193
19 votes
5 answers
8k views

How and when was Portugal created?

We all know that the Iberian Peninsula is separated between two major countries Spain and Portugal. When and how was the country now known as Portugal formed? Portuguese is very similar to the ...
Medi1Saif's user avatar
  • 1,499
18 votes
8 answers
4k views

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

Most 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 the ...
The Byzantine's user avatar
18 votes
9 answers
7k views

Why did Latin disappear so completely in Britain after the Romans left?

My impression, wholly prone to error, is that despite centuries of Roman occupation, after the Anglo-Saxon invasions, Latin virtually became a dead language in Britain. Other parts of the Roman ...
Geoffrey Thomas's user avatar
18 votes
4 answers
8k views

Did average church-goers understand mass in Latin?

Since around the 4th century AD, Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church. As such, most of this period, the official language of the Mass was Latin (there has been exceptions). A key ...
luchonacho's user avatar
  • 2,049
18 votes
2 answers
1k 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-...
Andrei's user avatar
  • 848
18 votes
5 answers
4k 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 ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
17 votes
2 answers
853 views

Are there any existing foreign language teaching texts from the Ancient Near East?

The various cultures of the Ancient Near East spoke a wide array of languages and we know that there was plenty of communication between cultures. We even have a language like Akkadian that served as ...
Dan Piponi's user avatar
16 votes
9 answers
10k 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, ...
Time Portal's user avatar
  • 1,099
16 votes
4 answers
22k views

Who was the last English king whose first language was French?

What I remember from my college course is that whenever a delegation of barons came to discuss their grievances in English, the King would hear them out politely without understanding a word, conclude ...
Ricky's user avatar
  • 3,425
16 votes
2 answers
5k 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 its origins are ...
Stockfisch's user avatar
16 votes
2 answers
1k 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 ...
user4470's user avatar
  • 161
15 votes
8 answers
4k views

How can I properly learn the history of a country whose language I don't speak or read?

I was trying to learn some history of the Middle East; however, I thought to myself that most relevant sources about it are in Arabic, a language I don't know how to read or write, and you must rely ...
Don Al's user avatar
  • 271
15 votes
3 answers
3k views

Why isn't there a single trace of Germanic influence in Iberian Languages?

In this question, I would like to make a comparison between two settlements that occurred in the Early Middle Ages in Europe, that seem to be very similar, however they had very distinct outcomes ...
embedded_dev's user avatar
15 votes
3 answers
1k 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?
dudel's user avatar
  • 167
15 votes
2 answers
3k views

Is there convincing evidence that the language of Bulgars (proto-Bulgarians) was not Turkic, but Indo-European?

Wikipedia says that "Bulgar (also Bulghar, Bolgar, Bolghar) is an extinct Oghur Turkic language which was spoken by the Bulgars. " I was not aware of a different hypothesis on this until I ...
cipricus's user avatar
  • 2,294

1
2 3 4 5 6