Questions tagged [language]

Questions on historical use of languages and their development.

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155
votes
5answers
27k 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 ...
115
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2answers
13k 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 ...
110
votes
5answers
17k 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 ...
96
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3answers
14k 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 ...
84
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3answers
20k 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 ...
61
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6answers
20k 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 ...
51
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4answers
17k 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 ...
47
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5answers
10k 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 ...
44
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3answers
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,...
43
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14answers
7k 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 ...
43
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1answer
11k 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 ...
38
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5answers
12k 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 ...
34
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1answer
8k 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 ...
32
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7answers
13k 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?
31
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7answers
6k 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 ...
31
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5answers
5k 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. ...
29
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3answers
3k 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 ...
29
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1answer
4k 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 ...
28
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2answers
2k 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 ...
27
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5answers
7k 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 ...
27
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4answers
8k 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 ...
24
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7answers
4k 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 ...
22
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3answers
7k 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 ...
21
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1answer
699 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 ...
20
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4answers
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 ...
20
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3answers
987 views

Was German ever an official language in the USSR?

What can be said about historical perspective of this document, seemingly composed in German?
19
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5answers
2k 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 ...
19
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1answer
982 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 ...
19
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4answers
3k 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 ...
18
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5answers
6k 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 ...
17
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2answers
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-...
17
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1answer
880 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 ...
16
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9answers
9k 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, ...
16
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7answers
2k 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 ...
15
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2answers
2k 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?
15
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2answers
3k 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
803 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 ...
14
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3answers
5k 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
651 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
649 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 ...
14
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2answers
2k 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
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4answers
1k views

What was the northernmost 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 ...
13
votes
1answer
467 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
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2answers
3k views

What is this ancient Egyptian material called “maklalu”?

I read this passage in a book, "A coloured linen maklalu-material, for one royal dress for the king. A total of 12 linen garments...” It was a gift from Queen Nefertari of Egypt to the Queen of ...
12
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6answers
2k 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 ...
12
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3answers
2k 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 ...
12
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2answers
932 views

To what extent does the dictionary of Samuel Johnson represent English as it was spoken in his day?

My understanding is that Johnson embarked upon his dictionary precisely because he found others useless or archaic, and that his work was very well received within his own time. But I wanted to ask if ...
12
votes
2answers
682 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?
12
votes
1answer
419 views

Did Roman Britannia leave any impacts on English?

I was discussing French influence on English language with some other users and while on the topic of if the Latin influence on English language came exclusively from the Normans, it occurred to me ...
12
votes
1answer
308 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, ...