comparative linguistics - "Ring species" as dialect continuum?

In biology, ring species is a population of subspecies in a geographically ring-shaped region, where individuals are close (in terms of interbreeding) if they live close to each other, but between the two "ends" they don't get along. Below is the distribution map of birds Phylloscopus trochiloides, where western subspecies (blue) and eastern subspecies (red) went too diverse to interbreed.The obvious linguistic equivalent should be dialect continuum, a population of language(s) with spectrum of mutual intelligibility. But for the "ring" part, i...Read more

comparative linguistics - Is "small numbers inflect, large numbers don't" a universal?

In many languages, adjectives have some sort of noun-like inflection. In Latin (Indo-European) and Lingála (Bantu), just off the top of my head, adjectives are marked to agree with the nouns they modify, taking on that noun's gender and number.In both of those languages, though, there's a curious feature about numbers: small numbers (1-3 in Latin, 1-5 in Lingála) show inflection, while large numbers (anything larger) do not.Is this a common pattern (or even a "universal"), or just a coincidence that happened to happen in Indo-European and Bantu...Read more

comparative linguistics - Is there a known rule of correspondence between Latin and Greek *p and *kʷ - in other languages?

It seems to me that some words that have -p- in stem in Latin have clearly reconstructible -ku̯- based on other Indo-European languages. Some examples include*u̯lpes - *u̯lku̯os ("wolf")*u̯esper - *u̯esku̯eros ("evening")*apa - aku̯a ("water")The "ku̯" reconstruction is supported by the majority of languages, still many authors consider the roots with "p" as genuine and/or separate. For example, Katz tryed to proove the connection between *u̯esper, Hettite *u̯esp "cloth of the dead" and Greek ospros "pulse". Mallory & Adams reconstructed th...Read more

comparative linguistics - How different are Urdu and Hindi?

My family are Pakistani, but I never learned Urdu as a child. I'd like to learn a little, primarily as a means of keeping this part of my heritage alive. However, the pragmatist in me realizes that Hindi is a far more useful language (number of speakers, more advanced economy) and that Hindi will likely be easier to learn due to the volume of e.g. Bollywood, Rosetta Stone, etc available. I know the two languages are similar, and I already can read Arabic script, so:How do Hindi and Urdu actually differ? Is the relationship between the (spoken) ...Read more

comparative linguistics - Do linguists measure the relation distance between languages? How?

Sometimes, I read passages like: Languages X, Y and Z in region A are closely related to each other, comparable to French, Italian and Spanish in Western Europe.The discussion in the question "Do distantly related languages have a lower incidence of false friends?" also implies that languages can be considered "closely related" or "distantly related" to each other.How would one measure such distance and do linguists make that measurement for any purpose? Sometimes it's logically obvious, as a commenter in the linked question point out, that "i...Read more