News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Breaking News

Community News Network

July 24, 2013

What are the world's oldest words?

If you could time travel back to the last Ice Age, would you be able to speak with any of your distant ancestors? Well, you probably couldn't discuss the mysteries of the universe, but there might be a few words you could use to make yourself understood.

In research published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mark Pagel, Quentin D. Atkinson, Andreea S. Calude and Andrew Meade attempt to identify words shared among Eurasia's major language families - implying that they may be relics of an older common tongue. Most words have a "half life," meaning there's 50 percent chance they'll be replaced by a new noncognate word every 2,000 to 4,000 words. But some words - particularly numerals, pronounds and adverbs - tend to last longer.

Using a database of hypothesized ancestor words, the authors looked for words related by sound within the language groups. (An example: The Latin pater is obviously related to the English father.) They found "188 word-meanings for which one or more proto-words had been reconstructued for at least three language families."

              

The following list of words had cognates within four of the language families:

               Thou

               I

               Not

               That

               We

               To give

               Who

               This

               What

               Man/male

               Ye

               Old

               Mother

               To hear

               Hand

               Fire

               To pull

               Black

               To flow

               Bark

               Ashes

               To Spit

               Worm

For the most part, commonly used words seem to decay more slowly, though comparatively rare words like "spit," "bark" and "worm" seem to be exceptions. The authors say the connections among these words provide evidence of a Eurasian "linguistic superfamily that evolved from a common ancestor around 15,000 years ago - slightly before the beginning of the Holocene era.

 So you may have some (limited) subjects to talk about with your ancient ancestors after all.

               

        

           

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Lawmakers Scuffle in Ukraine's Parliament Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe WWII Vet Gets Medals, 70 Years Late Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Raw: Black Boxes of Downed Jetliner Turned Over Israeli Aircraft Hits Dozens of Gaza Targets Raw: Plane Lands on New York Highway Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' ShowBiz Minute: Hoffman, Oberst, Box Office Obama Offers Condolences at Dutch Embassy
NDN Video
Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Rory McIlroy struggles, surges, wins British Open
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity