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'Oldest English words' identified

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posted on Feb, 26 2009 @ 02:52 PM
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An article on the BBC describes a report from Reading University that uses computer analyses to identify the oldest words in the English language.


Reading University researchers claim "I", "we", "two" and "three" are among the most ancient, dating back tens of thousands of years.

Their computer model analyses the rate of change of words in English and the languages that share a common heritage.
BBC link

That personal and objective pronouns may represent our earliest words come as no surprise. Abstracts like "I, me, you, we, they" may have been conceptualized before speech became a common factor in early Mankind. Self and otherness are a basic distinction amongst sapient life and as soon as the ability of speech arose they became words.


The team says it can predict which words are likely to become extinct - citing "squeeze", "guts", "stick" and "bad" as probable first casualties. "We use a computer to fit a range of models that tell us how rapidly these words evolve," said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading. "We fit a wide range, so there's a lot of computation involved; and that range then brackets what the true answer is and we can estimate the rates at which these things are replaced through time.


My attention was caught by the model's prediction that words like "bad" will become extinct. Good and bad are words containing so many levels of meaning that it's hard to accept that either could become extinct. As binary opposites, one shouldn't exist without the other. The word 'bad' has many synonyms and this, for me, illustrates how the computer model can be mistaken. The more 'proto-sapien' the word, the greater it's longevity or have I drawn the wrong conclusion?

It remains a fascinating study.

(I couldn't think of a more appropriate section to post this apart from 'breaking news')




posted on Feb, 26 2009 @ 06:43 PM
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I think I'd love to sit with them and look at their algorithm! What a fascinating article... will have to see if they've published and if there was a general agreement or if everyone stood up and yelled "that's a DUMB idea" and started throwing contrary research around.



posted on Feb, 26 2009 @ 08:26 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 


I think people (linguists) will say its a dumb idea. I've seen research on trying to back track language to a proto-whatever and it smacks of forcing the data. To many assumptions and variables. HOWEVER, this is way out of my area of knowledge so I'll just nod my head and say, okay.



posted on Feb, 26 2009 @ 08:58 PM
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Sorry not buying it here is my reasoning.....

Cave man picks up rock
Cave man tries to throw rock at furry food.
Cave man slips drops rock on foot.
Cave man exclaims "S#$T!!!!!"

that my friends is man's first word.



posted on Feb, 26 2009 @ 08:59 PM
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I read the same thing on dailymail.com it was really recent news too



posted on Feb, 26 2009 @ 09:18 PM
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reply to post by drift393
 


Amusing but man's first word was probably 'ma' or similar to alert the new mother that the child needed feeding.



posted on Feb, 27 2009 @ 01:09 AM
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Originally posted by Hanslune
reply to post by drift393
 


Amusing but man's first word was probably 'ma' or similar to alert the new mother that the child needed feeding.


I like your reasoning, but I think the first word used consistently by a young age is actually "mine!".



posted on Feb, 27 2009 @ 01:21 AM
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Originally posted by Hanslune
reply to post by Byrd
 


I think people (linguists) will say its a dumb idea. I've seen research on trying to back track language to a proto-whatever and it smacks of forcing the data. To many assumptions and variables. HOWEVER, this is way out of my area of knowledge so I'll just nod my head and say, okay.



I wonder whether "dumb" is on that list.

Its such a "motivationaly degrading" word.... is it not?

Mungo



posted on Feb, 28 2009 @ 12:44 AM
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Kandinsky, as you correctly recognized "good" and "bad" as having many meanings, is indicative their definition is not set in stone, but continually evolving. "Bad" went from bad to a slang form of good. So one can see how a few hundred years from it may take on a different meaning entirely or cease to be used at all. However "I" has remained steadfast in its meaning. "I" hasn't changed meaning and is likely to remain "I" for a long time. Good read, I found the study fascinating.



posted on Feb, 28 2009 @ 04:44 AM
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Originally posted by Blackmarketeer
Kandinsky, as you correctly recognized "good" and "bad" as having many meanings, is indicative their definition is not set in stone, but continually evolving. "Bad" went from bad to a slang form of good. So one can see how a few hundred years from it may take on a different meaning entirely or cease to be used at all. However "I" has remained steadfast in its meaning. "I" hasn't changed meaning and is likely to remain "I" for a long time. Good read, I found the study fascinating.


I agree entirely about "I" but disagree about the end of the term bad. From a linguistic perspective, as long as we have "others" we'll continue to use abstract values like 'good' and 'bad'. As you point out, 'bad' means good also. This shows how important the term and the concept is. It's wildly speculative, but I wouldn't be surprised if apes have an abstract conception of 'bad'.



posted on Feb, 28 2009 @ 07:40 AM
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Words and phrases come and go, even in a single generation. I've always thought that the word 'cool' will last for a long time.



posted on Mar, 3 2009 @ 11:44 AM
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I disagree. We ought to squeeze two or three sticks into the guts of those scientists. Ill be damned before I start saying 'ungood' and 'doubleplus'.

The first words would probably be something like 'sex now', thats all that mattered before language. Heck thats all that matters with language..



posted on Mar, 3 2009 @ 02:49 PM
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Hiya All.

Can i suggest a great little show on the history channel,called the Adventure of
English?

en.wikipedia.org...

Melvin Bragg's work is by no means definitive,and on occasion has found to be wanting,but its a good start to wet the appetite.



posted on Mar, 3 2009 @ 02:54 PM
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I think women and ouch were the first words



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