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Traces of a Lost Language Discovered in Peru

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posted on Aug, 23 2010 @ 12:29 PM
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Traces of a Lost Language Discovered


(Cambridge, August 23, 2010) Sometime in the early 17th century in Northern Peru, a Spaniard jotted down some notes on the back of a letter. Four hundred years later, archaeologists dug up and studied the paper, revealing the first traces of a lost language.

“It’s a little piece of paper with a big story to tell,” says Dr. Jeffrey Quilter, who has conducted investigations in Peru for more than three decades, and is director of the archaeological project at Magdalena de Cao Viejo in the El Brujo Archaeological Complex, where the paper was excavated in 2008. Quilter explains this simple list offers “a glimpse of the peoples of ancient and early colonial Peru who spoke a language lost to us until this discovery.”


More at:

Traces of a Lost Language and Number System Discovered on the North Coast of Peru

This really doesn't happen very often, catching a rare glimpse back into an extinct language. Several languages spoken in pre-Columbian Peru are lost, but here is a chance to learn of at least one from an early Spanish translation.




posted on Aug, 23 2010 @ 01:17 PM
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I love that they are still constantly making discoveries in arceaology. There's a movie i can't remember the name right now. However, in the movie this guy gets struck by lightning and starts to regress in age. As he regress he picks up his work in The conciosness and Language and the further he went back into the language the further he went back into our collective concious. Anyways, the vessel he was using for his work was his wife and he had to let her go because he was killing her and couldnt finsih his work, but still very interesting thought that language hold the keys to our very conciousness...



posted on Aug, 23 2010 @ 01:22 PM
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Thank you so much for finding and posting this!! It has everything a good Ancient Civilisation thread needs, hm perhaps a picture of the letter would be a awesome too, but still this is cool!!

I strill dream that somewhere, up in the High Andes, there's a remote village still speaking this long lost language. Just waiting for Indiana Kiwifoot to discover them!!!

Dreams are free, again thanks mate, all the best. Kiwifoot



posted on Aug, 23 2010 @ 01:31 PM
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Great find. It would be interesting if there were any lost groups still speaking a derivative of this language that have not been found yet.

S&F



posted on Aug, 24 2010 @ 05:31 AM
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Great find thanks very much for the interesting read.



posted on Aug, 24 2010 @ 01:34 PM
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It's gut wrenching to think about an entire language vanishing, especially one that has been spoken for thousands, or even tens of thousands of years. The last speaker of the 'Bo' language just recently died, the last of her kind speaking one of the world's oldest languages, at more than 70,000 years old (the language, not her!) See "Last speaker of ‘Bo’ language dies

What's hard to accept is that linguists haven't fully studied this language, even with our modern tools and techniques a language can still vanish and be lost.

I can imagine how many languages were lost in the Americas due to European colonization, especially given the brutality of the Conquistadors. At least one Spaniard took the time to try and record this Peruvian language.

One can only hope more efforts like this one, 'Saving a Dying Language' will succeed, so that future historians wont have to rely on a scrap of paper left by a conquering horde to realize the existence of a lost language. The University of Texas has done an amazing job of studying and documenting the languages of Peru, according to them, more than 1,750 indigenous languages were spoken before colonization. (from The Indigenous Languages of Latin America at The Archive of Indigenous Languages of Latin America.



posted on Aug, 24 2010 @ 03:39 PM
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That is pretty interesting. It's very rare to have a record of a pre-conquest language like that.

We should, however, be wary of claims that a language is X years old. First off, there's a number of conceptual problems with the claim. How does one identify when a language is the same as a predecessor, for example? Is it the ability to mutually understand each other? That would be hard to show since most language change takes hundreds of years, and there would be no sets of speakers to hold a conversation in the "two" languages.

We could go by written texts perhaps. Many native English readers can struggle through Chaucer's English, which is often considered Middle English. Is Chaucer's language the same as ours? Tough question since one has to assume some relatively arbitrary restrictions to come to a conclusion. Whereas the author of Beowulf's "English" is often considered very much different from modern English given that it's an inflected and not a distributed language.

Another way to see the question is to consider the Romance languages. In one sense, we could say that French, Spanish, Romanian, etc. are all dialects of Latin. But by and large French speakers are not going to automatically understand Romanian speakers, even if there's an affinity between the languages. So, do we say that French is 1,000 years old, when it started to differentiate itself from the vulgate Latin, or 10,000 years old, if we trace its development back through Latin, Italic, Indo-European, and Proto IE?



posted on Aug, 24 2010 @ 04:49 PM
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generally speaking, you can look at French (since we have extant documentation) and generally make distinction between modern, middle and old French. Likewise with Latin, English, German, and a host of European languages that have legal and scholastic documentation for so many hundreds of years.

This language, if it really is dead, is the one known sample of it recorded. It should pre-date the Conquista, but without sampling of known dialects and reconstructing roots and theorizing on drift and such, its just a sample of an unknown language at one point in its career.



posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 12:28 PM
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Ask and you shall receive! Here's an article with a picture of the translation notes. Alas, all that he seems to have transcribed is the numbers (at least on this page) but there may be other records like this where someone needs to speak with or trade with this group of people and has written down some handy phrases:
heritage-key.com...



posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 07:53 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 


I see the word for "hundreds" is close to the zuni word for "enemy", but without an a. This is a word the zuni called the Navajo Indians.

History of the Apache


This other website has some interesting comments on the word Apache.

www.crystalinks.com...

It is an unspecified Quechan word meaning "fighting-men".
The word is derived from the Yavapai word epache, meaning "people".

It would seem agreeable to say that "hundreds" could represent a large group of people or an approaching fighting force.



posted on Aug, 26 2010 @ 10:57 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 


Thanks for the link Byrd, from the description it sounds as though this lost language was advanced, at least when it came to numbering systems, although there's no indicator that they had developed writing. Still, the notion this language's numbering was based on something akin to the decimal system shows their ability to think logically, and puts them ahead of the Romans on that front, as anyone who has ever tried to do math with Roman numerals will attest.



posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 02:33 PM
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Originally posted by lostinspace
reply to post by Byrd
 


I see the word for "hundreds" is close to the zuni word for "enemy", but without an a. This is a word the zuni called the Navajo Indians.


When you study languages, you find that there are a lot of words that "sound like" the same word (or similar) in every language of the world.

You also find out that the spelling of the word (how the one writing it down) depends on what language the writer speaks. In other words, a French speaking person would have heard a slightly different set of letters, and a Chinese speaking person would have heard yet another set of letters. English speakers would have written it a third way.

And all THAT is changed by how many other languages you know. So (because I speak a little Spanish and a little German), you and I might actually hear different syllables when this person pronounced the word for us.

Transcribing a language accurately is a REAL headache for trained linguists.

I wonder how a French explorer or a Franciscan monk who was very familiar with Latin would have written those same words!



posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 02:38 PM
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Originally posted by Blackmarketeer
reply to post by Byrd
 
Still, the notion this language's numbering was based on something akin to the decimal system shows their ability to think logically, and puts them ahead of the Romans on that front, as anyone who has ever tried to do math with Roman numerals will attest.


Actually, the Romans had the same base-ten system as these folks did (as did the Egyptians and a lot of other folks. It was just that their notation (as with the Egyptians) is rather clumsy. That didn't prevent them from dealing with geometrical calculations although it's rather a hindrance for us.

What the article refers to (I believe) is that many primitive people have a counting system of "1,2,3,4,5, many!" or "one hand plus 3 fingers" and so forth. Having number systems that included sounds for "one hundred" and "one thousand" (as the Egyptians and many other ancient people did) shows they had a need to tally very large collections of things.

Perhaps it came about as their system of measuring distances?



posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 07:08 PM
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Here's a complete link to the paper, the abstract linked in my OP didn't make it very easy to find. American Anthropologist

Distances, and certainly trade too, were the reason for their numeracy. Although a lot of ancient cultures also used a measure of time to indicate far distances (the Sumerians for instance, where the number of beru indicated how far away something was).

From the AA article;


Both the format and the contents of the brief list suggest that the author may have been recording numbers with the aim of understanding the numerical system in question, possibly during or shortly after an interview with a native informant. This is hard to determine, of course, but it suggests that the recorder understood that by asking for the numbers in question, the rules of the number system could be determined. The choice of numbers indicates that the interviewer was numerate and educated because the numbers queried for native-language equivalents above ten provided keys to understanding the system's combinatory rules.


The article goes on to compare other Andean languages and numeral systems which were base 5, 10 or 20, Mayan for instance was base 20 and perhaps that is why the Spaniard noted the word-combination of 20, then 21.


You also find out that the spelling of the word (how the one writing it down) depends on what language the writer speaks. In other words, a French speaking person would have heard a slightly different set of letters, and a Chinese speaking person would have heard yet another set of letters. English speakers would have written it a third way


That's interesting, so I guess if you wanted to get an accurate idea of how these words were pronounced in their native Andean tongue, you'd first have to have an idea how a 17th c. Spaniard would hear and speak them. Makes sense!


Actually, the Romans had the same base-ten system as these folks did (as did the Egyptians and a lot of other folks. It was just that their notation (as with the Egyptians) is rather clumsy. That didn't prevent them from dealing with geometrical calculations although it's rather a hindrance for us.


Yeah, didn't mean to come across as so ignorant about Roman math, considering their genius with engineering. But like the Greeks their system of notation did leave a lot to be desired from our modern standpoint. It's only natural someone raised on that system would never consider it a hindrance, and it does lend itself to the use of the abacus.

This Spaniard did recognize their was a base system to this language and was apparently trying to determine what it was.



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