Translating Protolanguages

Translating Protolanguages

OK, don’t expect to see Latin or Aramaic on SpeakSheets in the immediate future. That said, there’s a vast and largely untapped body of historical knowledge around translating ancient “parent” tongues, which are the origin languages from which modern language evolved. Here’s an interesting article in the Guardian, excerpt below, but frankly, I’m sharing it just because the title cracked me up.

New cunning linguist computer has got ancient tongues licked

With the exception of Latin – the parent of the Romance language family* – and a few others, written records of protolanguages tend to be rather rare, forcing experts to analyse modern speech to derive the parent languages. Specifically, linguists group together words with common meanings and study changes in pronunciation, among other techniques. “We’re hopeful our tool will revolutionise historical linguistics much the same way that statistical analysis and computer power revolutionised the study of evolutionary biology,” said Alexandre Bouchard-Côté, statistics professor at the University of British Columbia and lead author of the study.
(image h/t no1cristi)
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