Mother Tongues

Feb 13 2013 @ 10:14am

Scientists in Vancouver have engineered a computer that can “reconstruct lost languages using the sounds uttered by those who speak their modern successors”:

Reconstructing ancient languages can reveal details of our ancient history. Looking at when the word for “wheel” diverges in the family tree of European languages helps us date the human settlement of different parts of the continent, for instance.

Evan Fleischer considers the porous lines of the world’s languages. From his extensive list of words:

[I]f we want to … use a word that means the same in both Polish and Czech, we get “Wyrok,” as in, “sentence, verdict”; and if we’re looking for a word that exists simultaneously in Czech and Hawaiian—Czech being the mother tongue of Kundera and the stunning Josef Koudelka—we get “pukowi,” as in, “birch tree”; and if we want a word that simultaneously exists in Hawaiian and Spanish, we use “paniolo,” as in, “cowboy.”