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Listen to the 'mother of all language': Researchers recreate how words were spoken 8,000 years ago

Listen to the 'mother of all language': Researchers recreate how words were spoken 8,000 years ago History

Listen to the 'mother of all language': Researchers recreate how words were spoken 8,000 years ago

Nearly 7,000 spoken languages exist throughout the world today, but many centuries ago, there was just one.

The mother tongue – the Proto-Indo-European language – was spoken from 6,000 to 3,500 BC, but with no texts from the time, linguists have struggled to reconstruct it, and the way it sounds remained a mystery.

Now, researchers have developed a new method to simulate these extinct sounds by analyzing the languages that later stemmed from them, manipulating the shape of the soundwaves to reveal how words would have sounded.

Researchers have developed a new method to simulate these extinct sounds by analyzing the languages that later stemmed from them, manipulating the shape of the soundwaves to reveal how words would have sounded. A spectogram is pictured above, showing the sound of a word

The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language was spoken by all who lived on the steppes to the north of the Caspian Sea, and is the root of all Indo-European languages today.

According to the team from the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, the new technique relies on the statistics of shape.

A particular word spoken in one language will have a distinct shape, and the same word will take a different shape when spoken in another language.

'Sounds have shape,' explains Professor John Aston, from Cambridge's Statistical Laboratory.

'As a word is uttered it vibrates air, and the shape of this soundwave can be measured and turned into a series of numbers. 

'Once we have these stats, and the stats of another spoken word, we can start asking how similar they are and what it would take to shift from one to another.'

The researchers moved back through the family tree of languages to regenerate earlier sounds.

To do this, they visualized the soundwave as a spectrogram, and altered the shape of this based on known sounds.

This process allows them to turn the words of one language into its sound from another.

 

COUNT TO 10 IN THE ANCIENT LANGUAGE

The researchers have revealed what it would sound like to count in the Proto-Indo-European language:

One - óinos

Two - dwoh

Three - tréies

Four - kʷetwóres

Five - pénkʷe

Six - (k)swekʲs

Seven - septḿ

Eight - hokʲto

Nine - hnewhm

Ten - dekʲm(t)

 

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