15000yrs old ultraconserved Words from the Stone-Age found in present Languages

Gepostet vor 27 Tagen in #Science #Language #Paleontology

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[update] Der verlinkte Artikel ist vier Jahre (hatte ich nicht gesehen), hier eine ausführliche Kritik im Languagelog: „The authors intend their statistical method to provide evidence for relatedness of languages that are beyond the reach of the Comparative Method. Like other long-rangers with dreams of discovering bigger and bigger family groupings — maybe even the ur-human language, what the late Joseph Greenberg called Proto-Sapiens — Pagel et al. believe that abandoning the one method that is known (not just “thought”) to be reliable can achieve the goal. But you still can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.“

Liguisten haben rund zwei Dutzend „ultrakonservierte“ Worte identifiziert, die seit dem Paläolithikum (so mittlere bis jüngere Steinzeit) erhalten blieben und den Ursprung einer „Proto-Eurasischen Sprache“ bilden könnten, von der aus sich circa 700 heute bekannte Sprachen entwickelt haben sollen. Bislang ging man davon aus, dass sich Worte durch Evolution und linguistische „Verwitterung“ nicht länger als 8000 Jahre halten können. Diese Annahme zumindest ist mit dieser Studie wahrscheinlich obsolet und Worte und ihre Bedeutung stecken tiefer in uns drin, als es bislang den Anschein hatte.

Ich finde die konkrete Liste der Worte in der Studie nicht, aber sie haben eine Tabelle der in ihrer Studie genutzten Proto-Worte veröffentlicht und zu diesen zählen unter anderem Worte zur Beschreibung des Körpers („Hair“, „Belly“, „Leg“, „Hand“, „Blood“, „Bone“, „Heart“ (!), „Neck“, „Eye“ oder „Skin“), Zahlworte von 1-5, Umgebungsbeschreibungen („Cloud“, „Day“, „Cold“, „Fog“, „Mountain“), Personen-/Tierbeschreibungen („Child“, „Woman“, „Mother“, „Man“, „Father“, „Dog“, „Bird“, „Snake“), Pronomen („All“, „He“ [interessanterweise kein „She“, Feminism take note]), Adjektive („Big“, „New“, „Black“, „Long“, „Good“) und natürlich normale Verben und Nomen („Egg“, „Lake“, „Grass“ oder „Eat“, „Drink“, „Kill“, „Live“, „Give“).

Schöner Satz im Artikel der Washington Post: „Ofcourse, one has to explain the presence of 'bark'.“

Paper: Ultraconserved words point to deep language ancestry across Eurasia (SciHub is your friend)
WaPo: Linguists identify 15,000-year-old ‘ultraconserved words’

You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!

It’s an odd little speech. But if you went back 15,000 years and spoke these words to hunter-gatherers in Asia in any one of hundreds of modern languages, there is a chance they would understand at least some of what you were saying.

That’s because all of the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in the four sentences are words that have descended largely unchanged from a language that died out as the glaciers retreated at the end of the last Ice Age. Those few words mean the same thing, and sound almost the same, as they did then. […]

Pagel and three collaborators studied “cognates,” which are words that have the same meaning and a similar sound in different languages. Father (English), padre (Italian), pere (French), pater (Latin) and pitar (Sanskrit) are cognates. Those words, however, are from languages in one family, the Indo-European. The researchers looked much further afield, examining seven language families in all.

In addition to Indo-European, the language families included Altaic (whose modern members include Turkish, Uzbek and Mongolian); Chukchi-Kamchatkan (languages of far northeastern Siberia); Dravidian (languages of south India); Inuit-Yupik (Arctic languages); Kartvelian (Georgian and three related languages) and Uralic (Finnish, Hungarian and a few others).

They make up a diverse group. Some don’t use the Roman alphabet. Some had no written form until modern times. They sound different to the untrained ear. Their speakers live thousands of miles apart. In short, they seem unlikely candidates to share cognates.

Pagel’s team used as its starting material 200 words that linguists know to be the core vocabulary of all languages.

Other researchers had searched for cognates of those words in members of each of the seven Eurasiatic language families. They looked, for example, for similar-sounding words for “fish” or “to drink” in the Altaic family of languages or in the Indo-European languages. When they found cognates, they constructed what they imagined were the cognates’ ancestral words — a task that requires knowing how sounds change between languages, such as “f” in Germanic languages becoming “p” in Romance languages.

Those made-up words are called “proto-words.” Pagel’s team compared them among language families. They made thousands of comparisons, asking such questions as: Do the proto-word for “hand” in the Inuit-Yupik language family and the proto-word for “hand” in the Indo-European language family sound similar?

Surprisingly, the answer to that question and many others was yes. […]

“I was really delighted to see ‘to give’ there,” Pagel said. “Human society is characterized by a degree of cooperation and reciprocity that you simply don’t see in any other animal. Verbs tend to change fairly quickly, but that one hasn’t.”

Of course, one has to explain the presence of “bark.”

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