Monday, March 19, 2012

Oldest words in the English language

You may still think that early humans lacked much that we have now with regards to fundamental elements of humanity when they didn't actually lack much, if anything, at all. They had societies, cultural practices, speech patterns, burial practices, beliefs and social methods of learning, arts, crafts, the inventive streak and many other things besides. But this isn't a look into all that. This is a look into just what those speech patterns likely consisted of.

Professor Pagel predicted that there were around 200 words not specific to culture or technology likely to have been used as early as the Stone age and later, which have remained relatively unscathed in sound and usage since their conception.

The age of these words was predicted using a computer program, a necessity since it was after speech (roughly 5,000 years ago) that writing was invented. I suspect that with early speech versions of Sign were likely used, rough and unstructured, but Sign of any sort would have helped getting messages across with so few early words to choose from. I believe, there were also likely more words or sounds used that aren't part of English now, or any other language.

(I just pictured everyone reading this making monkey grunts just now but that was only my prediction of what a few friends would say and do in response to this... You gotta love 'em.) 

Here are the words and age as predicted by Professor Pagel.

20,000 years old - Stone Age: 

15,000 - 20,000 years old:

The top 20 oldest words in order of age:
01. Who
02. Two
03. Three
04. I
05. Five
06. We
07. Four
08. How
09. One
10. Name
11. Tongue
12. New
13. Thou
14. What
15. Where
16. Star
17. To give
18. Night
19. Hand
20. To die

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