February 12, 2013
Boffins have put together a new computer system that attempts to translate protolanguages, the ancient “parent” tongues from which modern languages evolved.
The sophisticated Rosetta Stone-like system can quickly reconstruct the languages of yore from today’s vocabularies with 85 per cent accuracy, we’re told. The system’s designers reckon it can outpace human linguists who painstakingly reconstruct protolanguages from the words we all know and use today.
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.