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English May Have Retained Words From an Ice Age Language

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the grunt-grunt-statistics-grunt dept.

Stats 323

sciencehabit writes "If you've ever cringed when your parents said 'groovy,' you'll know that spoken language can have a brief shelf life. But frequently used words can persist for generations, even millennia, and similar sounds and meanings often turn up in very different languages. Now, a new statistical approach suggests that peoples from Alaska to Europe may share a linguistic forebear dating as far back as the end of the Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago. Indeed, some of the words we use today may not be so different than those spoken around campfires and receding glaciers."

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Snappy slurp! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43650955)

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Did the inside of my rancid, feces-infested asshole feel that good? You've been working so hard, so I'll reward you with a cum-covered feces fart! What say you?

Groovy. (4, Funny)

jobsagoodun (669748) | about a year ago | (#43650957)

My kids think I'm way cool when I say 'Groovy', (you insensitive clod). Laters.

Re:Groovy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651003)

Kids these days are too "bored" to be Feeling Groovy, [youtube.com]

Re:Groovy. (1)

DFurno2003 (739807) | about a year ago | (#43651459)

Anyone who ain't groovy is a wicked loozah.

Man (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year ago | (#43650967)

This is, like, totally tubular!

Re: Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43650979)

Unga bunga

Re: Man (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year ago | (#43650999)

Dude, this is way but-chen.

Re: Man (4, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43651109)

Unga bunga

That has evolved to cowabunga. We conclude that 'ung' is the ancient word for cow.

Re: Man (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651367)

Unga bunga

That has evolved to cowabunga. We conclude that 'ung' is the ancient word for cow.

And 'bung' is an ancient word meaning 'desire to have sex with' adding the 'a' makes the word plural.

Re: Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651373)

Unga bunga bunga, inga binga binga bunga

Re: Man (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43651415)

What? My mother was a saint!

Re: Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651447)

Unga bunga bunga, inga binga binga bunga

Pervert!!!

Re:Man (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | about a year ago | (#43651607)

Fónix, estes cotas topam cenas altamente, meu.

Não tava a mancar que o people dizia cenas do tempo das cavernas. Tou-me a passar bué com este endrominanço todo. Tou memo a flipar da marmita com esta cena da ciência. Bué da fixe.

Bacanos da ciência, continuem-lhe a dar bué, o people tá na vossa cena.

Words in common - Thai and English (5, Interesting)

IntentionalStance (1197099) | about a year ago | (#43650981)

I'll do my best to render Thai words phonetically but it's not easy.

Mare - Mother or often in English Ma

Pore - Father or again often Pa

Fi - fire

Those are the only non-loan words that overlap that I've come across

It is interesting that there are any words in common of course

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (4, Insightful)

Patch86 (1465427) | about a year ago | (#43651013)

Although folk etymologies are always a dangerous game. Sometimes words (especially short ones) can be the same simply by pure coincidence. This fits in with the linguistic concept of the False Cognate:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_cognate [wikipedia.org]

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (2)

IntentionalStance (1197099) | about a year ago | (#43651035)

Sure, cool, not starting a flame war here, it could be a coincidence but of course they are similar in a whole bunch of languages. See the articles supporting info. These words get a high score.

Plus I wasn't asserting that they were similar because they came from some 'proto-language' I was just making an observation that very, very different languages had some words that sounded rather similar and I thought it interesting.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651091)

If you'd read the False Cognate article, you'd see mama/papa is explicitly discussed near the end.

The theory is that 'M' and 'P' and very simple yet different sounds, of the kind babies find it easy to make before they've learnt any language. The words are simply a development out of that.

There's a factor of neurology/biology dictating what many simple words sound like which can lead to multiple languages having the same word sound for the same thing.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (3, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43651133)

Sounds a bit of a stretch to me - relatively isolated communities like the Japanese say haha and chichi for mother and father, while the rest of the Eurasian continent pretty much go with m and p sounds. Iroquois is similar, Isten’a and Rake.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (5, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#43651381)

Sounds a bit of a stretch to me - relatively isolated communities like the Japanese say haha and chichi for mother and father

As I posted further down, Modern Japanese haha and chichi go back to the bog-standard babble forms *papa and *titi in Old Japanese, and the sound changes that produced the Modern Japanese forms happened relatively recently when the Japanese language can not be said to have been isolated.

(The word for father still survives as titi dialectally.)

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43651229)

Nearly all names for mama and papa are repeated syllables that babies would spontaneously say pre-language. For whatever reason, everyone wants to be the baby's first word.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (2)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#43651363)

My first word was "auto" (car), those of my children were "gimme butter" and "flugzeug da oben" (airplan above).

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (3, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43651021)

You would expect a few out of sheer randomness. Especially when you're using a vague notion of similarity.

That's why most historical linguists utterly reject Greenberg's mass-comparison method. (And why cranks latch on to it: they can use it to "prove" any language relationship they care to peddle.)

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (5, Interesting)

sidevans (66118) | about a year ago | (#43651053)

Thai is a bit weird too...

Moo = Pork (not Cow)
Men = Smells Bad / Foul

And its the year 2556 in Thailand, what happens if a starship lands there and asks the date, they will think they are in a time distortion, its all very confusing.

Sometimes I wonder if they are just fucking with us for the fun of it, either way I keep going back there...

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (2)

BetterThanCaesar (625636) | about a year ago | (#43651093)

"Ma" and "pa" are such basic sounds made by babies (called "Lallwörter", babble words) that parents all over the world associate them with themselves. See Wikipedia article on "Mama and papa" [wikipedia.org]

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43651187)

"Ma" and "pa" are such basic sounds made by babies (called "Lallwörter", babble words) that parents all over the world associate them with themselves.

Except for where they don't, like Japan, the Iroquois, and similar disconnected cultures.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#43651277)

Except for where they don't, like Japan, the Iroquois, and similar disconnected cultures.

The Japanese are no exception here. Modern Japanese haha 'mother' goes back to Old Japanese *papa, a standard babble word (and used for mothers as opposed to fathers in a number of languages around the world).

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43651311)

And where does the Japanese "chichi" for mother fit in?

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651361)

And where does the Japanese "chichi" for mother fit in?

As in Mexico, they fit rather well into her baby's mouth. [urbandictionary.com]

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (3, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#43651365)

And where does the Japanese "chichi" for mother fit in?

Modern Japanese chi- goes back to Old Japanese *ti-, thus the earlier form of the word was titi. Again, a standard babble word. If Japanese looks exotic, it is due to sound changes that are only a few centuries old (and which happened at the same time as a massive influx of Sinitic loanwords, so they were hardly an isolated people).

I'd really suggest picking up a Japanese historical grammar before asking more. These things are pretty elementary for students of Japanese.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43651501)

That's very weeaboo of you, but the point is that mama and chichi sound nothing alike. There are many languages where the words for mother and father have nothing to do with m or p words. I think there's an open question mark over the theory.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (3, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#43651555)

That's very weeaboo of you, but the point is that mama and chichi sound nothing alike.

Why should they? chichi means "father" after all, not "mama", and it is quite common for words meaning "father" to begin with a dental stop (whether voiced or unvoiced). As I said, the original titi, which is comparable to English daddy, survives among Japanese dialects, and the affricatization of t- to chi- before high vowels in the standard language is a recent development. As I mentioned before, please read more about the history of Japanese before thinking that you are so clever.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43651615)

Maybe you can recommend me a book on Amazon.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651131)

In Norwegian, the word for mother is "vinglefitte". It goes to show that not all languages follow this pattern.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43651427)

Doesn't quite qualify for the "baby's first words" contest, does it?

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (4, Informative)

ignavus (213578) | about a year ago | (#43651623)

In Norwegian, the word for mother is "vinglefitte". It goes to show that not all languages follow this pattern.

So why do online dictionaries say that the Norwegian word for mother is "mor" - e.g. http://www.norwegianword.com/1/mother [norwegianword.com]

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651163)

Chinese for mother and father are "mama" and "papa" respectively. Very similar to english and almost identical to spanish.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

Paradise Pete (33184) | about a year ago | (#43651203)

I've wondered about ay and shy, but figured it's just coincidence.

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

IntentionalStance (1197099) | about a year ago | (#43651223)

I've wondered about ay and shy, but figured it's just coincidence.

My Thai is not that good. Probably only 500 words or so and my accent is terrible. But I am unclear about ay and shy. Can you give me a clue?

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651349)

> Mare - Mother or often in English Ma
Japanese: Mama

> Pore - Father or again often Pa
Japanese: Papa

> Fi - fire
Japanese: Hi

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651535)

> Mare - Mother or often in English Ma
French: Mère

> Pore - Father or again often Pa
French: Père

> Fi - fire
French: Feu

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

jalet (36114) | about a year ago | (#43651619)

In french you'll call your parents "Maman" and "Papa".

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43651439)

If you think that's weird, just take a look at some languages that ARE actually related to English but have attached very different meanings to words.

Or can you explain why "gift" means poison in German?

So if your German husband tells you he has a gift for your mom, beware!

Re:Words in common - Thai and English (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#43651507)

Or can you explain why "gift" means poison in German?

According to the etymological sources I've found, euphemism is the most common explanation for the shift in meaning. In Protogermanic the word most like gift does mean gift.

Any statistical model is going to have trouble with semantic changes like that.

Pics or it didn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43650987)

This is a pretty lame summary. If there are words preserved from the Ice Age, list like five of them!

Re:Pics or it didn't (4, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year ago | (#43651009)

1. Mindfullness
2. Coexist
3. Tolerance
4. Inclusiveness
5. Redistribution

There will be a quiz when Progress has returned us to that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_savage [wikipedia.org] state.

Re:Pics or it didn't (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43651037)

This is a pretty lame summary. If there are words preserved from the Ice Age, list like five of them!

Or give us the Iceageish translation for "Jeez, it's cold out there."

Re:Pics or it didn't (3, Insightful)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | about a year ago | (#43651115)

Brrrrrr....

Re:Pics or it didn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651183)

You're being attacked by bears?!

Re:Pics or it didn't (1)

Merls the Sneaky (1031058) | about a year ago | (#43651441)

No, that's more like "Aaaaaahhhhhh!"

Re:Pics or it didn't (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#43651657)

"This is a pretty lame summary. If there are words preserved from the Ice Age, list like five of them!"

From the Ice Age?

'Climate' and 'Change' comes to mind.

May have... (2)

tgv (254536) | about a year ago | (#43650991)

I don't know why people even bother to publish this kind of research. Sure, it's fun to make a tree of relations between words, but the result doesn't mean a thing. The analysis is built upon 200 entries from an etymological dictionary, which is in itself a big bag of assumptions, and they managed to exclude 10% of those, including some very high frequent words (and, in, when, where, with).

Take this one with a grain of salt...

Re:May have... (3, Informative)

IntentionalStance (1197099) | about a year ago | (#43651007)

Colin Renfrew, the editor of the paper is a highly respected linguist so I wouldn't dismiss it lightly. The article however, is very, very short on detail. I was also rather disappointed.

Re:May have... (1)

tgv (254536) | about a year ago | (#43651059)

He may be highly respected, but I don't buy into the stacking of assumption on assumption on assumption, without ever touching something verifiable. I've had my share of run-ins with linguists (in 20 years of cognitive psychology, specializing in syntactic analysis), and much of linguistics is arm-chair philosophy, or reverse engineering dressed up as science. Some theories describe language behavior well up until a certain level, but there is very little evidence supporting it, and reconstructing word relations based on fantasy isn't going to help that.

Re:May have... (1)

IntentionalStance (1197099) | about a year ago | (#43651095)

I certainly haven't had time to read the supporting papers carefully and consider them. I am not a professional linguist or cognitive scientist but it is a subject that has interested me for over 40 years, It's why I got into computers in the first place. Could you post some links to resources that could be informative to a keen amateur?

Re:May have... (4, Informative)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43651101)

Historical linguists basically laughed Renfrew out of town for his 1987 "out of Anatolia" hypothesis about Indo-European origins.

Also, he is an archaeologist, not a linguist. IMO archeologists know exactly diddly about historical linguistics, and reveal it almost every time they say anything on the topic.

Re:May have... (4, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#43651299)

Colin Renfrew, the editor of the paper is a highly respected linguist so I wouldn't dismiss it lightly.

Lord Renfrew may be a respected archaeologist, but his views on historical linguistics are rejected by most of the field.

Re:May have... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43651029)

Take this one with a grain of salt...

Really. They're showing that two words are related, without reference to what the words actually are? Oh, please...

Too bad I can't see the article. I suspect that they're capturing some interesting properties of language (in the abstract, not "languages").

OTOH, maybe they're just showing that lots of languages have a word for "I". The descriptions in the summaries are pretty vague about their methods.

Re:May have... (2)

ctid (449118) | about a year ago | (#43651141)

Of course you can see the article. Just click on "Full Text (PDF)" on the right hand side.

Excellent Uncontradictable theory (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43650995)

What an excellent theory. Next time I come up with a new theory I was also make sure that it cannot ever be verified one way or the other.

How about this - statistical research shows that in all probability people used to grunt a lot 15,000 years ago. Not just any grunt, mind you, but they grunted in exactly ten different ways.

Re:Excellent Uncontradictable theory (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651227)

"It is a curious fact, and one to which no one knows quite how much importance to attach, that something like 85% of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N'N-T'N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand or more variations on the same phonetic theme. The drinks themselves are not the same, and vary between the Sivolvian "chinanto/mnigs" which is ordinary water served at slightly above room temperature, and the Gagrakackan "tzjin-anthony-ks" which kills cows at a hundred paces; and in fact the one common factor between all of them, beyond the fact that the names sound the same, is that they were all invented and named before the worlds concerned made contact with any other worlds.

Convergent statistical brain mapping (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651001)

Think of this for a moment - for the parts of the mind that are more pre-patterned and instinctive, there may be some component of cognition that encourages, say "Fi" as a root sound for fire. I would argue this is merely a byproduct of how our speech centers are formed, but I can't see any reason this wouldn't exist. Just as laughter is to a degree innate in the sound we make, I'm sure some amount of word association is built off of those same kinds of patterning.

Another example: google "machine elf" for the use of recreational drugs. Either there really is a machine elf, or the human mind produces similar hallucinations under similar conditions, on average. Same kind of thing.

Re:Convergent statistical brain mapping (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#43651017)

If the word is somehow linked to the way our brain works, then it is even more likely that it was already used in the ice age, because most likely the brain worked more or less the same back then.

Re:Convergent statistical brain mapping (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651107)

Yes, absolutely. That is my point, perhaps I wasn't clear.

Re:Convergent statistical brain mapping (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#43651327)

Think of this for a moment - for the parts of the mind that are more pre-patterned and instinctive, there may be some component of cognition that encourages, say "Fi" as a root sound for fire.

Not at all. For one, the reconstructed word for "fire" in Proto-Indo-European began with *p-. The shift to f- was a development specific to the Germanic languages. In other languages the sound changed in other ways (Celtic languages lost initial p- entirely, for instance). If sound change can go in so many directions, then "cognition" doesn't predetermine the shape of a word.

Since Saussure's discovery of l'arbitraire du signe over a century ago, it has been understood that the word for a concept can take pretty much any form. Yes, there are limited examples of sound symbolism, but this does not apply for the lexicon in general.

mother of all languages (4, Interesting)

SirAdelaide (1432553) | about a year ago | (#43651023)

From the article, if you can't be bothered clicking the link:

The words not, that, we, who, and give are cognates in five language families, and nouns and verbs including mother, hand, fire, ashes, worm, hear, and pull are shared by four. Going by the rate of change of these cognates, the model suggests that these words have remained in a similar form since about 14,500 years ago, thus supporting the existence of an ancient Eurasiatic language and its now far-flung descendants.

From Google:
Mother in England
Matr in Russia
Motina in Lithuanian
Mater in Latin
Manman in Haitian Creole
Ma in Chinese
Mwtr in Yiddish
Mteay in Khmer

Re:mother of all languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651057)

Matru in Sanskrit
Mata in Hindi ...

Similarly referring to one self:
Me,My,Mine in English
Mera in Hindi
Majha in Marathi
I'm sure it's similar in other languages too..

Re:mother of all languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651079)

And.. the correct way to pronounce Sanskrit is 'sounskrut'
It's like the latin of South Asian languages..

Re:mother of all languages (2)

ladoga (931420) | about a year ago | (#43651319)

In Finnish mother is "Ãiti". There also exists another word for mother "emo", but it's not used anymore in reference to human mother (except few local dialects), only when referring to mothers of other animal species. Though I think Estonian ("ema") and some other Finno-Ugric languages still have it in its original meaning.

BTW. Wouldn't it be time for slashdot to support accented letters already? Ã is a with two dots over it, pronounced like letter a in english word ash.

Re:mother of all languages (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651629)

Finno-Ugric languages seem to have come down an entirely different path in language evolution
comparison English - Estonian
Mother - Ema
Father - Isa
Son - Poeg
Fire - Tuli
Sun - Päike
Hand - Käsi
I - Mina
You - Sina
Him/Her - Tema
No notable similarities whatsoever. So that suggest there had to be different European proto languages, perhaps caused by different colonization waves of Europe, after ice age ended.

Re:mother of all languages (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43651081)

There is a strong suspicion that the m-words for mother and p-words for father arise cross-culturally because they are both labial articulations, and an infant can easily see how you are doing the articulation.

Re:mother of all languages (2)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year ago | (#43651201)

In that case they'd be reversed in around half the cases.

Re:mother of all languages (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43651335)

Not if m- is more likely to be articulated earlier than p- (which I'd guess it is) - then it's more likely to end up being associated with the parent that the child interacts with the most.

Re:mother of all languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651515)

Especially if the m-articulation had some connection with breast-feeding.

For instance I remembering hearing that shaking your head to mean 'no' is a reflex you (or your ancestors!) learn at your mother's breast - it's the most direct way to disengage from drinking when you don't want any more.

Perhaps smacking your lips when you're hungry, and then associating that gesture with your mother, is also something like this.

Re:mother of all languages (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year ago | (#43651089)

Also Cantonese seems to use a word like diem [wikipedia.org] to refer to time.

Re:mother of all languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651103)

From the article, if you can't be bothered clicking the link:

You're surely not suggesting we RTFA, are you? This is /. after all...

Re:mother of all languages (1)

virx (459384) | about a year ago | (#43651191)

Ema in Estonian
Ãiti in Finnish
What about those?

Re:mother of all languages (1)

wienerschnizzel (1409447) | about a year ago | (#43651249)

äiti in Finnish

Apparently the Finns separated from the general population way before the ice age.

Re:mother of all languages (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#43651435)

Ãiti in Finnish.Apparently the Finns separated from the general population way before the ice age.

In Proto-Uralic, and even Proto-Finnic, the word for mother was *emä. Finnish äiti is thus a fairly recent innovation.

The Finns were not at all "separated from the general population" and in fact the Finnic languages show a large number of loanwords from Germanic, Baltic and Iranian. They very much were in contact with their neighbours.

Re:mother of all languages (2)

Theleton (1688778) | about a year ago | (#43651417)

The full list of word meanings they believe have cognates in many of the language families (indicating that they derive from an ancient, common ancestor language), in order of decreasing confidence:

Thou
I
Not
That
We
To give
Who
This
What
Man/male
Ye
Old
Mother
To hear
Hand
Fire
To pull
Black
To flow
Bark
Ashes
To spit
Worm

(This doesn't necessarily mean that the actual English word listed here is among the cognates in each case.)

Stating the obvious? (3, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43651073)

Some anthropologists think our ancestors already "had language" when our species began to spread around the world. If so, it may be that every language in the world is related. (The alternative being that language was invented independently more than once, and that more than one lineage has survived to the present.)

The problem is how you demonstrate it rigorously. Every historical linguist accepts the relatedness of languages in 5000-year-old families. But for proposed older relations (e.g., Nostratic, 10,000-15,000 ybp), the number of linguists that accept them is pretty much inversely proportional to the time depth.

As one of the linked summary articles points out, the further back you go the less evidence you have (lexical replacement), and the more noise (spurious similarities arising from chance). Beyond a certain point you just can't demonstrate relatedness reliably, though exactly what that point is is up for debate.

Re:Stating the obvious? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651263)

Obviously, the first language was the one taught by God to Adam and Eve. All other languages evolved from that one language.

Re:Stating the obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651547)

Dude, if you are going to be spouting biblio-mythology, why leave out the episode where "God" purposely made all the languages completely different? [wikipedia.org] ?

Receding Glaciers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651077)

"... campfires and receding glaciers..."

Aha, the campfires! That explains it. It was the CO2 from burning bristle-cone pines.

Meanwhile, the Neanderthals wiped themselves out by driving SUVs...

It's still an ice age. (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year ago | (#43651099)

As long as there are still polar ice sheets, the ice age hasn't ended.

Re:It's still an ice age. (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43651117)

As long as there are still polar ice sheets, the ice age hasn't ended.

If you insist on the plural, the ice age will be ending pretty soon.

Re:It's still an ice age. (1)

Titus Groan (2834723) | about a year ago | (#43651219)

THIS!!! I keep hearing "end of the last ice age" & "climate change" and thinking to myself... errr we're still in an ice-age, polar caps are not "normal" for earth.

Re:It's still an ice age. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651585)

Give up. 30,000 years ago the San Francisco Bay and the Great Barrier Reef didn't exist. Sea levels rose and life not only went on, but created these two cherished icons of environmentalism. If they are both destroyed again, life will go on.

There is no way to tell things like this to an AGW zealot without them accusing you of being a shill for Big Oil, which is their version of "infidel" or "heathen".

And I date back this "news" to 20 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651125)

I think that popular science magazines in the 90ies were already bringing this piece of news to the teenager I was...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_Continuity_Theory

Re:And I date back this "news" to 20 years ago (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#43651413)

What the article describes is not the Paleolithic Continuity Theory. The PCT, associated with Alinei and his fellow crackpots, claims that language families were spoken wherever they are presently spoken back to the Paleolithic. Thus, according to this (entirely untenable) theory, there was never a movement of Indo-European languages into Europe in millennia BC, nor a spread of the Slavic languages from the Baltic to the Balkans in the first millennium AD, but rather those languages had always been spoken in those places.

This article says nothing against languages moving to new territories. It merely claims that they are related and preserve common lexicon.

Objective existence of concepts. (1)

aleckais (1457189) | about a year ago | (#43651167)

Meanings (non-space-time things) are what is invariant. The preoccupation with language is deplorable.

Re:Objective existence of concepts. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651251)

Exactly! Who cares how people communicate? How is that at all important in any conceivable way?!?

Words Handed Down (3, Funny)

Scarletdown (886459) | about a year ago | (#43651189)

Just a small sampling of some of the words and phrases handed down from that Ice Age era language...

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Damn! It's fucking cold!
I'm freezing my (nuts/dick/balls/ass/tits) off.
When the fuck is Summer going to finally get here?
When the hell will central heating systems be invented?

Re:Words Handed Down (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about a year ago | (#43651511)

And don't forget:

"Damn I hit my hand with a rock!" internationally translates to

ARRYAAAYAAAAAARRRRRGGGAAAA!!!!!!!

with only slight changes to the "RRGGAA"-part depending if you hit your hand with an actual rock or the more contemporary hammer.

Evolution from ground zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651215)

This reminds me of the thing a week or two back about how a graph of DNA complexity hits the time "creation of Earth" at quite some complexity, leading to the idea that evolution of DNA began before the Earth was created.

Complex things must evolve over some time, but our theories are full of arbitrary cutoff points where we assume it "began". But those cutoff points aren't necessarily possible as ground zero. Assuming life began on Earth leads to problems with the rate of evolution not being enough to create it, and fixes for those problems. But maybe the fix is just to drop the last remnants of Biblical Earth-is-special thinking (why would we assume life began on Earth in the first place?)

In terms of homo sapiens, if we assume this species is the one to form language, why would anyone assume it didn't form language until some time after it dissipated over the planet? Why wouldn't we think that there may be common ancestor words from the time of the first handful of sapiens? As every parent knows, speaking is innate but reading & writing must be taught. So there is surely tens of thousands of years of spoken-only communication with no record at all, other than vestigal remains in modern languages.

Perhaps if we study the rate of evolution of languages we will also discover that there wasn't time to evolve modern languages unless it started as soon as homo sapiens was born.

Prove it? Oh you cant it just MAY be true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651269)

I hate research like this. Impossible to prove impossible to disprove. the whole thing is and I think because x was done x number of years ago in x number of places so it may have been done even further back. It MAY have been but its not provable. I would have to see the whole paper to comment fully but Im skeptical to say the least

Its the same as with archeology in prehistory and stick with a string is a tool, the remains of a fishing rod or our favorite a ritual object. It may just be a child's toy but saying that wont get next years research funded.

Still With US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651391)

Thanks to idiotic ideas such as trickle down economics and mental dwarfs who actually believe Ayn Rand we have even more than receding glaciers and people living by camp fires. Progress since 10,000 years ago might be a lot more limited than most people suspect so it should be no shock that we grumble with similar sounds as the cave dwellers of yesteryear.

Wild Speculation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43651559)

And form the department of Wild Speculation, we have the following gem.

I heard (1)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | about a year ago | (#43651565)

I heard they had 50 different words for ice.

Babel, Creationism at the AAAS? (1)

colfer (619105) | about a year ago | (#43651577)

What is the deal with the caption on the Tower of Babel in the article in Science News? "Out of one, many. The 'babel' of far-flung languages spoken in Europe and Asia, perhaps resulting from the fall of the Biblical tower, may derive from a single common ancestor."

I though the AAAS was a mainstream scientific organization. Guess they have a prankster on board. Didn't notice it until I read the comments in the article, to give fair credit.

Re:Babel, Creationism at the AAAS? (1)

colfer (619105) | about a year ago | (#43651617)

Replying to myself a quick googly shows the AAAS has been strongly opposed to teaching creationism, but in some edge cases has been accused of "accommodating" creationists by engaging with them. Or, in a publication for students, telling a little story about a fictional biology student who learns that her Christian faith is compatible with evolutionary science. At the end she is on an archaeology dig, but also prays at sunrise! http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/aaas-also-engages-in-accommodationism/ [wordpress.com]

That may explain the thinking behind the caption, if there was any, but to me it goes over the line. Or is an insulting joke at believers. Bad either way.

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