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Researchers Find Ice Age 'Superlanguage' Used 15,000 Years Ago Could be Understood Today

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An Ice Age "superlanguage" has been revealed by researchers, believing it was spoken 15,000 years ago and could be understood by many Europeans and Americans today. 

The language used words such as I, you, we man, and bark. The word for mother was also similar to the word "mama."

Researchers believe that complete sentences could be understood today.

"If we were to fit around a campfire, we could have a basic conversation," Professor Pagel said. 

Pagel and his team of researchers determined that certain words changed so slowly over long periods of time that they stayed relatively the same for up to ten thousand or more years. 

"We discovered we could predict a rate of evolution for words," he said. "There was a small subset of words that evolved so slowly over time they might last up to 20,000 years. You realize, golly, I might be able to predict words that link these families, and we found these 23 words that have a common ancestor."

While many of the words would have sounded a lot different, they would still be recognizable and easy to learn. 

In the past, linguists studied languages of the past by analyzing shared sounds among words to identify ones that would likely derive from a common ancestral word. An example is Latin word "pater" and English word "father."

But Patel and his team said there is a problem with this type of study, as two words might have similar sounds by accident, like the words "team" and "cream."

Pagel overcame this problem by showing that a subset of words was used frequently in everyday speech, and these words are more likely to be retained over thousands of years.

"The way in which we use a certain set of words in everyday speech is something common to all human languages," he said. 

"We discovered numerals, pronouns and special adverbs are replaced far more slowly, with linguistic half-lives of once every 10,000 or even more years. As a rule of thumb, words used more than about once per thousand in everyday speech were seven to ten times more likely to show deep ancestry in the Eurasian super-family."

Pagel's research calls for more study of common languages.

"The fact we can find these ancient links should encourage us to do more of it. We can test interesting questions about human migration and evolution through these links," he said.

Sources: Daily Mail, Wired