爱语吧 2018-03-02 12:29 浏览1143次


  Were you to find yourself beside a campfire 150 centuries ago alongside a group of hunter gatherers, chances have it that they might understand some of these words. Some are pretty obvious, like “mother”, “not”, “what” or the ever so life-saving “fire”, but “worm” and “spit” definitely come as a surprise.


  There’s a consensus among linguists that a language typically can’t survive past 8,000 or 9,000 years, since it’s common for languages to mix and get replaced by other more influential languages or morph into new ones altogether. These timeless “ultra conservative” words, as they’ve been dubbed by the researchers, show that this isn’t entirely true, albeit the list is only a handful large.


  Mark Pagel of the University of Reading’s School of Biological Sciences led the research. Pagel and his team first started off with 200 words that linguists know to be the core vocabulary of all languages. What interested them were “cognates,” which are words that have the same meaning and a similar sound in different languages. For instance father (English), padre (Italian), pere (French), pater (Latin) and pitar (Sanskrit) are cognates. After the roots of these words were found, the scientists came up with the list of 23 words.

  雷丁大学生物科学学院的马克.佩奇是这项研究的带头人。佩奇和他的研究团队首先从语言学界公认的所有语言的200个核心词汇着手。“同源词”引起了研究人员的兴趣。同源词就是不同语言中具有相同含义、发音也相似的词语。例如,都表示“父亲”的father(英语),padre(意大利语),pere(法语), pater(拉丁语)和pitar(梵语)就是同源词。在追踪了这些词语的词根后,科学家列出23个词语。

  “Our results suggest a remarkable fidelity in the transmission of some words and give theoretical justification to the search for features of language that might be preserved across wide spans of time and geography,” Pagel and his team wrote.


  What’s rather interesting to note is the meaning of these words. These words survived for 15,000 years, despite technology, society, religion and so forth changed dramatically. Their value has remained undisturbed for thousands of years.


  “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.”

  佩吉称:“看到其中有‘to give(给予)’这个词,我感到非常开心。人类社会的特征就是存在一定程度的合作和互惠,而你在其他任何动物中是看不到这点的。动词在语言中的变化一直很快,但这个单词却始终不变。”

  Findings were detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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