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eunoia Offline
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Oldest English words identified. - February 27th 2009, 08:50 AM

I found this very interesting. Maybe it's just the English major in me. xD

Source: BBC (full story).


Quote:
Reading University researchers claim "I", "we", "two" and "three" are among the most ancient, dating back tens of thousands of years.
Quote:
The team says it can predict which words are likely to become extinct - citing "squeeze", "guts", "stick" and "bad" as probable first casualties.

"We use a computer to fit a range of models that tell us how rapidly these words evolve," said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading.
Quote:
What the researchers found was that the frequency with which a word is used relates to how slowly it changes through time, so that the most common words tend to be the oldest ones.

For example, the words "I" and "who" are among the oldest, along with the words "two", "three", and "five". The word "one" is only slightly younger.
Quote:
For example, "dirty" is a rapidly changing word; currently there are 46 different ways of saying it in the Indo-European languages, all words that are unrelated to each other. As a result, it is likely to die out soon in English, along with "stick" and "guts".

Verbs also tend to change quite quickly, so "push", "turn", "wipe" and "stab" appear to be heading for the lexicographer's chopping block.
Quote:
"If you've ever played 'Chinese whispers', what comes out the end is usually gibberish, and more or less when we speak to each other we're playing this massive game of Chinese whispers. Yet our language can somehow retain its fidelity."

Edit: After being made fun of I just realized I missed a letter off of "English". I'm awesome.



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Last edited by eunoia; February 27th 2009 at 03:35 PM.
   
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Re: Oldest Englis words identified. - February 27th 2009, 04:55 PM

Thanks for posting this I found it really interesting.
And I havent done English as a subject since school.

I think we always remember that language has evolved but I think we forget that it is always evolving.
   
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Re: Oldest Englis words identified. - February 27th 2009, 04:58 PM

+1 irony for misspelling the title
   
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Re: Oldest Englis words identified. - February 27th 2009, 05:10 PM

So cool.
I love etymology and linguistics. I did a project in high school using the OED and it was the most exciting thing I've ever done in school. Which, I know, is really sad and geeky.

I'm such a stereotypical writer


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Re: Oldest English words identified. - February 27th 2009, 05:53 PM

That's really cool! I was actually wondering about that because I've been reading a lot of old books recently, and there are words in those books that no one really uses anymore.

Thanks for the info!


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Re: Oldest English words identified. - February 27th 2009, 06:27 PM

Thats really interesting, "dirty"....can that really be a changing word....


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Re: Oldest English words identified. - February 28th 2009, 08:09 PM

I think the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has its own group of people that get paid to just evaluate the nature of words and how they're changing and if they're falling off the map. I'd like to do that.


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Re: Oldest English words identified. - February 28th 2009, 10:16 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oiseau the Little Bird! View Post
I think the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has its own group of people that get paid to just evaluate the nature of words and how they're changing and if they're falling off the map. I'd like to do that.
That'd be an awesome job!



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Re: Oldest English words identified. - February 28th 2009, 10:31 PM

It's Americans changing all these English words
But seriously, If Americans did speak English English instead of American English, I'm sure words would last longer.
   
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Re: Oldest English words identified. - February 28th 2009, 10:34 PM

This is interesting.


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Re: Oldest English words identified. - March 2nd 2009, 07:43 PM

interesting... it's probably 'cos of different pronunciations... it changes the words slightly...


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Re: Oldest English words identified. - March 2nd 2009, 07:48 PM

I can't really imagine "stick" becomming extinct. What else will they call the brown wooden things on the ground? Or how else will they say that something has become adhesively attached to something else (it took me ages to say that without the word "stick" or "stuck"). Bad has survived since 1203, I can't see it dieing out anytime soon either, what else would people use instead? It's still incredibly widely used.
   
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