Linguists call the original language a form from which all individual languages of a language family have arisen. The most well-known example of such a proto-language is the Latin: From it, all Romance languages have developed, such as Italian, Spanish or French. In the case of Latin, however, there are written traditions, but there is no such comfort with other prototypes. In order to reconstruct them, scientists have to compare today's subsidiary languages of these original languages.
Primeval vocabulary in the mirror of computer algorithms
Bouchard-Côté and his colleagues have now developed a computer program that uses statistical methods and algorithms to break down sound shifts in modern languages to the lowest common denominator. This allows researchers to quickly and efficiently compare different phrases and derive the common roots. display
Bouchard-Côté and its colleagues have already successfully used their system to trace the origins of the so-called Austronesian languages. They are spoken in Southeast Asia, the Pacific and parts of continental Asia and comprise about 1, 150 individual languages. The researchers used their system to study more than 142, 000 words from 637 modern Austronesian languages. A manual comparison would have been an extremely lengthy undertaking in this case. But with the computer-based method, a whole sentence of the protophone could be reconstructed within a short time. Scientists are now working on an online version of the program to be made available to linguists around the world.Alexandre Bouchard-Côté (University of British Columbia) et al .: PNAS, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1204678110 © science.de - Martin Vieweg