February 12, 2013

Software Reconstructs Extinct Languages

Philip Ball, Nature News

AP Photo

In Fiji, a star is a kalokalo. For the Pazeh people of Taiwan, it is mintol, and for the Melanau people of Borneo, bitén. All these words are thought to come from the same root. But what was it?

An algorithm devised by researchers in Canada and California now offers an answer — in this case, bituqen. The program can reconstruct extinct ‘root’ languages from modern ones, a process that has previously been done painstakingly ‘by hand’ using rules of how linguistic sounds tend to change over time.

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TAGGED: Words, Algorithm, Language


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