Listen to the ‘mother of all language’: Researchers recreate how words were spoken 8,000 years ago

Nearly 7,000 spoken languages exist throughout the world today, but many centuries ago, there was just one.

The mother tongue – the Proto-Indo-European language – was spoken from 6,000 to 3,500 BC, but with no texts from the time, linguists have struggled to reconstruct it, and the way it sounds remained a mystery.

Now, researchers have developed a new method to simulate these extinct sounds by analyzing the languages that later stemmed from them, manipulating the shape of the soundwaves to reveal how words would have sounded.

The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language was spoken by all who lived on the steppes to the north of the Caspian Sea, and is the root of all Indo-European languages today.

According to the team from the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, the new technique relies on the statistics of shape.

A particular word spoken in one language will have a distinct shape, and the same word will take a different shape when spoken in another language.

‘Sounds have shape,’ explains Professor John Aston, from Cambridge’s Statistical Laboratory.
‘As a word is uttered it vibrates air, and the shape of this soundwave can be measured and turned into a series of numbers.

‘Once we have these stats, and the stats of another spoken word, we can start asking how similar they are and what it would take to shift from one to another.’

Read more: Daily Mail

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