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Revolutionary new findings in the origins of languages, study shows


A new study has linked a disparate group of languages to one 'super language' that stems from the end fo the ice age 15,000 years ago.


Behrouz Mehri

Our various languages are more connected than we once thought, a new study claims.

Extraordinarily diverse languages like Japanese, Greek and Tamil all evolved from one language dating back 15,000 years ago to the end of the Ice Age.

The research is shattering long-held beliefs about the origins of languages.

The work on the evolution of language owes much of its findings to the notion of cognates: two words that sound similar and have the same meaning.

Cognates are used to group languages into families like Indo-European or Sino-Tibetan.

English, French, Spanish, Swedish and Farsi are considered Indo-European whereas Hungarian and Finnish are part of the proto-Uralic family.

Now all of these groups are being linked by the study to a new "superfamily."

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Though the idea has been suggested before, it has been hard to prove given the time span and the number of coincidental sounds and meanings among languages.

Researchers said they were able to trace languages back further than ever before by honing in on several commonly used words.

These words don't evolve as fast as other words allowing researchers to eliminate coincidences and focus on true cognates.

Using 23 terms like "I," "mother" and "fire," the researchers ran words through statistical model.

This model showed that the words have a common ancestor in an ancient Eurasian language.

"We've never heard this language, and it's not written down anywhere," said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary theorist at the University of Reading in the UK and the study's author.

"But this ancestral language was spoken and heard. People sitting around campfires used it to talk to each other."

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.