Nineteenth-century History

Oldest English Words

The BBC is running an interesting article about the oldest words in the English language. Researchers are currently saying that they believe the oldest words still in use in modern English are “I”, “we”, “two” and “three” which date back tens of thousands of years. They also cite words such as “squeeze”, “guts”, “stick” and “bad” as words that will go extinct. Here is a portion of the article:

Some of the oldest words in English have been identified, scientists say.

Reading University researchers claim “I”, “we”, “two” and “three” are among the most ancient, dating back tens of thousands of years.

Their computer model analyses the rate of change of words in English and the languages that share a common heritage.

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.

“We fit a wide range, so there’s a lot of computation involved; and that range then brackets what the true answer is and we can estimate the rates at which these things are replaced through time.”

Categories
2 Comments
  1. February 27, 2009 10:51 am 

    Was this study performed by the Department of Applied Linguistics at Reading? It seems to have a very good reputation so they might be right in their predictions for words on their way out, but “bad” going away? What does that say about the state of society?

  2. February 27, 2009 11:48 am 

    I assume it was done by the Department of Applied Linguistics. I can’t say for sure though as the article simply says the study was done by researches at Reading University. I’m not entirely sure I agree with the idea of “bad” as one of the words going away. To me, it seems like “bad” is too much of a fundamental word in English to really ever disappear. I could be wrong though.

Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Explore History Rhymes
Random Featured Articles
Kings of Bavaria: King Ludwig I

Kings of Bavaria: King Ludwig I

King Ludwig I was the second king of Bavaria. Although, like his father, King Maximilian I Joseph, he was born outside of Bavaria before the establishment of the Bavarian kingdom, his legacy is still felt to this day with no place being as strongly impacted as his capital city, Munich.
Rocky Mountain Mining Towns: Idaho Springs, Colorado

Rocky Mountain Mining Towns: Idaho Springs, Colorado

There are few mining towns of the old west which are still operational. Most mining operations were shut down for a large variety of different reasons and the towns supporting them then slowly dried up and eventually became ghost towns. Idaho Springs, Colorado, however, is one of the few which are s...
Wilson’s Creek Battlefield

Wilson’s Creek Battlefield

As you’ve already read from the last post, I recently returned from a trip to Missouri. I saw the houses of the James brothers and I also took a day trip down to Springfield, MO and visited the Wilson’s Creek battlefield where one of the first large battles of the Civil War took place. T...
Kit Carson

Kit Carson

No one person in the history of the American west played so many important roles in the shaping of this vast American landscape than Kit Carson. Despite his modest upbringing and the modest attitude he would carry with him throughout his life, the epic adventures he would lead in his lifetime would ...