I was reading about the Dodo this morning and how it became extinct. It was supposed to be a very dumb bird (from where we get the expression ‘dumb as a dodo’) which, along with the cruelty of us humans led to its extinction. This led me into thinking about the world of languages and how there have been languages, dialects, words, which have variously born, died, been revived or become extinct.
Recently I came across a highly interesting article which detailed the work of a few Scientists at the University of Reading who were researching the oldest words in English and had also made predictions about which words are likely to become extinct in the future.
The oldest words in use at present are about 10,000 years old, and according to the scientists they are I, who and we along with numbers like 1, 2 and 3. Furthermore, some of the words that are likely going to be forgotten completely are ‘dirty’, ‘guts’, ’squeeze’, ‘throw’, and ’stick’.
The researchers say that languages and words also have their own evolutionary system. They come into existence out of necessity and depending upon usage, they may become stronger or wither and die out. The rate of evolution can also vary, for example prepositions and conjunctions like ‘and’, ‘but’ , ‘or’, ‘over’, ‘against’ and ‘on’ evolve the fastest. The slowest ‘evolvers’ (I just coined one into existence ) include numbers followed by nouns, adjectives and verbs, respectively.
Getting to know the above has been a highly interesting, as well creepy experience. The day I read this piece I couldn’t get a satisfying amount of language translation done, because the whole day I was looking at those words on my computer’s monitor and thinking, is the stronger one bullying the weakling, what are they telling each other. Whew!!!