Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Saying "Thou" to the Caveman

There was a fascinating bit of news today from linguistics.  In a study of the sounds underlying many of  the world's languages, a team of linguists think they've come up with a set of primal words.

These are the sounds that provide some of the most essential human communications, conveying concepts that are somehow fundamental to the human condition.  Digging into these sounds, researchers suggest they may have found the ancient echoes of a language that lies at the foundation of nearly half of all human communication.

Many are sounds conveying concepts we must have used regularly back in those prehistoric days, like "worm" and "give."

"Eegah hungry!  Give worm!  Worm rich in protein and antioxidants!"

But as someone who plays around with words regularly, whose vocation revolves around the Word spoken and proclaimed, seeing this echo of a deeply ancient language was kind of neat.

Neatest of all were two of the most ancient words in any human tongue: "I" and "Thou."

Martin Buber would have been pleased to hear that.  Nice to know even our ancestors could have existentially and spiritually valid relationships with those around them.