Thursday, 26 February 2009

Time Traveller's Universal Translator


Not quite the usual Steampunk fair, but the implications for Time Travellers of any age are collosal.

For those who are already using the progeny of this discovery, apologies, but for those of the current continuum who are unaware of this device, I shall elucidate.

Researchers at the UK's Reading University have developed a model, based upon a lexicon of 200 words, which tracks how word usage changes over time, and when words diverge. According to Prof. Mark Pagel, "You type in a date in the past or in the future and it will give you a list of words that would have changed going back in time or will change going into the future. From that list you can derive a phrasebook of words you could use if you tried to show up and talk to, for example, William the Conqueror."

The algorithm also predicts which words are likely to become extinct in the future, negating the old problem, encountered by Time Travellers whose passion is the future, of sounding decades, even centuries, out of date when in conversation with contemporaneous denizens of, say, the year 2303AD.

More (immensely greater) detail may be found here; Prof. Pagel's research here; and more layman information here.

2 comments:

HildeKitten said...

There was something on the Belgian news the other day about which languages and dialects would become extinct too, one of the belgian dialects (West-Flemish) was on there too. No one will regret that one mind, it sounds like some kind of speech impediment and it only gives people from that region grief when they venture into other provinces (unless they've mastered dimming their accent of course).

Dr Damon Molinarius said...

Some languages - such as Cornish - are technically extinct, despite people still speaking them. I think the definition of 'extinct' is less than 300 people speaking it. The Foundation of Endangered Languages ( http://www.ogmios.org/home.htm ) is fighting the good fight, but losing ground, methinks ( http://www.tooyoo.l.u-tokyo.ac.jp/archive/RedBook/index.html )

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