Stone Age phrasebook developed by scientists studying oldest words

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Some of the oldest words in use in have been identified by scientists studying the evolution of language.

English and Indo-European words including 'I', 'we', 'two' and 'thou' have changed so little in tends of thousands of years that ancient hunter-gatherers would have been able to understand them.

Researchers have also identified several words that could die out within 1,000 years because they are likely to evolve into different forms. They include "throw", "stick", "dirty", "guts" and "squeeze" which could all be out of use by the year 3000.

Mark Pagel, of the University of Reading, who is leading the research, said that it was becoming possible to create a rudimentary 'time traveller's phrasebook' of words that could be understood by Stone Age cavemen.

Dr Pagel has tracked how words have changed by comparing languages from the Indo-European family, which includes most of the past and present languages of Europe, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.

He has been able to track the evolutionary history of Indo-European back using a computer and said that some of the oldest words were well over 10,000 years old even though the original Indo-European language is thought to date back no more than 9,000 years.

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