14,000-year-old Words and Wordplay

Language fascinates me, though I took German in High School and never did well, and I’m currently struggling to learn Spanish (though I learn computer languages easily). So while I struggle with particular (human) languages, language itself absolutely fascinates me. Years ago, I also took ancient Greek for three semesters and remember my professor wondering aloud whether the Greek language is flexible because Greeks were philosophers, or whether Greeks became philosophers because their language was so well-adapted to discussing abstract concepts.

Two language-related items today:

First, I highly recommend the book Word Play, by Peter Farb. It talks about everything from how many names for colors languages have and African word competitions, to euphemisms and honorific languages.

Second, the PNAS has an article, “Ultraconserved words point to deep language ancestry across Eurasia” looking at words that have been preserved in various ways for perhaps as long as 14,500 years. The PDF is not paywalled, so you can download it if you want. The abstract is:

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