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46 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

Ancient Greek word ΣΑΣΤΗΡ (sastēr) From 1890 to 1899, in pieces, a white marble slab was found by archaeologists in the ruins of an Ancient Greek colony Chersonesus, Greek Χερσόνησος (Khersónēsos), on ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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38 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

There are many such words. Even for a really well-attested dead language like Latin such words are known, e.g., aurichalc, haematopus, or cortumio (all three examples taken from the answers to this ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
35 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

A surprising example is that one of the words in the "Lord's Prayer", one of the most significant prayers of the Christian tradition, has an unknown meaning. The original Greek word is ...
James Martin's user avatar
28 votes
Accepted

Why are Latin and Sanskrit called dead languages?

By definition, a dead language is a language that does not have any native speakers anymore but that had native speakers earlier (the last clause is needed to delineate dead languages from constructed ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
27 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

In Genesis 6:14, Noah's Ark is made of עצי גפר (gopher wood). "Gopher" is just a phonetic transliteration of the ancient Hebrew גֹּפֶר. No one knows what it means, except that it is ...
Mark Foskey's user avatar
8 votes

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

Hapax legomenon This is defined as a word that only appears once in a given context - it can be in a single book, an author's complete works, or in the published works of an entire language (whether a ...
Darrel Hoffman's user avatar
7 votes

I have some questions about deciphering an ancient language

Truly, you have a great ambition. Don't give up!! But you cannot learn to talk an ancient language just from the way it is written. Heck, you cannot learn how any language is spoken from the way it ...
Andrew Shanks's user avatar
7 votes

How are dead languages reconstructed?

The main difference between dead languages and living languages in this respect is that it's possible with a living language to resolve an empirical question by interrogating a speaker of the language,...
user6726's user avatar
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4 votes

Current prospective efforts in the decipherment of ancient scripts

Undeciphered languages do not always have a small corpus. For example, the Iberian language of eastern and southern Spain, or the Etruscan language of Italy, have large corpora but even so many ...
Davius's user avatar
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4 votes

Minimum population for language survival

Theoretically, there isn't a minimum population for a language to survive, because a speech community can theoretically be of any size. Even if the speech community dwindles to one person, that last ...
b a's user avatar
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3 votes
Accepted

Can Egyptian hieroglyphs (or other hieroglyphs) be construed as having anything like Chinese radicals?

As pointed out, Egyptian hieroglyphs employed certain symbols as semantic determinants, which though phonologically mute and often redundant would help the reader figure out which concept was intended....
pablodf76's user avatar
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3 votes

Is there a list of dead languages specifying the causes?

Some languages do indeed die because all their speakers are killed. This happened with many of the native languages of Australia, or North and South America. But in most cases languages die a natural ...
fdb's user avatar
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3 votes

I have some questions about deciphering an ancient language

It is theoretically possible to decipher an undeciphered language, such as Linear B (Mycenean Greek). Old Chinese did not require decipherment ("Bone oracle script" did), but it did require a bit of ...
user6726's user avatar
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2 votes
Accepted

What is a study trying to synthesise different meanings of a root (synchronically) called?

Describing the meaning of a word (lemma/root) is what a lexicographer does. So I'd call this a lexicographic study.
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
2 votes

How can you learn to read older dialects of your first language(s)?

One approach that linguists use is to train themselves in reverse chronological order. I'd suggest you do the same: Read a few hundred pages in each century, going backwards. Choose similar genres ...
Lefty G Balogh's user avatar
2 votes

What is known about the voicing of Hittite consonants?

Melchert claims that "voicing" was not distinguished word-initially or word-finally, with word-initial stops ending up fortis (PIE *geis- > kiš- "become" > reduplicated ...
Draconis's user avatar
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1 vote

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

The bible is full of such words. We can suspect what they mean (and being the bible - there are "canon" meanings). But we don't really know. Many of these words were migrated to modern ...
Uri Shtand's user avatar
1 vote

Is there a word in a dead or lost language that we lost the definition to?

Of course, we could take the question to an extreme: as I understand it, no-one has yet managed to decode Linear-A, so we have a whole language that we have "lost the definition to".
Leonard Clark's user avatar
1 vote

Why are Latin and Sanskrit called dead languages?

In my understanding, living languages grow and change as people use and experience them. There's technical terms formed as new techniques are discovered, slang created as people, kids, want to be ...
Megha's user avatar
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1 vote

Minimum population for language survival

The answer is zero. Hebrew became extinct after around 200 and 400 CE and got revived in the 19th century. There also are fluent Klingon speakers (the imaginary language spoken by the Klingons in ...
Denis de Bernardy's user avatar
1 vote

Minimum population for language survival

Language transmission can occur in different ways. Generally, a language is learned inside a group social. So, theoretically, without considering external considerations (peer pressure, motivation, ......
amegnunsen's user avatar
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