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17 votes

Could the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs have been deciphered without the Rosetta Stone with modern tech?

Possibly (but probably not)! Translating between two languages with only monolingual corpora (unsupervised machine translation) is currently possible. It's an area of active research in NLP because ...
c2huc2hu's user avatar
  • 271
9 votes

How would someone begin translating an unknown language?

Take a look at John Chadwick's The Decipherment of Linear B. It does include some relevant theory -- I've used it as a text in an elementary linguistics course.
Greg Lee's user avatar
  • 12.5k
8 votes

Do we know enough to become fluent in written Mayan?

There are two separate questions in one here. First, Mayan hieroglyphs* are well-understood as a writing system. We have a solid understanding of the syllabic glyphs, with only a handful missing or ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
7 votes

Why are the scripts of Crete known as "Linear"?

The linked Linear A Wikipedia article says “Archaeologist Arthur Evans named the script "Linear" because its characters consisted simply of lines inscribed in clay, in contrast to the more ...
brass tacks's user avatar
  • 18.3k
6 votes

Will we ever decipher the Wadi el-Ḥol and Serabit el-Khadim inscriptions?

It depends on what you mean by "decipher", mostly. Many scholars agree that these inscriptions were written in some Semitic language, and that the script was ancestral to Phoenician. ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
5 votes

How would someone begin translating an unknown language?

My answer is just an addition to Greg Lee's answer here. John Chadwick popularized how Michael Ventris and he deciphered Linear B, but the first right steps to the decipherment were made by Alice ...
nikolas's user avatar
  • 151
5 votes

How would someone begin translating an unknown language?

Your question is closely related to Bootstrapping, a process in which children initiate the language acquisition. Therefore, in addition to knowledge how scientists decipher the unknown language, ...
Be Brave Be Like Ukraine's user avatar
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
  • 570
4 votes

Why are the scripts of Crete known as "Linear"?

This has no source except an undergraduate language history class, but… I learned that the scripts were called Linear in opposition to Cuneiform ("wedge-shaped"), the other popular script found on ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
3 votes

How would someone begin translating an unknown language?

Hopefully you can revise your question: Are there clues as to how old the language is? Does the language use a known alphabet (or have any hints of parentage)? Are their contextual samples (signs or ...
amI's user avatar
  • 666
3 votes

Can you decipher a language without any translation?

Perhaps. The strategy for doing this involves incrementally developing shared knowledge, starting with the document itself (establishing "letters", "pictures" and "sounds"...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
3 votes
Accepted

Decipherment challenge

It depends on what you mean by "linguist" and "competition". There is the linguistics olympiad, a skills competition related to linguistics designed for high school students, and ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
2 votes

Could the language(s) of the Proto-Sinaitic incriptions have words with no known cognates?

Definitely. Every language in the world has words with no known cognates. The main challenge with those inscriptions, though, is their paucity. There's very very little data available for comparison.
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
1 vote

Decipherment challenge

The International Olympiad in Linguistics published some sample problems and solutions.
ngn's user avatar
  • 505

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