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Author Topic: How far back in time would I have to go to find an anscestor whose language I don't understand?  (Read 897 times)

Offline thedoc

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Loyiso asked the Naked Scientists:
   If I were to time travel - starting with my mother and then visit her mother and her mother on and on - how long or how many generations will I encounter a grandmother who speaks a language unintelligible to me? and how long will it take me to meet a creature I can hardly recognize as being human?
What do you think?
« Last Edit: 15/04/2016 21:50:02 by _system »


 

Offline chiralSPO

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Four of my great, great grandparents (my father's mother's grandparents) spoke Hungarian, which is a pretty strange language (not even Indo-European in origin; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungarian_language), on the other side of my family, 6 generations back, I have an ancestor who was Chippewa (according to wikipedia, they spoke Anishinaabe), and there's even one distant corner of my family tree who spoke Welsh (I speak none of these languages, and probably couldn't get a basic idea across without signing and gesticulating like a madman). Of course, I know someone from Iceland who could probably converse at length with his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandfather (though their politics might be a little different these days...)

As to not recognizing our ancestors as human... hmmm.... if modern humans are only about 200,000 years old, and the average generation is between 20 and 25 years, then you would have to go back 8000 to 10000 generations.
« Last Edit: 15/04/2016 22:25:39 by chiralSPO »
 

Offline Tim the Plumber

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Loyiso asked the Naked Scientists:
   If I were to time travel - starting with my mother and then visit her mother and her mother on and on - how long or how many generations will I encounter a grandmother who speaks a language unintelligible to me? and how long will it take me to meet a creature I can hardly recognize as being human?
What do you think?

My Grandfather could speak English and the Potteries dialect. Stoke-on-Trent is the oldest industrial town in the world (people who worked only on their industry and did not farm themselves). It's dialect is so strong that it is incomprehensible to outsiders, including me.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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one of my grandparents was French and the rest  were from Glasgow.
I speak a bit of French but...
However, if my roots were less adventurous and none of them had moved very far I  guess it would be something like 700 or 1000 years' worth of generations.
I can read Shakespeare's 1554-1616 stuff easily enough and Chaucer's (1345-1400) with some difficulty.
I suspect that context would make it easier if I was speaking to someone but by the time you get to this
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beowulf
I'm lost.

 

Offline Ophiolite

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I thought it was generally agreed that children speak a language unintelligible to their parents, even if they use the same words. :)
 

Offline evan_au

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Quote from: Ophiolite
I thought it was generally agreed that children speak a language unintelligible to their parents, even if they use the same words. :)
I have also observed that parents speak a language which is incomprehensible to their teenage children.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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There is a degree of mutual comprehensibility.
Consider this:
A pareent says to a teenager
" I will give you $5 if you clean the yard"
The parent only understands the "if you clean the yard" clause, while the teenager only comprehends the " I will give you $5 " part.
 

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