If These Cave Walls Could Talk…Posted: October 1, 2013
Linguists have unlocked the key to what our ancient ancestors may have sounded like, and it sounds pretty amazing.
Did you know that 6,500 years ago English and Farsi were the same language? How’s that for world unity.
From there, the language morphed into the single descendant of all modern Indo-European languages: PIE (which stands for Proto-Indo-European). Since recording equipment was sparse 4,500 years ago and PIE left no written texts, nobody has ever known what the language might have sounded like. Until now, that is.
Below is a recording of a fable, “The Sheep and Horses,” read in what linguists believe to be an accurate reconstruction of PIE.
The journey to this recording began with German linguist August Schleicher in 1868. “Schleicher used reconstructed Proto-Indo-European vocabulary to create a fable in order to hear some approximation of PIE. Called “The Sheep and the Horses,” and also known today as Schleicher’s Fable, the short parable tells the story of a shorn sheep who encounters a group of unpleasant horses” (Archaeology magazine).
The above recording is the most recently updated version of this fable, which has been slightly altered over the years to reflect linguists’ most informed ideas of how humans might have sounded more than six milennia before our time. The reading comes courtesy of Andrew Byrd, a linguist at the University of Kentucky.
For your amusement, here are the English and PIE transcriptions of the now infamous Schleicher’s Fable:
The Sheep and the Horses
A sheep that had no wool saw horses, one of them pulling a heavy wagon, one carrying a big load, and one carrying a man quickly. The sheep said to the horses: “My heart pains me, seeing a man driving horses.” The horses said: “Listen, sheep, our hearts pain us when we see this: a man, the master, makes the wool of the sheep into a warm garment for himself. And the sheep has no wool.” Having heard this, the sheep fled into the plain.
h2áu̯ei̯ h1i̯osméi̯ h2u̯l̥h1náh2 né h1ést, só h1éḱu̯oms derḱt. só gwr̥hxúm u̯óǵhom u̯eǵhed; só méǵh2m̥ bhórom; só dhǵhémonm̥ h2ṓḱu bhered. h2óu̯is h1ékwoi̯bhi̯os u̯eu̯ked: “dhǵhémonm̥ spéḱi̯oh2 h1éḱu̯oms-kwe h2áǵeti, ḱḗr moi̯ aghnutor”. h1éḱu̯ōs tu u̯eu̯kond: “ḱludhí, h2ou̯ei̯! tód spéḱi̯omes, n̥sméi̯ aghnutór ḱḗr: dhǵhémō, pótis, sē h2áu̯i̯es h2u̯l̥h1náh2 gwhérmom u̯éstrom u̯ept, h2áu̯ibhi̯os tu h2u̯l̥h1náh2 né h1esti. tód ḱeḱluu̯ṓs h2óu̯is h2aǵróm bhuged.
And you thought Spanish was hard…
For another cool recording of PIE check out this article from Archaeology magazine.