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On the Trail of Ancient Languages: An Etymological Mystery Game
October 19, 2021 at 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm EDT
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In his debut Interintellect Salon, linguist Colin Gorrie will lead you in an interactive simulation of language change and etymological discovery.
Imagine you were transported to a distant time and place, a world full of diverse peoples and languages much like our own. Having given up all hope of returning to our world, you turn your attention to the languages of your new home. In your travels, you encounter many of the languages of this world. The more you learn, the more you begin to notice similarities between the languages – too many to have arisen from chance alone. Could they perhaps have sprung from the same source?
In this salon, you’ll play the role of just such an explorer/researcher. You’ll be presented with words from different (fictional) languages and you’ll collaborate to come up with a reconstruction of their common ancestor. As you go, you’ll gradually uncover the laws of how languages change and the method that linguists use to turn back time and make hypotheses about what languages sounded like hundreds or thousands of years ago. Will you be able to uncover the mystery of what the original language sounded like?
As we play, we’ll have a chance to discuss topics like:
– How do languages change? Why do they change?
– How can we know what ancient languages sound like?
– What can we learn about ancient societies from their languages?
– What languages is English related to? How do we know?
If you haven’t encountered linguistics before, watch these videos from Crash Course Linguistics (about 10 minutes each) to get a sense of how linguists look at language and language change:
– Crash Course Linguistics – Introduction
– Crash Course Linguistics – Phonetics 1
– Crash Course Linguistics – Phonetics 2
– Crash Course Linguistics – Phonology
– Crash Course Linguistics: Language Change
Other than that, you don’t need any background in linguistics or language learning. Just bring a sense of playful exploration!
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