05/07/2013 06:30 EDT | Updated 05/08/2013 02:06 EDT

Ice Age Superlanguage: These Words Were Built To Last


Transported to around 15,000 years B.C. and forgot your Ice Age Superlanguage -- English Dictionary at home?

As Discovery News reports, just keep these words at the ready:

Thou, I, not, that, we, to give, who, this, what, man/male, ye, old, mother, to hear, hand, fire, to pull, black, to flow, bark, ashes, to spit, worm.

Research at the UK's University of Reading suggests they are the Earth's oldest words, Science Now reports.

"The model hints at a group of people living somewhere in Southern Europe as the glaciers were receding, speaking a language that might resemble those spoken today," study author Mark Pagel of the University of Reading told Science Now. "It's astonishing that spoken language can be transmitted through millennia with enough fidelity to give us information about our early history."

The idea behind the research is to track 'cognates' -- essentially, words that have similar sound and meaning throughout various languages.

In his findings, published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Pagel reveals a core of 23 words that have stood the test of time, spoken still today from Alaska to Europe.

"These words are reconstructed by first identifying cognate words among the languages of a given family," he wrote. "And then, because cognate words derive from a common ancestral word, working back in time to reconstruct the probable features of that shared ancestral form."

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