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Oldest read-able language? - UniLang

Oldest read-able language?

Moderator: Ashucky

Unmundisto

Oldest read-able language?

Postby Unmundisto » 2013-09-21, 14:42

What is the oldest language of all, in which things can be read?

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby księżycowy » 2013-09-21, 14:47

Sumerian?
þūhte mē þæt ic gesāwe syllicre trēow on lyft lædan lēohte bewunden bēama beorhtost.

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-09-21, 16:58

Nah, it's Quenya.

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Lauren » 2013-09-21, 18:37

Definitely Sumerian.
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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Dormouse559 » 2013-09-21, 20:25

You're all wrong! It's Valarin, the oldest lambe of Arda.
N'hésite pas à corriger mes erreurs.

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Sol Invictus » 2013-09-21, 20:47

Technically it would be the language of oldest deciphered writing system, unless you mean old as in not dead yet, judging from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_l ... n_accounts it would be Greek or Egyptian, if liturgical languages count
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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Lauren » 2013-09-21, 21:04

Well, the OP said "readable". If it's undeciphered, then it's not readable. ;)
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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Sol Invictus » 2013-09-21, 21:35

But somebody might decipher one of undeciphered ones or find older writings in one of already deciphered ones and then that would be the oldest readable language :wink:
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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby joancarles » 2013-09-21, 23:05

But until we find new older writings of those already deciphered, I guess Sumerian is the oldest one.

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Unmundisto » 2013-09-22, 0:21

I appreciate the answers.

My question was a bit ambiguous:

I meant, what language has these two attributes:

1. A well-understood grammar, and a known set of word/morpheme meanings sufficient to read most of the available surviving text.

2. Possessing the oldest surviving writing of any language having attribute #1

Someone said that Sumerian's grammer is, to a large extent, unknown, and, if that's so, then that would disqualify it. Could someone read the most ancient Sumerian writings, and really know well what was being said? That's a good test.

I appreciate the other suggetions for the most ancient fully readable language--but please tell where and when it spoken.

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Lauren » 2013-09-22, 0:30

The oldest Sumerian texts in existence? AFAIK, not completely well. The periods with the largest bodies of literature, though, can be read just fine. Not every single fine point of grammar is known, but enough to understand the language. Don't trust anyone, whether a forum member or book author, that claims the majority of Sumerian grammar is unknown. This is simply untrue.

If you don't believe me, check out the Sumerian thread in the Ancient Languages forum, where I pointed out that most of what people think is unknown really is known.
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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Unmundisto » 2013-09-22, 1:28

Thanks for the information about the modern knowledge of Sumerian's grammar.

As for "readability", my term is ambiguous, because the answer to the question could depend on _how_ readable is meant by "readable".

So:

1. The oldest written texts which an expert could read, and get the gist of what is being said. What language would that be in?

2. The oldest written texts such that an expert could _fully_ understand what was being said. What language would that be in?

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Lauren » 2013-09-22, 1:49

1) Sumerian.

2) Maybe Ancient Egyptian. I've never studied Ancient Egyptian, but if I had to guess I'd say most is known about it, since it's Afro-Asiatic.
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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Unmundisto » 2013-09-22, 3:06

Thanks for the answer. Those two were what I was thinking too, due to what I've been reading in this forum about Sumerian. Quite reasonably, then, Sumerian would be an appealing choice for an ancient language to study for actual modern speaking use. Reviving the oldest.

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-09-22, 4:56

Dormouse559 wrote:You're all wrong! It's Valarin, the oldest lambe of Arda.
Nobody cares about it, though.

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Lauren » 2013-09-22, 5:03

Good luck trying to revive it. You will face much opposition, from people and from Sumerian's grammar. Sumerian, having died long ago, lacks many words needed in everyday language. Compounds are pretty much limited to two roots, and there aren't very many useful roots for modern inventions. Regardless I intend to learn it one day, it's very high up on my to-do list. :D
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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Lur » 2013-09-22, 5:09

Lowena wrote: You will face much opposition, from people and from Sumerian's grammar.

I don't have the feeling it's all that weird, its features remind me of a ton of other languages.

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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Lauren » 2013-09-22, 5:12

Lur wrote:
Lowena wrote: You will face much opposition, from people and from Sumerian's grammar.

I don't have the feeling it's all that weird, its features remind me of a ton of other languages.

By that I specifically meant its compound noun creation. ;)
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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby Ashucky » 2013-09-22, 12:19

I think one of the problems with Sumerian is the pronunciation, isn't it? Many of the cuneiform signs appear to have been pronounced the same and it's not really clear what the differences were. I think one of the ideas is that it may have been a tonal language. But I'm not an expert so I may be wrong and these problems have been resolved already?
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Re: Oldest read-able language?

Postby wanax » 2013-09-22, 15:54

Ashucky wrote:I think one of the problems with Sumerian is the pronunciation, isn't it? Many of the cuneiform signs appear to have been pronounced the same and it's not really clear what the differences were. I think one of the ideas is that it may have been a tonal language. But I'm not an expert so I may be wrong and these problems have been resolved already?


Yes, Sumerian has a great number of signs representing the same sounds, but most of them are used in different contexts, so learning them requires some serious rote memorization but is not impossible at all.

Much bigger problem for the learner is that the signs can have more than one reading (some have over 10) and it's many times up to the reader to guess which value the scribe has meant.

see:
http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/edition2/signlist.php

It's clear from a modern standpoint that the Sumerian cuneiform system has some serious flaws and shortcomings indeed!


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