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Monday, March 02, 2009

A statistical analysis of English has revealed the oldest words in the language, as well as those words most likely to go extinct first.

Reading University researchers claim "I", "we", "two" and "three" are among the most ancient, dating back tens of thousands of years.

Their computer model analyses the rate of change of words in English and the languages that share a common heritage.

The team says it can predict which words are likely to become extinct - citing "squeeze", "guts", "stick" and "bad" as probable first casualties.


For example, "dirty" is a rapidly changing word; currently there are 46 different ways of saying it in the Indo-European languages, all words that are unrelated to each other. As a result, it is likely to die out soon in English, along with "stick" and "guts".

Verbs also tend to change quite quickly, so "push", "turn", "wipe" and "stab" appear to be heading for the lexicographer's chopping block.
Squeeze my guts and stab me with a dirty stick. That's bad.