Speaking ancient languages

Albuquerque, NM (KKOB) — A UNM Linguistics professor’s recent project could help historians learn to properly pronounce ancient languages. Joan Bybee says she and another professor have identified the five “primal consonants” of human languages. Over time, the sounds English speakers currently make when pronouncing the letters b, t, k, s, and l underwent changes to form the modern-day inventory of 500 to 600 different consonants found in languages across the globe. Bybee says words can stay in a language a long time, and preserve the same sounds over many generations. The sounds can change gradually, but systematically. For example when comparing the Germanic words father, foot, and fish with Romance words meaning the same thing, pater, ped, pesc, you can see that words in Latin beginning with /p/, start with /f/ in English. Such comparisons will eventually lead to further confirmation of how dead languages should be spoken