Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Stonehenge language

As the resident historical linguist for this blog, I get to report some serious news: Screenwriter Yoni Brenner has published the speech given at the dedication of Stonehenge in this morning's NYT, here.

It turns out, the language of England 4,600 years ago (to take one going estimate) is pretty much good old caveman talk of the comic strips. Here's a sample:
GREETINGS. It good to see such big crowd.

Many here know Og personally. Others know Og by reputation and prowess with weighted thighbone. Some of you not know Og at all, but just attracted by big pile of viscera over at buffet. That O.K. too. If we not want to attract you, we not arrange for so much viscera.

Look, me realist. Me know that there is no memorial to Og that make everyone happy. As Og himself say: “You can please all of people some of time, and some of people all of time, but bludgeoning — bludgeoning is magic.” And if one day future civilization devise system of written language, me fervently hope they will inscribe this insight on massive rock.
Key grammatical characteristics include: lack of copulas, a lot of past tense meanings with present tense verb forms (but some explicitly marked futures — "I will miss least his bludgeoning"), variable me versus I for first person subjects (but apparently we for plural subjects), lack of indefinite articles, inconsistent use of 3rd person singular -s on verbs, etc. But this was no simple language — the syntax is full-on English, as you can see. The only personal name, Og, is notable for its seriously non-optimal syllable structure: an obstruent coda but no onset.

Lame jokes aside (hey, I'm no Mr. Verb), where the heck did we get such robust stereotypes of caveman talk?

Image from the BBC.


Anonymous said...

I don't know about that column ... The text includes "thus". That's just not possible caveman talk.

Cialis Online said...

I think that this place and many other around the globe were not built for us humans, but by a race that lived long before our history, long before anything we can imagine.