Researchers develop handy phrasebook for people who travel in time to the Stone Age

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Historically accurate illustration of cave people and dinosaurs, both domesticated and feral, from BibliOdyssey.

Mark Henderson of the London Times reports that researchers at the University of Reading have developed a phrasebook that "could allow basic communication between modern English speakers and Stone Age cavemen."

“If a time traveller wanted to go back in time to a specific date, we could probably draw up a little phrasebook of the modern words that are likely to have sounded similar back then,” [Mark Pagel] told The Times. “You wouldn’t be able to discuss anything very complicated, but it might be enough to get you out of a tight spot.”

Dr Pagel’s research also predicts which parts of modern vocabulary are likely to survive into English as it will be spoken 1,000 years in the future, and which will die out.

By the year 3000, words such as “throw”, “stick”, “dirty”, “guts” and “squeeze” could easily be gone. These already differ greatly between related languages, such as English and German, and are good candidates to evolve into new forms.

A handy little guide to small talk in the Stone Age