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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-05-10 04:45 PM
Original message
Friday, 3 September 2010
Lost language found on back of 400-year-old letter
Native Peruvian language rediscovered in remains of church

Brian Handwerk

Notes on the back of a 400-year-old letter have revealed a previously unknown language once spoken by indigenous peoples of northern Peru, an archaeologist says.

Penned by an unknown Spanish author and lost for four centuries, the battered piece of paper was pulled from the ruins of an ancient Spanish colonial church in 2008. But a team of scientists and linguists has only recently revealed the importance of the words written on the flip side of the letter.

The early 17th-century author had translated Spanish numbers - uno, dos, tres - and Arabic numerals into a mysterious language never seen by modern scholars.

Even though (the letter) doesnt tell us a whole lot, it does tell us about a language that is very different from anything weve ever known - and it suggests that there may be a lot more out there, said project leader and an archaeologist at Harvards Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology .

Lost language one of two already known

The newfound native language may have borrowed from Quechua, a language still spoken by indigenous peoples of Peru, Quilter said.
But it was clearly a unique tongue, and likely one of two known only by the mention of their names in contemporary texts: Quingnam and Pescadora - language of the fishers.

Some scholars suggest the two are in fact the same tongue that had been misidentified as distinct languages by early Spanish scribes.

Also, the writings include translated numbers, which means that the lost languages numerical system was a ten-based, or decimal system - like English.

While the Inca used a ten-based system, many other cultures did not: the Maya, for example, used a base of 20, according to Quilter.

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sybylla Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-11-10 09:42 AM
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1. Very nice find.
If it wasn't for worrying about finding work after graduation, I would have gone to college for linguistics. I love studying language.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-08-10 06:19 AM
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2. Amazing subject, isn't it? Not enough time for the research and study we crave. Sad. n/t
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