Ancient language mystery deepens
2010-08-11 0:00

By Victoria Gill | BBC.co.uk



A linguistic mystery has arisen surrounding symbol-inscribed stones in Scotland that predate the formation of the country itself.

The stones are believed to have been carved by members of an ancient people known as the Picts, who thrived in what is now Scotland from the 4th to the 9th Centuries.


Many of the stones are believed to have been carved during the 6th Century.

These symbols, researchers say, are probably "words" rather than images.

But their conclusions have raised criticism from some linguists.

The research team, led by Professor Rob Lee from Exeter University in the UK, examined symbols on more than 200 carved stones.

They used a mathematical method to quantify patterns contained within the symbols, in an effort to find out if they conveyed meaning.

Professor Lee described the basis of this method.

"If I told you the first letter of a word in English was ’Q’ and asked you to predict the next letter, you would probably say ’U’ and you would probably be right," he explained.

"But if I told you the first letter was ’T’ you would probably take many more guesses to get it right - that’s a measure of uncertainty."

Using the symbols, or characters, from the stones, Prof Lee and his colleagues measured this feature of so-called "character to character uncertainty".

They concluded that the Pictish carvings were "symbolic markings that communicated information" - that these were words rather than pictures.

Prof Lee first published these conclusions in April of this year. But a recent article by French linguist Arnaud Fournet opened up the mystery once again.

Mr Fournet said that, by examining Pictish carvings as if they were "linear symbols", and by applying the rules of written language to them, the scientists could have produced biased results.

He told BBC News: "It looks like their method is transforming two-dimensional glyphs into a one-dimensional string of symbols.

"The carvings must have some kind of purpose - some kind of meanings, but... it’s very difficult to determine if their conclusion is contained in the raw data or if it’s an artefact of their method."

Mr Fournet also suggested that the researchers’ methods should be tested and verified for other ancient symbols.

"The line between writing and drawing is not as clear cut as categorised in the paper," Mr Fournet wrote in his article. "On the whole the conclusion remains pending."

But Prof Lee says that his most recent analysis of the symbols, which has yet to be published, has reinforced his original conclusions.

He also stressed he did not claim that the carvings were a full and detailed record of the Pictish language.

"The symbols themselves are a very constrained vocabulary," he said. "But that doesn’t mean that Pictish had such a constrained vocabulary."

He said the carvings might convey the same sort of meaning as a list, perhaps of significant names, which would explain the limited number of words used.

"It’s like finding a menu for a restaurant [written in English], and that being your sole repository of the English language."

Article from: bbc.co.uk



Also tune into:

Michael S. Schneider - Constructing The Universe with 1 through 12, Nature’s Numerical and Geometric Language

Dan Winter - Fractal Geometry & The Golden Mean

Gary Biltcliffe - The Spirit of Portland & The Spine of Albion

Barbara Lamb - Crop Circles Revealed

David Flynn - The Giant’s Geoglyphs of Tiahuanaco

Freddy Silva - Ancient Sacred Sites, Invisible Temples, Giants & Our Ancestors

Klaus Schmidt - Göbekli Tepe: The World’s Oldest Temple?

Hugh Newman - Megalithomania(cs) & Megalithic Mesoamerica

Scott Wolter - The Kensington Rune Stone

Michael Tsarion - Colonization & The "Celts"




Related Articles
Ancient Indian language dies out
Foundations of Stone (Video)
Grave slabs and Pictish Symbols of Scotland
Pictish stones - Wikipedia
The Picts - Wikipedia
The Language of the Future: Evolutionary Math Breaks the Code
Experts trying to decipher ancient language
The Power Of Symbolic Language And UFOs
First Tongue: An Ancient Global Language


Latest News from our Front Page

Turkey's Erdogan threatened to flood Europe with migrants: Greek website
2016-02-09 23:04
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened in November to flood Europe with migrants if European Union leaders did not offer him a better deal to help manage the Middle East refugee crisis, a Greek news website said on Monday. Publishing what it said were minutes of a tense meeting last November, the euro2day.gr financial news website revealed deep mutual irritation and distrust ...
Will Denmark Be The First Islamic Nation In Europe?
2016-02-09 23:44
Daily headlines prove that Europe is bursting at the seams with Islamists attempting to establish Sharia law and homegrown terror plots. France is ablaze with radicals, ISIS threatens they will send Spain back to the times of the Ottoman Empire, and Britain is much too concerned with appeasing Muslims that they are doing away with their own citizens’ free speech. The ...
'Hamilton' musical: All American founders non-White, but evil King George. I hate musicals!
2016-02-09 22:43
‘Hamilton’, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s founding fathers, is being performed on Broadway. You know it’s going to have political undertones, when you read that the first act is titled: “Immigrants : We get the job done!” In addition to Alexander Hamilton, Miranda’s musical also casts Aaron Burr, George Washington, James Madison, John Laurens, Marquis Gilbert ...
Ted Nugent Posts "Anti-Semitic" Facebook Message About Gun Control
2016-02-09 22:53
Rock musician Ted Nugent posted a message about “who is really behind gun control” on Facebook that the Anti-Defamation League slammed as "anti-Semitic". More: ADL claims 26% of all world population is “anti-semitic” The ADL and domestic spying: Roy Bullock case revisited "Antisemitism on rise across Europe in worst times since the Nazis" says "expert" to the Guardian In the post, Nugent shares a ...
Illegal immigrant is arrested over murder of American nanny in Austria after she took him in to stop him being deported - and is revealed to have raped underage girl
2016-02-09 22:20
An illegal immigrant has been arrested over the murder of an American nanny who had given him shelter at her Vienna apartment. The 24-year-old Gambian had been wanted by police since the death of Lauren Mann, 25, from Grand Junction, Colorado last month. He was arrested on Thursday in Bern, Switzerland, at an asylum center there after his mobile phone use was ...
More News »