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Rebuilt Language

February 16, 2006

The budget for a big hollywood movie includes sets, costumes, special effects, and in the case of the New Line Cinema film "The New World," money to reconstruct a dead language.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Resurrecting a language. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Algonquian dialogue]

HIRSHON:
You’re listening to Virginia Algonquian, an extinct Native American tongue that was revived for the film "The New World." University of North Carolina linguist Blair Rudes rebuilt the language from about 600 words jotted down by English settlers. He noticed that a few of these words were later absorbed into English.

BLAIR RUDES (University of North Carolina):
So we can look at the modern pronunciation of words like moccasin, and opossum, and raccoon, and have some idea of how those words that come from Virginia Algonquian would have been pronounced.

HIRSHON:
Rudes also used similar, better-known native languages to create grammar and invent new words. The results of the work will be donated to the Algonquian people’s descendants. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.