Word lists: A New Approach to Prehistoric Language

Copyright © Alexander Aberfeldy, 2010. The right of Alexander Aberfeldy to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

"This is just great stuff, brilliant. No-one else could have done this."

"Quite fun, in a strange way."



Wordlists: A New Approach to Prehistoric Language is the second volume in the series Decoding the Past. Its view of how language evolved may appear novel but the individual facts are standard if basic findings that have been demonstrated many times, and the results are so consistent that they are likely to be true, or nearly true. There is considerable scope for further investigation into wordlists but I think it is unlikely to change the general picture.

I have not laid out all of the supporting evidence in detail, as would be done in a normal academic text. The main reason is the complexity and scale of the argument. This is particularly true of the reasons for rejecting the Indo-European theory of language origins and recognising the importance of archaic Scottish Gaelic, both of which are covered in detail in other volumes. For the moment readers will need to exercise patience, tolerance and imagination.

The Wordlist provides us with a new way of understanding language and how it has evolved. The lists published in the following chapters were compiled with no prior expectation of what they might reveal and each has produced remarkable results. More roots remain to be investigated and no doubt have similar revelations to make.

The Wordlists do not depend on theoretical ideas about relationships between languages, nor do they tell us anything about the original forms of words. For reasons which will become apparent such things are either impossible to know or without relevance. In this new approach all languages are equally old and their roots are vastly older than most historical linguists currently envisage. SInce the Wordlists are based on words in any good dictionary of any language, modern or ancient, it is a game that anyone can learn to play or at least understand very rapidly. The TEC (Table of Equivalent Consonants) takes care of the phonetic aspects and allows us to work with words as we find them.

I have tried to avoid technical jargon in this book. However a few definitions are necessary as the meaning of some words as I use them here may be different from current academic usage.


Aspiration: change in the sound of an initial or medial consonant for a grammatical reason.
British: not a hypothetical Celtic language once spoken in England but any or all of the languages native to the British Isles, including English, Scots, Gaelic, Irish and Welsh.
Category: a sub-division or theme of a wordlist.
Class: one of the groups of equivalent consonants in the Table of Equivalent Consonants; a collection of cognate words with the same root.
Cognate: identical, similar, parallel, analogous.
Diphthong: a double vowel which may mark the position of a lost consonant.
Double Aspiration: a second aspiration leading to the disappearance of a previously aspirated consonant.
Erosion: the loss of an initial consonant, generally caused by double aspiration.
GSC: groups of significant consonants.
Lexicon: the totality of words as objects.
Long List: an unlimited collection of words with the same root.
Root: the consonantal structure of a word; any cognate group of consonants.
Short List: an incomplete or limited collection of words with the same root.
Table of Equivalent Consonants: a grouping of equivalent consonants into classes, normally six.
TEC: Table of Equivalent Consonants.
Wordlist: words with a shared consonantal structure as defined by the TEC, arranged in categories.

I use capital letters such as B and C instead of /b/ and /c/ to indicate consonants. Vowels are disregarded.

Hunting and Warfare
The link between hunting and warfare has been lost in English but is alive elsewhere. Ger. Jäger ‘hunter’ is also used to mean ‘rifleman, fusilier, fighter pilot’. In the Belgian and French armies Fr. chasseur ‘hunter’ is a general word for ‘soldier’. Les chasseurs à pied, literally ‘foot-hunters’, are light infantry and les chasseurs à cheval ‘mounted hunters’ are light cavalry. It. cacciatore ‘hunter’ is used in exactly the same way. Extrapolated meanings are shown in brackets; G. saighdear ‘soldier, brave man (hunter)’. G. cath ‘fight, battle (hunt)’. In almost every case the bracketed meaning refers to archaic Gaelic hunting terminology.


(-) vowel; * hypothetical form; (…) hypothetical meaning. A > B: A is equivalent to B.
Alb. Albanian, Ar. Arabic, Arm. Armenian, A-S. Anglo-Saxon, Aus. Australian, Bas. Basque, Br. Breton, Cat. Catalonian, Crt. Croatian, Cz. Czeck, Dan. Danish, Du. Dutch, E. English, esp. especially, Fin. Finnish, Fl. Flemish, Fr. French, G. Gaelic, gen. generic, Ger. German, Goth. Gothic, Gr. Greek, H. High, Hind. Hindi, Heb. Hebrew, Ice. Icelandic, Ir. Irish, L. Low, Lat. Latin, Lith. Lithuanian, M. Middle, Nor. Norse, Norwegian, O. Old, Per. Persian, PNE place-name element, Por. Portuguese, Ru. Russian, Sc. Scots, Shet., Shetland, Skr. Sanskrit, Slav. Slavonic, Sw. Swedish, Toch. Tocharian, Um. Umbrian, US. American, W. Welsh.

In the series Decoding the Past:

  • Mesolithic Survival in the Scottish Highlands (2009)
  • A New Approach to Prehistoric Language (2009)

Last revised 11.01.2010

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