I stumbled across this piece in the BBC website that discusses a computer-enabled mathematical model that analyses the rate of change of words in English and related languages. It appears to be me that this is a new application of glottochronology , a technique that has been around for quite a while.
The researchers at Reading University in the UK, claim “I”, “we”, “two” and “three” are among the most ancient English words. They also say that they can use their model to predict when words will drop out of the language, and list “squeeze”, “guts”, “stick” and “bad” as probable early casualties.
One intriguing feature of this model is an algorithm that allows you to build a phrasebook of common words between two periods of time:
“You type in a date in the past or in the future and it will give you a list of words that would have changed going back in time or will change going into the future,” Professor Pagel told BBC News.
“From that list you can derive a phrasebook of words you could use if you tried to show up and talk to, for example, William the Conqueror.”
That brought me up short. Doesn’t this guy know William the Conqueror spoke French?