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Language Log: Oldest Writing System vs. Oldest Language

Sunday September 17th 2006, 10:54 am

Language Log: Oldest Writing System vs. Oldest Language

This morning NPR reported on an exciting find in Veracruz, Mexico: the discovery of fragments with apparent writing dating back to the Olmec civilization, nearly 3000 years ago. This would, the NPR introducer of the segment said, be “the oldest writing found in the Americas”. She then handed over to a reporter who gave some details, including brief interviews with archaeologists (not linguists — presumably the expert decipherers of Epi-Olmec haven’t yet gotten into the act). This reporter closed with the dramatic statement that further finds could yield the key to “the oldest known language in the Americas”.


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