(image from evasee)
Finally, the tedious job of linguists has been replaced by robots! The site io9.com proudly trumpets the triumph of algorithm over the comparative method with the post title: Computer program deciphers a dead language that mystified linguists.
i09.com proudly proclaims the following:
The lost language of Ugaritic was last spoken 3,500 years ago. It survives on just a few tablets, and linguists could only translate it with years of hard work and plenty of luck. A computer deciphered it in hours.
However, just a brief scan of the original article (pdf) suggests that there's less here than meets the eye. The abstract begins thusly:
In this paper we propose a method for the automatic decipherment of lost languages. Given a non-parallel corpus in a known re- lated language, our model produces both alphabetic mappings and translations of words into their corresponding cognates.
Producing an alphabetic mapping and a cognate set is nice, but "deciphering a dead language" it ain't.
HT: Sérgio Bernardino vi Twitter #linguistics)