The human ability to communicate complex ideas to each other in a consistent and reliable way has been a major driver of our species' success. We still have much to learn about language, but there have been two interesting recent developments.
The technology website Cnet.com reported last week that scientists from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of British Columbia have created software that can recreate ancient vocabularies by cross-referencing known patterns of change in modern languages that developed from the older tongue. Some experts think the computer program may also be able to predict future changes in languages.
Meanwhile, at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference opening in Abu Dhabi today, the Raytheon company plans to display a product called TransTalk, described as "a portable, two-way translation device that automatically translates human speech from one language to another and can be configured for any pair of languages".
While the product is available for military purposes only, commercial versions will no doubt emerge.
Imagine the possibilities of having such a universal-translation app on your smartphone that allows you to understand others, and be understood, no matter where you are in the world.