How Far Back in Time Could an English Speaker Go and Still Communicate Effectively?

  • Published on Jul 27, 2019
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    More from TodayIFoundOut:
    Who Invented the Food Pyramid and Why You'd Be Crazy to Follow It
    The Curious Case of the "Law of the Tongue"
    In this video:
    Contrary to what many a Grammar Nazi the world over would have you believe, language is constantly evolving, occasionally extremely rapidly, and there is nothing wrong with that, despite such individuals lamenting that fact pretty much as long as we have documented reference of people discussing language.
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Comments • 5 186

  • Today I Found Out
    Today I Found Out  4 months ago +187

    Signup for your FREE trial to The Great Courses Plus here: Thanks!

  • Walsh2571
    Walsh2571 Hour ago

    That time travel rant was incredibly pointless. You quoted all these velocities then end up using a relative frame of reference - you might as well have used the Earth as the relative frame of reference. The only way a space-ship time-machine would be useful is if there was an absolute frame of reference in somewhere in the universe and you had some omniscience about it OR your position travelling back in time is bound by Earth's gravity and you use Earth as your inertial frame for your coordinate system.

  • AssMonkey Gaming
    AssMonkey Gaming 5 hours ago

    So in short, you can effectively communicate as far back as the 1500s

  • Saimeren
    Saimeren 9 hours ago +1

    1:10 Why does your keyboard spell "fag"? It's a little insensitive don't you think? Whether or not you call cigarettes "fags", today's colloquial definition of the terms is a gay person.

  • Drago Slav
    Drago Slav 12 hours ago

    This guy talks like a weatherman lol.

  • Nathaniel Offer
    Nathaniel Offer 16 hours ago

    What dumpster did you find that Mac laptop in?

  • Evil Paragon 4
    Evil Paragon 4 17 hours ago

    You're forgetting the fact you would seem wealthy and chances are, you're in possession of some high quality items, such as your phone, maybe a watch, or even just your clothes.
    On top of that, assuming you're white, you wouldn't look as worn down and unhealthy as peasantry. If you're black/asian, etc., chances are you could still look exotic and wealthy, depending on the time period.
    You're likely to be able to be seen as foreign nobility and/or be captured by bandits to be sold off to nobility. (Nobility would purchase you for the chance at a big debt would be pulled in their favour with your family (which doesn't exist) for rescuing you).
    Now, they're going to want to know what the hell you're saying, or at least, just where you got your stuff so they can get more of it.
    Back in these times, linguists were madmen who were able to decipher completely foreign languages to a talkable level in just weeks, and you just speak a future version of English.
    If we allow say, 2 months at most for "communicating effectively", most of us could absolutely go back to at most the middle-bronze age. Sure, everyone is speaking a Semitic or Greek Language, not even a Germanic one, but they can probably still decode you to an effective level to the point where _they_ would be speaking broken English to you, rather than you having to learn their language.
    But yeah, keep in mind, chances are way higher you just get killed intentionally or accidentally.

  • Jayson Davis
    Jayson Davis 17 hours ago +1

    Hey Vsauce! Michael here!

  • srvfan454
    srvfan454 23 hours ago

    As long as you travel in time and space by TARDIS it would translate for you.

  • svjim1
    svjim1 Day ago

    The flux capacitor accommodates for the travel in time and space rendering your placement in the proper space/time continuum. lol

  • Edward Johnson
    Edward Johnson Day ago +1

    5:10 I think you confused Welsh and Old English.

  • sandra g
    sandra g Day ago

    Really interesting, thank you!

  • qwerty qwerty
    qwerty qwerty Day ago

    Never mind the complexities of historic language, can you stop pausing mid sentence for breath please and stick to ''normal' patterns? It's driving me mad. It's like you taught yourself to speak by watching Top Gear.

  • brian lowe
    brian lowe Day ago

    You're assuming an awful lot to imagine that traveling through time is traveling through a fixed point that is separate from the Earth

  • Mark Ellinghaus
    Mark Ellinghaus Day ago

    The Great Courses Plus is awesome and well worth the $15 a month.

  • Chris Rumble
    Chris Rumble Day ago

    Given that you evidently can't read modern English properly...

  • War Zone
    War Zone Day ago +1

    Wow, I was not expecting a fantasy based spectrum here but a reality based timeline with history. am thrown way off balance here because I was expecting an actual historical based timeline. How is this video so far rated at 45k? and a crock of shit.

  • Louis Tanguay
    Louis Tanguay Day ago

    Above the ears, no hair. Below the ears, hirsute AF.

  • Matt McDermott
    Matt McDermott Day ago

    Early 16th century

  • Nikki Nicole
    Nikki Nicole 2 days ago

    I don’t want to travel in time for the people or the empires but for all the extinct plants and animals, I think it would be amazing to travel back in time to like the mesozoic era, this probably isn’t even possible because humans weren’t around but still, I think it would be so amazing if you were able to see Pangea or just the earth how it was before buildings and man made structures

  • Philip Williams
    Philip Williams 2 days ago

    so, we couldn't understand what a Saxon or Mercian was saying at the Battle of Brunaburgh in 937? According to the poem, he would have said a isn't difficult to get the words up, google it

  • Killian Walsh
    Killian Walsh 2 days ago +1

    8:21 in ireland, at least where I live “meet” is slang for French kiss

  • MY Personal Spin
    MY Personal Spin 2 days ago

    Your pronouncing some of the letters in your old English wrong XD

  • haz2901
    haz2901 2 days ago

    just want to point out to non british folks here.....hardly anyone sounds like this pleb in the hazard a guess hes even putting it on.

  • abel varga
    abel varga 2 days ago

    Your time tunnel may be affected by gravitation in a manner that it is bound to the nearest greatest mass, so you may end up on Earth, as that is the strongest field affecting us here.

  • kendallwi
    kendallwi 2 days ago

    Realistically about 300-350 years before everything went off the rails. 100 years less than the nonsense this video claims.


    Jesus Christ I can barley understand this guy. You sound like a gypsy from the movie snatch.

  • Jay Martinson
    Jay Martinson 3 days ago

    Personally, I havnt been convinced that traveling backwards in time is possible at all. Forwards, sure.

  • tolgahk84
    tolgahk84 3 days ago

    2:34 Delorean with South Australian numberplates, nice :)

  • Benjamin Taylor
    Benjamin Taylor 3 days ago

    Britain island is eight hundred miles long and two hundred miles broad" not sure about the next bit "...island five people, Angles, Brits, Scotts, Picts, and ?" Best I got without looking any thing up

  • Luc Welner-Monchuk
    Luc Welner-Monchuk 3 days ago

    You're goddamn right I want the answer to this question

  • William Falck
    William Falck 3 days ago

    Funny how the first text is closer to Swedish than English

  • Ferahgo
    Ferahgo 3 days ago

    The thorn character is pretty obviously not a P, nor does it make that sound. You should take a Great Course in doing some basic research for your video.

  • Red Hunteur
    Red Hunteur 3 days ago

    9:30 That says "sprited" heart, does it not? Or was that the spelling for "spirited"?

  • socialex
    socialex 3 days ago

    "You'd need a space ship time machine bro" me at 1 in the morning 😮

  • TJ L.
    TJ L. 3 days ago

    I think the video should emphasize more, the disparity of written language vs spoken language. This disparity grows the further back in time you go. Old English sentence structure was different than today's English making it impossible for us to understand. Our first spoken English was a mixture Welsh/Celtic/Old English (Middle English). Our Middle English spoken sentence stucture comes from Welsh/Celtic and may have not changed much over time. But what was written, would have a formal aspect, reflecting what was written from a time before. (Interesting note, "do/doing" is from Welch/Celtic spoken sentence structure and non-existent in Old English.) Keeping this disparity in mind, although difficult, we would definitely understand the 1500's Shakespearean English spoken to us more than what was written on paper.

  • Pungetello
    Pungetello 4 days ago

    Am I the only one bugged that he pronounced the thorn as 'p' instead of 'th'??


  • Allie S
    Allie S 4 days ago

    There's one word in English that seems to be changing quite rapidly, at least for those living in Great Britain, and that word is 'Dialect'. The word 'Dialect', not long ago was enunciated by almost all the British, but now it's beginning to sound an awful lot like the word 'Dalek'. Perhaps, it's an influence of Doctor Who. Ha Ha!

  • glsracer
    glsracer 4 days ago

    Looked up Karl Smallwood expecting a crazy accent...Dude sounds just like any guy from Yorkshire. Lauren Socha from that Misfits show had a way crazier accent, almost like she was choking on something. No offence to her or that region but that was the only brit accent I've heard that truly annoyed me. I was born and raised in America but I like British TV so I'm sure that helps, still I can't imagine many people having difficulty understanding Karl Smallwood.

  • Arthur Allsopp
    Arthur Allsopp 4 days ago

    It does not take 15 minutes to answer this question. On that note how many people can actually communicate with you Mr. Way To Wordy.

  • A Davis
    A Davis 4 days ago


  • Mario Rivera
    Mario Rivera 5 days ago

    Dude, too much rambling man. Get to the meat and potatoes. 😴👎🏽

  • Tom Boedeker
    Tom Boedeker 5 days ago

    Although it is indisputable that the 'Pirate Accent' comes from Hollywood, for hundreds of years the West Country was a hotbed of smuggling, shipwrecking, shipbreaking, privateering and small scale local piracy. While the majority of pirates weren't from there, a lot of West Countrymen DID become pirates. Long John Silver being from the West Country would certainly have fit the stereotypes of Stevenson's 1880s British audience.

  • Bourbon Clouds
    Bourbon Clouds 5 days ago

    This video was the first video that made me wish I had a second thumbs up to give.

  • Frank Sz
    Frank Sz 5 days ago

    The Hungarian language was actually severely modernized in the 18th-19th century. Before that actually only the common folks (peasants, plebs ordinary people) and lesser ranking royalty would use it as the everyday language in the Kingdom of Hungary.
    Not saying that only them, most likely everyone spoke it to a degree, royalty used to be known to speak 7-8 languages. The official language was actually Latin and German and that's what was heard in the king's courtyard, keep in mind Hungary shared kings with Poland and Habsburg and others and had their rule over current Croatia, Slovenia, Ukraine and and other parts of Europe, depending which century we look at.
    So there had to be an official language at the throne and it was mostly Latin.
    Going back even further the Hungarian language was actually written with runic and was read from right to left, just like Hebrew today and some other runic languages today. In other research it shows they did not use vowels , only consonants in writings, which is kinda strange, but the words formed by trying to pronounce the consonants next to each other "blood" which is "vér" in Hungarian, but in Runic it was written as "vr". (actually "rv" going from right to left and with runic letters).

  • Adam Sebring
    Adam Sebring 5 days ago

    If you went back in time only a few seconds, you would likely only have a few seconds before the Earth gets back to where it was when you left and hits you.

  • Leya Go
    Leya Go 5 days ago

    Is it me or is he hard to understand.

  • Scott Rickhoff
    Scott Rickhoff 5 days ago

    3.5 minutes in... all I hear is word vomit. This clown ever getting to the point?

  • Aric Williams
    Aric Williams 5 days ago

    I'm showing this to all the homies who use the "I'm speaking proper english" or "I'm speaking the right way" defense when I say they're sound or talk white lol

  • Owen Abbott
    Owen Abbott 5 days ago

    Shakespeare looks like Charlie from always sunny

  • TrixiLovesYou
    TrixiLovesYou 5 days ago

    That joke made no sense. If meat is pronounced mate, meet would hardly also be pronounced as mate.

  • Masatisan
    Masatisan 5 days ago

    The p crossed with b letter is called thorn and makes a th sound. Im not a linguist or anything but im pretty sure quite a few of the other words/letters have archaic pronunciation as well, whether that would make it sound more or less similar to modern times I do not know.

  • Ivan Herndon
    Ivan Herndon 5 days ago

    I'm going to say that the only reason we'd likely be able to speak to people of Shakespeare's time is directly related to the popularity of his plays and of the KJV bible. Both works are still quoted/performed in modern culture, so when we as modern English speakers encounter a sentence like "Thou shall travail whilst thou tarry", even though none of those words are used as part of our everyday vocabulary, we can still understand what it is saying by subbing in our modern words: "You should work while you linger [here]", a feat which is only possible if you are familiar with those older words from exposure to them.

  • renegade_ace
    renegade_ace 5 days ago

    Oooh I've always wanted to know this!

  • BluegrassMedia
    BluegrassMedia 5 days ago

    So England had a 200 year vowel movement.

  • Jet Screamer
    Jet Screamer 5 days ago

    15:00 Keyboard knows I'm gay, and mocks me.

  • Greatest Ever
    Greatest Ever 5 days ago

    Can ya get to the point, already?
    Goodness. My eyes glazed over faster than a donut.
    Also "Pam"
    It's "tham"
    That letter is called a thorn and its th.
    At 5:13, you can figure out what's being said easily. Its talking about the size of Britain.

  • Miguel Florencio
    Miguel Florencio 5 days ago

    Just get on with the fucking point of the god damn fucking video

  • Johnny Hash
    Johnny Hash 5 days ago

    video starts at 3:45

    CME-LFT 5 days ago

    TLDR Anyone? I cant be bothered