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On Friday, 21 December, 2012 18:26:12 you wrote:
> Given abundant written text in a language you don't know, how much can you
> determine about that language, using only the texts themselves (I.e., no
> reference grammars, no dictionaries, etc.)? Can its grammar be deduced? The
> meaning of any of its words? How would you go about determining them?

	As others have pointed out, not much. Taking the reconstruction of 
Enamyn as an example, Alexandr Resovsky, a linguist from St. Petersburg and 
professor at the St. Petersburg Government University, was on holiday in the 
Crimea in the summer of 1912 when he heard a report that some ancient 
parchments, written in an unknown script, had been discovered in a cave 
nearby. He was able to get several parchments from the farmer who had 
discovered them and bring them back with him to St. Petersburg, but after nine 
months still had not managed to decipher anything. In the spring of 1913, the 
farmer wrote that he had discovered more manuscripts, and offered to sell them 
to Resovsky. Discouraged by his lack of success at translating the parchments 
already in his possession, to say nothing of his limited financial position, 
Resovsky almost declined, but curiosity got the better of him and he agreed -- 
after haggling the price down by about 25%.
	He received the parchments in the summer of 1913, and to his delight, he 
saw that several parchments were partially in Greek. He hypothesized that the 
other half of the text, written in the unknown script, was a translation. 
Working on this assumption, he was soon able to produce a small dictionary of 
the unknown language. At that point, he had no idea of the pronunciation of 
the words and the complexities of the script -- as well as the fact that most 
of the bilingual texts were lists and records of trade, rather than complete 
texts -- made the production of a grammar very difficult.
	He then turned to the other parchments, one of which turned out to be a 
nearly complete copy of the Gospels; the first page (of Matthew) was illegible, 
but the rest was in fair to excellent condition. As a result, Resovsky was 
able to create a fairly accurate grammar and even a near approximation of most 
of the sounds, due to the Aramaic words left untranslated in the text and 
Greek words that had been borrowed. (The rest of 
	Now, had Resovsky received the copy of the Gospels with the first batch 
of parchments, it is conceivable that he would have been able to a.) guess 
their content and b.) proceed to create a dictionary and grammar. But that 
would have been because the text would already have been known. Since the 
content of the first batch of parchments was unknown, however, he had no way of 
deciphering them.
	:Peter