Thursday, December 17, 2020

Linguistics and Babel : Origin of Language and of Languages


Q I
Why don’t creationists and Bible literalists take on linguists who refute the Tower of Babel story by showing how language has evolved?
https://www.quora.com/Why-don-t-creationists-and-Bible-literalists-take-on-linguists-who-refute-the-Tower-of-Babel-story-by-showing-how-language-has-evolved/answer/Hans-Georg-Lundahl-1


Hans-Georg Lundahl
just now
amateur linguist
How English and Braid Scots evolved from Anglo-Saxon is a question clearly posterior to Babel. Same as with Spanish and French from Latin.

THAT Chinese and Sumerian similarily evolved from a common proto-language is not a proposal that linguists show. Merrit Ruhlen is an exception, but even he would admit Na Dene Caucasian is a language group more like as loose as Nostratic than as Indo-European. With language groups even as loose as Indo-European (between the ten branches!) you cannot quite conclusively show the languages studied from evidence evolved from a common proto-language.

In other words, the linguists you’d like to cite against me don’t really show anything to refute the story. Common knowledge of vinification doesn’t refute the story of Cana. Common knowledge of curing Hansen’s disease with 6 months of antibiotics doesn’t refute Jesus curing lepers by a single word or two. The God almighty who is behind certain natural processes is also able to shortcut them. Or sidestep them.

The process of language change is natural to human society, I think the best description of its nature can be found in Jean Aitchison, and I think it was totally sidestepped at Babel.

Q II
What are the arguments for and against a technology explanation of the origins of human language?
https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-arguments-for-and-against-a-technology-explanation-of-the-origins-of-human-language/answer/Hans-Georg-Lundahl-1


Answer requested by
Usman Rashid

Hans-Georg Lundahl
1h ago
amateur linguist
I don’t know any arguments for a technological explanation of the origin of human language.

I know one major argument against it : technology doesn’t understand linguistics, has no grip on what texts actually mean.

Q III
own answer
What exactly happened at Babel, and why is it used in the explanation of language origin?
https://www.quora.com/What-exactly-happened-at-Babel-and-why-is-it-used-in-the-explanation-of-language-origin/answer/Hans-Georg-Lundahl-1


Answer requested by
Usman Rashid

Hans-Georg Lundahl
38m ago
amateur linguist
It has nothing to do with originating human language as a phenomenon, since Adam had language around 2643 years before the confusion.

It is definitely one major theory about the language differences. When Babel started, there was one language. Now we have languages which cannot be reconstructed as daughter languages of a single proto-language, like English and Chinese, like Spanish and Basque, like Arabic and Japanese.

The story is in Genesis 11, and it is the first half of the chapter, while the second half has the genealogy between Shem and Abraham:

Douay-Rheims Bible (Genesis 11)

Wendy D. Beard
11h ago
The Bible doesn’t give us much detail as to exactly what the Tower of Babel consisted of, how it was constructed, and what it was made of… We do know that it was a huge building project of which the leaders of it wanted to make a name for themselves and be famous in all future generations for their superior project. It appears they wanted to reach heaven and God physically without doing any of the things that God requires.

God did not like this. God supernaturally scattered the people all over the world in their closest family groups and gave different locales different languages. By separating people geographically and linguistically, they could no longer all work together as one people but would become separate cultures, languages, and even races of people over time as each group only had part of the genetic pool and would only reflect its part of the genetic pool.

We know that this is a real historical event because there are independent historical records of this story in separate religions, cultures, and languages ALL OVER THE WORLD. They couldn’t all make up the same story with the same details in ancient times with no way to communicate with others on the other side of the world! The fact that stories of the Tower of Babel exist all over the world in different languages, cultures, and religions prove that is was a REAL HISTORICAL EVENT. Furthermore, the tower’s foundation still sits where it always was and no one has destroyed it or took it down. It remains to this day, complete with an accompanying ancient explanation of the event in which the tower is called the Tower of Babel.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
8m ago
"The Bible doesn’t give us much detail as to exactly what the Tower of Babel consisted of, how it was constructed, and what it was made of"

Correct.

"We do know that it was a huge building project"

If building is the word we would use ... I think Genesis 11:4 might describe the project of a rocket. Which would make hugeness somewhat less important.

"It appears they wanted to reach heaven and God physically without doing any of the things that God requires."

I don't think God had required or offered heaven to men as yet, apart from taking up Henoch. The just, prior to Jesus on Calvary, went down to Sheol, a bit above Hell. This was still the case when Lazarus went to the bosom of Abraham before Christ raised him.

"God supernaturally scattered the people all over the world in their closest family groups and gave different locales different languages."

He supernaturally gave people new and different languages. As to the scattering over the world, it would follow by freewilled and only sensible decision of going out to new or back to old separate homes.

"We know that this is a real historical event because there are independent historical records of this story in separate religions, cultures, and languages ALL OVER THE WORLD."

No. The story is singularily lacking all over the Near East, all over Greece and Rome, all over Egypt (well, that is still Near East), over Norse Myths, over Hindoo myths, as far as I know.

Perhaps some Amerindians preserved it, but that's about it.

We do know the Flood is historical, bc nearly all cultures (Egypt is the exception) record it. We do know that new languages would not naturally form very fast after a bottleneck reducing humanity to one family. But the one story which gives the needed supernatural explanation is in Genesis.

“Furthermore, the tower’s foundation still sits where it always was and no one has destroyed it or took it down. It remains to this day, complete with an accompanying ancient explanation of the event in which the tower is called the Tower of Babel.”

I think that is incorrect.

I think Babel was found again very recently … without the tower, as one would expect if it was a rocket (of which pieces would go with different “heirs” to the project who then forgot part of the technical details and only recalled wanting to go to heaven). It’s Göbekli Tepe.

Q III
other answer
What exactly happened at Babel, and why is it used in the explanation of language origin?
https://www.quora.com/What-exactly-happened-at-Babel-and-why-is-it-used-in-the-explanation-of-language-origin/answer/Adam-Reisman


Answer requested by
Usman Rashid

Adam Reisman
3h ago
B.A. in Linguistics, University of Southern California
What exactly happened at Babel, and why is it used in the explanation of language origin?

It’s an ancient origin story. It developed long before we understood the actual evolutionary process of language. I wouldn’t put any serious thought into it being history, but you use it to learn ethical lessons.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
31m ago
Evolutionary process … you mean like English descending from Anglo-Saxon, German from Althochdeutsch and so on? And presumably Anglo-Saxon and Althochdeutsch from Proto-Germanic?

What is the common proto-language for Chinese and English? For Japanese and Arabic? For Spanish and Basque?

Adam Reisman
23m ago
There isn’t one that we know of. Most linguists, myself included, speculate that language emerged in multiple places and didn’t have a single origin.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Just now
And some speculate that language had a single origin but so far back that Ruhlen can’t find more traces than 32 proto-words.

There is of course an alternative, namely that Adam got a single language from God, it was still spoken 10 generations later on the Ark, the language on the Ark was still spoken to just before 101, 401 or 529 years later when Peleg was born. Then God imposed a brutal change of language competence on most people. And a few centuries later, we see Sumerian and Egyptian unrelated, Egyptian and Akkadian so dissimilar that only a proto-language thousands of years earlier could explain commonalities … unless they were deliberately left in place by God.

Note, this scenario in no way precludes that languages have changed a lot since, and that the process is basically the one outlined by Grimm … with a few caveats from Jean Aitchison. It only means that one event of language differentiation was neither evolution from a proto-language nor independent acquisition of language.

Continued
eight hours later

Adam Reisman
6m ago
The Biblical scenario is entirely implausible and not compatible with science. You’re wasting your energy if that’s the point of your discussion here.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Just now
Entirely implausible … except that apes slowly acquiring human language capacity over a million year long development into humans is even more implausible.

Not compatible with science … what actual scientific fact does it contradict?

I think I’m a better judge than you what I want to spend my energy on.

Adam Reisman
Just now
Okay. Spend all the energy you want. I’m done here ;-)

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Just now
Dodging the two challenges …

Q IV
own answer
Is there proof that there was only 1 language in the beginning like the story of Babel?
https://www.quora.com/Is-there-proof-that-there-was-only-1-language-in-the-beginning-like-the-story-of-Babel/answer/Hans-Georg-Lundahl-1


Answer requested by
Althea Alabanzas

Hans-Georg Lundahl
February 12
none/ apprx Masters in Latin (language) & Greek (language), Lund University
The story is proof of it.

The fact that the human population had come out of an ark, which held only 8 human persons, 401 years earlier, is presumable proof of it.

Depending on how reliable you consider this tradition.

Obviously, world wide Flood and Ark with a privileged survivor and family is a very well spread tradition, and once you add the present diversity of languages, Babel would be a very logical corrolary - only one very seldom actually told. Neither Greeks nor Muslims have such a story, nor do the Hindoos, as far as I know.

By Greeks, I mean the Homeric religion.

Q IV
other answer
Is there proof that there was only 1 language in the beginning like the story of Babel?
https://www.quora.com/Is-there-proof-that-there-was-only-1-language-in-the-beginning-like-the-story-of-Babel/answer/Jan-Gröndahl-1


Answer requested by
Althea Alabanzas

Jan Gröndahl
lives in Sweden
Answered February 11
No, there is no proof of that.

The Tower of Babel is a building mentioned in the Old Testament, Genesis. 11: 1-9, possibly a Babylonian ziqqurat dedicated to Marduk. Ziqqurats is temple towers built in Mesopotamia, today Iraq, around 2100 BC-550 BC.

Perhaps at that time there was only one language spoken in Mesopotamia. But as time went on, the language changed with increasing population spreading over ever larger areas. Nothing strange about it and languages still changes over time.

But that a God would be responsible for the language divisions is of course pure nonsense. And our Earth is much bigger than Mesopotamia with humans speaking a lot of different languages long before Mesopotamia even existed.

[omitting map]

Hans-Georg Lundahl
February 12
It so happens, a ziggurat from (carbon dated) 2200 BC will for the reason you mention NOT be a valid candidate for the Tower of Babel.

I mentioned this to Michael Heiser in these responses to his video:

To Heiser on Stele of Naram-Sin

Jan Gröndahl
February 12
How do you carbon date ziggurats that are made of clay? Maybe you can find some organic material from some wood structures together with the rubble of what perhaps is clay bricks that is all to be find today. That’s not really convincing.

Whatever. They made towers in Mesopotamia but the biblical story is a fabrication and fiction.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
February 13
“How do you carbon date ziggurats that are made of clay?”

They would need to be very pure clay for carbon dating to be impossible.

The thing is, we also have texts about the ziggurat, and some tablets would be wound in cloth that’s datable. There are ways to verify contemporary things are contemporary, if written on or about, so on or around one of them, you presumably find organic material/

“Maybe you can find some organic material from some wood structures together with the rubble of what perhaps is clay bricks that is all to be find today.”

Wood structures, accidental organic débris under the foundations or between the bricks, or stones etc. Or from culturally associated material.

“but the biblical story is a fabrication and fiction.”

Where do you get that from, landsman? Swedish school system?

You know that “iurare in verba magistri” is a fault in arguing?

Jan Gröndahl
February 13
“iurare in verba magistri”? Are you sure you don’t mean “Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri”?

The long version “Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri, – quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes.”

Meaning "(being) not obliged to swear in words (allegiance) to a master, wherever the storm drags me, I am turned in as a guest."

The Royal Society's motto ‘Nullius in verba’, which can be roughly translated as ‘Take nobody's word for it’, dates back to 1663. The motto was seen as an expression of the Fellows’ determination to withstand the domination of authority and verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment. There are parallels here in the emergence of the evidence-based approach to healthcare where treatment decisions are made on the best available evidence produced by robust scientific methods.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
February 14
Well, so whose word have you taken for the Bible story being a fabrication or a fiction?

Your teacher's?

If not, where is your evidence?

Jan Gröndahl
February 14
I’m old enough to know this without any teachers. And it’s up to those claiming something to show scientific evidences to prove a hypothesis to be right, not the persons who says that a hypothesis is wrong. In this case the Bible text is NOT scientific evidences.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Just now
What kind of things do you count as HISTORIC evidence?

As far as I am concerned : narratives as close as possible and as far as needed from back when things happened (unless that’s clearly too far).

The text in Genesis 11 part 1 could very well have been orally transmitted a few centuries before Abraham wrote it down and it was kept with the caravans of the Beduin tribe in written form.

In the chronology of the Roman Martyrology for Christmas Day, Abraham was born 541 years after Peleg, around whose birth human society was deglobalised. 541 years of oral tradition is fairly safe with so short texts.

And what exactly has “scientific” to do with anything? More over, Genesis 11 being fiction is a hypothesis and therefore needs support. It is counterintuitive insofar as we would in this case be dealing with fiction that was by all the earliest commenters dealt with as solid historic fact.

Q V
How much of a span of years would there have been at the end of Noah’s flood and the building of the Tower of Babel?
https://www.quora.com/How-much-of-a-span-of-years-would-there-have-been-at-the-end-of-Noah-s-flood-and-the-building-of-the-Tower-of-Babel/answer/Hans-Georg-Lundahl-1


Answer requested by
Stef Lynn

Hans-Georg Lundahl
just now
none/ apprx Masters in Latin (language) & Greek (language), Lund University
I will suppose this means “between Noah’s Flood and Tower of Babel”.

  • 1) Masoretic / Vulgate chronology makes Babel end 101 after the Flood.
  • 2) LXX chronology in the standard form places it 529 after the Flood.
  • 3) A version of LXX which lacks II Cainan would place it 401 after the Flood. Since 942 between Flood and Birth of Abraham is the standard of Roman martyrology for Christmas day, Babel (which is not mentioned in that Church text reading) would be presumably ending in 401 after the Flood.


With Masoretic / Vulgate, one must presume the building started little before, but with any version of LXX, it can have started earlier.

I take Babel as extending from year 350 or soon after to 401 or little before, perhaps exactly 40 years, after the Flood : these dates representing death of Noah and birth of Peleg.

Jonathan Beaumont
18h ago
Nice try; but if you read what experts in old texts have to say, it is clear that the story was never intended to be a literal account. No “tower” of anything ever existed.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Just now
The experts you talk of are in fact not speaking in the old texts, they are speaking on them. Since very recently.

Also, they do not agree even today on that point, you still find experts who very correctly say that the account was meant as accurate (or in cases of anti-christians : “inaccurate”) history.

Here is an example from some while ago, Fr. George Leo Haydock, commenting on Genesis 3:

Concerning the transactions of these early times, parents would no doubt be careful to instruct their children, by word of mouth, before any of the Scriptures were written; and Moses might derive much information from the same source, as a very few persons formed the chain of tradition, when they lived so many hundred years. Adam would converse with Mathusalem, who knew Sem, as the latter lived in the days of Abram. Isaac, Joseph, and Amram, the father of Moses, were contemporaries: so that seven persons might keep up the memory of things which had happened 2500 years before. But to entitle these accounts to absolute authority, the inspiration of God intervenes; and thus we are convinced, that no word of sacred writers can be questioned. H.

https://www.ecatholic2000.com/haydock/untitled-05.shtml#navPoint_6

He died in 1849, and I highly doubt the experts you think of are older than that.

George Leo Haydock - Wikipedia

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